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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.

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Not getting enough sleep? You’re not alone. According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep they need to feel well-rested and energized the following day. When this occurs, we fall into what’s known as 6sleep debt.

Sleep debt, or sleep deprivation, occurs when you aren’t getting the sleep you need to feel awake, alert, and ready to go. And while one night of interrupted sleep may be a nuisance the following day, prolonged periods of sleep loss can lead to daytime sleepiness, emotional instability, weight gain, and several other health problems.

Why We Sleep

As human beings, our bodies require prolonged periods of rest not only to feel rejuvenated and refreshed but also to repair tissue, grow muscles, and synthesize hormones. We spend one-third of our lives asleep, and going without sleep can lead to psychosis or even death.

We can break down the stages of sleep into two primary categories: non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Non-REM slow-wave deep sleep is characterized by slow brain waves and the release of growth hormones as our brain and many physiological systems enter a state of repair. REM sleep is similar to how our mind operates during the day, with one caveat — the brain is active and working, but our muscles are in a state of paralysis.

Beyond these realities, scientists don’t fully understand why we sleep. Some propose that sleep restores the brain’s energy while others hypothesize that sleep plays a major role in the connectivity and plasticity of the brain. The latter theory explains why individuals who are sleep-deprived suffer from memory loss and the inability to pay attention.

Regardless of the underlying reasons behind our need for sleep, we ultimately know that sleep is an extremely important aspect of our well-being. Without it, we suffer.

What Is Sleep Debt?

Sleep debt is the act of not getting enough sleep. You can often gauge whether or not you’re receiving enough sleep by monitoring how you feel the following day. If you’re tired, drowsy, and inattentive, chances are you’re suffering from short-term sleep debt. And if symptoms such as blood pressure changes, weight gain, or other serious health problems take shape over time, you may be suffering from the cumulative effects of chronic sleep debt.

The Symptoms of Sleep Debt

The primary short-term symptom of sleep debt is excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms may include the following:

Irritability
Depressed mood
Forgetfulness
Clumsiness
Lack of motivation
Increased appetite
Carbohydrate cravings
Reduced sex drive
Inability to concentrate
Fatigue

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The Effects of Sleep Debt

Sleep loss in any form can come with serious side effects that will impact both your short-term and long-term health. Here’s a look at some of these effects.

Weight Gain

The hormones leptin and ghrelin control feelings of hunger and fullness. When you suffer from lack of sleep, leptin will decrease and lead to the constant feeling of hunger alongside a general slowdown of your metabolism, which may cause weight gain over time. Ghrelin will increase with lack of sleep increasing hunger levels.  Also, keep in mind that getting plenty of sleep can burn calories.

Blood Pressure & Heart Disease

During normal sleep, your blood pressure will naturally decrease. If you’re suffering from a sleep deficit, your blood pressure will stay higher for a longer period of time, just as it does during the day. Over time, this may lead to an increased risk of heart disease, thus illustrating the need for a normal sleep schedule.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in your blood, which will damage your blood vessels over time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when your sleep patterns are negatively impacted, less insulin is released into the bloodstream after you eat.

Meanwhile, your body may release other stress hormones to help you stay awake. These stress hormones impact the ability of insulin to do its job effectively. As a result, glucose will remain in your bloodstream and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sleep Debt Treatments

Treating sleep debt in any form is only required if you physically can’t go to sleep or suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. Oftentimes you can improve sleep debt by simply increasing the amount of time you’re asleep or by altering your sleep habits to further encourage healthy amounts of sleep.

If you physically can’t go to sleep or you suffer from a sleep disorder, two primary avenues exist that can treat your sleep deprivation: cognitive treatments and medications.

Cognitive Treatment

Cognitive treatments that seek to repay your sleep debt are available in abundance. For instance, relaxation and meditation techniques utilize guided breathing and mindfulness approaches that encourage your body and mind to fall asleep naturally.

Other cognitive treatments include controlling pre-bedtime activities and optimizing your sleep environment to increase your sleep duration. This may include limiting social media usage before bed and removing other distractions like bright lights or screens.

Medications

If the cognitive or non-medical intervention proves to be ineffective, sleep medicines are available that can help induce sleep. Some of these medications are available over-the-counter while others require a prescription.

Some individuals may form a dependence on sleeping medications, meaning they can’t go to sleep without taking medication. For this reason, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider and review all your options before determining if sleep medication is right for you.

Habits for Healthy Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is dependent upon your sleeping habits and nightly routines. Also known as sleep hygiene, healthy sleep habits will leave you feeling rested and refreshed each morning.

Some good sleep habits include:

Going to bed when you feel tired
Not eating 2-3 hours before bed
Engaging in regular, daily exercise
Keeping the bedroom quiet and cool
Turning off electronic devices
Using an alarm clock to regulate when you wake up

Paying off sleep debt

If you fail to get your recommended amount of sleep, you’ll begin accumulating a sleep debt. For instance, if you need eight hours of sleep but only get five, you’ll have a sleep debt of three hours. If this pattern continues throughout the week, your sleep debt will climb, and the effects of sleep deprivation will quickly take hold.

The only way to pay off your sleep debt is to start getting the sleep you need, along with some extra time each night, or with naps, until the debt is fully ”paid off”. Once you’ve paid off the sleep debt, you can resume your normal sleeping schedule. 

Even if paying off your sleep debt seems impossible, remember that it can be done with conscious effort. While repaying tens or even hundreds of hours of sleep debt may seem out of reach, it can be accomplished by reflecting on your current sleep habits and making adjustments whenever necessary.

Consider using a sleep tracker to fully understand your sleeping habits. Once you’ve finally woken up feeling refreshed and recovered, you’ll have paid off your sleep debt in full.

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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. Much is still unknown about the mechanism of action causing variability changes. However, 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.

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 and is 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. However, the inter-subject variability tends to be too high to suggest proper normative ranges. This demonstrates a need to track HRV over time to understand the ‘profile’ of an individual.

When considering a normal range, there is not a normal scale of 0-100. HRV scale is 0-255. Many factors influence where your HRV sits on this scale, including; genetics, lifestyle, and age. Once you track HRV over a period of time you will have a baseline HRV. Once a baseline is established you will be able to see how day-to-day internal and external stressors influence your HRV, upward or downward.

Watching your HRV deviate positively or negatively from your baseline is the most important factor to observe. The actual HRV number matters less than how much it has varied from your “normal” baseline.

Interpreting trends

As previously mentioned, HRV is difficult to interpret and generally a nonspecific data point 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. 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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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