Reading time: 2 min

What is it

Sleep latency is the term given to describe how long it takes to fall asleep. Sleep latency can be highly variable due to behaviors prior to bedtime, such as alcohol, medications, exercise, diet, and blue light exposure, among others. However, tracking sleep latency can provide additional data that can reflect changes in health, behavior, and their interaction.

How is it measured

Sleep latency is measured in minutes from the time an individual attempts to fall asleep to the time when the individual enters sleep. While this can seem rather easy to qualitatively assess for an individual, tracking changes in physiological metrics through photoplethysmography (PPG) and accelerometry provides improved insight as individuals may have difficulty reporting the time of initial sleep onset. By tracking metrics such as heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and limb movements, a good understanding of bed time and onset of sleep can be made.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Correlations to health conditions

The connection between sleep onset latency and clinical outcomes is less clear than that of total sleep time and deep sleep duration, however, there appears to be correlations between them. It is important to note that directionality and magnitude of latency may or may not have clinical relevance based on the situation that an individual is in. For example, long sleep latencies can be indicative of disorders, particularly related to stress or insomnia; however, shortening sleep latency may not reflect positive changes, as sleep latency is decreased by high amounts of sleep debt and may not reflect an overall positive change. Further, substances such as alcohol may reduce sleep latency but may lead to lesser quality of sleep.

Many of the correlations between latency and health are drawn in anxiety and depression. These psychological disorders are fairly common and are known to affect sleep and sleep latency. However, sleep latency is associated with total sleep duration reduction, which has a feed-forward effect on sleep, where less sleep causes more anxiety and depression. Thus, it can be important to monitor sleep latency changes to catch trends before they become problematic.

Normal or acceptable ranges

The National Sleep Foundation acknowledges up to 30 minutes of sleep latency, regardless of age, as appropriate. Sleep latency of 31-45 minutes is listed as ‘uncertain’, which could be due to individual trends. It stands to reason that very short sleep latency (<5 minutes) could indicate problems with fatigue and sleep deprivation, however, the research on normative values in this range are unclear.

Interpreting trends

Although the clinical recommendations remain unclear, tracking sleep latency could be good for most individuals. This metric, inversely associated with total sleep duration, could provide insight into behavioral changes and how they affect sleep architecture. Should sleep latency trend negatively for an individual, behavioral interventions could be suggested to correct sleep latency, and potentially increase total sleep duration. 

Reading time: 2 min

What is it

Snoring is characterized by partial obstruction of airways that results in noise while breathing. While snoring is a fairly common occurrence, it has the potential to affect sleep quality and physiological parameters, while some snoring can be benign. In addition, snoring can be disruptive to other individuals’ sleep if present in the same room, and is a fairly common stressor for families and partnerships.

How it is measured

Snoring is most often measured by microphone recording during sleep. Biostrap uses the microphone in the individual’s phone, placed near their bed during sleep, which can detect snoring patterns throughout the night. This allows measurement of frequency and intensity of snoring that is otherwise difficult to quantify without a sleep study. 

Biostrap reports snoring level severity as: none, mild, moderate or severe

Correlation with health conditions

Snoring itself can wake up both the individual and others present during sleep, which can affect sleep quality and duration, leading to increased fatigue. However, more importantly, snoring can be associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when airways are obstructed enough to restrict airflow. In typical sleep apnea, airflow is restricted for 10+ seconds for an average of 5 times per hour. This can lead to impaired oxygen transportation and have downstream physiological effects.

Many times, sleep apnea requires intervention in order to improve health outcomes associated with the disorder. While snoring can occur in the absence of sleep apnea, snoring intensity (measured in decibels) is positively correlated with obstructive sleep apnea intensity, and therefore warrants monitoring of snoring frequency and intensity, along with other physiological metrics to screen for sleep apnea.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Normal or acceptable range

It is estimated that ~49% of people experience occasional snoring, while 10-36% of people snore regularly. Currently, there are no recommended ranges or normative values for snoring, but generally less is better. Simple interventions, such as postural changes, breathing devices, and room conditions, can lead to decreased snoring, potentially increasing sleep quality. 

Interpreting Trends

Monitoring snoring over time may illustrate if/when snoring begins to affect physiology. Should snoring coincide with decreased SpO2, increased heart rate, awakenings, or self-reported fatigue, it is likely that snoring is affecting the quality of sleep, and may warrant intervention. Any changes in behaviors aimed at reducing snoring (postural changes, breathing devices, or room conditions) can be quantified using Biostrap’s sleep analysis, measuring snoring, sleep stages, awakenings, heart rate, SpO2, and more. 

Reading time: 2 min

What is it?

Sleep duration is simply the amount of time that an individual is asleep per night. Regardless of sleep stage, this measure has been shown to be an important factor to quantify, as it directly impacts physiological and psychological parameters in both the short and long term, impacting health, performance, and longevity.

What does it measure?

Sleep duration is the total sum of time spent asleep, regardless of sleep stage, excluding time spent awake while in bed. Using combinations of heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing, motion, and pulse waveform data, approximating sleep versus awake time is possible.

Biostrap uses inputs from all of the listed measurements to estimate light sleep, deep sleep, and time spent awake; therefore, the reflected sleep duration is the sum of light and deep sleep.

Correlation with health conditions

Adequate amounts of sleep have been tied to numerous health outcomes and remains a widely-studied topic. While sleep quality has been the focus of more recent research, the total sleep duration still remains a commonly reported metric and highly correlated with health outcomes.

Sleep is highly important to regulating biological processes, allowing for adaptation, recovery, and preparation. Many repair processes occur during sleep, with surges in growth hormones and reduction in stress hormones. Physiologically, increased sleep duration has been shown to reduce stress, improve cardiovascular markers (e.g. heart rate, heart rate variability, and arterial stiffness), reduce weight gain, improve immune function, and lower risk of all cause mortality and varying diseases. As such, sleep appears to improve physiological pathways robustly.

In addition to physiological effects, there are many cognitive benefits of increased sleep, including improved memory, problem solving, and reaction speed.

Normal or acceptable range

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least 7 hours of sleep per night for adults aged 18-60 years, with the National Sleep Foundation recommending supplementing this recommendation with 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults aged 65 years and older.

Biostrap records users’ sleep each night, and from this data, we can gather average values of distinct populations.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Interpreting Trends

Considering the broad health implications associated with sleep duration, tracking sleep duration over time is recommended so an individual may notice trends in their behavior. This metric can be seen as a health behavior, and thus influences passively obtained physiology metrics. However, sleep duration can be monitored to see if other lifestyle factors or stressors are decreasing time asleep, which may be hard to notice in some individuals without measurements. Including sleep duration into longitudinal metrics can either explain or rule out other physiological trends, and therefore is included in Biostrap biometrics, allowing users and remote monitors to have a broader view of individual health.

Reading time: 2 min

What is deep sleep

Sleep can be broken down into different ‘stages’ of sleep. Most commonly, sleep is divided into rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep accounts for the majority of sleep (75-80% of total sleep duration), while REM sleep makes up the rest. Within NREM sleep, there are four stages; the first stage is light sleep and is mostly the transitory onset of sleep; the second stage is also considered light sleep, but makes up a longer duration than stage 1.

The third and fourth stages are considered ‘deep sleep’ and are characterized by slow brain waves. Deep sleep makes up roughly 13-23% of nightly sleep. It is during these stages that sleep is restorative and leads to many adaptive physiological outcomes that help the body adapt and repair. As such, deep sleep has been shown to be more important than total sleep time in affecting physiological outcomes.

How it is measured

Deep sleep is often identified by slow waveforms on an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain wave activity. As an alternative, deep sleep has been shown to have decreased movement and altered vital signs, particularly: lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability, lower blood pressure, lower temperature, and decreased sympathetic activity, among others.

By measuring these changes using wearable technologies (accelerometers and photoplethysmography [PPG]), a close approximation of sleep stage can be made. Using this technology allows for passive measurement with much less equipment than a traditional EEG or polysomnogram.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Correlation with health conditions

Much like with total sleep time, the restorative benefits of deep sleep have robust physiological effects across many organ systems. However, deep sleep appears to be a better indicator of the quality of sleep, compared to the total duration of sleep.

Deep sleep has been shown to affect growth hormone production, glucose metabolism, synaptic processes (e.g. learning/memory formation), and immune function changes. Sleep restriction, affecting the duration of deep sleep, has been linked to many negative health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, poor cognitive function, and many more conditions. As such, it is important to get adequate amounts of sleep that is of good quality, permitting deep sleep.

Normal or acceptable range

Currently, there are not widely accepted values specific to deep sleep. There appears to be an age-related decline in the duration of deep sleep, with minimal change in other sleep stages, in absolute terms. Of each sleep session, most individuals have 13-23% of their duration in deep sleep. The recommended amount of deep sleep has not fully been evaluated, but many experts believe that it is better to have more than less, although high amounts of deep sleep may indicate short term deficiencies.

Interpreting trends

While it is relatively easy to approximate total sleep time by tracking sleep and wake times, deep sleep is much harder to quantify. Use of EEG devices provide a strong understanding of sleep stages and progressions but are less obtainable for an individual on a regular basis. However, using accelerometers and PPG wearables, such as Biostrap, light and deep sleep can be approximated on a nightly basis, and easily tracked over time.

As with total sleep duration, tracking deep sleep can provide insight into its contribution to changes in physiological variables, cognitive and/or athletic performance, mood, fatigue, and other health-related outcomes. As a variable that is more challenging to quantify, monitoring deep sleep over time can also provide insight into lifestyle changes and how they affect deep sleep. For example, tracking how a medication affects deep sleep may provide insight into its efficacy or side effects.

Reading time: 5 min

We know we need water, but there remains confusion as to whether or not we should drink water before we go to sleep. Some assume that drinking water just before bed will keep us hydrated throughout the night while others question whether it has any real health benefits. Which is true, and what’s nothing more than “watered-down” information? We set out to answer this question.

The Cons of Drinking Water Before Bed

Drinking water before bed can influence your body in both negative and positive ways. Below, we’ve broken down the primary means by which drinking water before bed can negatively impact your body.

Your Sleep Cycle

Your body’s sleep cycle is a complex process that dictates when you feel sleepy, when you feel alert, and how often you wake throughout the night. Interrupt this cycle and you may experience sleep deprivation symptoms such as sleep inertia, afternoon grogginess, or a change in your mood.

While drinking a glass of water before bed may provide your body with fluids, it can also impact your sleep cycle by increasing overnight urination, also known as nocturia. Because your body requires six to eight hours of sleep each night, fluid intake can influence how often you wake to use the bathroom.

This is why sleep deprivation can then take hold. Research indicates a lack of sleep can negatively impact your immune system, your energy levels, and more.

This information shouldn’t dissuade you from drinking water before going to sleep. As you’ll soon find out, there are some health benefits to nightly hydration. But it should serve as a cautionary note — if you decide to drink water before bed, be sure the amount of water you consume will not impact your sleep. Your body needs both water and sleep to function properly.

The Benefits of Drinking Water Before Bed

 

While drinking water before bed can interrupt your sleep cycle or create nocturia, it can also provide numerous benefits. We broke these down in greater detail below.

Detoxing Your Body

Water acts as a natural cleanser that helps your body rid itself of unwanted toxins while simultaneously aiding your digestive system.

Should you choose to drink water before bed, consider drinking warm water or hot water. Warm water increases blood circulation and your sweat output. Though sweating during the night may cause your body to lose fluids, it will also remove excess salts and cleanse your skin cells, thus acting as a natural detox for your body.

Preventing Hangovers

​Ah yes, the dreaded hangover. You spent the night celebrating with friends and woke the following morning feeling as if you were just hit by a truck. When you drink alcohol, you will need to urinate more, further promoting dehydration and amplifying the symptoms of a hangover.

The best way to avoid the classic hangover is to drink alcohol in moderation — this much we know. But water can help reduce a hangover’s effects. These include drinking water between each alcoholic beverage and drinking a couple of glasses of water before going to bed.

If you anticipate spending the night out with friends, leave a full water bottle on your bedside table before heading out for the night. When you return, drink a few ounces of water to avoid a serious headache the next day.

Improved Mood and Mental Performance

Do you ever feel better when you’re fully hydrated? Maybe your mind feels sharp or instead you’re simply on your game. Believe it or not, a lack of water can negatively impact your mood and disrupt your sleep cycle in-turn.

Research suggests that those who are consistently hydrated feel better than those who are not. By drinking enough water during the day and before bed, you stand to replenish fluids and get better sleep that will boost your mood and mental strength.

Weight Loss

No, it’s not some fad from the back of a tabloid magazine. Believe it or not, drinking cold water before bed actually burns calories simply because your body needs to warm up the water. It works twice as hard to do so while you’re asleep, as your body is in a state of rest with little movement.

Don’t expect this tactic to burn calories at a similar rate to exercise. But cold water intake can still burn calories while you sleep, and capitalizing on this is as simple as downing a glass of cold water before bed. However, the healthiest and simplest weight loss management relates to diet and physical activity.

Drinking Lemon Water

Not only does drinking cold water at night benefit you, warm lemon water will do so as well.

Lemons are full of health benefits. While we often consume lemons because of their vitamin C content, they also contain other nutrients and minerals such as pectin, vitamin E, vitamin B. A glass of lemon water in the morning will boost your immune system and promote your well-being by eliminating free radicals that may otherwise promote illness and disease. Hot lemon water can also balance your body’s pH levels to promote cell function and structure.

But the benefits of drinking lemon water don’t end there. Lemon water also acts as a diuretic that increases urination to help purify your body and your urinary tract (again, moderate your bedtime consumption wisely). The citric acid in lemons can help prevent kidney stones by making your urine less acidic. And when you drink lemon water, it even keeps your breath fresh. (However, the citric acid can erode tooth enamel over time, so be sure to keep an eye on this.)

Moderate lemon juice and hot water before bed can promote a healthy lifestyle. It’s a natural remedy to maintain good health with very few side effects.

To prepare a cup of lemon water, squeeze fresh lemon or pour lemon juice into a mug of warm water. It’s a sort of healthy and rejuvenating lemon tea.

When Should You Drink Water?

Now that we’ve come to understand the many benefits of drinking water before bed, let’s discuss when you should drink water and when you shouldn’t.

Drinking water before bed has a number of benefits, but drinking too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle and impact your overall health. Over time, this can lead to issues such as heart disease and weight gain.

At the end of the day, you simply need to drink enough water to avoid dehydration while simultaneously ensuring you’re not waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. A general rule of thumb suggests you avoid drinking water two hours before sleeping to avoid waking up at night.

Most online guides will suggest drinking eight cups of water per day on average, though this may vary depending on your needs. For instance, you may need to consume more water if you’re physically active or if it’s hot outside. Drink water with every meal and when you’re hungry, and consume foods like fruits or vegetables that possess higher water content levels.

If you’re not sure how much water you should drink or when you should drink it, simply speak with a dietitian.

An Ode to Water

Our bodies constantly crave water in the hopes of replenishing fluids that are lost over time. From sweating to sleeping to bowel movements, our body is losing water that we need to replace. While drinking water before bed may influence your sleep cycle, it can also provide a number of health benefits you may want to consider taking advantage of.

Take time to determine how much water you should drink before bed. It should be enough to hydrate you without waking you to use the bathroom consistently. Otherwise, enjoy the many benefits of your body’s favorite fluid.

Reading time: 5 min

Exercising, reducing stress, and maintaining a routine are all things that support a healthy sleep schedule. But did you know that nutrition also plays a role in sleep quality? Tryptophan, also known as L-tryptophan, is one nutrient that’s essential for regulating both sleep and mood.

While many people get tryptophan from their normal diets, others have great success when supplementing with L-tryptophan. Whether you’re struggling with sleep or know someone who is, here’s a look at the promising research behind supplementing with L-tryptophan for sleep and overall well-being.

What Is L-Tryptophan?

The body relies on amino acids for important functions like building proteins, regulating neurotransmitters, and regulating immune and metabolic functions.

While not all amino acids are critical to survival, there are nine essential amino acids that the body requires to function at optimal health. Essential amino acids cannot be created by the body and must instead be ingested through diet.

Tryptophan is one of these nine essential amino acids and can be found in common foods like turkey, fish, cheese, chicken, and eggs. Plant-based sources of tryptophan include soy and seeds, like pumpkin and sesame.

All humans unknowingly experience the effects of tryptophan on a daily basis. That’s because tryptophan is responsible for the production of niacin, melatonin, and serotonin. Tryptophan cannot produce niacin unless the body has enough Vitamin B6, Iron, and Riboflavin, yet the role of niacin as a B vitamin means it’s essential for creating energy from food nutrients.

Melatonin is key for regulating healthy sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin plays a role in both sleep and mood regulation. And since tryptophan is an essential amino acid, low L-tryptophan levels can have serious consequences for the mind and body. The primary side effect is decreased sleep quality and increased risk of mental health and mood disorders, including depression.

Benefits of L-Tryptophan Supplements for Sleep

There are many positive effects of L-tryptophan for sleep. Supplementing with L-tryptophan helps improve sleep because it increases melatonin and serotonin, which work in harmony to regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle.

A large body of research shows that L-tryptophan can be helpful for improving sleep quality in people of all ages. For example, one study sought to determine if a tryptophan-rich breakfast (along with light therapy) could increase melatonin production to induce better sleep.

The results showed that consuming breakfast cereals high in L-tryptophan increased the efficiency of sleep while helping people sleep for a longer amount of time. The research also showed that L-tryptophan decreased sleeplessness during the night and reduced sleep latency — the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

Similar results were discovered in a study on L-tryptophan and sleep. This research found that taking L-tryptophan supplements twice a day, at night and in the morning, greatly increased melatonin levels. As a result, subjects had improved sleep-wake cycle regulation and slept better.

Another controlled study on newborns tested the effects of 420 mg of L-tryptophan (per 2.2 lbs of body weight) in a bottle. The babies in this study experienced sleepiness sooner and slept for longer than usual, though pediatric use isn’t recommended.

The recommended dose of L-tryptophan for adults is 8-12 grams per day, and this total amount should be divided across three to four doses per day.

L-Tryptophan for Sleep Disorders

It’s clear that L-tryptophan can be helpful for improving sleep, but what about in the instance of chronic sleep disorders?

Scientific studies demonstrate that taking one gram of L-tryptophan before bed can support improved sleep for people with mild insomnia, while up to 15 grams can support severe insomnia, according to psychiatrist James Lake. He adds that people with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, have reported better sleep quality after taking 400-600 grams of 5-HTP before bed.

These findings suggest that L-tryptophan and 5-HTP, respectively, can be used as sleep aids both in people with mild sleep problems and in those with more serious chronic conditions.

Moreover, since sleep and sleep disorders are often associated with mood disorders like stress and anxiety (insomnia can exacerbate stress and stress can cause insomnia), let’s take a look at the promising effects of 5-HTP and L-tryptophan on mental health.

L-Tryptophan for Mental Health and Mood

Anyone considering L-tryptophan for its mental health benefits should also learn about 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. Both tryptophan and 5-HTP are serotonin precursors, meaning they increase serotonin production — the neurotransmitter that supports healthy mood. Yet, 5-HTP is the version of tryptophan before it has been fully transformed into serotonin, meaning it may have a milder effect.

According to a study on 5-HTP, this amino acid “easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and effectively increases central nervous system (CNS) synthesis of serotonin.” This increase in serotonin levels not only supports sleep and mood regulation, but has also been shown to improve depression, anxiety, aggression, mood swings, and muscle pain.

Scientific evidence shows that, due to its positive effect on serotonin production, 5-HTP can also be effective for treating common disorders like chronic headaches, binge eating, and fibromyalgia. Additional studies show that L-tryptophan can be helpful for depression related to menstruation and premenstrual syndrome.

The standard dose for 5-HTP is between 300-500 mg per day, and all other antidepressant medications or serotonin boosters should be stopped immediately when starting 5-HTP. Taking too many supplements that alter this important brain chemical can cause serotonin syndrome. The most common symptoms of serotonin syndrome include restlessness, confusion, rapid heart rate, sweating, muscle tightness, and dilated pupils.

Side Effects of L-Tryptophan

Most people don’t have any side effects when taking L-tryptophan at recommended doses. However, mild symptoms related to L-tryptophan and 5-HTP have been reported, including drowsiness, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, and blurred vision.

The most serious adverse effect has been the onset of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, or EMS. This is a rare disorder caused by an increase in white blood cells (eosinophils), which cause inflammation, swelling, cough, behavioral changes, and digestive issues. This became a concern in 1989 when thousands of individuals reported symptoms of EMS after taking a specific brand of L-tryptophan supplement.

This EMS epidemic led to the ban of L-tryptophan supplements in 1990 by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), yet the ban was lifted in 2005. Scientific reports say that the link between L-tryptophan and EMS was actually due to contamination in the L-tryptophan supplement, rather than the intake of L-tryptophan itself. This is due to the fact that there have been no reported cases of L-tryptophan-related EMS since the reintroduction of the supplement in 2005.

Also remember that dietary supplements of L-tryptophan aren’t regulated by the FDA. If you want to add L-tryptophan to your diet, it’s important to consult a health care professional for medical advice related to your specific needs and circumstances.

Supplementing With L-Tryptophan for Sleep

L-tryptophan supplementation has the potential to improve both sleep and mood.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of supplementing with L-tryptophan to boost melatonin and serotonin production, both of which help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep. Since both L-tryptophan and 5-HTP help boost serotonin, they’ve also been shown to support mental health conditions like depression.

If you’re considering a supplement for better sleep and you’d like to boost your melatonin levels, consider taking L-tryptophan for sleep. Improving your daily rest through nutrition is just one way to better your overall sleep schedule and understand the role of sleep in your mental and physical health.

Reading time: 5 min

Having trouble sleeping? If you are, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, anywhere from 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleeping disorder that prevents them from getting a good night’s sleep. Be it insomnia, snoring, night terrors, or other disorders, sleep problems affect 1 in 3 people at some stage of their life.

So what can we do to combat sleepless nights and sleep disorders? From counting sheep to prescription medications, the various tactics we use to help us sleep are endless. And while lack of sleep may seem like a burden in itself, the truth is that consistent lack of sleep can lead to an increased risk of diseases while impairing mental and physical performance.

Rather than relying on medications or alternative strategies to fall asleep (and stay asleep), research shows that compounds like glycine promote a good night’s sleep, naturally.

As an emerging player in the sleep-supplement realm, glycine treatment can positively impact your sleep quality in many ways. Let’s take a look at what we currently know about glycine, including how it works in our body, and how it can affect our sleep and our health.

What Is Glycine?

As we mentioned when discussing amino acids in the past, glycine is but one of many amino acids that serve as building blocks for life. Amino acids build proteins, synthesize hormones and neurotransmitters, boost performance, improve mood, and beyond.

As data continues to suggest that amino acid supplements are capable of producing health benefits, researchers continue to experiment along the way. So what is glycine exactly, and what makes it so special?

Glycine is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that the body produces from other natural biochemicals that include serine, choline, and threonine, and we consume glycine as well.

We absorb glycine in high-protein foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and legumes, but it’s considered a non-essential amino acid because our body can produce it (of the 20 amino acids our body needs to grow and function properly, 11 of these are non-essential).

Yet unlike many amino acids that serve one principal role, glycine is a neurotransmitter with the ability to be both excitatory and inhibitory. This means it can provide the brain and central nervous system with energy, or it can quiet everything down. Glycine is commonly used to improve sleep, enhance memory, and increase insulin sensitivity.

How Does Glycine Work?

 

Now that we’ve come to understand the purpose glycine serves in our body, it’s time to break down exactly how this amino acid works. Like other common amino acids, glycine works as a protein builder in the body, and it’s known primarily for producing collagen.

Collagen is a protein that acts as a primary structural component for tendons, muscles, bones, connective tissue, and skin. And because collagen is the most abundant form of protein that provides our body with structure and strength, it serves a rather important role, all thanks to glycine.

But glycine can do more than simply produce collagen. For instance, it also facilitates the production of creatine, a nutrient that’s stored in the body and used as a form of energy.

Glycine helps breakdown fatty acids in foods, maintains healthy levels of acidity in the digestive tract, regulates blood-sugar levels and moves blood sugar to cells and tissues throughout the body. It also helps regulate the body’s immune response, and even aids in the production of DNA and RNA. Low levels of glycine have been linked to type 2 diabetes while glycine levels that are higher indicate a reduced risk of this metabolic disorder.

Though we consider glycine a non-essential amino acid, clearly it plays an important role in our body’s daily functionality. Yet the reason we find ourselves discussing glycine at length today is because of the pivotal role it plays as a neurotransmitter. Capable of stimulating or inhibiting cells in the brain, glycine can affect mood, cognition, immune function, pain perception, and even sleep.

The use of glycine as a means of influencing and improving sleep can lead to a number of outcomes for the user. For instance, glycine will help you fall asleep more quickly, increase your sleep efficiency, reduce symptoms of insomnia, and improve your overall quality of sleep, which will in turn promote a deeper and more restful sleep.

Research also suggests that, because glycine will help people fall asleep more quickly, it will result in more time in REM sleep, the state of deep sleep in which our body heals and recuperates.

So how does this sleep-promoting amino acid influence sleep in such positive ways? To answer such a question, we must look at the many ways glycine will affect our body when we use it as a supplemental sleep aid.

How Does Glycine Help You Sleep?

After we’ve taken glycine in supplement form, a number of bodily functions that help us sleep will take place. For starters, consuming glycine will lower the core body temperature by increasing blood flow to the extremities. A slight drop in body temperature is a key part of our progression toward sleep, and thus this drop in temperature is a rather pivotal moment as we look for a solid night’s rest.

Glycine will also increase serotonin levels in the body that aid in establishing healthy sleep patterns. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that aids in the production of melatonin, the famous sleep hormone we often take in supplement form. Studies suggest glycine may even help you bounce back to healthy sleep cycles after a period of disrupted sleep.

The key to this amino acid’s calming effects comes primarily from consuming glycine in supplement form. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to use supplemental glycine.

Using Glycine Supplements

 

Using glycine to aid in sleep performance is as simple as taking a supplement each night before bed. These supplements come in both pill and liquid form, making them widely available to all.

That said, consuming glycine supplements should only occur after consulting with a medical professional. Ideally, a range of 3-5 grams of glycine taken orally before bed has been used to effectively help induce sleep in scientific studies utilizing human volunteers.

Yet as with all supplements or drugs we choose to ingest, side effects may occur along the way. While most individuals tolerate supplemental glycine with no issue, some may experience nausea, vomiting, soft stools, and interactions with other drugs or prescriptions. Meanwhile, doses of glycine consumed during the day may lead to adverse effects like daytime sleepiness.

Should You Take Glycine for Sleep?

Determining whether or not you should take glycine depends on what you hope to gain from its potential. For those seeking the opportunity to fall asleep faster, increase sleep efficiency, and improve their overall quality of sleep, glycine may be high on the list of supplements worth taking. Using a wearable sleep tracker will help you analyze the differences between your sleep patterns with and without glycine.

Before choosing to incorporate glycine into your life, however, it pays to speak with a medical professional. Because the effects of glycine influence each of us differently, ensuring glycine is right for you is of the utmost importance.

If you do incorporate glycine into your life, we hope your nights be filled with restful, healthy sleep.

Reading time: 5 min

What is it?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of differences in the time intervals between heart beats. Heart rate by itself is the expression of how many contractions of the heart there are in a given unit of time; however, the rate itself is not constant. There is normal fluctuation of time between heartbeats, in a manner that speeds up and slows down heart rate. Therefore, HRV is a quantifiable measure that assesses these differences. 

This variation in the time between heartbeats is thought to be a composite measure of parasympathetic and sympathetic neural inputs and hormonal inputs as regulated by the autonomic nervous system. While much is still unknown about the mechanism of action causing variability changes, many studies have shown correlations between HRV and diseased states, such as heart disease, Parkinson disease, and cardiovascular disease; emotional stress, such as depression; physical/mechanical stress, such as high-intensity or resistance training; sleep in the context of both acute stress and chronic stress; and meditation whether it’s “inward- attention” or Vipassana meditation. Therefore, HRV is becoming a more common non-invasive measure to examine the physiological state and responses.

In general, a higher HRV is considered better, as high stress and poorer health outcomes have been associated with low values of HRV. 

How it’s measured

HRV can be measured by use of an electrocardiogram (ECG) or photoplethysmography (PPG). By referencing a common point in the ECG or PPG waveform, the time between each heart beat can be recorded in milliseconds (ms). Collecting each beat-to-beat interval in ms allows us to compute HRV, most commonly reported as rMSSD (root mean square of successive differences)

The rMSSD method of calculation takes each interval, squares the interval, takes the overall mean, and then the square root of that mean is taken. Biostrap computes the rMSSD using this method and remains the standard computational method for HRV. 

More complex measures of HRV, including frequency domain analysis can be performed to get further information out of heart rate patterns, which will be covered in another review. 

Correlation with health conditions

HRV is most notably correlated with stress conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, and other psychological states, with lower HRV indicating higher-stressed states. The suggested mechanism is an increased sympathetic arousal, which affects HRV; HRV alone does not cause these states, but reflects and provides insight into the heightened stress on the physiological systems, which in turn have effects on other bodily systems, particularly the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. 

Because of the chronic effects of stress, as previously mentioned, HRV has been noted to be a predictor of all-cause mortality and correlated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, among other health conditions.

What is a “normal” range?

Heart rate variability has a large individual component that has yet to be understood clinically, and therefore is more often used to assess changes in health over time (see “Interpreting Trends” below). 

Heart rate variability can fluctuate day-to-day based on exposure to stress, sleep quality, diet, and exercise. This leads to low repeatability, and therefore makes normative data difficult to collect. In general, younger individuals, males, and more active individuals tend to have higher heart rate variability, but the inter-subject variability tends to be too high to suggest proper normative ranges.

However, Biostrap has collected HRV on over 3,800 regular users, and can make some general observations. 

The distribution of HRV tends to follow a log-normal pattern with a median of 40.1 and a mean of 45.4 milliseconds, using the rMSSD method. In general, the average coefficient of variability in each individual is 25.8 % , suggesting high day-to-day variability. This demonstrates a need to track HRV over time to understand the ‘profile’ of an individual (mean, standard deviation, and coefficient of variability).

Interpreting trends

As previously mentioned, HRV is difficult to interpret and generally nonspecific using data from a single spot check. However, since it is a dynamic measure that responds to various lifestyle factors, tracking HRV over time allows for non-invasive insight into changes in health status or efficacy of certain interventions.

In general, since higher HRV is preferable, a greater ability to manage stress results in an increased HRV. The results of the studies demonstrating the relationship between stress and HRV suggest that interventions aimed at reducing mental and physical stress could increase HRV and minimize day-to-day fluctuations (coefficient of variation, CV%). The increase in HRV itself will not reduce risk and improve health over the long term, but rather, it reflects positive changes in an individual’s physiology.

Biostrap

In a 2018 study, the Biostrap sensor as a wrist-worn device was shown to produce high-quality signals which are useful for the estimation of heart rate variability. 

References

  1. Mccraty R, Shaffer F. Heart Rate Variability: New Perspectives on Physiological Mechanisms, Assessment of Self-regulatory Capacity, and Health Risk. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 2015;4(1):46–61. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2014.073
  2. Silva LEV, Silva CAA, Salgado HC, Fazan R. The role of sympathetic and vagal cardiac control on complexity of heart rate dynamics. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2016;312(3):H469–H477. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00507.2016
  3. Dobrek Ł, Skowron B, Baranowska A, Malska-Woźniak A, Ciesielczyk K, Thor PJ. Spectral heart rate variability and selected biochemical markers for autonomic activity in rats under pentobarbital anesthesia. Polish Annals of Medicine. 2017;24(2):180–187. doi:10.1016/j.poamed.2017.01.001
  4. Huikuri HV, Mäkikallio TH. Heart rate variability in ischemic heart disease. Autonomic Neuroscience. 2001;90(1):95–101. (Neural Regulation of Cardiovascular Function Explored in the Frequency Domain). doi:10.1016/S1566-0702(01)00273-9
  5. Alonso A, Huang X, Mosley TH, Heiss G, Chen H. Heart rate variability and the risk of Parkinson disease: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Annals of Neurology. 2015;77(5):877–883. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.24393
  6. Thayer JF, Yamamoto SS, Brosschot JF. The relationship of autonomic imbalance, heart rate variability and cardiovascular disease risk factors. International Journal of Cardiology. 2010;141(2):122–131. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2009.09.543
  7. McCraty R, Atkinson M, Tiller WA, Rein G, Watkins AD. The effects of emotions on short-term power spectrum analysis of heart rate variability. The American Journal of Cardiology. 1995;76(14):1089–1093. doi:10.1016/S0002-9149(99)80309-9
  8. CARNEY RM, FREEDLAND KE. Depression and heart rate variability in patients with coronary heart disease. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine. 2009;76(Suppl 2):S13–S17. doi:10.3949/ccjm.76.s2.03
  9. Sarmiento S, García-Manso JM, Martín-González JM, Vaamonde D, Calderón J, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Heart rate variability during high-intensity exercise. Journal of Systems Science and Complexity. 2013;26(1):104–116. doi:10.1007/s11424-013-2287-y
  10. Kingsley JD, Figueroa A. Acute and training effects of resistance exercise on heart rate variability. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging. 2016;36(3):179–187. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/cpf.12223
  11. Hall M, Vasko R, Buysse D, Ombao H, Chen Q, Cashmere JD, Kupfer D, Thayer JF. Acute Stress Affects Heart Rate Variability During Sleep. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2004;66(1):56–62. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000106884.58744.09
  12. da Estrela C, McGrath J, Booij L, Gouin J-P. Heart Rate Variability, Sleep Quality, and Depression in the Context of Chronic Stress. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2021;55(2):155–164. doi:10.1093/abm/kaaa039
  13. Busek P, Vanková J, Opavsky J, Salinger J, Nevsimalova S. Spectral analysis of heart rate variability in sleep. Physiological research / Academia Scientiarum Bohemoslovaca. 2005;54:369–76.
  14. Krygier JR, Heathers JAJ, Shahrestani S, Abbott M, Gross JJ, Kemp AH. Mindfulness meditation, well-being, and heart rate variability: A preliminary investigation into the impact of intensive Vipassana meditation. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 2013;89(3):305–313. (Psychophysiology in Australasia – ASP conference – November 28-30 2012). doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.06.017
  15. Wu S-D, Lo P-C. Inward-attention meditation increases parasympathetic activity: a study based on heart rate variability. Biomedical Research. 2008;29(5):245–250. doi:10.2220/biomedres.29.245
  16. Jarchi D, Salvi D, Velardo C, Mahdi A, Tarassenko L, Clifton DA. Estimation of HRV and SpO2 from wrist-worn commercial sensors for clinical settings. In: 2018 IEEE 15th International Conference on Wearable and Implantable Body Sensor Networks (BSN). 2018. p. 144–147. doi:10.1109/BSN.2018.8329679
  17. Shaffer F, Ginsberg JP. An Overview of Heart Rate Variability Metrics and Norms. Frontiers in Public Health. 2017 [accessed 2021 Apr 14];5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5624990/. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2017.00258
  18. Chalmers JA, Quintana DS, Abbott MJ-A, Kemp AH. Anxiety Disorders are Associated with Reduced Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2014 [accessed 2021 Apr 21];5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00080/full. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00080
  19. Hauschildt M, Peters MJV, Moritz S, Jelinek L. Heart rate variability in response to affective scenes in posttraumatic stress disorder. Biological Psychology. 2011;88(2):215–222. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.08.004
  20. Cohen H, Kotler M, Matar MA, Kaplan Z, Miodownik H, Cassuto Y. Power spectral analysis of heart rate variability in posttraumatic stress disorder patients. Biological Psychiatry. 1997;41(5):627–629. doi:10.1016/S0006-3223(96)00525-2
  21. Tsuji H, Venditti F J, Manders E S, Evans J C, Larson M G, Feldman C L, Levy D. Reduced heart rate variability and mortality risk in an elderly cohort. The Framingham Heart Study. Circulation. 1994;90(2):878–883. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.90.2.878
  22. Karason K, Mølgaard H, Wikstrand J, Sjöström L. Heart rate variability in obesity and the effect of weight loss. The American Journal of Cardiology. 1999;83(8):1242–1247. doi:10.1016/S0002-9149(99)00066-1
  23. Stein PK, Reddy A. Non-Linear Heart Rate Variability and Risk Stratification in Cardiovascular Disease. Indian Pacing and Electrophysiology Journal. 2005;5(3):210–220.
  24. Sandercock G. Normative values, reliability and sample size estimates in heart rate variability. Clinical Science. 2007;113(3):129–130. doi:10.1042/CS20070137

 

Reading time: 5 min

Melatonin supplements have been used for decades to promote sound, natural sleep. This natural hormone that’s also produced by our brain’s pineal gland. More on this in just a moment.

While melatonin may help combat sleep problems or even sleep disorders, recent clinical trials suggest this natural hormone can improve anxiety disorders too. Some believe this is because melatonin improves sleep, which reduces anxiety, while others suspect melatonin may directly impact anxiety symptoms to counteract this mental health disorder.

So, what’s really happening beneath the surface? Read on to learn how melatonin may help your anxiety, how you can use it, what potential side effects it may have, and more.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced primarily at night by the pineal gland that regulates your circadian rhythm — the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle that tells us to sleep when it’s dark and stay awake during the day. Circadian rhythms are often controlled internally, but external factors, like sunlight, temperature, exercise, and more, can influence these rhythms as well.

In a perfect scenario, the pineal gland will secrete higher levels of melatonin at night to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. When morning comes, melatonin levels will fall and cortisol begins to rise to signal to your body that it’s time to slowly start waking up.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen so effortlessly.

Factors such as noise, light, stress, working hours, jet lag, lack of exercise, poor diet, and many other factors can cause your body to produce low levels of melatonin. If your levels of melatonin are hindered, you may experience sleep deprivation, fatigue, or mood disorders among countless other troubles.

Fortunately for us, if we’re tossing and turning at night due to loud noises, bright lights, or a lack of melatonin production, we can take melatonin supplements to help us fall asleep.

Sleep and Mental Health

You may now be wondering how melatonin production relates to mental health. What does a hormone that aids in sleep regulation have to do with anxiety anyway? To answer this question, let’s take a step back to focus not on melatonin, but on sleep.

Sleep and mental health are very closely connected. Every 90 minutes or so, a healthy individual will cycle between four phases of sleep. Body temperature drops and heart rate slows during the first sleep phase. By the fourth phase, your body is working much harder than you’d think, performing physiological changes that boost your immune system and prepare your nervous system for another day.

Sleep disturbances that disrupt this transition between stages of sleep can wreak havoc on your brain. Your cognitive function may become impaired, stress hormones may be released, and above all else, your emotional regulation may not function as it should.

If this happens once, you can go to bed early the next night and make up for lost sleep without worry. Consider tracking your sleep with Biostrap’s Recover Set to gain valuable insights into the quality of your sleep, including sleep stages, movement, and awakenings, and how your nervous system recovers and adapts to stressors on any given night.

If your sleep efficiency is repeatedly impacted, your mental health may suffer in return. 

This is where melatonin may come to the rescue. By taking melatonin, you can help your body get the sleep it needs to recover well both physically and mentally. Melatonin treatment can be an efficient sleep aid that promotes healthier, consistent sleep. These positive effects of melatonin can thereby ensure your mind and body are healthy and ready to go, each and every morning.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Melatonin for Anxiety: What the Research Says

Now that we’ve drawn a connection between melatonin and mental health, let’s take a closer look at the evidence and systematic reviews that support these claims.

Much of the human research on melatonin has been conducted on patients undergoing a surgical procedure. Surgery is often a stressful and anxiety-inducing process, and medications are often used to curb such anxiety. But recent research suggests melatonin may be equally as effective as prescription medication.

A 2015 meta-analysis that looked at studies comparing the use of melatonin to anti-anxiety medication and a placebo sugar pill found that taking melatonin before surgery was more effective at reducing anxiety than the sugar pill. Most studies also suggested melatonin was equally as effective as the heavier medication.

Some studies found that melatonin also helped reduce anxiety after the procedure, but other studies found no benefit.

A 2018 study found that melatonin helped reduce anxiety as well as an oral Alprazolam, a sedative drug used to promote sleep before surgery. A separate 2018 study that evaluated people who’d undergone heart surgery found that melatonin worked better than Oxazepam when it came to improving sleep and reducing the symptoms of anxiety after surgery.

From these studies, we can conclude that melatonin may effectively reduce anxiety before and after surgery, though we don’t yet know if it’s equally effective with other forms of anxiety such as panic attacks. More clinical studies are needed.

Different Forms of Anxiety

It’s important to keep in mind that anxiety is an umbrella term used to describe conditions that are characterized by feelings of worry, anxiousness, or fear that impact your daily life and performance. While some evidence suggests melatonin administration may help with anxiety, it’s not yet clear what forms of anxiety can be treated.

For this reason, it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking melatonin for anxiety. A healthcare professional is better equipped to understand the causes of your anxiety and work through them with you. 

Using Melatonin for Anxiety

Using melatonin for anxiety is as simple as taking a melatonin supplement before bed. These supplements come in tablet form and can be taken by mouth or dissolved under the tongue. Clinical studies suggest taking 3-10 milligrams before bed for optimal results. Higher doses of melatonin do not necessarily work better. However, age, body weight, and sensitivity to melatonin may affect the recommended dosage.

As you begin looking for melatonin supplements, look for reputable, high-quality options. Supplements like melatonin aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it pays to do your research and find reliable and trusted sources. For example, some supplements are verified by the United States Pharmacopeia, which means they’ll be free of contaminants and safe to consume.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Side Effects and Risks

Supplementing with melatonin is a simple and low-risk option. While its short-term use has been found safe, more studies are needed to evaluate any long-term use effects. Unwanted side effects or adverse events rarely occur, and they’re often mild if they do. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, or upset stomach. Additionally, melatonin may interact with blood thinners, blood pressure medication, and other medications that cause sleepiness.

If you’re an older adult or you happen to suffer from a medical condition that requires medications such as these, speak with your doctor to determine if melatonin is right for you. They may be able to offer an alternative medication to help you find short-term or long-term relief from anxiety.

Should You Take Melatonin for Anxiety?

Melatonin has been studied as an alternative and natural sleep aid for decades, but research hasn’t yet determined if it works for all forms of anxiety. Consider talking with your doctor to determine if using melatonin for anxiety is the right choice for you. If the root cause of your anxiety is due to poor sleep quality, melatonin could be the key to falling asleep with ease and waking up feeling well-rested and ready to conquer the day.

Reading time: 6 min

When it comes to getting enough sleep, we have a habit of trying to cut corners. Seven or eight hours of sleep may sound ideal, but rarely do we seem to have the time.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults should sleep between 7-9 hours each night. This recommendation only increases amongst teenagers, preschoolers, and toddlers. Yet despite this advice, 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep has affected their daily lives at least once in the past week.

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy, but it’s essential. Let’s pull down the sheets to learn more about sleep, why 6 hours of sleep simply isn’t enough for most people, and what we can do to ensure we’re getting the hours of shuteye we need.

The Basics of Sleep

There are four primary stages of sleep to be aware of, and we collectively refer to these stages as the sleep cycle.

The first stage is the lightest stage of sleep when you’re just dozing off. During this stage of drowsy sleep is when you may experience slight twitching such as Hypnic jerks, and you can also easily be woken. Your muscles will relax and your brain will begin to slow down as your body prepares for a more restful, deep sleep.

The second stage of sleep is when body temperature will begin to drop and heart rate and breathing rate both slightly decrease. You can’t be woken as easily during this stage of sleep, and your brain will continue to slow down as bursts of brain activity called sleep spindles occur. Research suggests sleep spindles protect the brain from awakening during sleep.

The third stage of sleep is known as slow-wave sleep. This is the most restorative stage of sleep and is marked by delta brain waves. Some of the most essential bodily processes occur during this stage including hormonal balancing, human growth hormone release, brain detoxification and memory consolidation.

The fourth and final stage of sleep is known as rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, and this is where dreaming takes place. While your muscles will be “paralyzed”, brain waves will become more active, behaving nearly as if you were awake. Getting an adequate amount of REM sleep is very important for cognitive functions as well as memory. 

Generally speaking, your body will spend more time in deep sleep during the first half of the night and more in REM during the second half.

Ensuring you reach each of these four stages of the sleep cycle is extremely important. One sleep cycle, which will include all four stages of sleep, will often last approximately 100-120 minutes, and you’ll transition through four or five full cycles per night.

For Most Of Us, 6 Hours of Sleep Isn’t Enough

We hate to burst your bubble, but six hours of sleep just isn’t enough for the average individual. While some people do well on only six hours of sleep, most of us would benefit from an extra hour or two of additional rest. Below we’ve included the nine primary sleep groups identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with their corresponding sleep recommendations.

Newborns
​Newborns should receive between 14 and 17 hours of sleep, though 11 to 13 hours is acceptable as well. Ultimately, newborns shouldn’t sleep less than 11 hours per day.

Infants
Infants should sleep between 12 and 16 hours, including naps.

Toddlers
Toddlers should sleep between 11 and 14 hours each day, including naps. Toddlers shouldn’t sleep less than 9 hours per day.

Preschoolers
Preschoolers should sleep between 10 and 13 hours per day, including naps.

Children (6-12 years of age)
Children should get 9 to 12 hours of sleep.

Teens (13-18 years of age)
Teens should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day.

Adults (18-60 years of age)
Young adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day.

Older Adults (61-64 years of age)
Older should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day.

Seniors (65 years of age and older)
Seniors should get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough for You?

While 6 hours of sleep isn’t enough for most of us, there are signs you can watch for to determine if 6 hours of sleep is enough for you. For instance, yawning, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability are telltale signs that you’re simply not getting enough sleep.

Other symptoms of tiredness or sleep loss include a lack of motivation, clumsiness, and increased appetite. If you’re sleeping for six hours or less per night while experiencing these symptoms, you’ll need to increase the amount of sleep you’re getting to reflect nightly recommendations for your age, or you’ll need to find ways to improve upon your quality of sleep.

Did you know that Biostrap offers an advanced sleep tracking and analysis feature? In addition to the basic sleep offerings, the Biostrap Sleep Lab provides more frequent biometric recordings (up to every two minutes), plus after a 15-day baseline, you can get personalized sleep time and wake-up time recommendations to help optimize your circadian rhythm and achieve improved sleep quality and recovery. 

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Why Aren’t You Getting Enough Sleep?

Poor sleep or a lack of sleep can often be attributed to a number of factors. From taking sleep for granted to consuming caffeine before bed, sleep problems are widespread. Below you’ll find the common reasons people don’t get enough sleep.

Stimulants

Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and even sleeping pills can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. While substances like alcohol may evoke the feeling of sleepiness, in reality, your sleep will be very restless. Sleeping medications, on the other hand, may be okay to use occasionally, but these become less impactful over time, and you may become dependent on them to fall asleep.

Shift Work

Those who work changing shifts have a more difficult time establishing a consistent sleep-wake pattern. While some adjust to these changes better than others, shift work can influence your circadian rhythm and drastically reduce the amount of sleep you should be getting each night.

Eating & Drinking Late

Eating late may impact the quality of your sleep. Going to bed on a full stomach will not only keep your body busy digesting what you just ate, instead of focusing on sleeping, but as elevated blood sugar levels trigger an insulin response, it can also cause a spike in cortisol which will keep you from transitioning into the sleep stages mentioned above.

Not to mention, certain unhealthy food choices may even cause heartburn, chest discomfort or bloating that may keep you up at night.

As a result, it’s best to avoid any late night snacks before bedtime. If you’re hungry, eat something small, such as a teaspoon of nut butter, and drink a glass of water or a cup of tea. 

Stress

Stress may keep us up at night and disrupt our sleep schedule. Elevated stress levels may keep your fight-or-flight, or sympathetic nervous system, activated, blocking your chance to tap into the parasympathetic, rest-and-digest, nervous system and get a restful sleep. Give yourself a chance to relax and unwind before bed — meditate, journal or do some breathwork — to help your body wind down. If stress is still stopping you from getting quality sleep, speak with your doctor to find techniques for coping with stress.

Sleep Disorders

​Sleep disorders are one of the most common reasons we suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea, night terrors, insomnia, and more can influence our sleep habits for days or even years at a time. If you suffer from a chronic sleep disorder that stops you from getting a good night’s sleep, consider talking to your doctor to determine what you can do to get back to bed.

Healthy Habits to Develop

Our body’s circadian rhythm is always telling us when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. When this internal rhythm is disrupted, however, we’re left with a myriad of negative consequences leading to poor sleep. With this in mind, here are some tips on how to improve your sleep patterns so that falling asleep becomes a breeze.

Follow a Sleep Schedule

It may seem like a no-brainer, but your body prefers a sleep schedule that allows you to fall asleep and wake at the same time each day. This can also reduce your risk of heart disease, which sleep deprivation can increase your risk of developing.

Watch What You Eat

Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime and keep snacking to the minimum. Drinking water or tea before bed is healthy, but too much fluid can result in frequent bathroom trips that negatively impact your sleep duration.

Avoid Bedtime Distractions

Bedtime distractions such as digital screens, bright lights, and loud music can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep. Consider turning off your phone, dimming the lights, and reading a book before bed to allow your body and mind to wind down. A healthy bedtime routine that’s free of distractions will put your head in the right place before it hits the pillow.

Sleep Medicine

Though sleep medicine isn’t recommended for everyone, certain individuals may benefit from sleep medications that aid in falling asleep. If you find yourself suffering from a lack of sleep on a consistent basis, talk to your doctor to determine if sleep medicine is the right avenue for you.

So, Is Six Hours of Sleep Enough?

At the end of the day, six hours of sleep isn’t really enough for the average person. While we all know someone that functions well on less sleep, the side effects that come with a lack of sleep such as weight gain and compromised cognitive performance are reason enough to ensure you’re getting your recommended amount of sleep. While getting the sleep your body craves can be difficult, every hour of sleep you get makes an impact on your overall health.

Consider tracking your sleep with the most advanced digital health solution that’s available right now. Gain valuable insights into your sleep quality and start introducing a data-driven approach to understanding how your lifestyle choices are making an impact on your sleep and recovery.

Reading time: 5 min

Have you ever found yourself falling asleep only to suddenly wake up because your body twitches? Maybe it feels like a jerking contraction you can’t control, as if your body convulses all at once. If you’ve ever encountered this strange sensation, then you’ve experienced what’s referred to as a hypnic jerk.

Also known as hypnagogic jerks or sleep twitches, a hypnic jerk is an involuntary twitch that occurs as your body transitions from being awake to falling asleep. And though they may seem foreign in nature, research suggests that 60-70% of people experience sporadic hypnic jerks from time to time.

What Is a Hypnic Jerk?

Let’s start with a few of the basics. By definition, hypnic jerks (a.k.a. sleep starts, hypnagogic jerks, or myoclonic jerks) are nothing more than your body twitching as it transitions into the first stages of sleep. Named for the transitional period between being fully awake and falling asleep, the hypnic jerk is a harmless condition experienced by many.

Believe it or not, a hypnic jerk is very similar in nature to a common hiccup. Both a hiccup and a hypnic jerk are considered an involuntary muscle twitch known as a myoclonus.

Hypnic Jerk Symptoms

Because a hypnic jerk isn’t a disorder, it’s important to note that any symptoms you may experience aren’t cause for concern. Instead these symptoms are simply things you might experience while transitioning into a state of sleep. They include:

  • Falling sensations
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Jerking or rapid limb movements
  • ​Fast breathing
  • Dreams or hallucinations that lead to a startle

What Causes a Hypnic Jerk?

Unfortunately researchers haven’t been able to uncover exactly why the hypnic jerk occurs because both healthy and unhealthy people experience it. Theories, however, do exist that offer plausible causes.

Sleep Deprivation

As is the case with so many sleep disorders, some believe the hypnic jerk occurs due to poor sleep habits or sleep disturbances. For this reason, it’s pertinent that you develop a healthy sleep routine by sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Consider utilizing a sleep tracker to monitor your sleep patterns and gain a better understanding of your sleep.

Exercise

Exercising each day is important no matter your current state of health. However, some believe exercising before bed may cause your brain and muscles to remain active as you try to fall asleep. This may lead to side effects that include sweating, jerking, or frequent awakenings throughout the night.

Stress

Anxious thoughts and emotional stress can keep you tossing and turning at night when all you want to do is sleep. Because sleep is a healing period for both the mind and body, it’s quite possible that stress is causing your muscles to alert your body, even as it drifts off to sleep. Such alerts can occur in the form of twitches and jerks.

Stimulants

Nothing stops your body from falling asleep quite like stimulants do. Be it caffeine, nicotine, or any other stimulant, these substances can negatively impact your body’s ability to fall asleep and to reach deeper stages of sleep, like rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or slow-wave deep sleep.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Evolution

Some research suggests the hypnic jerk is simply an evolutionary trait passed on to us by our ancestors from thousands of years ago. This may be the case when you consider that primitive humans slept in trees and, therefore, needed to ensure they wouldn’t wake up only after falling to the ground. The hypnic jerk may have once served us as an alert to readjust our sleeping positions while dozing in branches high above.

Who Experiences Hypnic Jerks?

While hypnic jerks can affect everyone, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine notes that adults are far more likely than children to experience hypnic jerks. The reason for this pertains to specific factors that affect adults rather than children, such as stimulant intake, emotional stress, and intense bouts of exercise. Hypnic jerks may still occur in children, but they are far less common.

Hypnic Jerk Treatments

Because the hypnic jerk isn’t considered uncommon or unhealthy, prevention is more adequate to stop it from happening in the first place. Follow the steps below that aim to help you transition into sleep and sleep soundly throughout the night.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene is nothing more than a fancy term for healthy sleeping habits. In order to sleep better, you first need to provide your body with a few basic essentials. These include exercising regularly, limiting exposure to digital screens a couple of hours before bed, avoiding bedtime snacks, and steering clear of stimulants that can keep you awake. Temperature also plays an important role, so make sure to check our our article on The Best Temperature for Sleep

Avoid Stimulants: Stimulants act as powerful shots of energy that flood your brain and body and keep you going. As enticing as that may sound at two o’clock in the afternoon when you grow drowsy, it does no good for your brain later in the night. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or other stimulants beyond midday, as these are likely to keep your physiology from being able to wind down when it’s time to sleep. And remember that while alcohol or wine may make you drowsy before bed, chances are they’ll disrupt your sleep later in the night. If you track your sleep with a Biostrap’s wrist-worn device, you may notice changes in your sleep patterns as well as biometrics, such as heart and heart rate variability.

Exercise Timing: While some of us enjoy being productive at night rather than during the day, do your best to complete any intense workouts by mid-afternoon. And if this isn’t possible, focus on low-intensity exercise in the evening, such as a walk after dinner, that won’t keep your heart racing into the night.

Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises are an effective way of slowing down your heart rate, activating your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, and getting a restful night’s sleep. Consider utilizing a breathing technique known as “box breathing” that’s taught to Navy Seals. This technique aims to slow your heart rate and reduce stress by performing a specific breathing cycle for a short period of time: inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 and hold for a count of 4. Repeat this four times.

As unusual as the hypnic jerk may seem, following these simple tips will reduce the likelihood that hypnic jerks will disrupt your slumber. If your experience with hypnic jerks doesn’t improve after adopting these preventative options, consider talking with a licensed health clinician to discuss your options.

Living With Hypnic Jerks

While the hypnic jerk may come across as an unhealthy or unnatural occurrence, in truth, it’s a completely normal experience that many of us know well.

If your experience with hypnic jerks has you concerned or is keeping you awake, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor or a licensed healthcare provider to discuss your treatment options.

If you find yourself experiencing hypnic jerks regularly, consider making an appointment with your doctor as this may be a symptom of poor sleep patterns or lingering stressors.

At the end of the day, remember that hypnagogic jerks aren’t uncommon, nor are they a disorder. Take some time to relax before bed, treat your body well, and you will reduce the likelihood that you’ll wake due to an unforeseen twitch.

Reading time: 5 min

Body temperature plays an important role in well-being. Getting too warm can signify a fever, while getting too cold can cause bodily systems to shut down. This balance is also important for sleep: if your body isn’t at the right temperature before bed, you may be too uncomfortable to dip into a peaceful slumber.
Learn how to sleep better by optimizing your environments for sleep. Knowing the best temperature for sleep (and creating a bedroom that meets that standard) is one of the best sleep hacks out there.
Here’s what experts have to say about the ideal temperature for restful sleep.

The Best Temperature for Sleep

Being too warm can cause restlessness, and being too cold can lead to muscle contractions and blood vessel constriction, all of which create insomnia. So how should you set your thermostat to ensure the best sleep possible?
According to The National Sleep Foundation, a cool room around 65 degrees Fahrenheit provides the best sleep for most people. However, the average body temperature can vary depending on your age and overall health.
Babies and toddlers, for example, need the room to be between 65 and 70 degrees to sleep well. Women of different ages and even during different times of the month might need more variations, such as a slightly colder than average room, as hormonal changes — for example ovulation — can elevate their normal body temperature.

Body Temperature and Sleep

Your body temperature directly influences your ability to sleep. Why? Because body temperature decreases in response to going to bed. “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down,” Stanford University’s H. Craig Heller, PhD told WebMD.
The deepest phase of sleep, also known as slow-wave deep sleep or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, occurs in correlation with a drop in brain and core temperatures.This is why decreased body temperature leads to drowsiness, and increased body temperature makes us feel more alert (like when we’re exercising). It’s also why the right bedroom temperature is so important. When you wake up during the night due to uncomfortable conditions, you decrease the amount of NREM and REM sleep your body receives. We need NREM sleep for whole-body restoration, brain detoxification, and REM sleep is crucial for learning and memory consolidation.

The Role of Sleep Disorders and Other Conditions

Natural changes in body temperature are referred to as thermoregulation, according to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus. He points out that thermoregulation is part of the circadian rhythm, the 24-hour sleep cycle that keeps us awake during the day and resting when the sun goes down.
However, temperature regulation can be influenced by other factors, such as illness, medications, menopause, pregnancy, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. These can greatly affect both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and deep sleep. Experiencing these circumstances can cause frequent waking throughout the night, lowering sleep quality and reducing your ability to perform well in everyday life.
But, according to Breus, better sleep can be achieved even when faced with hormone disturbances or sleep disorders. In fact, making a few changes to your environment and routine can help reset your internal thermostat to an ideal sleeping temperature.

Sleep Tips for Better Rest

Now that you understand how the body responds to temperature, you can work toward creating the optimal environment for a good night’s sleep. If you’re constantly hitting snooze when the alarm goes off, it might be time to consider how you can adjust your bedroom surroundings to achieve the rest your body needs.

Adjusting for Climate

No one wants to wake up with night sweats, yet setting the air conditioner to its lowest level can make the room too cold for comfort. If you’re someone who prefers the cold side of the pillow, you know how important it is to avoid overheating during the night.
One way to find a happy medium is to use a fan, which can make a room up to 10 degrees cooler. Using this method reduces energy costs and prevents you from getting too warm throughout the evening.
The most important thing to remember is that comfort is key. Think of your bedroom as a cave — it should be cool, dark, and most of all, quiet.

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Bedding and Mattresses

Your bedding is another important aspect of your sleep environment. For example, memory foam pillows and mattresses tend to trap heat and make you feel warmer, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper. One idea is to opt for moisture-wicking sheets that keep you cool during sleep. Cotton sheets tend to be breathable, and some pillows are made with cooling materials that promote airflow. On the other hand you can opt for a gel mattress or a gel mattress mat to place over your memory foam mattress.
If you share a bed with someone else, a larger bed can prevent the transfer of body heat throughout the night, thereby reducing overheating. These simple changes, in combination with maintaining a cool room, can help you maintain an optimal temperature and sleep better throughout the night.

Sleep Habits and Routines

Regulating your body temperature may seem difficult during warmer months, especially if you tend to wake up feeling too warm. One effective — and seemingly counterintuitive — method is to take a warm bath or shower 60-90 minutes before bedtime.
A warm bath positions your body for a cool down once you step out of the bathroom. This kickstarts the cooling cycle that makes your body feel drowsy before bedtime, helping you fall and stay asleep.
Doing this every night can get your body into a routine so that it associates a shower in the evening with the onset of drowsiness. Similarly, drinking a warm cup of tea can warm your body and promote the cooling process so that you feel sleepy before bedtime.

The Best Temperature for Sleep

Finding the ideal sleeping temperature for your body is an important factor for a good night’s sleep. However, there are several more puzzle pieces at play when it comes to creating the ideal sleep environment. Climate, bedding, and nighttime routines all contribute to when you fall asleep — and how well you rest throughout the night.
Taking control of these matters by learning more about your sleep patterns, can ensure that you don’t miss out on a restorative night of sleep. Your quality of sleep is directly affected by your body temperature, bed room environment, and night-time routine, so taking actions to optimize them is important for your health, longevity, and happiness.
How do you know if your sleep routine and bedroom environment is helping you sleep better? By measuring the quality of your sleep, of course. With Biostrap’s standard sleep tracking feature, you’ll gain valuable insights into your sleep quality, from the amount of light and deep sleep you get to time spent in bed as well as sleep latency and nocturnal awakenings, and more. In addition to that, the Biostrap Sleep Lab subscription provides even more comprehensive details including circadian rhythm analysis and individualized bed time recommendations. Sleep is when the body resets, restores, recovers and performs several vital regulatory processes, so once you start sleeping like a pro, you will wake up with the energy and motivation you’ve always wanted.

Reading time: 5 min

Do you know your sleeping heart rate, in other words nocturnal heart rate? If not, it might be time to find out. Several clinical studies have shown that resting heart rate is a key indicator of health, wellness, and longevity. Monitoring changes in your resting heart rate over time can also provide meaningful insight into changes in health.

Understanding your nocturnal heart rate is also important for determining your target heart rate zones, which can guide you to peak athletic performance. Here’s everything you need to know about your nocturnal heart rate — and how to improve it.

What Is Resting Heart Rate?

Heart rate is defined as the number of contractions of the heart, expressed in beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate can be measured during activity (active heart rate), but is most often clinically assessed at rest in the absence of extraneous stress and other factors. 

Resting heart rate is utilized to evaluate an individual’s cardiovascular health and function. While most healthy adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 80 bpm, factors such as fitness level, body composition, room temperature, body position, stress, and use of certain medications can affect heart rate. 

‘Low’ Resting Heart Rate

A resting heart rate below 60 bpm is considered “bradycardia”, but may be common in individuals with good cardiovascular fitness or individuals taking certain medications. According to Dr. Jason Wasfy at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “In certain cases, a lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks.” In the case of individuals with good cardiovascular fitness, the stroke volume of the left ventricle is increased, meaning the heart rate may decrease while still maintaining adequate cardiac output.

In other cases, having a low resting heart rate could be indicative of an underlying health concern. According to the American Heart Association, bradycardia can lead to symptoms including lightheadedness, weakness, confusion, fatigue, and diminished exercise performance. Symptomatic bradycardia may indicate that an individual should seek immediate medical advice.

‘High’ Resting Heart Rate

A resting heart rate greater than 100 bpm is considered “tachycardia”, which is often correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases due to chronic additional work placed on the heart. According to Healthline, tachycardia can be caused by anxiety, fatigue, electrolyte imbalance, overconsumption of alcohol or caffeine, drug use, or other underlying medical conditions.

The negative effects of a high resting heart rate were demonstrated in a study conducted by Copenhagen University Hospital. This study found a strong correlation between patients with higher resting heart rates (RHR) and risk of death, specifically a 10% increase risk of mortality for every additional 10 bpm.

Nocturnal Heart Rate

Unlike the traditional resting heart rate values obtained in normal clinical practice, nocturnal heart rate is obtained during sleep. It is normal for nocturnal heart rate values to be slightly lower than waking resting heart rate due to minimal factors impacting the value, and therefore represents a more valuable tool for trending over time to gain valuable insight into changes in your health and performance.

Your Heart Rate During Sleep and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most prevalent sleep disorders in the US with greater than 25 million confirmed cases and research suggesting a high prevalence of undiagnosed patients. During an apneic event, individuals experience a partial or complete collapse of their airway depriving them of oxygen for several seconds. In addition to sleep disturbances, this can lead to an acute change in heart rate and oxygen saturation. 

So what are some indications that you may have OSA? Kathleen Davis states that loud snoring, accompanied by restless sleep and daytime fatigue, could indicate the presence of sleep apnea.

According to Medline Plus, this sleep disorder can cause pauses in breathing that can last from a few seconds to several minutes, with a transition back to normal breathing marked by a gasp, snort or choke, which may startle the sleeper (and often their partner awake). These sleep disruptions have been credited for symptoms of daytime tiredness, even after a full night’s sleep, in patients with sleep apnea.

Fatigue and frustration aside, sleep apnea also affects nocturnal heart rate. “When you stop breathing while you sleep, your heart rate drops, and then your involuntary reflexes make you startle into a micro-arousal, which causes your heart rate to accelerate quickly,” says The National Sleep Foundation. In addition to elevated blood pressure, this rapid decrease and increase in heart rate may lead to an irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia.

Irregular Heart Rhythms and Risks

While irregular heartbeats can be caused by a variety of factors, more studies are revealing the direct relationship between cardiac arrhythmias and sleep disorders such as OSA. One of the most common types of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation (AF) is marked by irregular contractions of the upper heart chambers.

According to a clinical study conducted at the University of Ottawa, researchers found that OSA may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation with secondary symptoms including palpitations, lightheadedness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Atrial fibrillation is also associated with stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular conditions. 

The Biostrap Buzz

Sign up to our email newsletter to receive curated content on the latest news in digital health and health optimization. Plus, special access to Biostrap offers and community updates.

Measuring Heart Rate

Maintaining a healthy cardiorespiratory system is important – but what are some ways you can measure your resting and nocturnal heart rate?

This can be accomplished with the old fashioned method of measuring your pulse rate with your fingertips placed on your wrist – just make sure you’ve had ample time to rest after a stressful event or exercise, and under controlled conditions. While this is cost effective (free) and can be done anywhere, there may be issues associated with reliability and these measurements cannot feasibly be performed during sleep. 

Electrocardiograms (ECG) are another method that are commonly used in clinical practice to measure electrical conductivity of the heart to measure its rate of contractions. While this is a relatively quick and very precise method for measuring heart rate and other important aspects of cardiovascular function, the most reliable form (12-lead ECG) is typically not available for the general population to track consistently over time.

Which brings us to perhaps the best solution for measuring resting and nocturnal heart rate in terms of cost, reliability, and availability- wearable technology. These cost-effective technologies unlock the ability for all to consistently track and monitor their heart rate over time to gain valuable insight into cardiovascular function. However, it is important that consumers seek a wearable technology that has proven accuracy compared to the gold standard ECG devices.

Improving Your Heart Rate

When it comes to improving your heart rate, maintaining a healthy body composition and regularly engaging in physical activity are key. According to Harvard Health Publishing, exercising within target heart rate zones can help to strengthen the heart and improve aerobic capacity. To safely and effectively train with heart rate zones, it is encouraged that individuals first seek clearance from their healthcare provider, and consider training under the guidance of a qualified fitness professional. 

Improve Your Nocturnal Heart Rate, Reduce Your Risks

Nocturnal heart rate is an important metric that helps quantify the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. Tracking your nocturnal heart rate over time and gaining knowledge of how certain behaviors are impacting trends can help develop an individualized lifestyle plan on the journey to optimal health and life performance.

Additionally, tracking heart rate may provide valuable insight or early detection of health conditions such as sleep disorders that can not impact your sleep quality, but may facilitate or exacerbate other health-related issues.

Maintaining positive habits such as consistently engaging in physical activity may help strengthen the body’s most vital muscle- the heart.