. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Arsenal Untitled Document

Army H.e.a.l.t.h. Arsenal
April, 2015

Originally designed by NASA for use by astronauts while in space, Sleep Genius, is an app that was created to trigger your brain to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep deeper than ever before.

The neurosensory algorithms in Sleep Genius help your brain get ready for sleep, guide your brain through each stage in the sleep cycle, and wake you with a gentle, refreshing alarm.

Sleep Genius is available for $4.99 in the app store for iPhone and Android.

Sleep Corner

What is melatonin and how does it affect my sleep cycle.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body that plays a crucial role in the body’s ability to regulate sleep. The body naturally releases melatonin in the evening and throughout the night. The release of melatonin induces the feeling of being sleepy. Conversely, melatonin levels are very low in the body during the day.

What affects melatonin production?

Exposure to sunlight (and some bright sources of artificial light) inhibits the production of melatonin. This explains why melatonin is sometimes called the “Dracula of hormones”. Therefore, exposure to sunlight in the morning and exposure to a dark (without bright lights, cell phones, laptops, etc.) environment before bed is recommended to create the ideal sleep-wake cycle.

What does research say about melatonin supplementation?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, "Some studies show promise for the use of melatonin [supplementation] in shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and reducing the number of awakenings, but not necessarily total sleep time. Other studies show no benefit at all with melatonin. Large studies are needed to demonstrate if melatonin is effective and safe for some forms of insomnia, particularly for long-term use.

Evidence that melatonin [supplementation] can reset the body clock is more well established, although it is not clear whether exposure to light may be more effective."

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How Sleep Deprivation is Destroying your Quality of Life

In addition to being a key ingredient for good overall health, sleep (or lack thereof) can hugely impact your quality of life. Sleep is a key requirement for both mental and physical health. It is vital that you are well rested so that your body can function as it is intended to.

How sleep loss negatively impacts your quality of life
Lack of sleep can alter your mood significantly. It can lead to irritability, stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. It may also lessen your ability to cope with stress. Sleep deprivation also seems to put a damper on people’s ability to reap the emotional benefits of a positive experience. For example, research has shown that when people are sleep deprived, they do not experience the same positive effect after an achievement, whereas people who’d had an adequate amount of sleep, felt better after their achievement.

Why you need sleep to perform at work
In terms of productivity, you are much less capable of processing information, problem solving, and being creative, when you are sleep deprived. After 24 hours without sleep, you’re mental and motor skills are impaired at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10, legally intoxicated in all 50 states. If you want to be your best at work, start by making sure that you are getting adequate sleep.

At the same time, sleep is also a key requirement for peak physical performance. In fact, your body declines in physical performance by 25% for every 24 hours that your body is deprived of sleep. Additionally, when you’re sleep deprived, your body is not able to repair itself as effectively; thus, you are more prone to illness and injury. It’s hard to be successful when you’re sick all the time.

What sleep does to your health
Sleep deprivation is linked with many adverse health outcomes; including type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity. Your body also produces more of the stress hormone, cortisol, when it is sleep deprived. Higher levels of cortisol in the body can have a negative effect on your immune system, your body’s ability to heal, your metabolism, and digestion, just to name a few.

How much sleep?
Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This is a good rough estimate but each individual is different, and factors like age and gender play a role, too. The best way to determine how much sleep you need is to pay attention to your body’s needs. If your schedule allows, take a few days to assess it. Go to sleep when you feel sleepy (record the time), do not set an alarm and see what time your body naturally wakes up. If you can do this for a few days you can start to see just how many hours your body needs.

Do something about it
Being aware of how your environment and your daily habits are affecting your sleep is the first step in improving sleep. Everything from the amount of caffeine you eat and drink, to the blue light being emitted from your smart phone, can have an impact on your ability to sleep. Check out our tips below for improving sleep.

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Ask An Expert

I often find myself on my phone or computer while in bed. How can I unplug from all my devices?

Set an unplug time.
Similar to a bed time, set a firm time to put down all the devices each night and stick to it. This time would ideally be at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.

If you must read, do it the old fashioned way! Avoid anything with a backlight. Read a magazine or a paperback book. If you have to read something work related, print it.

Keep pen and paper handy. That way you can write down any to-do items or things that you want to remember without cheating and looking at your phone.

Mindful Moment

Progressive muscle relaxation can help you to fall asleep and get a better night’s sleep. To do this, lie on your bed or on the floor, and tighten and release different muscles.

Some people start with their upper body (hands, arms, shoulders, etc.) and move to their lower body (toes, feet calves, thighs) tightening and releasing each major muscle. Others choose to just focus on muscles that may be causing them pain. However you choose to do it, you may find that this process will help you to relax and fall asleep better.

Bottom Line

Sleep is key for recharge and recovery. The strength and capability of your mind and body largely depend on you getting an adequate amount of sleep. Whether you realize it or not, your productivity at work is also impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night.

Many things in the environment can have an effect on your ability to get adequate sleep. Getting exposure to sunlight in the morning and limiting exposure to artificial light in the evening, are two ways you can help your body regulate its own natural sleep cycle.

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Featured Recipe:
Sleepy Time Smoothie

This sleepy time smoothie is full of ingredients to help you slumber. The almond milk and butter includes tryptophan which is an amino acid that turns into relaxing brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. The carbs boost serotonin production. Lastly, the magnesium in the bananas helps relax muscles and make you feel drowsy.

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or 1/4 cup raw almonds

  • Place ingredients in a blender for about 30 seconds then serve immediately.

    Nutrition Information:
    Servings: 1      Calories: 232      Carbs: 33g      Fiber: 4g      Sugar: 16g      Fat: 11g Protein: 4g       Sodium: 93mg     

    Featured Exercise: Pilates Roll Down

    According to the National Sleep Foundation, certain Pilates exercises done at night can help you sleep better. “Low-key exercises may be particularly good to try before bed, because they help you let go of all the stress that you likely accumulated throughout the day and they allow you to activate, stretch, and relax your muscles to relieve tension. When both your body and your mind are calm, it’s easier to drift off into slumber”

    The roll down warm up and cool down move is perfect for decompressing in the evening. To start, stand tall with feet hips-width apart, hands against your sides. Shoulders are relaxed. Using your abdominal muscles, slowly bend forward. Let arms dangle toward the floor and hang, while you breathe deeply. Try to touch the ground and then hold the pose for a second or two. Next, reverse and roll up slowly, keeping the abdominal muscles engaged.

    Featured Recipe image source.
    Sleep Corner source.