Tag Archives: Body

The Exercise You Need to Go From “Skinny Fat” to Fit

If you have a slender frame, but still have a gut and flab in certain areas of the body, you might consider yourself “skinny fat.” There’s nothing bad or unhealthy about being shaped that way, but if you feel the desire to change it, here’s how.

A “skinny fat” person is best described as someone who weighs very little, but still has a high amount of body fat. If you identify as “skinny fat,” and want to look more fit, this video from the PictureFit YouTube Channel explains the types of workouts necessary to lower body fat and increase muscle. In short, it’s all about resistance training. Diets and cardio can help, but if you’re only doing those things, you’ll hit a plateau. What you need is to increase your muscle mass to offset the fat to muscle mass percentage and add much-needed definition to your frame. Fat burning from consistent resistance training can also be enhanced with a well thought out diet and by keeping your protein intake high. This is something I’ve been struggling with myself for the past few years, and lifting weights has been a huge help.

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Skinny Fat Explained – How to Go From Skinny Fat to Fit | YouTube

Become a Cannabis Connoisseur With the S.T.A.T.S. Evaluation Guide

Become a Cannabis Connoisseur With the S.T.A.T.S. Evaluation Guide

Like wine, craft beer, and diamonds, medical marijuana comes in varying degrees of quality. The S.T.A.T.S. evaluation system is a free, easy-to-understand guide that anyone can use to make informed and satisfying cannabis purchases.

This post is part of Lifehacker’s Green Week, a series where we’ll be discussing medical marijuana, its benefits, drawbacks, and everything you need to know. Keep in mind, we’re not doctors, so you should check with yours before trying it, and similarly, obey the laws and regulations in your area regarding the procurement and use of medical marijuana.

This universal process for assessing cannabis flower quality was developed by the Good Chemistry Nurseries in Denver, and covers the five most important aspects: sight, touch, aroma, taste, and sensation. Matthew Huron, the CEO of Good Chemistry, says the approach is similar to the “Five C’s” of diamonds, and explains that the guide was put together by marijuana cultivators with years of experience and extensive education in horticulture and botany, and based on countless consumer surveys and strain evaluations.

The free guide will teach you how to spot quality visually, what red flags to look for, how high quality marijuana should feel to the touch, what kind of flavors you should taste when you smoke or eat certain strains, and what kind of aromas you can expect from high quality and low quality flowers. Whether you’re new to the world of medical marijuana, or an experienced aficionado, this guide is bound to have something to learn. You can find the complete guide at the link below.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-use-med…

S.T.A.T.S. Cannabis Evaluation Guide | Good Chemistry Nurseries

How to Choose and Procure the Right Kind of Medical Marijuana for You

How to Choose and Procure the Right Kind of Medical Marijuana for You

Navigating the world of medical marijuana proves difficult when it comes to dosing properly. You have multiple ways to administer the drug and even then you have to figure out how to do it accurately. Let’s take a look at the different types of marijuana you can purchase and what can help provide the most relief for you.

This post is the third in Lifehacker’s Green Week, a series where we’ll be discussing medical marijuana, its benefits, drawbacks, and everything you need to know. Keep in mind, we’re not doctors, so you should check with yours before trying it, and similarly, obey the laws and regulations in your area regarding the procurement and use of medical marijuana.

What Different Types of Medical Marijuana Can I Get?

How to Choose and Procure the Right Kind of Medical Marijuana for You

Medical marijuana literally comes in all sorts of different shapes, forms, colors, and styles. If you smoke or vape it you will have a greater selection of different strains and you can learn how each one affects you. Vaporizing, at least so far as we currently know, poses a significantly lower risk than smoking, which I personally wouldn’t recommend. If you want to choose an exact strain responsibly, go buy a quality vaporizer and skip the joints. If you want to avoid any potentially unknown risks of vaporizing, you can purchase sprays and tinctures for equally simple dosing. Marijuana products also come in the form of topical waxes, food, and drinks. Let’s discuss your seriously insane number of options.

  • Vaporizers: You can get a cheap vape pen at pretty much any dispensary or smoke shop for about $15-20 and it’ll do the trick. You can also buy a high quality vaporizer if you see a real benefit in spending around 10 times more. With a vaporizer you insert a cartridge, press a button, suck in the marijuana vapor, and blow it right out. Unlike smoking, you do not need to hold the vapor in your mouth. Suck it in, push it out, and you’re done.

    How do you know how much of the drug you just got with one “hit” (a puff on the vaporizer, basically)? The cartridge you inserted will say how many hits you can get from it and how much marijuana it contains (usually 150mg, 200mg, or 300mg). With some easy math you’ll find that you probably got between 1.5mg and 3mg per hit. We’ll discuss this later on when cover dosing practices, but you’ll probably want to try no more than 4-6mg your first time (whereas a person with a moderate tolerance would take 10-20mg for a dose). Vaporizing/vaping offers the advantage of a quick onset of effects (5-30 minutes) and easy and accurate dosing.

  • Tinctures and Sprays: Tinctures are bottles of liquid that you suck up with an eye dropper and administer each dose sublingually (under your tongue). You administer sprays sublingually as well, however you just push the cap like any spray bottle and out comes the medicine. Both supposedly take effect very quickly (5-30 minutes) like vaporizing, although in my experience it took closer to 45-60 minutes (half of the time of an edible). Neither the sprays or tinctures taste particularly good, but sprays often come with a burning sensation whereas tinctures do not. Still, I prefer sprays because they are very portable, discreet, and simple.
  • Edibles: I prefer edibles over any other form of medical marijuana because although they can provide a dosing challenge, you have a variety of cost-effective (and fun) options. You also don’t have to waste your time figuring out a specific dose because you can just buy a specific dose with your edible.

    A company called Kiva makes my favorite option—chocolate bars with segments containing a specific amount of the medicine, and even better, a tin of chocolate covered blueberries (or espresso beans, if you prefer) that contain 5mg of THC and make dosing straightforward and predictable. Cheeba, another company I like, makes taffy chews that also offer easy dosing. When looking for a combination of CBD and THC, or even solely CBD, Cheeba has a very good, simple set of taffy options. They do not, however, taste good.

    If you don’t have access to these or prefer something else, don’t fret. If a food exists in the world, you can probably find a version of it infused with marijuana. Despite how much I prefer edibles, they take longer than anything else to work. You’ll have to wait two hours to know how they’ll affect you and you absolutely should not ingest more until those two hours are up. Most people find the intensity of edibles to be much greater than any other form of marijuana. In my case, edibles provided more pain relief long after the “high” went away. I could use them before bedtime, sleep well, and wake up pain free without the any high whatsoever. Smaller doses also tend to be more effective, which is in turn more cost effective. Finally, edibles don’t always provide a consistent experience. Some companies, like the ones I mentioned, do their best to ensure that you get the amount of medicine specified on the package. Many edibles get it wrong, either providing more or less than advertised. You can usually guess by the quality of the packaging which edibles you can trust, but trial and error is the only way to know for certain.

  • Pills: If you don’t want to taste marijuana, or anything at all, you can purchase pills containing marijuana oil to swallow instead. They often look like vitamin E supplements and are pretty discreet. They work similarly to edibles in that they take time to work. Additionally, pills usually cost much more than their edible equivalents. On the upside, the amount of medicine in each pill tends to be more accurate.
  • Topical Wax (Balms): Do not confuse topical wax with wax (something we’re going to ignore in this article because it’s not relevant.) Topical wax is a balm that you rub on your skin. You would consider using topical wax or other marijuana balms if you have pain in a specific area. It takes around an hour to work and it smells strongly like—you guessed it—marijuana. Most people won’t find this worthwhile, but some people suffering from skin conditions that cause pain, soreness, and migraines appreciate its somewhat localized effects. If the topical wax contains THC, it will still get you high.

While edibles worked best for me, something else might work best for you. The only way you’ll ever know for sure is to try your options, and try them multiple times. Different edibles, vaporizer cartridges, sprays, and tinctures work differently than their counterparts. In some cases, you may find the exact same product works differently because a dose was a little off for one reason or another. Remember, none of these are pharmaceutical-grade products, and they all lack that level of consistency—even the good ones. Just as I recommend giving a new television show a few episodes before you judge it fully, you should give any medical marijuana product a few tries as well. Just make sure you don’t have anywhere to be for the next 4-16 hours. Until you know how the drug will affect you, don’t make plans you might not be able to keep.

How Do I Actually Go Buy Medical Marijuana?

How to Choose and Procure the Right Kind of Medical Marijuana for You

If you live in a state where marijuana is legal—again, only on the state level, not federally—you can just go into any dispensary and buy some. At the time of this writing, that includes Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Other states have decriminalized marijuana use, meaning they won’t arrest or prosecute you on charges of possession (up to a certain amount), and have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Every state has different rules and regulations as well as implementations of those rules and regulations. If you’re not sure how your state or region treats the issue, there’s a great rundown at Wikipedia here that’ll tell you.

If you are not in one of the four states where marijuana is more or less legal, you’ll need to be in a state where medical marijuana is, and you’ll need to get a card before you can buy it. Here’s how to obtain one:

  1. Go to your primary care physician and obtain a prescription, or a diagnosis of a condition that medical marijuana can be used to treat. Here’s a helpful list of conditions that usually apply. Most medical prescriptions are handed out by medical marijuana doctors who don’t really give a crap what you’re going to do with your prescription. That said, they need to follow the rules and will not diagnose you with a condition.
  2. Write down the contact information of your doctor and the condition you were diagnosed with. Then locate a medical marijuana prescription doctor. Leafly can help you find one.
  3. Once you find a marijuana-prescribing doctor, schedule a visit (or walk in) and fill out some forms. You’ll need to supply your diagnosing doctor’s information for the marijuana-prescribing doctor’s records, and the visit itself will cost you anywhere from $25-200 for a visit.
  4. Answer a few questions. The prescribing doctor will call you in, read your forms, ask you about your situation, and then give you a stamp of approval.
  5. Get your card. You’ll go back into the waiting room to get your prescription (and marijuana card, if you wish to pay extra for that convenience) and they’ll send you on your way.
How to Choose and Procure the Right Kind of Medical Marijuana for You

Once you have a medical marijuana card you can immediately visit a dispensary and shop. If you don’t know where to go, or have no idea where your closest dispensary is, visit WeedMaps and find one near you. Once you find one, new patients have a few more hoops to jump through:

  1. Once you have a dispensary you’re considering, do your homework. Research specific products, choose which method (edible, vaporizer, tincture, etc) you want to try first, and look up the dispensary on Leafly or just via a web search for reviews.
  2. Visit the dispensary and tell them you’re a new patient. This will require your state ID/driver’s license, your marijuana prescription, and your prescription card. The prescription card is not necessary but if you want to use it to get in with your government-issued ID later on you’ll need to give it to them for a photocopy. Regardless of the card, you still need to have your actual prescription with you every time you visit a new dispensary. They need to keep a copy of it on file.
  3. Fill out a (lengthy) new patient form. You will need to supply a lot of information (normal stuff like your name and how to contact you,) but you’ll also need to explain what talents you can bring to the “collective.” That’s because you can’t actually just buy marijuana from someone who produces it. Instead, you’re enjoying the “free” work product of a collective to which you (will) belong. Most dispensaries will ask you how you can aid the collective, so just have literally any skill in mind. It can be web design or fertilizer research. No one really cares, but it’s always good to be up-front about it. Just put something down that you actually can do
  4. Bring cash. You cannot pay for marijuana with a credit or debit card (in most places) for a lot of reasons, but the one that matters here is that you’re not actually buying marijuana, but rather donating money to your collective. Certain donations warrant gifts. Those gifts are medical marijuana. So instead of buying marijuana, you’re donating money and getting marijuana as a gift. It’s a game of semantics, kind of like donating to public radio—you give them money and they send you a gift, as opposed to you “buying” that tote bag or DVD set. Make sense?
  5. Wait your turn. Most dispensaries only allow a certain number of people to enter the big marijuana room at one time. When you get there, you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes (at least) until you’re called and can go in. It helps to have some idea of what you want, so you don’t make everyone else wait while you choose. Ask any questions you have, but note that the people helping you here may or may not be qualified to answer them (but they’ll certainly have opinions.) Furthermore, even if you tell them you have no tolerance they’ll suggest a dose that’s too high. Be very careful with any recommendations you get from dispensary staff members, and err on the conservative side of any dosing or usage suggestions they offer (more on that in a moment.)
  6. Let them know you’re new, and enjoy the free goodies. If you’re visiting any dispensary for the first time, or if it is your one year anniversary (they have to reprocess you after a year because most states require a prescription renewal), ask them what new patients get for free before you donate. You’ll often get a few free treats. If they give you something you don’t want (in my case, a joint), tell them you don’t want it and ask if they have anything else.
  7. Find out if they have a mailing list or text messaging service to notify you of any discounts. They probably do, so sign up. You’ll save at least 10% every time you go.

Congratulations, you now have medical marijuana! We’ll go into how to use it responsibly shortly, but one more thing first: You need to learn how to store the drug so it doesn’t go bad. Some edibles require refrigeration. Some last forever, and some expire. Some products require specific temperatures (usually room temperature). Find out how to store what you purchased and what kind of shelf life you’re dealing with so you don’t waste it. The folks at the dispensary actually know about storage, so you can ask them about each product you buy. They won’t tell you, so make sure you do ask how to store your products and when/if they expire.

You can stock up on long-lasting products and get a few of the ones that expire if you want to make sure you always have medicine available. I’ve never enjoyed frequent trips to the dispensary, so I always kept enough pills, candies, and sprays around in case I ran out of the cheaper, expiring options. That way if you get a little lazy—which is not a possibility with marijuana but a guarantee—you’ll still have medicine until you get off your butt and purchase more.

As Green Week continues we’ll be learning about responsible medical marijuana use and making your own edibles, so stay tuned for more!

Images by ByEmo (Shutterstock), Oleg Baliuk (Shutterstock), Eric Broder Van Dyke (Shutterstock), and Sherry Yates Young (Shutterstock).


How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

Marijuana offers some helpful medical benefits when used well, but thanks its current (and unusual) legal status it’s hard to obtain and use effectively. Once you learn the basics, however, you can overcome these hurdles. Let’s take a look at how medical marijuana works and the laws surrounding it.

This post is the second in Lifehacker’s Green Week, a series where we’ll be discussing medical marijuana, its benefits, drawbacks, and everything you need to know. Keep in mind, we’re not doctors, so you should check with yours before trying it, and similarly, obey the laws and regulations in your area regarding the procurement and use of medical marijuana.

What You Need to Know About Marijuana’s Legal Status

How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

The current state of marijuana legality poses a larger problem than you might think. By itself, you’ve got a potent drug that offers several medical benefits with a variety of side effects—most of which many people enjoy recreationally and others, like myself, consider unpleasant. Whether you like getting high or not, or support a person’s right to recreational drugs, marijuana does have medical value, but not without significant downsides. For example, marijuana can lower the frequency of seizures in children with epilepsy. Certain marijuana products (mostly tinctures, which we’ll discuss later), such as Charlotte’s Web and Jayden Juice, focus on one component of the versatile plant (cannabidiol, also known as CBD) to provide seizure prophylaxis without the side effects of “getting high.” It also helps a subset of people with chronic pain issues live virtually pain-free.

But Jayden Juice and Charlotte’s Web were not discovered in a traditional lab, and they’re not pharmaceutical products. In a way, that’s an exciting form of progress, because we’re all familiar with some of the unethical behavior pharmaceutical companies exhibit, and it’s nice to have outsiders doing research that matters. Nevertheless, marijuana holds a lot of healing power that we can’t tap into without adequate financial resources, which means the labs and talent those companies have in droves. With them, we could discover new drugs that treat a large variety of conditions with fewer side effects than current medications on the market.

How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

For a prime example, consider pain management. With few exceptions (primarily inflammatory pain), narcotic drugs known as opioids make up the majority of the pain management market. You probably know them as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), tramadol (Ultram), and codeine. (Tylenol 3) They’re the drugs that pop up in dialogue when television shows and films discuss addiction. Opioids help you ignore the pain and feel euphoric, but you can only take them for a short period of time before your body builds up a tolerance and you need more and more just to feel “normal.” Ask any recovered addict and they will tell you how terrible the withdrawal symptoms become and how quickly they begin after stopping. Many people don’t understand the risk of taking opioids, and develop a physical dependency quickly before they even know it’s happening. On the other hand, marijuana doesn’t come with such a high level of risk and dependency. While you can develop a tolerance, you risk far fewer side effects and can manage that tolerance more easily.

Despite the potential benefits of marijuana over often more dangerous legal drugs, the US government still lists it as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone fall into the Schedule II category, which means only a limited amount can be prescribed in the country per year. It also makes it much harder for someone who needs these drugs to get them. Despite the dangers opioids carry, they’re still considered to have medical benefits whereas marijuana—despite actual evidence to the contrary that the government actually acknowledges—is not, and keeping it a Schedule I drug doesn’t just make it illegal to possess, buy, or sell, but makes it near-impossible to study or research in a legal, medical setting.

How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

As a result of the federal government’s stance, states have enacted medical marijuana laws to allow individuals to grow a limited number of marijuana plants, for personal use. If you receive a medical marijuana prescription, you can join a collective and “donate” money to receive some of their “work product,” which simply means you can buy marijuana by using silly terminology to pretend you are not. Some states, such as Colorado and Oregon, have fully legalized the drug. Nevertheless, the federal government still considers it illegal, and that means you assume a variety of risks if you choose to use it for medical purposes. For example, a prescription in one state usually does not transfer to another, so you cannot travel and fill a prescription while you’re away from home. Furthermore, if you travel by air, you have to deal with the Transportation Security Agency, or TSA—a federal agency—and you are not subject to state laws even if you are traveling within the state where you received your prescription. Chances of prosecution are low, but these examples demonstrate that disconnect between state legalization and federal illegality.

Obviously, this process needs to change. It’s also probably obvious that I think the government should not oppose medical marijuana use. We need to study marijuana further and learn how to create more effective drugs with fewer side effects that can help people manage pain without getting them high. We need doctors to learn how to use marijuana as a treatment, and patients don’t have to rely on dispensary employees, who often know more about recreational uses than medicinal ones, to provide advice on a powerful drug. At the very least, we need to eliminate the risk of fines and imprisonment for people who currently use marijuana for medical purposes. Many people believe imminent change is around the corner, and hopefully that prediction will become true. For now, before you go get yourself a medical marijuana prescription, know these risks and limitations exist. Although small, they are just the legal issues. You need to acquire a lot of knowledge to use medical marijuana safely and effectively. My goal, here, is to help you do that so you don’t have to go through the trouble I did.

How Does Medical Marijuana Work?

How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

Before you do anything else, you need to understand how medical marijuana works, how it can help you, and what kinds of other fun things it does that you should expect. First, let’s go over the major types of the plant:

  • Sativa: Known as the “head high,” sativa tends to have more psychoactive and euphoric properties. Most people who use marijuana recreationally prefer sativa because it won’t put you to sleep as readily as its sibling (indica, discussed next). While I personally found less medical benefit in sativa, some people have the opposite experience.
  • Indica: Known as the “body high,” indica tends to relax you and put you to sleep. Some people report feeling fused to their couch or bed. Indica often serves as a better option for people with medical issues because it works well as a sedative. This, however, may offer the opposite of what you need. If you don’t want to get sleepy, don’t use indica.
  • Hybrid: This won’t come as a surprise, but hybrid strains of marijuana contain both sativa and indica. You may find this more effective for medical purposes because it provides the best of both worlds.
  • Ruderalis: You’re almost definitely not going to encounter cannabis ruderalis by name. It’s an uncommon type and originates in Russia. It has a higher concentration of cannabidiol (also known as CBD—more on that later) than indica or sativa. If you end up purchasing a high CBD product, it’s possible it was derived from cannabis ruderalis. You don’t need to worry about this type, though, as you shouldn’t ever have to ask for it by name.
How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

The first time you use any marijuana you will have a very different experience from subsequent times. Some people don’t get high at all and others get so high, even from a tiny amount, that they never want to touch the stuff again—that was me! You may fall somewhere in between as well. But you don’t have to get high to get the medical benefits from marijuana. Marijuana contains a large variety of compounds called cannabinoids, most of which fall under two headers: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While at least 85 types cannabinoids exist, for the sake of this explanation we’re going to take a reductive view and just wrangle them all into the THC and CBD categories.

  • THC: If your goal is to get high, THC will do it. The psychoactive properties of marijuana lie in THC. But beyond that, THC can relieve stress, pain, nausea, glaucoma symptoms, and insomnia. It can also stimulate your appetite (you know, give you the munchies) and calm asthma and anxiety attacks. Some people who use medical marijuana need THC and will have to deal with (or enjoy, if you fall into that category) the side effect of, well, getting high. Depending on the strain and your reaction to it, that can involve feeling paranoid or feeling relaxed, falling asleep, giggling, eating too much, and everything else usually associated with recreational use of marijuana. You’ll have to use medical marijuana products that include THC multiple times to get a good idea of what will happen to you over the long term.
  • CBD: If you don’t want to get high at all, you want CBD. Most medical marijuana products for children either include only CBD (Charlotte’s Web) or a very high ratio of CBD to THC (Jayden Juice) so that no psychoactive symptoms present themselves. CBD can aid in seizure prophylaxis, but also help with nausea, some chronic pain, inflammatory pain (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis), schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety, and more.
How Medical Marijuana Works, and Its Complicated Legal Status

If you want to try medical marijuana, even if you know you want the benefits of THC, you should start with CBD products first. This way you can find out if CBD helps you at all and then you can incorporate THC based on what you learn. You’ll get no judgment from us for wanting to enjoy your medicinal marijuana, so long as you put your medical needs first. Understand what you’re doing so you can use responsibly.

Next, let’s discuss what happens to your brain when you use medical marijuana. Here’s an example timeline for edibles, my prefered method of treatment:

  1. You eat, and wait up to two hours for something to happen.
  2. Presuming you ingested a marijuana edible containing THC, it will start to work on your brain. As previously mentioned, this can take some time, but when the process is underway you will become very aware of it. Compounds like THC do their thing by telling neurons to send neurotransmitters along pathways in the brain called synapses to do their job. Most neurotransmitters are made in your body, but compounds like THC mimic these neurotransmitters for various effects. THC, for example, mimics anandamide.
  3. Once THC starts binding, you will start to feel that “high,” but you’ll also feel its medical benefits—calmness, pain relief, relaxed anxiety. THC, mimicking anandamide, begins binding to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, which blocks some normal brain activity. Because anandamide and dopamine work together, THC causes a significant disruption. Your otherwise adequate memory, coordination, and learning abilities suddenly don’t seem so adequate, and they’re replaced by hunger, euphoria, painlessness, and in many people, impaired cognitive function. This ramps up over the course of two hours for most people, with the second hour being the most significant. This first time can feel intense, especially with an edible. You will most likely fall asleep, especially if you start with indica or a hybrid. If you start with sativa that may also occur, but not before you (potentially) experience some odd hallucinations.
  4. Depending on your tolerance, you will recover somewhere between 4-16 hours later. Plan ahead, and don’t try this (especially edibles) for the first time if you have somewhere to be during that timeframe—especially if it involves driving.

But what about smoking and vaporizing? What about sprays and tinctures? We’ll get there later in this series, but if you want an idea of how this all changes when smoking or vaping, it happens over a much shorter period of time (5-30 minutes) and the effects are significantly weaker because you will ingest less of the drug in a puff of smoke or stream than you will by eating it.

Of course, this is just how you may feel. It also helps to know how marijuana affects your brain and body, scientifically speaking. You’ll also want to take a more responsible approach to using the drug for medical purposes. As Green Week continues, we’ll discuss that and more. Stay tuned!

http://lifehacker.com/what-marijuana…

Images by Pogorelova Olga (Shutterstock), Sira Anamwong (Shutterstock), Susan Montgomery (Shutterstock), mikeledray (Shutterstock), David Smart (Shutterstock), molekuul_be (Shutterstock), (Shutterstock), KateMacate (Shutterstock), KateMacate (Shutterstock), and a katz (Shutterstock).


Medical Marijuana Helped Me When Nothing Else Could

Medical Marijuana Helped Me When Nothing Else Could

Many or, perhaps, most people utilize the benefits of marijuana for recreational purposes perhaps because it can be fun and perhaps because many governments classified the drug as having no medical benefit. Today, we’re starting to learn that’s not true. If you’re not sure how or why medical marijuana offers serious benefits, let me share my story with you.

This post is the first in Lifehacker’s Green Week, a series where we’ll be discussing medical marijuana, its benefits, drawbacks, and everything you need to know. Keep in mind, we’re not doctors, so you should check with yours before trying it, and similarly, obey the laws and regulations in your area regarding the procurement and use of medical marijuana.

An Important Medical Disclaimer

I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice—because I can’t! Please keep that in mind when reading. Marijuana is a powerful but safe drug. Statistically, it has a low incidence of causing any serious harm to anyone when compared with other drugs. That said, it’s still a drug and bad things can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. You should talk to your doctor (or doctors) before making any significant changes to the way you manage your health, so do that before you jump on board with anything I’m saying here.

Marijuana affects everyone a little differently. Different strains have different effects. You may take medicine that interacts with marijuana in some way. For these reasons and a handful of others, you shouldn’t dive into a powerful drug like this without consulting a medical professional first. If I make you think marijuana can help you medically, you still need to talk to your doctor before you dive in.

Why I Tried Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Helped Me When Nothing Else Could

I went through most of my life with an anti-drug attitude. I’ve never smoked, I still drink very rarely, and I didn’t try marijuana until my thirties. Even then, I got a prescription for medical marijuana because I thought it might help manage my pain. In a moment of wonderful luck, two years I wound up with a melange of chronic pain issues that only narcotic painkillers seemed to help. If you know about the dangers of opioids, you can understand why I wanted to avoid them. I like being in control of my own body and mind, so getting high always seemed like something I’d hate. The pain was so debilitating and frequent that I just didn’t care anymore and figured if it could help I should at least give it a try.

The first time I tried marijuana I had far too much. I took half of what the woman at the dispensary suggested for someone with no tolerance whatsoever. I was high for about 16 hours and hated it. I thought I was going to stop breathing and spent hours fighting the urge to fall asleep thinking that I might not wake up. Eventually I went under and it felt like a comfortable version of drowning. I woke up the next morning with a headache and decided marijuana was a bad idea.

Pain changed my mind yet again. When you’re on opioid painkillers, you can pretty much only take them twice a week if you want to avoid dependency. If you’re in pain every day, you want to take pills every day. It takes an enormous amount of self-control to say no, I need to suffer through this day and the next one (and sometimes even the next one after that) or this pain will get worse—even if that doesn’t seem possible. That’s the horrible thing about opioids: they decrease your pain tolerance if you use them too regularly.

My research continued into other alternatives and I always came back to marijuana. As I learned more, I found that a bite of a cannabis-laced brownie from one company doesn’t have the same effect as others. I tried another strain, still took too much, and hated it only a little less. But just as it happens in the movies, the third time was the charm. I found these little chocolate covered blueberries that provided a very small dose of a helpful strain and suddenly I slept great and felt pain-free in the morning.

Is Medical Marijuana Right for You?

Medical Marijuana Helped Me When Nothing Else Could

That’s a tough question to answer. You can get a prescription for medical marijuana for all sorts of conditions. There are two main types of marijuana—indica and sativa—and both have the ability to help with a variety of conditions. I would argue, however, that the large list of conditions accepted might give a little too much hope to those suffering from some of them. Medical marijuana can treat issues that cause pain. Cannabis indica, more specifically, can help you sleep. If you have a low appetite or eating disorder, marijuana can help you find a desire to eat—perhaps too much. But you’ll also find conditions marijuana treats, like obesity, that don’t make a lot of sense. If marijuana tends to make you want to eat, how will it help you lose weight? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m highly skeptical of the claim.

You’ll find other interesting conditions on the symptom list, such as anxiety, which marijuana can alleviate and exacerbate. You’ve probably heard about the paranoia as a side effect. Certain strains cause it in most people and others don’t have quite that effect. A tolerance or even just general experience with marijuana can help you avoid this paranoia, and so can strains with higher amounts of cannabidiol (CBD). Most strains will help you relax, but some can make you paranoid. Everyone reacts somewhat differently, too. I get hungry but I don’t get paranoid or silly. A friend of mine doesn’t get hungry or paranoid but does get very silly and can’t stop laughing. So can marijuana help with anxiety? It can in some people, sure, but it could make the problem worse for others.

Whether or not medical marijuana can help you depends on how you react to the drug and if you actually need it. If you need to lose weight, you’ll do better with diet and exercise than a drug almost any day. If you do need a drug or other medical attention, marijuana probably shouldn’t be on your list of options. Even if I were a doctor who could give you this kind of information, it’d take an extremely long time to sort out which conditions marijuana can help and can’t. I can tell you that marijuana generally helps relieve stress and pain. It can also help you sleep. If you have a condition with those symptoms you might find some relief with medical marijuana. Otherwise, you may have better luck with something else.

If you want to give medical marijuana a try, talk to your doctor first. While not all doctors know much about its medical uses, unfortunately, you can always ask for a referral to one who does if yours falls under that category.

But there’s still more to learn here! As Green Week continues we’ll be talking about how marijuana works, its legal status, how you can use it responsibly, and more. If you feel like marijuana could help you and your doctor agrees, there are still a lot of hurdles to clear in order to learn to use this drug for medical purposes. We’ll tackle a lot of those concerns in other posts, so stay tuned!


Photos by Mr. High Sky (Shutterstock), Jan Faukner (Shutterstock), and Atomazul (Shutterstock).


How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it’s important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. We sat down with a sleep expert and a stack of studies to help you get a better night’s sleep and need less in the process. Here’s how.

This post was originally published in 2013. In honor of World Sleep Day, today we’re reviving this old feature on how to get better z’s.

Most of Us Have a Hard Time Getting Enough Sleep in the First Place

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page from the start: You need sleep, and odds are, you may not be getting enough as it is. This guide will help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can survive on less, but it’ll be useless if you don’t know how much sleep is right for you to begin with. The truth is, each of us needs a different amount of sleep to be productive, and the whole “8 hours” thing is more of a guideline than a rule. In fact, some research suggests that sleeping too much can actually be harmful to your health. Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI.

We’ve discussed how to get on a good sleep schedule and ditch a dysfunctional relationship with sleeping, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to follow that guide first. Our goal in this post is to walk you through improving the sleep that you get to the point where you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. You’ll spend less time tossing and turning, and more time getting truly restful sleep.

http://lifehacker.com/5548150/how-to…

Why Better Sleep is More Important than More Sleep

We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-ma…

So where does that leave us? First, start tracking your sleep, and find your perfect bedtime. There are great apps that can help. Eight hours of sleep is worthless if you spend all of it tossing and turning, or you only sleep for about 3-4 hours of it. Trying to fix poor sleep habits by going to bed earlier is like trying to lose weight by spending more time at the gym without actually changing the duration of your workout. Once you’ve learned to optimize your time, you’ll see better results.

http://lifehacker.com/5828581/how-i-…

The Keys to Better, Quality Sleep

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three things: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (tweaking your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it). We sat down with Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a Stanford University trained specialist in sleep medicine and Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, to come up with some tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep so you’ll need less in the long-term. Photo by Joi Ito.

Preparation

The first step is to build the habits that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while you rest. For example:

  • Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
  • Set a kinder, gentler alarm. Ditch your incredibly loud, annoying alarm clock and try something new that will make waking up easier and more natural. Grab an alarm clock app that will wake you to music or soothing sounds, or try a wake-up light that slowly rises the light level in the room as you approach your wake-up time.
  • Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut back on screen time. We’ve mentioned it before, but study after study all point to the notion that electronic devices harm our sleep cycles. Dr. Verma suggested turning off your gadgets at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, even those e-ink devices. Two hours is best, but admittedly impractical for many people. "The screens on tablets/phones/tv’s are so bright, that they can confuse the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN," he explains. "Bright light too late at night can confuse the brain into thinking it is 2pm when it is 2am. Even if sleep occurs, it will not be as deep, and therefore less restorative." Photo by Dreaming Poet (Shutterstock).

  • Meditate before bed. We’ve shared one sleep-oriented meditation method designed to help you fall asleep, but there are many others. Try visualizing a dream you’d like to have, or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
  • Improve your evening ritual. Your evening ritual is important, and if you’re not working in everything from a snack (you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you’ll wake up or sleep restlessly) to going to the bathroom (waking frequently to go to the bathroom can lead to shallow sleep all night and throw off your sleep cycle), you may suffer for it. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.

Environment

Before you lay down to sleep, you should also make sure your environment is conducive to a good night’s rest:

  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Make sure your bed is actually comfortable. We’ve said this several times before, but put your money where your time goes. Since most of us will spend an average of 24 years of our lives asleep, your bed deserves serious investment. Buy the right mattress, pick some good pillows, and pick up some good sheets. Don’t underestimate the power of a more comfortable comforter, a pillowtop over your old mattress, or even a cooling pillow. Your bed is important, and you should make sure it improves your sleep, not hinder it. Photo by Alliance.

  • Adjust the temperature. Some studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much warmer than that and you start having difficulty with insomnia. Again, studies say one thing, but find your sweet spot—sometimes a cool room and a hot water bottle in bed, or maybe a fan going over your body is all you need to feel just right.
  • Filter out the light. LEDs and standby lights from electronics can cause just as much havoc with your sleep cycle as a glowing phone or tablet screen. We’ve already banished your electronic devices—or at least turned them off, but make sure to cover up that pulsating light on your laptop while it’s charging too. Cover up those lights on your cable box, TV, or any other devices in standby near your bed while you’re at it. There are products for this, but even some tape will do. If you live somewhere lit at all hours like I do, invest in a sleeping mask. Whether you shell out for the expensive adjustable kind that mold to your face and have cushions or just grab a dollar-store mask that’s essentially cloth with an elastic band, it’ll work wonders for your sleep. Plus, if you work off-hours and have to sleep through sunrise or during the day, it’ll help you get better rest.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut out the distractions. Kids waking you up? You may not be able to do much about that, but if your phone is waking you up, buzzing with notifications or new emails, it’s time to turn it off, set some quiet hours, improve your notifications so they help you sleep, or just set it to silent when you go to bed. If your neighborhood is noisy and that keeps you from sleeping, try a white noise generator or some soothing music to drown it out and help you rest. Photo by maxriesgo (Shutterstock).

http://lifehacker.com/5824376/how-do…

Timing

You already know that how long you sleep is important, but for the best possible sleep, you really should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The debate rages over the concept of “sleep debt” and whether it can be “paid off” by sleeping in, and different experts say different things about it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929108/improv…

Dr. Verma suggests an alternative: “An often overlooked way for people to optimize their sleep is to wake at the same time every day, or at least within the same hour. So rather than oversleep on off days, waking at the same time and then taking a nap allows the extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.”

He continues, “Many of my patients have such a different weekday/weekend wake schedule that they are experiencing the same sleepiness that people who are jet-lagged. Even two hours difference hurts, especially if they are already sleep deprived.” If that’s the case, and you still don’t want to adjust your sleep schedule, maybe our tips on beating jet lag can help.

Get Help From the Experts

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Finally, if you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, or even if you sleep for long periods and don’t feel rested, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be any number of medical issues causing your sleep problems, all of them treatable. You may be suffering from chronic insomnia, which is treatable with mild sedatives. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea, or some other undiagnosed condition that, once treated, can turn the hours you get into the most restful you’ve ever had. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to check with your doctor, and possibly submit to a sleep test that’ll settle the issue once and for all. Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Once you have your sleep issues sorted out, whether by the professionals or through our tips above, you can start to fine tune the amount of sleep you actually get to make sure you only take away as much as you actually need. If you’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours because it’s the only way to feel rested, but once you start wearing a mask and ditching the gadgets before bed, you find that you feel just as rested after eight, you can start to edge back to see what happens. Bonus: you’ll get two extra hours in your day to do the things you want to do, and your mind and body won’t be worse for the wear as a result.

Dr. Nitun Verma, MD is a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont. He has offered his tips for better sleep here before, and he graciously volunteered his expertise for this piece as well. We thank him, and you can follow him on Twitter at @nitunverma.

http://lifehacker.com/5798884/end-yo…

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it’s important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. We sat down with a sleep expert and a stack of studies to help you get a better night’s sleep and need less in the process. Here’s how.

This post was originally published in 2013. In honor of World Sleep Day, today we’re reviving this old feature on how to get better z’s.

Most of Us Have a Hard Time Getting Enough Sleep in the First Place

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page from the start: You need sleep, and odds are, you may not be getting enough as it is. This guide will help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can survive on less, but it’ll be useless if you don’t know how much sleep is right for you to begin with. The truth is, each of us needs a different amount of sleep to be productive, and the whole “8 hours” thing is more of a guideline than a rule. In fact, some research suggests that sleeping too much can actually be harmful to your health. Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI.

We’ve discussed how to get on a good sleep schedule and ditch a dysfunctional relationship with sleeping, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to follow that guide first. Our goal in this post is to walk you through improving the sleep that you get to the point where you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. You’ll spend less time tossing and turning, and more time getting truly restful sleep.

http://lifehacker.com/5548150/how-to…

Why Better Sleep is More Important than More Sleep

We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-ma…

So where does that leave us? First, start tracking your sleep, and find your perfect bedtime. There are great apps that can help. Eight hours of sleep is worthless if you spend all of it tossing and turning, or you only sleep for about 3-4 hours of it. Trying to fix poor sleep habits by going to bed earlier is like trying to lose weight by spending more time at the gym without actually changing the duration of your workout. Once you’ve learned to optimize your time, you’ll see better results.

http://lifehacker.com/5828581/how-i-…

The Keys to Better, Quality Sleep

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three things: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (tweaking your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it). We sat down with Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a Stanford University trained specialist in sleep medicine and Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, to come up with some tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep so you’ll need less in the long-term. Photo by Joi Ito.

Preparation

The first step is to build the habits that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while you rest. For example:

  • Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
  • Set a kinder, gentler alarm. Ditch your incredibly loud, annoying alarm clock and try something new that will make waking up easier and more natural. Grab an alarm clock app that will wake you to music or soothing sounds, or try a wake-up light that slowly rises the light level in the room as you approach your wake-up time.
  • Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut back on screen time. We’ve mentioned it before, but study after study all point to the notion that electronic devices harm our sleep cycles. Dr. Verma suggested turning off your gadgets at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, even those e-ink devices. Two hours is best, but admittedly impractical for many people. "The screens on tablets/phones/tv’s are so bright, that they can confuse the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN," he explains. "Bright light too late at night can confuse the brain into thinking it is 2pm when it is 2am. Even if sleep occurs, it will not be as deep, and therefore less restorative." Photo by Dreaming Poet (Shutterstock).

  • Meditate before bed. We’ve shared one sleep-oriented meditation method designed to help you fall asleep, but there are many others. Try visualizing a dream you’d like to have, or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
  • Improve your evening ritual. Your evening ritual is important, and if you’re not working in everything from a snack (you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you’ll wake up or sleep restlessly) to going to the bathroom (waking frequently to go to the bathroom can lead to shallow sleep all night and throw off your sleep cycle), you may suffer for it. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.

Environment

Before you lay down to sleep, you should also make sure your environment is conducive to a good night’s rest:

  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Make sure your bed is actually comfortable. We’ve said this several times before, but put your money where your time goes. Since most of us will spend an average of 24 years of our lives asleep, your bed deserves serious investment. Buy the right mattress, pick some good pillows, and pick up some good sheets. Don’t underestimate the power of a more comfortable comforter, a pillowtop over your old mattress, or even a cooling pillow. Your bed is important, and you should make sure it improves your sleep, not hinder it. Photo by Alliance.

  • Adjust the temperature. Some studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much warmer than that and you start having difficulty with insomnia. Again, studies say one thing, but find your sweet spot—sometimes a cool room and a hot water bottle in bed, or maybe a fan going over your body is all you need to feel just right.
  • Filter out the light. LEDs and standby lights from electronics can cause just as much havoc with your sleep cycle as a glowing phone or tablet screen. We’ve already banished your electronic devices—or at least turned them off, but make sure to cover up that pulsating light on your laptop while it’s charging too. Cover up those lights on your cable box, TV, or any other devices in standby near your bed while you’re at it. There are products for this, but even some tape will do. If you live somewhere lit at all hours like I do, invest in a sleeping mask. Whether you shell out for the expensive adjustable kind that mold to your face and have cushions or just grab a dollar-store mask that’s essentially cloth with an elastic band, it’ll work wonders for your sleep. Plus, if you work off-hours and have to sleep through sunrise or during the day, it’ll help you get better rest.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut out the distractions. Kids waking you up? You may not be able to do much about that, but if your phone is waking you up, buzzing with notifications or new emails, it’s time to turn it off, set some quiet hours, improve your notifications so they help you sleep, or just set it to silent when you go to bed. If your neighborhood is noisy and that keeps you from sleeping, try a white noise generator or some soothing music to drown it out and help you rest. Photo by maxriesgo (Shutterstock).

http://lifehacker.com/5824376/how-do…

Timing

You already know that how long you sleep is important, but for the best possible sleep, you really should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The debate rages over the concept of “sleep debt” and whether it can be “paid off” by sleeping in, and different experts say different things about it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929108/improv…

Dr. Verma suggests an alternative: “An often overlooked way for people to optimize their sleep is to wake at the same time every day, or at least within the same hour. So rather than oversleep on off days, waking at the same time and then taking a nap allows the extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.”

He continues, “Many of my patients have such a different weekday/weekend wake schedule that they are experiencing the same sleepiness that people who are jet-lagged. Even two hours difference hurts, especially if they are already sleep deprived.” If that’s the case, and you still don’t want to adjust your sleep schedule, maybe our tips on beating jet lag can help.

Get Help From the Experts

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Finally, if you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, or even if you sleep for long periods and don’t feel rested, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be any number of medical issues causing your sleep problems, all of them treatable. You may be suffering from chronic insomnia, which is treatable with mild sedatives. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea, or some other undiagnosed condition that, once treated, can turn the hours you get into the most restful you’ve ever had. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to check with your doctor, and possibly submit to a sleep test that’ll settle the issue once and for all. Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Once you have your sleep issues sorted out, whether by the professionals or through our tips above, you can start to fine tune the amount of sleep you actually get to make sure you only take away as much as you actually need. If you’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours because it’s the only way to feel rested, but once you start wearing a mask and ditching the gadgets before bed, you find that you feel just as rested after eight, you can start to edge back to see what happens. Bonus: you’ll get two extra hours in your day to do the things you want to do, and your mind and body won’t be worse for the wear as a result.

Dr. Nitun Verma, MD is a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont. He has offered his tips for better sleep here before, and he graciously volunteered his expertise for this piece as well. We thank him, and you can follow him on Twitter at @nitunverma.

http://lifehacker.com/5798884/end-yo…

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it’s important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. We sat down with a sleep expert and a stack of studies to help you get a better night’s sleep and need less in the process. Here’s how.

This post was originally published in 2013. In honor of World Sleep Day, today we’re reviving this old feature on how to get better z’s.

Most of Us Have a Hard Time Getting Enough Sleep in the First Place

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page from the start: You need sleep, and odds are, you may not be getting enough as it is. This guide will help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can survive on less, but it’ll be useless if you don’t know how much sleep is right for you to begin with. The truth is, each of us needs a different amount of sleep to be productive, and the whole “8 hours” thing is more of a guideline than a rule. In fact, some research suggests that sleeping too much can actually be harmful to your health. Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI.

We’ve discussed how to get on a good sleep schedule and ditch a dysfunctional relationship with sleeping, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to follow that guide first. Our goal in this post is to walk you through improving the sleep that you get to the point where you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. You’ll spend less time tossing and turning, and more time getting truly restful sleep.

http://lifehacker.com/5548150/how-to…

Why Better Sleep is More Important than More Sleep

We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-ma…

So where does that leave us? First, start tracking your sleep, and find your perfect bedtime. There are great apps that can help. Eight hours of sleep is worthless if you spend all of it tossing and turning, or you only sleep for about 3-4 hours of it. Trying to fix poor sleep habits by going to bed earlier is like trying to lose weight by spending more time at the gym without actually changing the duration of your workout. Once you’ve learned to optimize your time, you’ll see better results.

http://lifehacker.com/5828581/how-i-…

The Keys to Better, Quality Sleep

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three things: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (tweaking your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it). We sat down with Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a Stanford University trained specialist in sleep medicine and Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, to come up with some tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep so you’ll need less in the long-term. Photo by Joi Ito.

Preparation

The first step is to build the habits that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while you rest. For example:

  • Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
  • Set a kinder, gentler alarm. Ditch your incredibly loud, annoying alarm clock and try something new that will make waking up easier and more natural. Grab an alarm clock app that will wake you to music or soothing sounds, or try a wake-up light that slowly rises the light level in the room as you approach your wake-up time.
  • Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut back on screen time. We’ve mentioned it before, but study after study all point to the notion that electronic devices harm our sleep cycles. Dr. Verma suggested turning off your gadgets at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, even those e-ink devices. Two hours is best, but admittedly impractical for many people. "The screens on tablets/phones/tv’s are so bright, that they can confuse the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN," he explains. "Bright light too late at night can confuse the brain into thinking it is 2pm when it is 2am. Even if sleep occurs, it will not be as deep, and therefore less restorative." Photo by Dreaming Poet (Shutterstock).

  • Meditate before bed. We’ve shared one sleep-oriented meditation method designed to help you fall asleep, but there are many others. Try visualizing a dream you’d like to have, or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
  • Improve your evening ritual. Your evening ritual is important, and if you’re not working in everything from a snack (you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you’ll wake up or sleep restlessly) to going to the bathroom (waking frequently to go to the bathroom can lead to shallow sleep all night and throw off your sleep cycle), you may suffer for it. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.

Environment

Before you lay down to sleep, you should also make sure your environment is conducive to a good night’s rest:

  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Make sure your bed is actually comfortable. We’ve said this several times before, but put your money where your time goes. Since most of us will spend an average of 24 years of our lives asleep, your bed deserves serious investment. Buy the right mattress, pick some good pillows, and pick up some good sheets. Don’t underestimate the power of a more comfortable comforter, a pillowtop over your old mattress, or even a cooling pillow. Your bed is important, and you should make sure it improves your sleep, not hinder it. Photo by Alliance.

  • Adjust the temperature. Some studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much warmer than that and you start having difficulty with insomnia. Again, studies say one thing, but find your sweet spot—sometimes a cool room and a hot water bottle in bed, or maybe a fan going over your body is all you need to feel just right.
  • Filter out the light. LEDs and standby lights from electronics can cause just as much havoc with your sleep cycle as a glowing phone or tablet screen. We’ve already banished your electronic devices—or at least turned them off, but make sure to cover up that pulsating light on your laptop while it’s charging too. Cover up those lights on your cable box, TV, or any other devices in standby near your bed while you’re at it. There are products for this, but even some tape will do. If you live somewhere lit at all hours like I do, invest in a sleeping mask. Whether you shell out for the expensive adjustable kind that mold to your face and have cushions or just grab a dollar-store mask that’s essentially cloth with an elastic band, it’ll work wonders for your sleep. Plus, if you work off-hours and have to sleep through sunrise or during the day, it’ll help you get better rest.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut out the distractions. Kids waking you up? You may not be able to do much about that, but if your phone is waking you up, buzzing with notifications or new emails, it’s time to turn it off, set some quiet hours, improve your notifications so they help you sleep, or just set it to silent when you go to bed. If your neighborhood is noisy and that keeps you from sleeping, try a white noise generator or some soothing music to drown it out and help you rest. Photo by maxriesgo (Shutterstock).

http://lifehacker.com/5824376/how-do…

Timing

You already know that how long you sleep is important, but for the best possible sleep, you really should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The debate rages over the concept of “sleep debt” and whether it can be “paid off” by sleeping in, and different experts say different things about it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929108/improv…

Dr. Verma suggests an alternative: “An often overlooked way for people to optimize their sleep is to wake at the same time every day, or at least within the same hour. So rather than oversleep on off days, waking at the same time and then taking a nap allows the extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.”

He continues, “Many of my patients have such a different weekday/weekend wake schedule that they are experiencing the same sleepiness that people who are jet-lagged. Even two hours difference hurts, especially if they are already sleep deprived.” If that’s the case, and you still don’t want to adjust your sleep schedule, maybe our tips on beating jet lag can help.

Get Help From the Experts

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Finally, if you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, or even if you sleep for long periods and don’t feel rested, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be any number of medical issues causing your sleep problems, all of them treatable. You may be suffering from chronic insomnia, which is treatable with mild sedatives. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea, or some other undiagnosed condition that, once treated, can turn the hours you get into the most restful you’ve ever had. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to check with your doctor, and possibly submit to a sleep test that’ll settle the issue once and for all. Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Once you have your sleep issues sorted out, whether by the professionals or through our tips above, you can start to fine tune the amount of sleep you actually get to make sure you only take away as much as you actually need. If you’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours because it’s the only way to feel rested, but once you start wearing a mask and ditching the gadgets before bed, you find that you feel just as rested after eight, you can start to edge back to see what happens. Bonus: you’ll get two extra hours in your day to do the things you want to do, and your mind and body won’t be worse for the wear as a result.

Dr. Nitun Verma, MD is a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont. He has offered his tips for better sleep here before, and he graciously volunteered his expertise for this piece as well. We thank him, and you can follow him on Twitter at @nitunverma.

http://lifehacker.com/5798884/end-yo…

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it’s important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. We sat down with a sleep expert and a stack of studies to help you get a better night’s sleep and need less in the process. Here’s how.

This post was originally published in 2013. In honor of World Sleep Day, today we’re reviving this old feature on how to get better z’s.

Most of Us Have a Hard Time Getting Enough Sleep in the First Place

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page from the start: You need sleep, and odds are, you may not be getting enough as it is. This guide will help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can survive on less, but it’ll be useless if you don’t know how much sleep is right for you to begin with. The truth is, each of us needs a different amount of sleep to be productive, and the whole “8 hours” thing is more of a guideline than a rule. In fact, some research suggests that sleeping too much can actually be harmful to your health. Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI.

We’ve discussed how to get on a good sleep schedule and ditch a dysfunctional relationship with sleeping, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to follow that guide first. Our goal in this post is to walk you through improving the sleep that you get to the point where you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. You’ll spend less time tossing and turning, and more time getting truly restful sleep.

http://lifehacker.com/5548150/how-to…

Why Better Sleep is More Important than More Sleep

We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-ma…

So where does that leave us? First, start tracking your sleep, and find your perfect bedtime. There are great apps that can help. Eight hours of sleep is worthless if you spend all of it tossing and turning, or you only sleep for about 3-4 hours of it. Trying to fix poor sleep habits by going to bed earlier is like trying to lose weight by spending more time at the gym without actually changing the duration of your workout. Once you’ve learned to optimize your time, you’ll see better results.

http://lifehacker.com/5828581/how-i-…

The Keys to Better, Quality Sleep

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three things: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (tweaking your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it). We sat down with Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a Stanford University trained specialist in sleep medicine and Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, to come up with some tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep so you’ll need less in the long-term. Photo by Joi Ito.

Preparation

The first step is to build the habits that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while you rest. For example:

  • Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
  • Set a kinder, gentler alarm. Ditch your incredibly loud, annoying alarm clock and try something new that will make waking up easier and more natural. Grab an alarm clock app that will wake you to music or soothing sounds, or try a wake-up light that slowly rises the light level in the room as you approach your wake-up time.
  • Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut back on screen time. We’ve mentioned it before, but study after study all point to the notion that electronic devices harm our sleep cycles. Dr. Verma suggested turning off your gadgets at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, even those e-ink devices. Two hours is best, but admittedly impractical for many people. "The screens on tablets/phones/tv’s are so bright, that they can confuse the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN," he explains. "Bright light too late at night can confuse the brain into thinking it is 2pm when it is 2am. Even if sleep occurs, it will not be as deep, and therefore less restorative." Photo by Dreaming Poet (Shutterstock).

  • Meditate before bed. We’ve shared one sleep-oriented meditation method designed to help you fall asleep, but there are many others. Try visualizing a dream you’d like to have, or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
  • Improve your evening ritual. Your evening ritual is important, and if you’re not working in everything from a snack (you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you’ll wake up or sleep restlessly) to going to the bathroom (waking frequently to go to the bathroom can lead to shallow sleep all night and throw off your sleep cycle), you may suffer for it. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.

Environment

Before you lay down to sleep, you should also make sure your environment is conducive to a good night’s rest:

  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Make sure your bed is actually comfortable. We’ve said this several times before, but put your money where your time goes. Since most of us will spend an average of 24 years of our lives asleep, your bed deserves serious investment. Buy the right mattress, pick some good pillows, and pick up some good sheets. Don’t underestimate the power of a more comfortable comforter, a pillowtop over your old mattress, or even a cooling pillow. Your bed is important, and you should make sure it improves your sleep, not hinder it. Photo by Alliance.

  • Adjust the temperature. Some studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much warmer than that and you start having difficulty with insomnia. Again, studies say one thing, but find your sweet spot—sometimes a cool room and a hot water bottle in bed, or maybe a fan going over your body is all you need to feel just right.
  • Filter out the light. LEDs and standby lights from electronics can cause just as much havoc with your sleep cycle as a glowing phone or tablet screen. We’ve already banished your electronic devices—or at least turned them off, but make sure to cover up that pulsating light on your laptop while it’s charging too. Cover up those lights on your cable box, TV, or any other devices in standby near your bed while you’re at it. There are products for this, but even some tape will do. If you live somewhere lit at all hours like I do, invest in a sleeping mask. Whether you shell out for the expensive adjustable kind that mold to your face and have cushions or just grab a dollar-store mask that’s essentially cloth with an elastic band, it’ll work wonders for your sleep. Plus, if you work off-hours and have to sleep through sunrise or during the day, it’ll help you get better rest.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut out the distractions. Kids waking you up? You may not be able to do much about that, but if your phone is waking you up, buzzing with notifications or new emails, it’s time to turn it off, set some quiet hours, improve your notifications so they help you sleep, or just set it to silent when you go to bed. If your neighborhood is noisy and that keeps you from sleeping, try a white noise generator or some soothing music to drown it out and help you rest. Photo by maxriesgo (Shutterstock).

http://lifehacker.com/5824376/how-do…

Timing

You already know that how long you sleep is important, but for the best possible sleep, you really should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The debate rages over the concept of “sleep debt” and whether it can be “paid off” by sleeping in, and different experts say different things about it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929108/improv…

Dr. Verma suggests an alternative: “An often overlooked way for people to optimize their sleep is to wake at the same time every day, or at least within the same hour. So rather than oversleep on off days, waking at the same time and then taking a nap allows the extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.”

He continues, “Many of my patients have such a different weekday/weekend wake schedule that they are experiencing the same sleepiness that people who are jet-lagged. Even two hours difference hurts, especially if they are already sleep deprived.” If that’s the case, and you still don’t want to adjust your sleep schedule, maybe our tips on beating jet lag can help.

Get Help From the Experts

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Finally, if you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, or even if you sleep for long periods and don’t feel rested, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be any number of medical issues causing your sleep problems, all of them treatable. You may be suffering from chronic insomnia, which is treatable with mild sedatives. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea, or some other undiagnosed condition that, once treated, can turn the hours you get into the most restful you’ve ever had. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to check with your doctor, and possibly submit to a sleep test that’ll settle the issue once and for all. Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Once you have your sleep issues sorted out, whether by the professionals or through our tips above, you can start to fine tune the amount of sleep you actually get to make sure you only take away as much as you actually need. If you’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours because it’s the only way to feel rested, but once you start wearing a mask and ditching the gadgets before bed, you find that you feel just as rested after eight, you can start to edge back to see what happens. Bonus: you’ll get two extra hours in your day to do the things you want to do, and your mind and body won’t be worse for the wear as a result.

Dr. Nitun Verma, MD is a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont. He has offered his tips for better sleep here before, and he graciously volunteered his expertise for this piece as well. We thank him, and you can follow him on Twitter at @nitunverma.

http://lifehacker.com/5798884/end-yo…

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it’s important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. We sat down with a sleep expert and a stack of studies to help you get a better night’s sleep and need less in the process. Here’s how.

This post was originally published in 2013. In honor of World Sleep Day, today we’re reviving this old feature on how to get better z’s.

Most of Us Have a Hard Time Getting Enough Sleep in the First Place

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page from the start: You need sleep, and odds are, you may not be getting enough as it is. This guide will help you improve the quality of your sleep, so you can survive on less, but it’ll be useless if you don’t know how much sleep is right for you to begin with. The truth is, each of us needs a different amount of sleep to be productive, and the whole “8 hours” thing is more of a guideline than a rule. In fact, some research suggests that sleeping too much can actually be harmful to your health. Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI.

We’ve discussed how to get on a good sleep schedule and ditch a dysfunctional relationship with sleeping, so if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to follow that guide first. Our goal in this post is to walk you through improving the sleep that you get to the point where you can fine tune and dial back the amount that you get to match what you really need. You’ll spend less time tossing and turning, and more time getting truly restful sleep.

http://lifehacker.com/5548150/how-to…

Why Better Sleep is More Important than More Sleep

We frequently hear about the dangers of too little sleep, but there’s also research to suggest too much sleep is a problem too. One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research concluded that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep when it comes to feeling rested and rejuvenated.

http://lifehacker.com/5802650/how-ma…

So where does that leave us? First, start tracking your sleep, and find your perfect bedtime. There are great apps that can help. Eight hours of sleep is worthless if you spend all of it tossing and turning, or you only sleep for about 3-4 hours of it. Trying to fix poor sleep habits by going to bed earlier is like trying to lose weight by spending more time at the gym without actually changing the duration of your workout. Once you’ve learned to optimize your time, you’ll see better results.

http://lifehacker.com/5828581/how-i-…

The Keys to Better, Quality Sleep

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Optimizing your sleep depends heavily on three things: preparation (building good sleep habits), environment (tweaking your surroundings for optimal sleep), and timing (getting the sleep you need when you need it). We sat down with Dr. Nitun Verma, MD, a Stanford University trained specialist in sleep medicine and Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, to come up with some tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep so you’ll need less in the long-term. Photo by Joi Ito.

Preparation

The first step is to build the habits that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and be more comfortable while you rest. For example:

  • Exercise regularly. The goal here isn’t to wear yourself out, but The National Sleep Foundation has said exercise in the afternoon can improve sleep in the evening. Specifically, morning or afternoon exercise helps you fall asleep faster with less trouble. Just be sure not to exercise right before bed, as that had the opposite effect.
  • Set a kinder, gentler alarm. Ditch your incredibly loud, annoying alarm clock and try something new that will make waking up easier and more natural. Grab an alarm clock app that will wake you to music or soothing sounds, or try a wake-up light that slowly rises the light level in the room as you approach your wake-up time.
  • Ditch the alcohol, cut out the caffeine, and watch the cigarettes. This one study, published in 1994, approached all three topics, and concluded that alcohol can be relaxing and help you get to sleep, but it’s damaging to the sleep cycle once you’re out. The end result is a choppy, restless night where you wake more frequently than you would. Caffeine has a different effect. It lengthens the 2nd phase of your sleep cycle (where your brain starts reorganizing itself and processing the day)—which is great for naps, but not for a night of deep sleep. Caffeine shortens phases three and four, where REM sleep and dreaming occur. Cigarettes on the other hand, or specifically nicotine, can be relaxing in small doses, but too much keeps you awake and prevents the onset of sleep entirely.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut back on screen time. We’ve mentioned it before, but study after study all point to the notion that electronic devices harm our sleep cycles. Dr. Verma suggested turning off your gadgets at least 1-2 hours before bedtime, even those e-ink devices. Two hours is best, but admittedly impractical for many people. "The screens on tablets/phones/tv’s are so bright, that they can confuse the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN," he explains. "Bright light too late at night can confuse the brain into thinking it is 2pm when it is 2am. Even if sleep occurs, it will not be as deep, and therefore less restorative." Photo by Dreaming Poet (Shutterstock).

  • Meditate before bed. We’ve shared one sleep-oriented meditation method designed to help you fall asleep, but there are many others. Try visualizing a dream you’d like to have, or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night, relax, focus on sleeping, and try to visualize where your dream left off.
  • Improve your evening ritual. Your evening ritual is important, and if you’re not working in everything from a snack (you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you’ll wake up or sleep restlessly) to going to the bathroom (waking frequently to go to the bathroom can lead to shallow sleep all night and throw off your sleep cycle), you may suffer for it. Start a healthy “sleep routine” of winding down that starts long before your head hits the pillow.

Environment

Before you lay down to sleep, you should also make sure your environment is conducive to a good night’s rest:

  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Make sure your bed is actually comfortable. We’ve said this several times before, but put your money where your time goes. Since most of us will spend an average of 24 years of our lives asleep, your bed deserves serious investment. Buy the right mattress, pick some good pillows, and pick up some good sheets. Don’t underestimate the power of a more comfortable comforter, a pillowtop over your old mattress, or even a cooling pillow. Your bed is important, and you should make sure it improves your sleep, not hinder it. Photo by Alliance.

  • Adjust the temperature. Some studies have shown that optimal sleeping temperature for most adults is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much warmer than that and you start having difficulty with insomnia. Again, studies say one thing, but find your sweet spot—sometimes a cool room and a hot water bottle in bed, or maybe a fan going over your body is all you need to feel just right.
  • Filter out the light. LEDs and standby lights from electronics can cause just as much havoc with your sleep cycle as a glowing phone or tablet screen. We’ve already banished your electronic devices—or at least turned them off, but make sure to cover up that pulsating light on your laptop while it’s charging too. Cover up those lights on your cable box, TV, or any other devices in standby near your bed while you’re at it. There are products for this, but even some tape will do. If you live somewhere lit at all hours like I do, invest in a sleeping mask. Whether you shell out for the expensive adjustable kind that mold to your face and have cushions or just grab a dollar-store mask that’s essentially cloth with an elastic band, it’ll work wonders for your sleep. Plus, if you work off-hours and have to sleep through sunrise or during the day, it’ll help you get better rest.
  • How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

    Cut out the distractions. Kids waking you up? You may not be able to do much about that, but if your phone is waking you up, buzzing with notifications or new emails, it’s time to turn it off, set some quiet hours, improve your notifications so they help you sleep, or just set it to silent when you go to bed. If your neighborhood is noisy and that keeps you from sleeping, try a white noise generator or some soothing music to drown it out and help you rest. Photo by maxriesgo (Shutterstock).

http://lifehacker.com/5824376/how-do…

Timing

You already know that how long you sleep is important, but for the best possible sleep, you really should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. The debate rages over the concept of “sleep debt” and whether it can be “paid off” by sleeping in, and different experts say different things about it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929108/improv…

Dr. Verma suggests an alternative: “An often overlooked way for people to optimize their sleep is to wake at the same time every day, or at least within the same hour. So rather than oversleep on off days, waking at the same time and then taking a nap allows the extra sleep without disrupting the normal wake/sleep schedule.”

He continues, “Many of my patients have such a different weekday/weekend wake schedule that they are experiencing the same sleepiness that people who are jet-lagged. Even two hours difference hurts, especially if they are already sleep deprived.” If that’s the case, and you still don’t want to adjust your sleep schedule, maybe our tips on beating jet lag can help.

Get Help From the Experts

How to Get Better Sleep (and Need Less Every Night)

Finally, if you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, or even if you sleep for long periods and don’t feel rested, it may be time to talk to your doctor. There could be any number of medical issues causing your sleep problems, all of them treatable. You may be suffering from chronic insomnia, which is treatable with mild sedatives. You could also be suffering from sleep apnea, or some other undiagnosed condition that, once treated, can turn the hours you get into the most restful you’ve ever had. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to check with your doctor, and possibly submit to a sleep test that’ll settle the issue once and for all. Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer.

Once you have your sleep issues sorted out, whether by the professionals or through our tips above, you can start to fine tune the amount of sleep you actually get to make sure you only take away as much as you actually need. If you’ve been sleeping nine or ten hours because it’s the only way to feel rested, but once you start wearing a mask and ditching the gadgets before bed, you find that you feel just as rested after eight, you can start to edge back to see what happens. Bonus: you’ll get two extra hours in your day to do the things you want to do, and your mind and body won’t be worse for the wear as a result.

Dr. Nitun Verma, MD is a specialist in sleep medicine and the Medical Director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont. He has offered his tips for better sleep here before, and he graciously volunteered his expertise for this piece as well. We thank him, and you can follow him on Twitter at @nitunverma.

http://lifehacker.com/5798884/end-yo…