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HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics
If you’ve ever switched times zones, even as little as one hour, you may be aware that it can disturb your sleep and even disorient you in the following days. Without taking any medicinal countermeasures, you can typically adapt to your new time zone with about one hour of extra sleep per day after arrival (depending on with direction you’re traveling). However, some operations require that you be able to perform within 24 hours of arrival. To better prepare and adjust to your new time zone, use these strategies:
- One week before you travel, adjust your sleep schedule about one hour per night towards the time zone you are flying in—i.e., if flying eastward, go to bed and get up earlier; if flying westward, sleep later.
- Before you take off and while on the aircraft, eat light snacks, avoid alcohol, and stay hydrated (with water).
- On the aircraft, make sure that you are comfortable and able to nap before you arrive at your destination.
- Setting your watch to your new time zone as soon as you board your flight will help you transition.
- Take a short nap when you arrive at your new location, if you’re able to do so.
For more information, read the sections on jet lag in this article on sleep rhythms.
Misinformation abounds regarding ideal nap lengths for optimal cognitive performance. You need sleep to function at your best. If you do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, then napping can help. Learn more in
NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal recently announced that he will retire from professional basketball after 19 seasons and four championship rings. In addition to that announcement, O'Neal announced via a YouTube video that he, like 12 million other Americans, had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
According to his girlfriend, the seven-feet-tall, 300-plus-pounds center snored excessively during the night, and she noticed that his chest would often cease movement entirely. After participating in a Harvard University–sponsored sleep study he was diagnosed with a mild case of sleep apnea and was advised to begin wearing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask, a respiratory ventilation therapy that assists the wearer’s breathing while asleep. O'Neal's story has a happy ending—because of the recent diagnosis and subsequent treatment, O’Neal reports that he feels more energetic and that his overall quality of life has improved. He is also happy and comfortable with the treatment. Other professional athletes suffering from sleep apnea have not been so fortunate. In 2006, Reggie White, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers—one of the greatest players in football history—reportedly died from causes related to sleep apnea.
What exactly is sleep apnea? And how does it affect athletic performance? People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of the three types, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Weight can contribute to sleep apnea. In 2009, a study by Sweden's Karolinska Institute showed that overweight and obese men who lost weight during a calorie-restricted diet over nine weeks had major improvements in their sleep apnea symptoms.
Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include certain physical attributes, such as having a thick neck (which describes many athlete body types), deviated septum, receding chin, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.
Signs of sleep apnea include loud and chronic snoring, choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep, long pauses in breathing, and daytime sleepiness regardless of how much time you spend sleeping. Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, restless or fitful sleep, insomnia or nighttime awakenings, going to the bathroom frequently during the night, waking up feeling out of breath, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability, or depression.
Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, left untreated, it may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.
In terms of athletic/sports performance, sleep apnea is a major concern because sleep apnea causes a disruption to healthy sleep patterns, which in turn can affect physical performance. According to a 2007 Stanford University study of sleep and athletic performance, athletes who extend the amount of sleep they get and reduce their sleep debt are more likely to improve their performance. Conversely, if an athlete does not get a good night’s sleep, then the next day he/she is tired, sleepy, or irritable. In such cases, physical performance also is impaired, since there is limited energy reserve due to the lack of adequate or good-quality sleep. Sleep apnea not only has an impact on athletes—it affects the military, as well.
So what can you do if you suspect that you or your sleep partner has sleep apnea? The only way to be sure is to undergo a sleep test, which is done in a sleep lab where patients sleep in a special bedroom with electrodes and other sensors attached to various parts of the body. There, you will be monitored throughout the night to keep track of whether and how often you stop breathing, how low your O2 sat (oxygen saturation) goes, and what your brainwaves are doing while you're sleeping.
For additional resources on sleep and sleep apnea, please visit the following:
According to a recent article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the National Sleep Foundation reported that more than one-third of adults in the United States are not sleeping enough, and inadequate sleep impairs daily tasks. Compared to those who reported sleeping 7-8 hours regularly, those who slept less than 7 hours reported significantly more trouble performing the daily tasks such as:
- Ability to concentrate
- Working on a hobby
- Driving or taking public transport
- Taking care of financial matters
- Performing at work.
If you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, then it’s possible you’re not getting enough sleep. The optimum amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, and how much you need may change over time. Sleep loss increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. When you can wake up feeling refreshed and without an alarm clock, you know you have gotten enough sleep! Check out these resources for more details:
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) latest poll, our electronic gadgets may be preventing us from getting adequate sleep. Common behaviors such as computer use, texting, and watching television are associated not only with less sleep but with lower quality sleep. One recommendation from NSF: “Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you're finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.” For the full report of the poll, visit NSF’s Annual 2011 Report Homepage: Technology and Use and Sleep.
The amount of the time spent sleeping is decreasing: the average amount of sleep reported for middle-aged people in the late 1050s—around eight to nine hours—has decreased in recent times to about seven or eight hours. And the number of individuals who sleep less than six hours each night has significantly increased. These changes in sleep patterns may be indicative of sleep deprivation in society at large. This is not surprising, as the modern society seems to offer twice as much work (on the job, at home, etc.) and half as much time to complete it. Consequently, we are awake for extended periods of time, thus reducing the amount of time we spend sleeping.
However, we all know that sleep is essential! Sleep is vital to restore and renew many body systems; and sleep deprivation may result in poor performance, increased sleepiness, reduced alertness, delayed response time, difficulty maintaining attention, decreased positive mood, and increased long-term health risks. Some research studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of death.
So adequate sleep is vital for everyone to optimally perform the activities of daily living. But you may wonder, “How can I determine how much sleep I need to function at my best?” Dr. Michael Bonnet, director of the Sleep Laboratory at the Dayton. Ohio, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides a very simple but practical test you can use to determine how much sleep you need. According to him, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, try going to bed a little earlier the following night (e.g., 15 minutes earlier). If you still need an alarm clock to wake up the next morning, push your bedtime a little earlier again (i.e., another 15 minutes). Continue doing this until you no longer need an alarm to wake up.
I actually tried this test and found out I was not the “night owl” I thought I was. It looks like I function at my best if I retire for the night a couple of hours earlier than I used to. Sleep is important! It significantly affects your performance, health, and quality of life. And it is especially important to Warfighters, who can rarely get enough when deployed. So in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, try to get enough sleep each night whenever your situation makes it possible.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
For a warfighter, sleep can be just as important to the mission as having enough food, water and ammunition. Realwarriors.net has a great piece on the common myths about sleep and six tips to improve sleep habits while settling into a new routine away from home.
According to researchers at Northwestern University, regular exercise may improve your sleep quality and mood. They studied two groups: one that exercised four times per week for 16 weeks, and one that took part in recreational and educational activities but did not exercise. Participants who exercised reported that their sleep quality improved. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less sleepiness in the daytime. Sleep is important to good health, so stay physically active to improve your sleep quality and mood! Read HealthDay News for more details.
Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but in general, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Food fuels our way through the day (can give you the necessary energy to pull you through the day), but did you know that food also has an effect on how we sleep? Watch what you eat in the course of a day – particularly in the hours before you go to bed – if you want to optimize your sleep at night. We give you some tips below on the best foods to eat to help you sleep soundly, and those to avoid if you have trouble resting at night.
Foods to avoid before bed:
- Caffeine: Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances even many hours after drinking it. Some people find there’s a cut-off time for their bodies – caffeine before that time won’t affect their sleep, but anything after, say, 2:00 p.m. can cause problems with their sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, among other foods.
- Alcohol: Some people think of alcohol as a nightcap to help you sleep better. While it may help you get to sleep faster, it also reduces sleep quality by waking you up later, in the middle of the night. A glass of wine before bed should be fine; several stiff drinks are not.
- Big or heavy meals: Fatty food takes time to digest and may keep you from getting to sleep. Spicy and acidic foods at night often cause stomach problems and/or heartburn. Try having an earlier dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of when you’ll be going to bed.
- Liquids: Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, resulting in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, and drinking too much water or other liquids close to bedtime also increases your trips to the bathroom in the night.
- Sugar: Anything too sugary, like many desserts or nighttime snacks are, can interfere with your sleep.
Best foods before bed:
- Bananas: Bananas contain large amounts of tryptophan, which triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin in our brains, helping us relax.
- Dairy: Dairy is also a good source of tryptophan, especially combined with some carbohydrates, like oatmeal. A warm glass of milk or a small bowl of oatmeal should help you sleep.
- Turkey: Another good source of tryptophan. Think of the post-Thanksgiving turkey slump many of us experience! Combined with whole-wheat bread in a small sandwich, this is a recipe for a deep, relaxing sleep.
Quality sleep is essential to our health. To start sleeping soundly, try some simple modifications to your diet and see if it helps you.