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  1. Even though often overlooked, sleep is undoubtedly the most important part of life. People can go without food for days, but the effects of sleep deprivation are quick to show. It’s not surprising that a good night’s rest has incredible benefits for both the body and the mind. How you feel during the day depends on the quality of sleep you get at night. Your productivity at work, your concentration, memory, and your mood and appetite also depend on the quality and quantity of sleep that you get. When you are deprived of sufficient sleep for a prolonged amount of time, the effects do not take long to show. A large number of people suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. And in most cases, they are not even aware of it. Most people who suffer from a sleep disorder go their entire lives without realizing why they never got sufficient sleep. Disorders of sleep are of various kinds, but they all interfere with the normal quality and quantity of nightly sleep. There are people who do not suffer from any sleep disorder but also do not get sufficient sleep. This is mainly because of a hectic schedule and making more time for work, home, and other social commitment. It is no surprise to find people doing with only 3 or 4 hours of sleep every night because they work too late and wake up early. When people have too much stress in life but not the required amount of sleep, it is a potential course for various health disorders. Productivity, memory, and concentration also suffer if nightly sleep remains insufficient for a long time. Why Is Sleep Important? Most imagine that sleep is a period of inactivity. This assumption is not surprising because while we are asleep, we do not get to know what happens inside our brain. That’s why we tend to think that while we sleep the brain is also asleep. But the brain and the body never sleep and keep working even while we rest. Some of the most important processes of the brain take place while we are asleep. It must be remembered that the brain cannot perform the rejuvenating and revitalizing functions while we are awake. These functions can only be performed when we go to sleep. Sleep can be divided into four stages, three of which are non-REM stages and one REM stage. All of these stages are equally important in ensuring sleep quality. While the first two stages are light sleep, the later stages are deeply relaxing and rejuvenating. The third sleep stage is a non-REM stage and lasts 10 to 30 minutes, but sleep here is the deepest and almost like a coma. It generally takes a long time for a person to wake up from this sleep phase. In this stage, the heart rate and the body temperature of the person are the lowest, muscle movements barely occur, and the breathing is gentle and rhythmic. It isn’t possible to turn or change sides in this phase because the body is immobile. Delta waves in the brain are produced in this stage, deeply relaxing to the body and helping it heals and recharges in this stage, because of the delta waves. This is the stage when bedwetting, night terrors, and sleepwalking occurs but the person has no memory of them when they wake up. The final stage of sleep is the only REM phase. Unlike the earlier three stages, the brain becomes active in this stage although the body is still immobile. The REM phase lasts for a short time, with most adults spending only about 20 percent of their sleep in this phase. This is when dreaming occurs along with the rapid movement of the eyelids from side to side behind closed eyelids. The heart rate, breathing, and body temperature begins to rise in this phase. The REM sleep stage is when the brain starts to become active, right before the person wakes up. This stage is extremely important in ensuring proper sleep quality. Because this is the deepest sleep stage, the brain recharges and prepares for the day. The REM sleep stage is important because this phase boosts learning, memory, and cognitive functioning. When this stage is hindered, the brain doesn’t get to complete these processes, leaving you foggy and disoriented when you wake up. Alcohol is notorious for hindering REM sleep, preventing you from restorative sleep no matter how long you’re asleep. Importance of A Sleep Study It goes without saying that being part of a sleep study is expensive. Then why would anyone want to take one? That’s because there’s so much that a sleep study can reveal about your health and your sleep quality. If you have untreated sleep disorders, a sleep study can be eye-opening and lead you to take your sleep more seriously. Sleep studies can be performed either in a labor at home. However, if serious sleep disorders need to be diagnosed, then the study should be performed at a lab because brain waves will be monitored. The great thing about a sleep study is that it’s able to diagnose a problem in an hour or two whereas a doctor will require a series of tests to find out the same over a few months. Because sleep studies are conducted by sleep experts, if they diagnose a sleep disorder, they can begin treatment immediately. This means you can recover quickly. Is Sleep Study Worth The Cost? Although sleep studies are on the expensive side, most insurers have started to recognize the health risks of untreated sleep disorders and also have good coverage costs. You should check with your insurance company to find out if they offer coverage for a sleep study. In many cases, it can be very affordable. A sleep study depends on the type of sleep disorder. An affordable alternative to taking a sleep study in a lab is to take a home sleep test, which is only a fraction of the cost.
  2. Sleep disorders have been on the rise since the past decade or so. It is hard to find people who experience healthy sleep every night or don’t resort to a sleep aid. Because sleep is vital to mental and physical health, the growing incidence of sleep disorders around the world is concerning. Sleep disorders are more common in the US than any other country; the reason why scientists and sleep experts are always trying to find out the causes behind it and possible solutions. If you are one of those people who has failed to get a good night’s sleep in a long time, you are acutely aware of how sleep disorders can strip your life of joy and peace. When you are sleep deprived sleep deprived, everything becomes harder than usual. You lose your appetite, you are unmotivated to work out, your social and personal commitments suffer, and your productivity at work keeps dropping. In fact, the American economy suffers a loss of millions of dollars every year simply because of workers not getting enough sleep. Don’t be surprised, because sleep disorders have far-reaching consequences. Sleep deficiency causes daytime sleepiness and drowsiness, causing accidents and injuries. Drowsy driving is one dangerous consequence of sleep deficiency and daytime sleepiness. It is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Of course, no person can go without sleep for a long time, and they all reach for some kind of sleep aid at some point. However, the recent FDA warning about conventional sleep medications has led people to look for natural solutions to sleep disorders. Dangers of Sleep Medication A large number of people depend on sleep medications for a good night’s rest. Older people have usually prescribed sleep medicines because they are unable to get proper sleep any longer. However, even though in the beginning the medications work as intended, they are harmful in the long run because the user starts to get dependent on them. Most sleeping pill users are unable to sleep again without taking the medication, and the dependence only keeps growing. Most doctors do not hesitate to increase the dosage, but this only adds to the danger. The FDA has recently called out certain sleep medications for being dangerous and causing injuries and accidents. However, even without the FDA warning, most people have always known about the side effects of conventional sleep medications. They are quick to work, but the chemicals in them are harmful to health and often make sleep disorder worse. Increasing the dosage of the medicine only leads to sleeping pill abuse, some of the most common symptoms of which are: Dry mouth Dizziness Difficulty with coordination and focus Excessive daytime sleepiness Foggy memory Nightmares Itching and swelling Lightheadedness Chest pain Blurred vision or other vision changes Difficulty breathing or swallowing Hives Hoarseness of the throat Palpitations If sleep medications are continued for a long time, it can lead to other health complications and even death. These fears are not unwarranted because there are a large number of people suffering from the side effects of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills being available over the counter have also contributed to their overuse. All these fears surrounding sleeping pills have led people to look for natural alternatives. At the moment, there are two natural sleep solutions, one of them proven and the other debatable. They are melatonin and cannabidiol. Melatonin Supplements for Sleep Melatonin is the sleep hormone produced by the brain in response to the dark. When the sun begins to set, the body clock tells the brain it’s time to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us relax, makes us feel drowsy and ultimately gets us to sleep. Melatonin is hindered by bright lights and triggered by darkness. That is the reason why sleeping in a dark room is the healthiest. Imbalances in the production of melatonin are often responsible for sleep disorders. If shunning bright lights don’t work, then a possible remedy is melatonin supplement. This is a natural sleep remedy that has recently started to be administered to insomnia patients. The reason why melatonin supplement has become so popular is that it is not known to have any side effect for it simply replicates the natural melatonin produced by the brain. The melatonin supplement remedies any imbalance and helps the hormone function normally to bring about healthy sleep. So far melatonin supplements have not been found to cause any adverse side effect. Because this hormone is already produced by the body, melatonin supplements simply aim to correct any shortage or imbalance of the hormone. However, because melatonin supplements tend to work very quickly, the dosage must be appropriate and timed right. Otherwise, the person can feel drowsy well into the next morning. CBD Oil as Sleep Aid Another popular sleep solution that is still controversial to some extent is cannabidiol. Also called CBD, this is a natural extract of the hemp plant, and has been hailed to be highly beneficial for a lot of health issues. One of the most popular uses of CBD is in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. Although the exact connection between CBD and sleep is not yet known sleep experts believe that CBD helps induce sleep by reducing anxiety and stress. If you have stress and anxiety related issues that prevent you from falling or staying asleep at night, CBD can be used as a natural alternative to conventional sleep medications. However, if your sleep issues are caused by other health problems or hormonal imbalances, then CBD will not be effective. CBD is also highly controversial and not easily available everywhere. Unlike melatonin, CBD has not been proven to be beneficial for sleep disorders and should be consumed only after a consultation with a healthcare practitioner. Before resorting to a sleep aid, it is recommended that you try making lifestyle changes to deal with sleep disorders. If all else fails, talk to your doctor to adopt the safest possible way to induce sleep and reduce sleep deprivation.
  3. Maybe it’s because I live in the city of lakes which is also located in the land of 10,000 lakes that drew me to the idea of Float Therapy. Float Therapy is a rebranded term for what used to be called isolation therapy or sensory deprivation therapy. It is a practice where you float in a sort of large bathtub that is filled with salt water. Float therapy is a form of mediation. I did my first float session at the Float Foundation in Minneapolis which coincidentally is on the other side of Lake Harriet from my house. I found a Groupon deal for a float session and thought I would give it a try. A 90 minute float session costs $69 while a 60 minute costs 61.99. After purchasing you can book a time via their online calendar on their website. My go to method of relaxation and meditation is the Sol Tec Lounge in my house which is sort of the opposite of the sensory deprivation method where layered music is played along with vibrations to keep you present and avoid distracting thoughts. What are the benefits of float therapy? Here’s a roundup of some symptoms that float therapy claims to alleviate: Stress relief Muscular pain Rheumatism Chronic pain Fatigue Fertility High blood pressure Migraine headache Jet lag Anxiety Insomnia Back pain Depression Pre-menstrual tension Post-natal depression Float therapy also promotes the following: Problem solving Creativity Increase energy Increased feelings of well being The float tank is sound proof or as sound proof as can be, and the temperature of the water is skin temperature so that you aren’t too hot or too cold. The epsom salt allows you to float effortlessly. If you haven’t floated like this before, it is an experience worth having. Here’s a picture of the float room that I used. Behind me is a private shower as well to use before and after using the float tank. I didn’t feel clausterphobic in the float room because the ceiling was high enough at my head. It slopes lower towards my feet but I didn’t find that to be a problem. I booked an hour and a half float session becuase with meditation it takes a while for me to properly relax and I wanted to make sure that I had adequate time to adjust given the new environment. These rooms have a button where you can have a soft light on or push it again for total darkness. I played around with both but ultimately found the darkness to be preferable and less distracting. This float chamber also has a neck support which you can use to help stabilize your head. I don’t think it’s necessary but I ended up using it for most of my session to fell a little more secure and to ensure water didn’t get in my ears. Inside the chamber there is also a dial which can be used to play quiet, relaxing music. I tried that out for a bit and found it enjoyable since it was so faint it wasn’t really distracting. It took me about 20 minutes to fully relaxing during my session. I think that’s because I was just enjoying the experience of floating and total relaxation. For an hour and a half session, this went faster than I expected. There’s no need to worry about over staying your welcome either. The light outside the chamber will turn on to alert you that your session is over. After your session you can rinse off with a shower with soap and shampoo included: I really enjoyed my float therapy session. Since I did it in early March in Minnesota, it was kind of a hassle to get undressed, shower then get dressed again and go off into the cold. However, the warm float tank really took the chill off and took me away from the winter doldrums. While I found the float therapy session to be relaxing, I didn’t have as productive a meditation session as I normally have in my Sol Tec Lounge. It could be that I am used to my form of meditation over this one. Using the Lounge in my house is much more convenient as well. I highly recommend trying float therapy. I think many people will benefit from just being able to tune out the world and all its distractions for an hour. While I didn’t fall asleep during float therapy, I slept very well the night I did my session.