TIME medicine

The Scary Connection Between Snoring and Dementia

Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and snoring, can have harmful effects on the brain over the long term

If you don’t snore, you likely know someone who does. Between 19% and 40% of adults snore when they sleep, and that percentage climbs even higher, particularly for men, as we age. It’s a nuisance for bed partners, but researchers say we shouldn’t be so quick to write off snoring or other forms of disrupted breathing while asleep as mere annoyances; instead, they could be affecting the brain, according to new research.

Snoring is a form of sleep apnea, in which people stop breathing for a few seconds or several minutes dozens of times in an hour. Any disruption of breathing during sleep can affect the brain, say researchers of a new study published in the journal Neurology. They found that people with sleep apnea tended to develop memory problems and other signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) earlier than people without such sleep disorders.

MORE The Power of Sleep

Ricardo Osorio, MD, research assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Center for Brain Health, and his colleagues studied 2,000 people enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)—a population of 55 to 75 year olds, some of whom are cognitively normal, some who have mild cognitive impairment and others who have Alzheimer’s dementia. Everyone was asked about their snoring or sleep apnea, and researchers followed up every six months for two to three years to record any changes in their cognitive status.

Those who reported having sleep apnea or snoring tended to develop signs of mild cognitive impairment, including memory lapses and slower speed on cognitive skills, about 12 years earlier on average than those who didn’t report any sleep-disordered breathing. Mild cognitive impairment often precedes Alzheimer’s dementia, but not all people who develop MCI go on to get Alzheimer’s. The connection between disrupted sleep breathing and MCI remained strong even after Osorio accounted for the effects of Alzheimer’s-related genes, gender, education, depression and heart disease risk factors, all of which have been associated with increased risk of cognitive decline.

MORE Alzheimer’s Linked to Sleeping Pills and Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Osorio also saw a connection between sleep apnea or snoring and Alzheimer’s dementia, but it wasn’t as robust as the link to MCI. That might be because other studies have found that not only are sleep disorders a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, but they are also a symptom of the degenerative brain disease—so those who already developed Alzheimer’s dementia may not have been accurately reporting their sleep habits.

Osorio is careful not to implicate all snoring as a precursor to memory problems or Alzheimer’s. But particularly in the elderly, he says doctors should consider the potential effect that disrupted breathing during sleep can have on the brain. While it’s not clear how sleep disorders might be increasing the risk of MCI or Alzheimer’s, it’s possible that the cumulate effects of even the short periods when the person isn’t breathing could deprive brain neurons of critical oxygen, and Alzheimer’s has been linked to slower or abnormal blood flow caused by hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Other studies have also shown that the protein responsible for Alzheimer’s, amyloid, tends to build up during the day when the nerves are active and decline at night during deep sleep. If people are being roused from deep sleep by their apnea or snoring, then they aren’t enjoying prolonged periods of low amyloid production, so the substance can build up and potentially form plaques.

MORE Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

Osorio also found that it’s possible to counteract some of the effects of sleep apnea or snoring. He also studied people who used a device to prevent apnea, known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which keeps airways open during sleep. Even though they snored or had sleep apnea, people who used the device developed MCI or Alzheimer’s at the same rate as those who didn’t have these sleep problems. CPAP machines are cumbersome and uncomfortable to use, and many people drop them after a few weeks. But, says Osorio, they may have more reason to stick with them now. “A lot of people don’t use them because they see no benefits,” he says, “but if they know it can improve their memory, they may definitely try to do better.”

Read next: 7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

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TIME Research

Women Who Sleep More Also Have More Sex, a New Study Finds

Each additional hour of sleep is found to increase the next day's possibility of sex by 14%

Women who get more shut-eye generally have more sex, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, who spent over two weeks tracking the sleep and sexual patterns of 171 young women.

The study discovered that not only did more sleep for women lead to more sex, it often led to better sex. Good sleep hygiene, which refreshes a person’s mood, energy and concentration, is linked to increased sexual desire and arousal. In the study, women reported higher physical arousal after a longer average period of sleep, with the average sleep duration clocking in at seven hours, 22 minutes. More impressively, each additional hour of sleep increased the next day’s possibility of sex by 14%.

“If there’s anything women or their partners can do to help promote good sleep for one another, whether it’s helping out around the house to reduce workload, planning romantic getaways, or just practicing good sleep hygiene, it could help protect against having problems in the bedroom,” the study’s author David Kalmbach told CBS.

Read next: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

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TIME health

7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

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There might be a hidden reason you’re so grouchy

In our seemingly always-on society, there’s great temptation to shortchange sleep. But sleep is a vital driver of every physiological system in the human body, and when we’re deprived of shuteye, health and wellbeing can suffer in myriad ways. Here, 7 signs it’s time to start heading to bed a little earlier.

Your mood is… pretty moody. Sleep and emotional health are deeply interconnected. Patients with anxiety and depression are more likely to report chronic insomnia, according to statistics from the Harvard Medical School. And even short-term, partial sleep loss can negatively affect mood, outlook, and the quality of our most important relationships: “If you’re sleep deprived, you’re more vulnerable to crankiness, irritability, and challenges coping with stress,” says Lauren Hale, associate professor of preventive medicine in the program in public health at Stonybrook University and editor-in-chief of the journal Sleep Health. Sleep and stress can also create a nasty cycle: anxiety makes it harder to fall asleep, and then lack of sleep makes us more sensitive to the pressures of every day life, she explains.

Your productivity and performance are slipping. Chronic sleep deprivation can negatively affect our abilities to reason, focus, and even find the right words to describe simple things, creating a cumulative, monumental effect in the workplace. In fact, insomnia alone is estimated to cost the American economy a staggering $63.2 billion annually in lost productivity, according to the Harvard Medical School. Often we believe it’s absolutely essential to stay up late finishing up work projects or preparing for presentations. But, it turns out, stopping work in time to wind down and get a good night’s sleep is generally the best way to improve productivity and performance overall.

Nighttime sleep and dreaming promote new learning, memory consolidation, and greater creativity, Robert Stickgold, director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Harvard Medical School, has discovered in a wide range of sleep studies dating back almost 40 years. Lately, though, Stickgold has also shown in newer experiments that daytime naps may do as much good for memory processing as a full night’s sleep. They even seem to trump coffee as a workday pick-me up. Caffeine does boost cognitive power for up to a half hour, “but sleep is actually taking the recent information that you’ve learned and filing it away for you so you can more effectively take in new information,” Stickgold told Time magazine in an interview last year.

You’re gaining weight. People who sleep fewer than six hours at night are more likely to be overweight—and show reduced levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, along with elevated levels of hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin—the large-scale, long-running Wisconsin Sleep Cohort study showed for the first time in 2004. More recently, researchers have identified a strong connection between lack of sleep and increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder frequently triggered by overeating and obesity. This prompted the medical journal Lancet to argue last year that, given the “24/7 lifestyle of modern societies,” doctors everywhere should work harder to “motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep” as a way to prevent—and treat—both obesity and diabetes.

You’re not looking your best: Red, puffy eyes, dark under-eye circles, and turned-down corners of the mouth were all readily identified in sleep-deprived people participating in a recent Stockholm University study. “People can usually tell if you’ve had a rough night,” says Lauren Hale. “Even small amounts of sleep deprivation affect your appearance.”

Your judgment is faltering. Accurately reading social situations and making good decisions both heavily depend on the brain’s capacity to process emotions. But when people are sleep deprived, the region of the brain involved with emotional processing, the prefrontal cortex, “basically goes to sleep,” according to Harvard Medical School sleep researcher William Killgore. And there’s evidence being sleepy makes people sneaky, too: Sleep-deprived employees are more likely to cut corners and take credit for others work, according to research reviewed by organizational psychologists Thomas W. Britt and Steve M. Jex in their new book Thriving Under Stress. Why? “Presumably,” write Jex and Britt, not getting enough Zzs results in “a reduced amount of self-control.”

Your libido’s flagging. Fatigue can be an important factor when it comes to why women aren’t in the mood for sex. In particular, women involved with caring for children and aging parents frequently report being too exhausted for intimacy at the end of the day, according to the Mayo Clinic. And untreated sleep apnea—a sleep disorder that disrupts breathing and is estimated to afflict more than 18 million Americans—has also been linked to loss of libido in women. If you suspect your waning sex drive—or any other symptom of persistent fatigue—may be related to a serious health condition, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, it’s important to seek treatment for the underlying problem.

You’re getting drowsy during the day. This one might seem fairly obvious—but feeling exhausted during the daytime hours is a big red flag that you aren’t clocking enough sleep at night. And the symptoms can be subtler than yawning every five minutes or needing an IV drip of coffee to prop yourself upright (think: nodding off during a boring meeting). And daytime drowsiness is more than just a nuisance—it’s also a major public health problem. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 percent or more of Americans are chronically underslept, with potentially deadly consequences: nodding off at the wheel is estimated to cause up to 6,000 traffic fatalities per year, according Centers for Disease Control.

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, and increasingly, pre-bedtime use of tablets and other screens appears to be an important factor contributing to our collective slept debt, according to Hale. Late-evening use of screens not only suppresses the normal rise in melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep, but it revs us up just when we should be winding down, says Hale: “Whether you’re watching T.V. or engaging in social media, the experience can be very psychologically stimulating, increasing alertness and making it harder to fall asleep. Powering down before bedtime is so important.”

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

20 Things You Shouldn’t Do Before Bed

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Having trouble sleeping? These insomnia-inducing habits could be to blame

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your mood, your energy levels, and your overall health. It’s also dependent on what you do during the day—how much physical activity you get, what you eat and drink, and how mentally stimulated you are—especially in the hours before you crawl into bed.

“When people suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues, it’s often because of something they’re doing, probably unintentionally, when they should be preparing for rest,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, a psychiatry instructor and member of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are 20 things you might want to avoid at night, especially if you’re suffering from a lack of shuteye.

Use an e-reader or smartphone

Several studies have suggested that using electronic devices like e-readers and smartphones, or even watching television in or before bed can disrupt sleep. Robert Rosenberg, DO, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, recommends avoiding any light-emitting technology for at least one hour before bedtime.

“The blue light given off by computers, smartphones, tablets, and TV prevents the production of melatonin which helps the body become sleepy,” he says. If you don’t want to give up reading your Kindle Fire or using your iPad in bed, follow this advice from a 2013 Mayo Clinic study: Keep the device at least 14 inches from your face and turn down your screen’s brightness to reduce your risk of light-related sleep problems.

Take certain medications

If you take medicines or supplements on a daily basis and you’re also experiencing sleep problems, ask your doctor whether the time of day you take your dosage may be keeping you awake. “The effects may be subtle, but some medicines can make you alert for several hours after taking them,” says Grandner. For example, antidepressants can have strong effects on sleep in either direction, and some pain medications may upset your stomach and make sleep more difficult. (On the other hand, some other medicines—such as some types of blood pressure pills—have been shown to work best when taken at night; talk to your do about when to take yours.)

A sleeping pill isn’t always the answer, either: They’re generally only recommended for short-term use—over-the-counter meds, especially—so if you find yourself taking them regularly, talk to your doctor about other options. A prescription drug will be safer and more effective to use for more than a few weeks at a time, but a longer-term solution that doesn’t rely on medication is your best bet.

Read more: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Text a friend

You may think a text is less disturbing late at night than a phone call, but think twice before you message a friend or family member, or get involved in a group text conversation, shortly before bed. If you sleep with your phone in or near your bed, you could be disturbed by replies after you’ve already retired or fallen asleep.

In fact, a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll found that about 10% of kids 13 to 18 are awakened after they go to bed every night or almost every night by a phone call, text message or email, and about one in five 13- to 29-year-olds say this happens at least a few nights a week. If you are worried about getting messages late at night, put your phone in another room or mute it.

Drink coffee (maybe even decaf)

A cup of coffee contains anywhere from 80 to 120 milligrams of caffeine per cup, and you probably already know you should avoid it right before bed. But some still like the idea of a hot drink after dinner, says Grandner, and may not realize that although they’re still several hours away from turning in, their habit could disturb sleep. Truth is, caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours. “Even caffeine at lunch can be too close to bedtime for some people,” says Grandner.

Perhaps even more surprising: decaf coffee may not even be a safe bet. A 2007 Consumer Reports report found that some “decaf” samples” contained up to 20 milligrams of caffeine. But there’s good news for people who love a hot cup of joe in the evenings: The new (truly) decaf Counting Sheep Coffee ($12,amazon.com) contains valerian, an herb that promotes sleep.

Drink tea

Even if you do avoid coffee, you may not be as careful about another major source of caffeine: tea. Drinks labeled as “herbal tea“—such as peppermint or chamomile varieties—are probably caffeine-free, says Grandner, but varieties that contain black, green, or white tea leaves do indeed contain the stimulant.

There may still be able to enjoy your favorite caffeinated tea at night. Dunk your teabag quickly into a cup of hot water, then dump it out and make a second cup using that same tea bag. Most of tea’s caffeine is released early on in the steeping process, explains Grandner, so this may help you enjoy the flavor and warmth without so much of the stimulant.

Read more: A Sleep Meditation for a Restful Night

Eat chocolate

Another sneaky source of caffeine is chocolate, especially dark chocolate with high cocoa contents. “People might not think about ice cream that contains chocolate or coffee as something that might potentially keep them awake, but if they’re sensitive to caffeine that could definitely do the trick,” says Grandner.

Milk chocolate bars usually have less than 10 milligrams of caffeine per serving, but a Hershey’s Special Dark Bar, for instance, contains 31—the amount in almost a whole can of Coke. Chocolate also contains the stimulant theobromine, which has been shown to increase heart rate and sleeplessness.

Skip your wind-down time

When people say they can’t shut their mind off in bed, it’s often because they haven’t given themselves adequate time to relax in the hour or so beforehand, says Grandner. “When you’re going from one distracting activity to another and not giving yourself time to sit back and reflect on your thoughts, it’s no wonder that your mind is racing when you finally climb into bed,” he says. He recommends taking at least 30 minutes before you head into your bedroom to put away anything that’s too stimulating, thought-provoking, or absorbing—anything from action-packed TV shows to work that you’ve brought home with you. Instead, focus on activities that relax you and bring closure to your evening, like making a to-do list and packing a bag for the next day.

Check your work email

Aside from the fact that a blue-light emitting device can mess with your body’s natural sleep rhythms, there are other potential problems with checking your email too close to bedtime. “Unless you’re waiting for a specific email that’s going to put you at ease and help you sleep better, I would advise against it,” says Grandner. Checking in with the office too late at night is more likely to make you nervous or agitated, or fill your mind with things you’ll need to do in the morning. In a 2014 Michigan State study, people who used their smartphones for work purposes after 9 p.m. reported being more tired and unfocused the next day.

Eat spicy or fatty foods

Having a large meal too close to bedtime can make falling asleep uncomfortable if you’re bloated or painfully full. Spicy or fatty foods may be particularly risky because they’re associated with acid reflux, which often rears its head when a person lies down at night. Ideally, you should have dinner at least two hours before going to sleep says Grandner, to give your body enough time to begin digesting it. If you’re used to eating something right before bed, stick with sleep-promoting foods like simple carbs or a glass of milk. (And ask yourself if you really need it: If you’re not careful, late-night snacking can lead to weight gain.)

Drink booze

“Alcohol tricks you into thinking you will sleep better, because it often makes you drowsy and makes it easier to fall asleep,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “But as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol, REM sleep, the period where our sleep is most restorative, is reduced.” Impaired REM sleep often leads to waking up tired and unable to concentrate, he adds. Plus, a 2014 University of Missouri study points out that alcohol is a diuretic and may make you have to go to the bathroom through the night. Dr. Rosenberg’s advice: For most people, it’s okay to have a drink or two with dinner—but skip the nightcap or the glass of wine on the couch right before bed.

Read more: The Best Pillow for Your Sleep Style

Smoke

We could go on and on about all the ways smoking is terrible for you, including disturbing your sleep. Many people smoke to relax, says Grandner, but nicotine is a stimulant and can make insomnia worse, especially if you light up close to your bedtime. Nicotine withdrawal can also cause smokers to wake up earlier than they normally would in the morning.

“If you’re a smoker and you’re having trouble sleeping, that may be another reason you should talk to your doctor about quitting,” Grandner says. It’s not just traditional cigarettes you should avoid at night; e-cigarettes, smoking cessation patches, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco can all keep you up.

Chug lots of water

Staying hydrated is important, but it may not be the best strategy to drink a huge glass of water before bed or sleep with one water by your bed,” says Grandner, “unless your goal is to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Instead, he suggests, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day—and always be sure to use the bathroom before you head to bed, even if you don’t feel like you have to.

Work out too intensely

You may have heard that exercise before bed might keep you awake at night. This belief has been largely disproven, says Grandner: “The amount of physical activity that’s required to have an affect on your sleep is pretty intense, and the vast majority of people don’t get enough exercise as it is—we don’t want people to not work out just because they think it’s too late.” In fact, getting regular exercise has been shown to actually help treat insomnia and promote good sleeping habits.

There is some evidence, though, that prolonged or very high-intensity exercise late at night may make it hard for some people to fall asleep. If you’re staying up extra late to squeeze in time at the gym, or suspect that your 9 p.m. kickboxing classes may be keeping you up, see if you sleep better after an earlier workout.

Play video games

The science on television’s effects on sleep is somewhat inconclusive; some studies show that watching TV before bed can disrupt sleep (due to its melatonin-impairing blue light, its mental stimulation, or both), while others show it has little effect. One thing that most experts do agree on, however, is that electronic media that requires a lot of interaction—like video games—can definitely wreak havoc on your slumber.

“Browsing the web or flipping through TV channels before bed may not be so bad if you’re not super sensitive to light,” says Grandner, “but anything that’s highly engaging will almost certainly keep you awake.” Dr. Rosenberg agrees: “Stimulation from these devices can activate and excite the brain, which presents a challenge when it comes to trying to fall asleep.”

Turn up the heat

Everyone’s preferences are different, but most tend to sleep best between 60 and 70 degrees. “People sleep better when it’s cooler—sometimes a little cooler than they think,” says Grandner. That’s because the body’s temperature drops during the night, and also because a lower temperature allows for people to cover up with blankets without getting too hot.

Of course, if it’s freezing in your house and you can’t fall asleep without shivering, there’s nothing wrong with bumping the heat up a degree. But know that you’ll probably sleep better at a slightly cooler temperature than your house is set at during the day.

Read more: 10 Sleep Compatibility Problems, Solved

Let your pet into bed

“Everyone with a pet knows that inviting that pet into your bed is inviting a whole lost more awakenings during the night,” says Grandner. In fact, in a recent University of Kansas study, 63% of people who shared a bed with a furry friend experienced poor sleep. “If you’re cool with that, go right ahead—but it’s definitely something to consider if it starts to affect your sleep quality,” Grandner says.

And those sleep disturbances can come from more than just your dog or cat’s movements through the night. Pet hair and dander in your bed could also contribute to allergies and breathing difficulties, which can also affect your slumber.

Take a shower

If you shower after working out at night or you are simply in the habit of bathing before bed, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it; a hot bath may even help relax you and prime your body for sleep. But if you normally rinse off in the morning and you only switch it up occasionally, bathing at night could send the wrong message to your brain.

“Showers often wake people up, so it might not be the best thing to do before bed,” says Grandner. People with long hair should be careful not to go to bed with wet hair, either; not only can it be uncomfortable and cause knots and tangles, but it can also make sheets and pillows damp, which could cause mold to grow.

Pick a fight

There’s a good reason couples are told to never go to bed angry. “Stress is a major cause of insomnia,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “If a conversation is stressful, it will elevate cortisol and other stress hormones impending your ability to fall asleep.” Plus, he adds, angry people tend to ruminate, or play over thoughts again and again in their minds, which can also make falling asleep difficult.

Going to bed with unresolved issues may not be your best bet either, but Dr. Rosenberg suggests trying to hash out any problems earlier in the night, and saving important decision-making or serious conversations for days when you have more time to reflect and relax afterward. “A serious conversation before bed is not a good idea,” he adds.

Alter your routine

Doing the same thing every night before bed is one of the tenets of good sleep hygiene. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, and setting out your clothes for the morning, for example, can all send a signal to your brain that it’s time for bed—especially if you do them in the same order, at the same time every night.

But switching up that routine, by doing things out of order or earlier in the night than usual, can disrupt that mental process. “Without a consistent bedtime routine, your brain doesn’t go into sleep mode until you crawl into bed and turn out the light,” says Grandner. “You’ll fall asleep much faster if you can start that process a little bit earlier, as you’re getting ready.”

Anything that’s too exciting

Reading in bed can be a great pre-slumber activity, and if it helps you wind down and makes you tired, says Grandner, then go for it. The same goes for any routine habit that helps you get to sleep—chatting on the phone with your best friend, organizing a photo album, or knitting, for example.

But if that book or that knitting project or whatever else you’re doing draws you in too much, you may have a hard time putting it down and turning out the lights. “When I read at night, I get too absorbed in the story and the next thing I know it’s 3 a.m.,” says Grandner. If this happens to you, be careful about the activities you choose before bed, and set strict time limits for whatever you do decide to take on.

Read more: 10 Products That May Help You Sleep

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 10 Ways To Sleep Better With Your Partner

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Seriously, Stop Worrying About Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time is March 8 and everyone is freaking out about what the hour of lost sleep will to do them. This is promoted, in part, by the inevitable pile-on of articles about how daylight saving time is harming our health by messing with our sleep. I am actually part of the problem. I’ve written my fair share of “how to survive the time change” stories, and I am sure you can find them with a quick Google search. I am here to admit that those lists were probably helpful 100 daylight saving times ago, but not really today.

MORE Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

Sure, losing sleep does impact your health over time. But let’s be real—daylight saving time is only one hour of lost sleep. You lose more sleep when you fly from the West Coast to East than you will on Sunday. And honestly, the majority of us have bigger sleep-related problems on our hands, like not getting enough sleep every other day of the year.

I asked Michael Grandner, an instructor at Penn Medicine’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, for his take: “A one-hour shift at daylight savings hardly deserves dire warnings,” he says (I knew it!). “For most people, it will be a minor inconvenience that they will adjust to in one to two days. Some people, especially those who are already trying to get by on too little sleep, may feel more of these effects and they might be at increased risk.”

So Grandner is a little more forgiving, adding that in a society that’s already low on sleep, a lost hour can mean impaired performance for people who are more sensitive. But I feel justified.

Still, what kind of health writer would I be if I didn’t provide some service? Here is a list of five things that are worse for your sleep than daylight saving time, from the National Sleep Foundation:

1. Your smartphone: With so many ways to stay connected, it’s easy to hop into bed with your smartphone without even realizing it. Every time your phone buzzes or you scroll through your Instagram feed, your smartphone or tablet emits blue light, which can cause over-stimulation and keep you from falling asleep.

2. A bad bedroom environment: TVs, access to email and piles of laundry are common examples of sleep distractions found in the modern bedroom that can produce stress and mental arousal. Anything that doesn’t promote relaxation and sleep should find a home outside of the bedroom to promote a healthy sleep environment.

3. Light pollution: To determine if a bedroom is dark enough for optimal sleep, use midnight as an ideal time indicator. If the room is not pitch black at midnight, light pollution from street lamps, traffic, and city living are reflecting and refracting too much light. This can interfere with the body cues that initiate sleep, and can prevent you from getting healthy shuteye.

4. Taking sleep for granted: According to National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 Sleep in America Poll, Americans who said they were very or extremely motivated to get enough sleep reported sleeping 36 more minutes per night across the week compared to those who were not that motivated or not motivated at all (7.3 vs. 6.7 hours). Simply making sleep a priority and creating a positive sleep environment and routine can help you catch more Zs.

5. Constantly interrupting your sleep cycle: Sleep is vital to overall health, just like diet and exercise. However, due to life pressures, sleep can be the first thing we skimp on when life gets hectic. Consistently lacking sleep can lead to a vicious cycle of other health effects. Adequate sleep helps rejuvenate the body and mind, regulate your mood and hormones, improve learning and memory function, and reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Read next: What to Know About Daylight Saving Time

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

4 Ways to Make the Switch to Daylight Saving Time Less Miserable

Start by dialing back your bedtime now

You’ve made it through the endless winter of 2014-15 (almost), and spring is around the corner. The first signpost of the new season arrives in the wee hours of Sunday, March 8, when most of us turn our clocks ahead one hour to inaugurate Daylight Saving Time.

But “springing forward,” as fun as it sounds, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, according to sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD. “Most people actually have a harder time adjusting when we ‘spring forward,’ because we’re losing an hour of sleep,” Breus says. And those of us who are already chronically sleep deprived can’t afford to lose any more. In fact, a survey released this week from the National Sleep Foundation found that, on average, Americans report a sleep debt of about 26 minutes on workdays (that’s the gap between how much shut-eye people say they need and how much they actually get).

But, thankfully, there are steps you can take to make the time change more bearable.

Read more: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Start by dialing back your bedtime

“If you’re among the many Americans who are sleep deprived, it probably won’t be difficult for you to fall asleep at the new time,” Breus says. Just be sure to set your clock ahead before going to sleep on Saturday, March 7. “That way, seeing the lost hour up front will motivate you to go to bed earlier.” Waiting to change your clocks the next morning and watching that hour disappear can feel like a loss, says Breus.

If you’re among the only marginally sleep deprived, or if you have generally good sleep habits, you can get yourself in gear by pulling back your bedtime incrementally before the time change. “On Thursday, go to bed another 15 minutes earlier, and another 15 the next two nights so that by Saturday, you’re going to bed an hour early,” Breus suggests.

The time change disruption is worse for kids, for whom regular bed times and consistent habits are especially important. “If they get to stay up until 11pm on Friday night, make it 10pm,” says Breus. “Since they’re losing the hour, they need to go to bed earlier.” It’ll pay off come school day.

Read more: How to Sleep With Someone Who Snores

Avoid certain drinks this weekend

You already know that limiting your alcohol intake is generally a smart move, and this weekend in particular, Breus advises capping your nightcap. “Even though alcohol makes you feel sleepy, it prevents you from reaching those all-important deeper stages of sleep. So if you’re already going to be losing an hour of sleep, the last thing you need is poorer quality sleep.” Abstaining may make for less fun on the weekend, but will help you get back in the swing on Monday.

Breus also suggests going easy on the caffeine. If you feel like that cuppa Joe is necessary to jump-start your acclimation, just be sure to stop sipping by 2pm so as not to interfere with your new, earlier bedtime.

Read more: The Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Play it safe on Monday morning

Not all of us have the most flexible work schedules, but Breus advises seeking leniency this one day out of the year. “Ask your boss if you can come in to work a little late the Monday after the time change, or ask if you can work from home.” For one, this allows you to reap the health benefits of catching up on those all-important lost zzz’s. And if you drive to work, it also allows you to stay off the roads on a particularly hectic and potentially dangerous morning. Research has shown an increase in fatal car accidents on the Monday following the spring time change compared to other Mondays before and after the start of Daylight Saving Time. “It’s not a bad idea to avoid rush hour on Monday morning when roads will be filled with sleep-deprived people running late for work or school,” Breus says.

Read more: 17 Ways Your Job Is Making You Fat

Tweak your workout schedule (maybe)

For some folks with a regular fitness routine, switching things up can help you adjust to Daylight Saving Time. “If exercise chills you out and relaxes you, the extra hour of evening light gives you more opportunity to exercise outdoors,” Breus says. And regular exercise is a key component to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. Just remember to preserve a three-hour window between your sweat session and bedtime so you have enough time to wind down, he suggests.

“On the other hand, if you feel energized after your workouts, you should keep doing it in the morning, time change or not, because you don’t want that energy boost to lead to insomnia,” Breus says. You’ll just be up in the dark—again.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME medicine

One Hour of Sleep Makes a Difference In What You’ll Eat

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When it comes to teens and sleep, it’s not how much sleep, but how consistently they sleep the same amount that’s important for their health

Plenty of studies have documented that teens don’t get enough sleep. They’re supposed to be in bed for eight to nine hours a night, but most get seven or less. Now the latest sleep research, presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting, shows when it comes to weight gain—which has been tied to sleep deprivation and disturbances—it’s not necessarily the amount of sleep that tips the scales but rather the consistency of that nightly rest.

Fan He, an epidemiologist at Penn State University College of Medicine, and his colleagues found a strong correlation between the variation in sleep patterns among a group of teens and the amount of calories they consumed. And for every hour difference in sleep on a night-to-night basis over a week, for example, they ate 210 more calories—most of it in fat and carbohydrates. Those with uneven sleep patterns were also more likely to snack.

Previous studies have linked poor or disrupted sleep to obesity; people not getting enough shut-eye, for example, may experience changes in the hormones that regulate appetite and how well they break down glucose in their diet. Levels of the hormone leptin, for instance, drop in those who are sleep deprived, and less leptin prompts the body to feel hungry.

MORE: The Power of Sleep

In the current study, however, all the teens got an average of seven hours a night, so it wasn’t as if some of the teens were sleeping for extremely long or short periods of time. Any metabolic changes they would have experienced due to their sleeping less than the recommended eight to nine hours would have been similar among the consistent and inconsistent sleepers.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president-elect of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center, stresses that good quality sleep involves three things — getting enough sleep, making sure the timing of the sleep if appropriate, and avoiding sleep disorders. While the amount of sleep has gotten the lion’s share of attention in recent years, a new phenomenon called social jet lag, which the current study investigates, may deserve equal consideration. “We live in a society of yo-yo sleep in which people sleep less because of social or work demands, then try to catch up,” says Watson. “There haven’t been a lot of studies that looked at what kind of impact this has on our health, but teenagers may be particularly susceptible to social jet lag than older adults, and this study assessed that.”

MORE: This Is What’s Keeping Teens From Getting Enough Sleep

These results show that it was the variability in their sleep that was most strongly linked to their eating habits.

Why? The researchers guess that teens who aren’t sleeping consistently are more likely to get too little sleep on one night, for example, and therefore be more tired or sedentary the following day, which leads them to sit around and eat more. It may also be possible that teens with irregular sleep habits are more likely to stay up later on weekends; He found that these adolescents had a 100% higher chance of snacking on weekends compared to those who slept more regularly.

MORE: School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors

That suggests that health experts should focus not just on the amount of sleep teens are getting, but on their sleep patterns. “Instead of focusing on how much we sleep, we also need to pay attention to maintaining a regular sleep pattern,” says He. Such consistency, however, may not be so easy for teens to master.

 

TIME Heart Disease

Risk for Stroke Is Greater in People Who Oversleep

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Regularly sleeping over eight hours may be a sign of a serious health risk

Oversleeping feels like a treat on the weekend, but regularly sleeping too much is actually a sign that there may be a medical problem at play. According to a new study, people who sleep more than eight hours a day have a higher risk for a stroke compared with people who sleep six to eight hours.

In the new study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers followed nearly 10,000 people ages 42 to 81 for almost 10 years. They recorded both the amount of sleep they typically got each night, as well as whether they had a stroke.

Around 7 out of 10 of the men and women slept six to eight hours, and about 1 in 10 slept more than eight hours a night on average. The people who slept the most had a 46% higher than average risk of stroke when the researchers accounted for other variables that could contribute to risk. Their risk was about double that of people who reported getting a typical amount of shut-eye each night.

The study only shows an association, but it’s fairly surprising since in the past, sleep deprivation has been linked to a greater stroke risk too. The researchers speculate that long nights of sleep may be linked to increased inflammation, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular problems.

“Prolonged sleep might be a useful marker of increased stroke risk in older people, and should be tested further for its utility in clinical practice,” the authors conclude. Stroke isn’t the only risk that’s linked to sleeping too much. Physicians sometimes use sleep duration as an indicator for how well a patient is feeling. Getting too much sleep can often mean something under the hood is off.

“If people are sleeping too much, it’s a bad sign,” says Dr. David Gozal, a pediatric sleep disorders physician at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Very few people can sleep more than what they need. It’s a sign there is an underlying health-related problem, whether it’s depression, cancer or neurological deterioration. It’s usually not a good thing.” Gozal was not involved in the study.

If you like to sleep in on the weekends, don’t fret. Occasionally spending extra time in bed is likely not a bad sign, experts say, but when it becomes a regular habit, it might be worth checking out. For now, the researchers of the new study say their findings need further investigation, and priority should be given to understanding the underlying mechanisms.

TIME Research

This Is The Easiest Way to Get Better Sleep

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A new study suggests a simple and inexpensive fix for better sleep

Half of people over age 55 have a sleep problem, but a new study suggests meditating can improve sleep in those who can’t seem to get enough.

In the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers looked at 49 men and women around age 66 who were experiencing poor sleep but didn’t have a diagnosed sleep disorder. About half of them enrolled in a standard sleep hygiene education program, and the other half learned mindful awareness practices.

For six weeks, the mindful group spent two hours a week learning a variety of mindfulness and meditation practices, including mindful sitting, eating, movement and meditation. They were asked to practice what they learned at home—but throughout the program, the group never discussed sleep.

“A lot of individuals who are undergoing sleep problems don’t want to talk about their sleep anymore. It just further exacerbates their issue,” says study author David S. Black of the University of Southern California. “I wanted to look at a program where you wouldn’t have to talk about sleep and it would indirectly remediate some of those problems that go along with sleep, like worrying about it.”

At the end of the sessions, the researchers measured everyone’s sleep quality and found that the people learning mindfulness scored higher in better sleep than the other group. They also had improvement in areas like depression, insomnia symptoms and fatigue. The two groups had similar results for anxiety and stress.

The researchers speculate that mindfulness meditation improves nervous system and cognitive system processes that relate to arousal and stress. “Before going to bed, people who can’t sleep worry a lot, and they start ruminating about not being able to sleep,” says Black. “Through mindfulness practice, people learn how to observe thoughts without having to elaborate. It allows people be present without further interpretation of their symptoms.”

Another possibility is that by curbing mood disturbances, meditation can lessen anxiety and let people relax more. Mindfulness might also simply make people think they’re getting higher quality sleep.

The findings are still preliminary, and while they’re not yet robust enough to make clinical recommendations, Black says he envisions mindfulness as a simple, inexpensive intervention for people who don’t have serious sleep problems, like those enrolled in the study. “This trial was intended for the majority of older adults who face sleep problems but do not have a clinical diagnosis of insomnia,” he says. “It opens it up to a broader audience.”

TIME Research

This Is What’s Keeping Teens From Getting Enough Sleep

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STUDIO BOX—Getty Images

The biggest factor keeping teens up at night isn't technology

Up to a third of teens in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep each night, and the loss of shut-eye negatively impacts their grades, mental well-being and physical health. Biologically, adolescents need fewer hours of slumber than kids — but there’s a bigger reason for teens’ sleep loss, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.

MORE: The Power of Sleep

Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, looked at survey data from more than 270,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students at 130 public and private schools across the country, gathered between 1991 and 2010. Each student was asked two questions about his or her sleep habits: how often they slept for at least seven hours a night, and how often they slept less than they should.

MORE: School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors

She found that over the 20-year study period, adolescents got less and less sleep. Part of that had to do with the fact that biologically, teens sleep less the older they get, but Keyes and her team also teased apart a period effect — meaning there were forces affecting all the students, at every age, that contributed to their sleeping fewer hours. This led to a marked drop in the average number of adolescents reporting at least seven hours of sleep nightly between 1991–1995 and 1996–2000.

That surprised Keyes, who expected to find sharper declines in sleep in more recent years with the proliferation of cell phones, tablets and social media. “I thought we would see decreases in sleep in more recent years, because so much has been written about teens being at risk with technologies that adversely affect the sleep health of this population,” she says. “But that’s not what we found.”

MORE: Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

Instead, the rises in the mid-1990s corresponded with another widespread trend affecting most teens — the growth of childhood obesity. Obesity has been tied to health disturbances including sleep changes like sleep apnea, and “the decreases in sleep particularly in the 1990s across all ages corresponds to a time period when we also saw increases in pediatric obesity across all ages,” says Keyes. Since then, the sleep patterns haven’t worsened, but they haven’t improved either, which is concerning given the impact that long-term sleep disturbances can have on overall health.

Keyes also uncovered another worrying trend. Students in lower-income families and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep regularly than white teens in higher-income households. But they also said they were getting enough sleep, revealing a failure of public-health messages to adequately inform all adolescent groups about how much sleep they need: about nine hours a night.

“When we first started looking at that data, I kept saying it had to be wrong,” says Keyes. “We were seeing completely opposite patterns. So our results show that health literacy around sleep are not only critical but that those messages are not adapted universally, especially not among higher-risk groups.”

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