Sleep Articles

7 Tips to Shift Your Sleep Schedule

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

7 Tips to Shift Your Sleep Schedule Need to get up earlier for work or a workout? To return to your routine after traversing time zones? Or just want to get your day started before the sun comes up?

Below, Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist, sleep specialist and author of The Insomnia Workbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Getting the Sleep You Need, provides tips on how to reset your sleep cycle.

1. Make adjustments in increments.

The best way to successfully shift your sleep cycle is to do it gradually, in 15-minute increments, according to Silberman. If you have less time to prepare for your new schedule, try 30 minutes, she said. (But no more than that.)

Give yourself at least three or four nights to get comfortable with the new schedule. If it’s going well, on the fourth or fifth night, shave off another 15 minutes.

Keep in mind that feeling groggy when you get up is normal. As Silberman said, “Most people don’t wake up full of energy.” So expect that you’ll feel sleepy for about 20 to 30 minutes.

When Dad Has Postpartum Depression

Monday, April 16th, 2012

When Dad Has Postpartum Depression Moms aren’t the only ones who struggle with postpartum depression. Dads struggle, too.

In this 2010 meta-analysis published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reviewed 43 studies with over 28,000 participants and found that 10 percent of men had prenatal or postpartum depression. That’s more than double the rate of men who suffer from depression in the general population — 4.8 percent.

Symptoms of Depression

In their book The Pregnancy & Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions and Compulsions, authors Pamela S. Wiegartz, Ph.D, and Kevin L. Gyoerkoe, PsyD, note that depression can strike dads at any time, from their wife’s pregnancy to months after their child’s birth.

Symptoms of depression can include depressed mood; loss of interest in activities; fatigue; changes in sleep; changes in appetite or weight; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; feelings of guilt or worthlessness; and thoughts of death or suicide.

Men, however, may struggle with different symptoms. The lead author of the above meta-analysis, James Paulson, told Scientific American (in this piece by Katherine Harmon) that some researchers have called for a change in the diagnostic criteria because men tend to struggle with irritability, detachment and emotional withdrawal.

Video: 7 Ways to Slow Down Before Bedtime

Friday, April 13th, 2012

It’s been a long week, hasn’t it?

The days are getting longer here in the northern hemisphere — and for many of us, the extra light brings joy.

But the extra light also keeps us wakeful for longer. Soon, even 8 pm will be nearly as bright as mid-day.

That extra light — as welcomed as it might be after such a long and dark winter — can do us a big disservice. When there’s more daylight outside, do you ever feel like you pack more activities into your day? Does it take more effort to slow down for bedtime? Do you tend to go to bed later?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, keep reading! I made a video just for you.

The Power of Power Napping

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The Power of Power NappingAt best, napping is viewed as a luxury or indulgence. At worst, it’s seen as a slothful activity.

Maybe you’ve also felt the pangs of guilt after awaking from a short snooze. Or judged someone else for falling asleep at their desk.

But napping doesn’t make you a lazy worker, and it doesn’t pillage your productivity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Napping actually offers a slew of benefits, which might make you reconsider your stance on midday slumbers — and add them to your routine.

“Napping leads to improvements in mood, alertness and performance [such as] reaction time, attention, and memory,” according to Kimberly Cote, Ph.D, Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University. (Her 2009 review, co-authored with researcher Catherine Milner, summarizes the research on these many benefits.)

7 Tips for Getting to Bed on Time

Monday, March 5th, 2012

7 Tips for Getting to Bed on TimeRecently I video-posted about the Pigeon of Discontent, “I can never get to bed on time.” A few readers rightly pointed out that while I emphasized the importance of having a “bedtime,” I didn’t address the challenge of actually getting yourself to turn off the light when it’s time for bed.

That’s a very important question. Since I’ve started my Happiness Project, I’ve become more and more convinced that sleep is vital to happiness and energy. (Here are fourteen tips on getting more sleep.)

If you want to get more sleep, but have a hard time getting yourself to turn out the light, try these strategies…

Psych Central Week in Review Video #6: Lying, Stress, and Inflammation

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

I want you to close your eyes for a moment and picture something.

Imagine a person who is a liar and a cheater. Perhaps you play a board game with them and they lie about their score. Then, maybe they steal a few beers from your fridge and claim to have only taken a single one.

Are you getting a mental image? Who is this person? What do they look like? What are they wearing?

Let’s go on. This same person also cuts off people in traffic. And we’re not just talking about cutting off other drivers — we’re talking about pedestrians, too! This person doesn’t yield for anyone who is waiting to use the crosswalk.

Who IS this lying, cheating, pedestrian-ignoring person? Seriously — what kind of person did you picture in your mind? Did you concoct any backstory for this person? What is their family like? What is their job like? Do they make a lot of money? Do they make very little money?

Re-read those last two questions and make a prediction: would the liar be rich or would the liar be poor?

In this week’s video podcast, we’ll find out which socioeconomic class is actually more likely to lie, cheat, and cut people off in traffic — and we’ll explain why! Check out the video below and be sure to comment if your prediction was right on target.

3 Fascinating Facts About Dreams

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

3 Fascinating Facts About Dreams“The biggest myth about dreams is that they are frivolous manifestations reflecting basic occurrences of our daily experiences,” said Chicago psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber.

But dreams are actually an important part of self-discovery. (More on that later.) Below are a few fascinating facts and findings about dreams.

1. People with disabilities dream as though they don’t have them.

The following is an excerpt from a person who participated in a dream study:

“I was supposed to and wanted to sing in the choir. I see a stage on which some singers, male and female, are standing… I am asked if I want to sing with them. ‘Me?’ I ask, ‘I don’t know if I am good enough.’ And already I am standing on the stage with the choir. In the front row, I see my mother, she is smiling at me… It is a nice feeling to be on stage and able to chant.”

What’s particularly curious about this dream is that the dreamer was born deaf and doesn’t speak. Recently, two studies published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition have found that people with disabilities still dream as though their impairments don’t exist.

Why You Can’t Make a Good Decision at 5:00 pm: Decision Fatigue

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Why You Can't Make a Good Decision at 5:00 pm: Decision FatigueWe live in the most prosperous society on Earth at this moment. You can walk into any Gap or Target store and choose from more than 2 dozen different types of jeans (and in some cases, more than 3 dozen).

All of that choice comes at a price, however. It’s called “decision fatigue” and its full impact is only starting to be fully understood by psychologists and researchers.

Our brains can suffer from “mental fatigue,” just as our bodies can become physically fatigued after a long workout. What is so surprising about this phenomenon is just how little people appreciate the importance of mental fatigue and its resulting decision fatigue — even when making decisions that can be life-changing.

The Psychology of a Heat Wave

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

The Psychology of a Heat WaveAs the U.S. and Canada enter into a heat wave, I get a lot of questions about how heat impacts human behavior and our moods. So three years ago, I wrote a blog entry that reviews the research about weather affects our moods and behavior. It’s still a good overview of the research in this area and worth the read.

But it’s nice to highlight a few points from that article, as well as other research, that demonstrates how the weather — and especially hot weather, in this case — can impact our mood. Does a heat wave lead to more violence? Do we have more or less energy during high humidity? What about depression and anxiety?

Read on for the answers.

8 Ways to Make Technology Less Stressful

Saturday, April 30th, 2011
Photo credit: Summer Beretsky

Photo credit: Summer Beretsky

Whatever you do, DO NOT think of an elephant right now!


Don’t think about elephants, or big floppy elephant ears, or elephants at circuses, or elephants in the wild.

Now, be honest: you totally just thought of an elephant. Didn’t you?

That’s exactly how I felt all week when I tried to stay away from the internet.

When I opted to spend a week away from the internet and other technological devices, I expected my brief affair with the IRL (“in real life”) world to whisk me away into romantic oblivion.

Sadly, that was not the case.

7 Tips for Coping with Finals

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

7 Tips for Coping with FinalsIt’s that time again if you’re a college or graduate student — time for finals. It’s also time to self-sabotage, to get in your own way in terms of effective studying. We stress out more than usual, even when we’re on top of the material, because of the anxiety surrounding test-taking.

But you don’t have to stress out about final exams. You can actually do better (and feel better about your performance) if you keep the stress at bay and focus on simple study skills over the next few weeks.

Here’s a few tips for coping with finals to get you started. None of these are going to be eye-opening or stuff you don’t already know… But sometimes we need to be reminded of the things we already know, to drive home their importance.

Wake Up! When Your Therapist is Sleeping

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Wake Up! When Your Therapist is SleepingAlthough not all that common, psychotherapists sometimes fall asleep in session. Probably more common in traditional psychoanalysis (where the psychoanalyst is sitting behind and out of view of the patient), it far harder to do in more modern, time-limited psychotherapies where each session is more of an active, working period between therapist and client.

What is one to do when one is confronted with a sleeping therapist?

Stephen Metcalf, writing in New York magazine, set to find out by going back and talking to his prior four therapists, all of whom had fallen asleep on him. Was it him or them?

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