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Life Lessons

Life Lessons: The sleep factor

Life Lessons: The sleep factor

Nearly one out of three Americans does not get the recommended amount of sleep, but it's not just making them sleepy; it's actually driving them crazy!

"If you don't get enough sleep, and you get in a chronic state of that, then you look just like someone who has early-onset Alzheimers," says Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, founder and director of the Center for BrainHealth.

Dr. Chapman says sleep helps the brain clear waste and consolidate memories.

One British study found people who suffer insomnia are five times more likely to have paranoid delusions.

Another study found insomniacs are nearly three times more likely to develop depression. They are also at greater risk for anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Millions of Americans, like nurse Corina Martinez, say they've struggled with getting a good night's rest.

"If I get too attached to a case, I just think about it at night," says Martinez.

Until recently, it took her four hours to fall asleep and she only slept three hours total. That's much less than the recommended seven to eight hours.

"I couldn't sleep. I would just watch TV all night," Martinez explains. "I would wake up groggy or still wanting to sleep and just tired throughout the day."

Alon Avidan, MD, professor of neurology at UCLA, says the worst sleep mistake people make is stimulating the brain with TV-watching or computer use.

"All these types of activities, especially before bedtime, lead to sleep difficulties," says Dr. Avidan.

Next, watch what you eat and drink.

Try walnuts, which contain their own source of melatonin.

Honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain, so you get sleepy.

Try drinking hot decaffeinated tea, but stay away from warm milk. It can cause heartburn.

Avoid spicy foods and those with MSG, which may cause a stimulant reaction.

Despite popular belief, alcohol doesn't help you fall asleep.

"It actually breaks apart the sleep architecture and it actually worsens our ability to maintain sleep," Dr. Avidan explains.

Martinez says she cured her insomnia with a very unlikely source, called the Sleep Whisperer. She's a YouTube phenomenon with millions of followers clicking on relaxation videos. Within 10 minutes of watching it, she fell asleep.

"I slept all through the night, I couldn't believe it," Martinez says.

Ilse Blansert is the Sleep Whisperer. She says her videos are made to induce an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)

"It's basically a fancy name for tingles that a lot of people get when they listen to certain voices or to certain sounds," says Blansert.

Some of the videos feature the sights and sounds of simple tasks, like water being poured.

The videos are free on youtube and Blansert has had over 16-million views. While ASMR hasn't been studied in a medical setting, people like Martinez say it's been a life-saver.
"I just fall asleep," Martinez explained.

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