Category Archives: Sleep Science

Athletes Need Sleep to Succeed

Sleep has been called the “magic pill” for improved athletic performance.

Joe Gomes Courtesy Oakland Raiders

Joe Gomes
Courtesy Oakland Raiders

Performance around the clock

More elite athletes are starting to focus on sleep as a path to succeed on the field. The Oakland Raiders just hired a new coach who has pledged to implement a new “24-hour Performance System” which will make sleep another important part of the player’s workout. The Raiders’ new Strength and Conditioning coach, Joe Gomes, is hoping a better “healing environment” will help injured players come back faster, and healthy players perform better on the field. He told the San Francisco Chronicle “The two biggest areas you can typically impact would be your recovery component and then your nutrition component. And if you just upgrade those areas, what you’ll find is that no matter what training they’re doing, you have already improved the level at which they can adapt to that.” Oakland has struggled the last few seasons, but if Gomes is right then perhaps Raiders fans can sleep a little better too.

Teen athletes need more sleep to stay healthy

Not just adult athletes need to rack up Zs along with TDs. A recent study found teenagers who got a good night sleep (8+ hours) were 68% less likely to sustain an injury while playing sports. The American Academy of Pediatrics said that the hours of sleep a night was a more important indicator of whether the teen might get injured than the hours spent on the playing field or hours spent weight training. They also found the older a teen athlete gets, the more sleep they need.

The research is piling up. Whether you are a star running back or aspire to be one in your athletic future, sleep does more than help you heal. Sleep helps you succeed.

Meet Watson: This Sleeping Dog Doesn’t Lie Around

narcoleptic dog 1This is Watson. He likes pork.

But when his human companion, Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, offers him a piece, the fabulous gift is a little too much for this little bouncing ball of fur. He takes a big sniff and staggers backward, struggling to ward off the attack paralyzing his muscles and pushing him toward sleep in just seconds.  Watson has narcolepsy. And the disorder makes him fall asleep when life gets too exciting.

Narcolepsy is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks specific parts of the brain that regulate wakefulness and dreaming. Dogs are believed to be the only species other than humans that can develop the condition. Stanford researchers, including Dr Mignot, found the  cause in dogs by studying members of a narcoleptic dog colony. The last of the dogs, a beloved Schipperke named Bear, died last year.

Bear and Dr. Emanuel Mignot

Bear and Dr. Emanuel Mignot

But soon after, Mignot received an email from a veterinarian in the Northeast.  He had a Chihuahua puppy that collapsed to the ground when he got excited. Did Mignot want him? Mignot and his wife decided to adopt the dog as a family pet, rather than research subject. They named the puppy after Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and IBM’s Watson computing project.

Watson is a hit with young patients. He calms frightened children and helps them understand their condition. The number of kids who suffer from narcolepsy is growing and some can develop severe symptoms, such as almost constant sleepiness or sudden episodes of muscle paralysis that occur with specific emotions. Mignot said Watson’s attacks can also be sparked by emotions, especially excitement.

narcoleptic dog 2But don’t worry: it sounds like Watson lives a pretty relaxing life. Mignot told KQED, “We often go to the beach and he runs around and loves to run around and very often, when he’s too happy – poof! – he collapses on the sand… [H]e looks at you with his eyes half closed and you have the feeling like he’s telling you ‘I love you,’ but in fact he’s falling asleep.”

Photo Credit: KQED

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Your teenager might not be playing you. He or she might actually need a bit more time in bed.

The National Sleep Foundation has upped its guidance for the amount of sleep needed for teens to between 8 and 10 hours a night. They also increased the range for younger children (see chart below). The major new study was conducted by not just sleep experts, but a wide range of specialists like psychiatrists, gynecologists and pediatricians.STREPchanges_1

A new range has been added, called “may be appropriate”, to acknowledge that some people might actually need more quality time with their Somnium. In order to figure out exactly how much sleep you need, the NSF recommend you answer these questions:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems ?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving ?

The single most important question to consider, according to the NSF, is: do you make sleep a priority? It should be. You need to consider it at the top of your to-do list every day, and not just another task to complete after you have watched “Scandal” or cleaned the bathroom.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do some very important work now. Wake me up in 7 to 9 hours.

Three Sleep Tips for Easing Back Into the School and Workplace Grind

With the long and balmy days of summer coming to a close, we say ‘So long’ to our trove of Instagram vacation photos and bid ‘Hello’ to a fall full of work. The kiddos face an equally unceremonious return to the most infamous of six-letter words, S-C-H-O-O-L.

Diving back into the non-vacation world  of our jobs and studies also means it is time to ditch our summer habits of rising late and hitting the hay way past our bed time. Take heart, fellow slumber lover, we’ve got a few suggestions to make your transition from summer fun to fall’s ho-hum a little easier.

Say goodnight to your iPad before you say goodnight

Did you know that 89% of adults and 75% of kids have at least one electronic device in their bedroom? Even more sobering is that 68% of adults and 51% of children have two or more.

Bringing your electronics to bed can hamper your sleep.

A habit that’s hard to resist (photo courtesy of The Telegraph)

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Snooze Now, Thrive Later: Brain Clears Alzheimer’s Plaque During Sleep

“Glymphatic clearance”.

Yep, we thought the same thing: What the heck is glymphatic clearance? You might be surprised to know that this cryptic phrase points to the ever-important principle that amazing things happen to you when you afford your body a good night’s rest.

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