Army H.e.a.l.t.h. Arsenal
July, 2017

Sleep Corner

Sleep in the Summer

Sleep may seem like a constant throughout the year, but did you know that seasons can influence your sleep habits? Here are a few ways that summer can affect your sleep patterns and what to do about it.

  1. Temperature
    In the summer, heat can affect our ability to sleep because warm temperatures stimulate wakefulness. Try to create a cool environment when you sleep in the summer with additional fans and lighter blankets.
  2. Daylight
    Days get significantly longer in the summer and daylight lasts longer. It can be hard to sleep when it’s light out since our natural circadian rhythms respond to daylight as a time to be awake. Invest in good blinds, blackout curtains, and maybe even a sleep mask to get some shut eye.
  3. Vacations
    Many people take vacation time during the summer. School children and teachers even get summers off! It can be easy to slip out of a regular sleep schedule when you have less responsibility and time to relax. Try to keep your sleep and wake schedule within two hours of your normal routine so that it is easier to adjust when vacation is over.
  4. Allergies
    You may not realize it, but pollen and other allergens (such as grasses and ragweed) spike during the summer. Allergy symptoms can make it difficult to sleep. Avoid these as much as possible by using an air purifier and bathing after being outside to limit long exposure.

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Fitness Trackers and Sleep

Sleep tracking can show people how much sleep they are (or aren’t!) getting and the quality of that sleep. But how accurate are they? Can a wristband really tell you about your sleep patterns?

How Do Fitness Trackers Track Sleep?
The current best sleep test is polysomnography (PSG), which is performed by sleep clinics to diagnose sleeping disorders. You sleep a few nights at a clinic, hooked up to electrodes that measure your brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and eye/leg movements. Although this test is as accurate as it gets, it can be uncomfortable, time consuming, and expensive.

Enter the fitness trackers: a (comparatively) less expensive and more practical way to measure sleep in your natural environment. Fitness trackers use built-in accelerometers (which track your steps) to track how much you move at night in a process called “actigraphy”. The idea is to track how much time you spend moving (awake) or staying still (asleep).

How Accurate Is It?
As you can imagine, these aren’t perfectly accurate. Ever notice that your fitness tracker registers that you’re asleep even if you’re just lying in bed reading?

Several studies showed that the Fitbit overestimates the time adults spent asleep by 67 minutes on average. Another study demonstrated that the Jawbone UP overestimated the total sleep time/efficiency in adolescents.

What About Sleep Stages?
Some trackers claim they can track sleep stages, too. Experts warn that buyers should be skeptical of this. The most accurate way to measure sleep cycles is with a test called an electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain waves during sleep. Brain waves differ between the various stages of sleep, as do eye movements and muscle tone. A wristband alone can’t measure all this.

Should I Trust My Tracker?
Although sleep trackers can’t always tell whether a user is awake if they’re still, some studies suggest that sleep trackers are able to give reasonably accurate measurements of total sleep duration. When used over several days, a user can get a broad estimation of their sleep patterns to inform their sleep behaviors.

What’s the bottom line?
Sleep trackers overestimate quantity and quality of sleep, so they shouldn’t be used to identify sleep problems; however, they do provide insight into your day-to-day sleep patterns. If you feel like you’re having any sort of sleep issues, visit your doctor. But, if you’re looking for some general data on how well you’re sleeping, a fitness tracker can give you the kind of data you need (as long as you take it with a grain of salt).

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Q: I often feel sleepy during mid-afternoon. Is it ok to have a cup of coffee or will the caffeine interfere with my sleep?

Caffeine is a stimulant. Because of this, many people rely on caffeine to “wake-up” in the morning or to gain a burst of energy later in the day. Caffeine can be found in tea, coffee, soft drinks, cocoa, and chocolate. Caffeine can take anywhere from 3-6 hours to leave your system. Keep this in consideration when reaching for that afternoon cup of joe. In an effort to keep the jitters away and ensure a good night sleep, try these alternative methods for beating that midday slump:
  1. Drink a glass of ice cold water- add some fresh squeezed lemon
  2. Eat a light snack- fresh fruit is a great, healthy way to get a quick pick-me-up.
  3. Exercise- Even if it is just 20 jumping jacks, movement will get your blood flowing again.
  4. Listen to music- music is a great way to wake up and get some motivation
  5. Switch tasks- change focus by switching to a different task

Mindful Moment

“Always remember to fall asleep with a dream and wake up with a purpose” -Source Unknown

Bottom Line

Fitness trackers that track sleep may not be as accurate as we hoped they would be. They can be used to provide some general insight into your sleep habits. But, if you are having sleep issues, it is best to consult with your doctor.

Sleep differs from season to season. It’s important to adjust the factors within your control to attain the best sleep for any given month. In the summer, take into consideration the warmer temperatures, longer days, interruptions in routines (i.e. vacations), and seasonal allergies.

Combating your afternoon slump with a daily dose of caffeine may not always be the best answer. There are other things you can try, such as getting up and moving around.

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Featured Recipe: Festive Fruit Kabobs

This month’s featured recipe features summer-fresh berries with a flare of patriotism! These kabobs are fresh, healthy, and adorable for a treat kids and adults alike are sure to love. They’re easy to make as long as you have a little patience, and will be sure to be the STAR of any party!

  • A set of skewers (the ones pictured are 6-inch bamboo skewers)*
  • A mini seedless watermelon (or half a large watermelon)
  • Blueberries (7-10 per average sized skewer)**
  • Star cookie cutter
  1. Wash blueberries and sticks, then slice watermelon to fit the width of the star cutter (roughly 1 in thick, depending on your cookie cutter)
  2. Slide the blueberries on the stick (start with whichever fruit you ultimately want on bottom), with the pointed end of the skewer facing up
  3. Using the cookie cutter, cut out star shapes from the watermelon slices
  4. Place a star at the top of each skewer, making sure the pointed stick is not exposed beyond the watermelon***

Nutrition Information:
Servings: ~6      Calories: 9      Carbs: 3g      Sugar: 2g        Fat: 0g          
Protein: 0g       

*Be sure that the stick is not exposed beyond the watermelon, and pay attention to little kids enjoying this treat. For a less sharp alternative, you may consider metal or plastic skewers, but make sure they’re thin enough to hold blueberries.

** Depending on the size of your skewers you may need more blueberries!

***The key to keeping the fruit on the sticks is to make sure the skewer is inserted exactly into the center, otherwise you may get a sloppy surprise when the fruit breaks apart!
Featured Exercise: Donkey Kicks

Featured Recipe adapted from The Baby Bump Diaries.