Monday, September 24, 2018

Sleep addiction: Oversleeping is just as bad for you as sleeping too little

We know that most people in the typical Western lifestyle do not get enough good quality sleep. Our jobs are too demanding, our phones are too entertaining and our minds are too preoccupied with the events of the day to settle down and relax. 

There are still many, however, who experience the negative consequences of too much sleep. Here are the biggest reasons why too much sleep can hamper your overall well-being.

Your brain needs a balance between periods of activity and rest

By looking at the body, we can easily understand the importance of a good balance between work and rest. Too much exercise leads to overtraining. This happens when the body is subjected to more physical exercise than what it can recover from, and starts to break down instead of strengthen. Athletes, people with self-image disorders and exercise enthusiasts are the most susceptible to overtraining. We know that on the other hand, too little exercise is also detrimental to your health. 

By looking at the above example, it is easy to understand that the brain works in the same way. The brain needs enough stimulation to stay healthy. This is why playing chess regularly is linked to decreased mental illness occurrence like Alzheimer’s disease. Our brains were made to think, discover, solve problems and learn. 

Since we are living beings, we are constantly adapting to the stimulus that we receive. You can’t think of your brain as a tool that you leave in the shed for a few months and find in the same condition that you left it, because the brain is constantly adapting to change. If it is not used and exercised, it will diminish in ability. Our body’s constant adaption to stimulus is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is a survival mechanism where the body responds to stimulus.

Your brain uses neurons to process information. It does this by transferring information form one neuron to the other. The connections between these neurons thrive or wither according to the activities that you do regularly. This is why you can’t remember everything that you have ever learned. Doing less mental work allows the brain to clean up the connections between these neurons, giving you lower processing power. Since you have less processing power, your brain will tire sooner. Mental fatigue sets in prematurely and signals the need for even more sleep.

Varied stimulation

We’ve established how a stimulated brain is a healthy brain. Subjecting your brain to too few forms of stimulation also leads to a decline in mental function. Variety allows some brain functions to rest while still being stimulated enough to strengthen.

If we return to the physical exercise example, runners who add variety to their exercises will improve running performance more than those who don’t. For example, stretching the leg muscles increase their ability to run.

Falling into a simple cycle of work and rest decreases the brain’s ability to cope with work. By doing other activities, the brain will be strengthen and improve its overall processing power. For example, doing a hobby that you enjoy will release a hormone called dopamine, your brains enjoyment (or reward) hormone. This hormone has positive effects on the brain. It has been shown to increase learning ability and focus length. This could explain why adding humor to learning experiences increase information retention.

Sleep quality

Have you heard the saying, ‘there is nothing like good rest after good work?’ 
Good activity leads to good rest, while lack of activity leads to a decreased need (and therefore quality) of rest. This is why exercise gives people more energy. Their bodies respond to the lack of energy from exercise by creating even more energy. When we rest while still having a lot of energy, our bodies respond by decreasing overall energy levels. 

Our bodies rest when they are not exercising, but get the most rest during sleep. Our brains work in the same way: they get some rest while doing relaxing activities, but get the most rest from sleep. If sleep time increases while activity (being awake) decreases, your brain balances this out by lowering the amount of recovery that it goes through per sleep cycle. This ultimately means that when you sleep more, your brain learns to require more sleep for the same recovery functions that typically requires less sleep.

Sleep addiction

By what we have seen above, your brain will adjust to too much sleep and start to require more sleep for less mental output. This starts a negative cycle where more sleep leads to even more sleep. Since you are tired all the time (as a result of unintentionally training yourself to sleep so much), you think that you need even more sleep. You feel better after sleep, but this is short-lived because your brain will want to return to its new normal after a short period of mental effort. This is how sleeping too much is very similar to addiction.

Many argue that you cannot be addicted to a biological need like breathing and eating. We all know that we can be addicted to eating too much or too little. The inability (or extreme difficulty) to breathe too much does not take away from the fact that eating food can become an addiction. 
If you give your body too much or too little of what it needs, problems arise. It is as simple as that.

How much sleep do we really need?

Easy ways to keep oversleeping in check

Get a hobby

If you are using sleep as a way to escape from reality, find a good hobby that you enjoy. This will teach your brain that it can cope with stress while still being awake. By enjoying your wakeful hours, your brain won’t associate wakefulness with negativity. Teach yourself to deal with stress in ways that don’t require sleep. When you do sleep, being in a more relaxed and calm state will increase sleep quality and therefore reduce your total sleep need. Finding something that you enjoy doing while you are awake will reduce your emotional need to run to sleep. You will find it easier to stay awake during the times that you should be.
These hobbies can include reading, painting, spending time for friends and family and gardening.


When you exercise, your body adapts by creating more energy. This energy surplus will make you feel better for longer. If you are already trapped in the cycle of low energy and too much sleep, start off with short, low-intensity exercises to build up your energy gradually. By doing too much too soon, you risk re-enforcing the false idea that exercise is draining or excruciating. By increasing your exercise efforts slowly and incrementally, you will start to enjoy it and experience the beneficial health effects that exercise brings you.

Stick to the same sleep schedule

Our bodies work on a sleep clock called the circadian rhythm. This allows us to learn when to sleep and when to stay awake. Certain things influence the circadian rhythm, like as sunlight, stress and physical activity. By going to bed at the same time, you increase your sleep quality because when you think you should sleep and when you actually do start to synchronize. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, you give your brain a chance to adapt to something useful; you will end up feeling tired when it is time to sleep, but wakeful for the rest of the day.

Make sure that you are getting the best quality sleep

Sleep quality refers to how much benefit you get from sleep within a certain period of time. If you sleep for a long period of time but do not recover sufficiently from mental and physical strain, you did not get enough good quality sleep. By increasing sleep quality, you reduce the amount of time that you need to sleep while increasing the amount of energy that you have when you are awake.

Here are some of the most common causes of poor sleep quality:

Snoring and sleep apnea (inability to maintain deep sleep due to a lack of oxygen)
Poor room light (not dark enough for the brain to associate sleep time with night-time)
Room temperature (too hot or too cold to relax)
Mental stress (brain feels too threatened to calm down)

Don’t sleep your life away. Learn that life can feel really good when you are awake if you make the effort to experience it. As with any major change, start small and build up progress over time to make that change sustainable. STAY STRONG!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How To Deal With Stress From Work

According to Mayo Clinic, stress affects more than you think. 

It most commonly affects your physical body through headaches, fatigue, tension and pain in your muscles, inability to fall or stay asleep, low libido, chest pain and an upset stomach. 

It affects your emotional state by creating feelings of anxiety, lack of motivation and willpower, inability to focus, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed to the point of not being able to cope with simple tasks, anger or frustration, sadness and depression. 

According to them, stress also causes undesirable behaviors such as eating too much or too little, a tendency to seek out and partake in addictive behaviors like alcohol, smoking and drugs, anger outbursts, withdrawal from social occasions like family gatherings and exercising less often.

As you can see, stress wreaks havoc on your body. Most American adults name work as the number cause of day-to-day mental stress. So what are the best ways to reduce or deal with stress from work? 

7 Ways to reduce and deal with stress from work

1) Stay away from addictive substances

Skills You Need lists avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as their number one way of dealing with stress. Ironically, stress increases your urge to do these things as your mind tries to find an escape from stress. These substances, in turn, increase stress levels within the brain - leading to a greater need to escape stress and therefore a greater tendency to use these substances. All of these substances make the brain feel good as they cross they blood-brain barrier and enter the brain; but leave it feeling worse off when they are eliminated. It is this drop to normal levels, or withdrawal period, which increases the amount of stress that you experience. 

Should you cut out caffeine completely? I would suggest reducing your intake and avoiding it every few days to lower the risk of dependency; instead of drinking multiple cups throughout the day. We know that coffee and tea have health benefits of their own, but too much caffeine can put your brain on a roller-coaster ride that prevents it from maintaining its own equilibrium.

2) Exercise regularly

Wikihow lists exercise as their best method to reduce stress. Here are over 100 benefits of exercise, including the mental and emotional perks. Exercise reduces the burden of stress in two ways:

A) Exercise clears stress that already exists in the mind and body

When you stress, your body releases cortisol, a stress hormone. This hormone is used as a survival mechanism to protect us from death. It initiates our fight-or-flight response, and halts certain bodily processes in order to focus on others. It halts the healing, digestion, muscle growth and relaxation (sleep, happiness) functions while initiating immediate energy production and muscle contraction so that we can get away from the perceived danger as quick as possible. In the wild, this was imperative in making sure that we survived any dangers might that came our way. In today's life, our bodies secrete cortisol whenever we stress - even though there is no physical danger to escape. Our bodies deplete cortisol levels when we exercise. This basically tells our bodies that the danger is over and that it can go back to its normal processes. 

Exercise increases blood flow to the muscles and brain, allowing for negative chemicals like cortisol to be released and enabling muscles to relax after the physical activity. The mental break (or positive distraction) lets the brain process thoughts in a positive manner, so that it can come to terms with the mental stresses placed on it. This is the reason why many people have their most creative thoughts during the shower: increased blood flow and positive distraction. I get most of my great ideas while working out in the gym.

B) Exercises strengthens the brain against future stress

As discussed in the 'over 100 benefits of exercise' link above, exercise strengthens mental function and emotional processing. Did you know that exercise increases the amounts of connective neurons in the brain? This means that cognitive function increases, elevating the amount of stress that the brain can take before it starts to feel overwhelmed. The body will also be more efficient at eliminating negative chemicals and delivering precious nutrients that speed up mental recovery - even during stressful work. 

3) Identify and eliminate unnecessary stresses

Help Guide explains that identifying individual stresses and dealing with each one individually is a very effective coping mechanism. Once you have identified your top stresses, you can separate them into different categories:

Stresses that you can eliminate

This can include people that you don't need to deal with, friends that add pressure instead of relief, tasks that don't add any value and thought patterns that make you feel worse.

Stresses that you can minimize

These stresses include tasks that you need to do but can do in a less stressful manner, like finding better ways to deal with the people that you need to interactive with and choosing to deal with one stressful situation at a time to minimize the harmful effects on your mental state.

Help Guide also recommends maintaining a stress diary where you record the different stresses you experience - along with the cause of the stressful situation, how it made you feel, what you can do better in response next time, what you did to feel better afterwards and what you can do to improve the entire situation in the future. Keeping a stress diary can be very effective at showing you how much power you actually have to reduce overall stress.

4) Prioritize better sleep

The problem with too much stress is the fact that it puts you in fight-or-flight mode, blocking your ability to relax and get restorative sleep. This very sleep is important for your brain to recover, process its internal functions, and deal with the thoughts and emotions that you experienced. It allows your mind to grow to a point where you experience less stress in the same situation.

As discussed earlier, exercise takes your body out of the fight-or-flight mode, allowing your brain and body to relax and start the recovery process. Getting quality sleep lists great ways to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. These tips include following the same routine every night. This teaches your brain when it needs to be active and when it needs to shut down. This routine should involve cutting out screens near bed time, doing something relaxing like reading a book and dimming the lights before you hit the pillow. Bright lights from computers, televisions and phone screens trick our subconscious minds into thinking that it is still early in the day and that we need to be awake. Doing a relaxing activity (like reading: my favorite) allows the brains to wonder away from its current stresses. The above article also discusses breathing techniques and before-bed thought processes that are very helpful in getting high quality sleep.

5) Do something that you enjoy - regularly

I cannot emphasize how important this step is. When you do something that stresses you out, your brain releases a chemical called cortisol. When you do something that you enjoy, your brain releases feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. 

Dopamine is the brain's pleasure and reward chemical, released when we do things like listen to music or create something artistic. Our brains are better able to deal with chemicals like cortisol when it is balanced out with the release of other chemicals like dopamine. Your brain will chase negative behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption and drugs in its pursuit for a good dopamine release to balance out stress. By doing something that you enjoy regularly, you give your brain what it needs to deal with the negative effects of stress.

Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, inability to sleep and an increased negative response to mental stress. Physical activity, sunlight and positive social interaction cause the release of serotonin.

Endorphins are also released during exercise. Your body uses this hormone to mask pain and make you feel good through the stimulation of dopamine and serotonin production. 

6) Take a mental break

This might sound similar to the point above, but here I am referring to what you do during a stressful situation. If your work is computer-oriented, get into the habit of looking away from your computer every few minutes to readjust your eyes. I know of some people who drink lots of water during work so that they get up and use the bathroom regularly. This gives you a short mental break and the physical movement that a short, regular walk gives your body will improve the amount of work that you can do throughout the day.

You can relate mental work to a physical weight training session at the gym. A muscle can do 3 sets of 12 reps (36 reps in total), but won't be able to do all of this in one go. Your brain works very similarly. By taking small, frequent mental breaks inbetween work, your brain will be able to do a lot more work in a single day. 

Think of ways to break up your work load in productive ways. For example, an office worker might break up the bulk of his data-capturing work by phoning a client every 30 minutes - instead of rushing though all the calls in the morning and spending the rest of the day trying to get through a mountain-load of screen-time.

7) Positive psychology

This is my favorite of all the points: Tell yourself that you actually enjoy your work. You don't have to believe it. Just keep telling yourself this regularly. While working on your computer, think to yourself, 'Wow I am actually having fun!'

Your brain recognizes the information that it receives the most often as truth. I lied to myself and told myself how much I enjoyed the remedial tasks that sucked the life out of me. I didn't believe it, but I kept thinking those thoughts and surprisingly, the first day I did this had been more productive than any other day in the previous month.

When your brain perceives an activity as enjoyable, it will dedicate more mental resources to that activity. Think about how you can spend hours on social media without mental strain but struggle to go through your emails at work, or how you can watch TV for a lot longer than you can focus in a business meeting - Same amount of mental work, but different mental perspective.

When you find pleasure in an activity, your brain won't release cortisol because it doesn't sense any danger. It might even start releasing the feel-good hormones that we discussed in point 5 instead! As the days rolled on, the benefits of this method increased. I started to feel like I actually enjoyed those activities and, believe it or not, I started looking forward to doing them.

At first, I knew that I was lying to myself, but that didn't stop me from telling myself what I wanted to believe. I have a good imagination, so it was easy for me to imagine finding satisfaction in something that I didn't. Do this often enough, and your mind will follow suit.

On this point, I would like to offer you a challenge: Find an activity that you hate doing the most (but have to do) and tell yourself how you enjoy it every time that you do that activity. Do this for one week and let me know in the comments if it hasn't worked (I know that it will).

Figure out how you want to feel about an activity and blatantly lie to yourself about how you feel about it. Do this often enough, and it will become your new truth.

Here's to hoping that this improves someone's mental health. STAY STRONG!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Free Inspirational Quotes (page 5)

Feel free to use and share these quotes as much as you want. Click or tap to enlarge, use the social buttons to share directly to Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook, or right click (or long-tap) to save directly to your device.

If you are using these quotes to increase likes and shares on your social media accounts, I recommend bookmarking this site and sharing an image or two regularly to keep your audience engaged. 

Please enjoy them and share the positivity!