Sleep-hacks

Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental Stress and Focus

  Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental #Stress and #Focus

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.


Olympic athletes yawn before they race. Musicians and speakers yawn before they go on stage. Snipers get trained to yawn before they pull the trigger. Pack animals yawn together to establish communal empathy. This is because yawning is the ultimate stress and focus hack.

Here are 10 reasons to yawn frequently:


1. Stimulates alertness and concentration
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism
3. Improves cognitive function
4. Increases memory recall
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection
6. Lowers stress
7. Relaxes your upper body
8. Fine-tunes your sense of time
9. Increases empathy and social awareness
10. Enhances pleasure and sensuality

Yawning clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow. After yawning, you quickly benefit with enhanced mental efficiency and a heightened state of cognitive awareness. In fact, yawning appears to be the fastest way to lower mental stress and anxiety. 

Many neurochemicals get released during the yawning experience that are essential for motivation, memory recall, and voluntary decision-making. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively impacts so many brain functions. So, If you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, make it a habit to yawn whenever you want to relax or enhance your ability to concentrate on a task.

It has a similar effect on a person as having a cup of coffee. It helps your brain shift between the highly focused demands of decision-making and restful daydreaming states that give you access to creative problem-solving. It even regulates the time clocks in your brain, helping you to sleep better at night. Yawning helps you to wake up and stay alert during a stressful work day.

yawning-animal

Yawning also appears to be a primitive form of empathy and is found in many mammals. There is a connection between frequent yawning and increased emotional empathy. That’s why we recommend that yawning a few times before entering a stressful business meeting or discussing a sensitive issue.

We recommend you yawn as many times a day as possible. When you wake up? Yawn. When you're confronting a difficult problem at work? Yawn. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety or stress? Yawn. 


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Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn whenever you feel bored. Do it mindfully, paying close attention to how it affects your mood and awareness.

Conscious yawning takes a little discipline to get past our social conditioning that it is rude. Another barrier is the “excuses” that people sometimes use: “I don’t feel like it,” “I’m not tired,” and a favorite, “I can’t.” Of course you can. All you need to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it four or five times. Try it right now, and you’ll see how each yawn feels more pleasant and relaxing.

yawn-experiment-vintage

A Mindful Yawning Experiment:

This exercise only takes two minutes, and works better if you are standing up. 

  1. Begin by taking a slow deep breath and then yawn. You can fake them at first, and if you make an “ahh” sound during exhalation you should be able to trigger a series of real yawns on your fourth or fifth try.
     
  2. As you continue to yawn, pay close attention to the sensations in your mouth, your throat, your chest and belly, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering. 
     
  3. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented, stop, sit down, and rest. Continue to yawn another ten or twelve times, and then pause, noticing the different body sensations you are having. Do you feel more relaxed and alert? 

If you feel tired, it probably means that you are exhausted from overwork. If you’ve been particularly stressed or anxious, you might find yourself yawning a great deal over the next half hour, or even throughout the day after you’ve tried this yawning experiment. It means that your brain needs more blood circulation to improve neural performance. Enjoy the yawns, knowing that it’s a special treat for your busy brain.



Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

Light from Your Computer Screen is Ruining Your Sleep. This Software May Help Change That.

 Light from Your Computer Screen is Ruining Your Sleep. This Software May Help Change That.

Working or playing on your laptop or mobile device right before bed can ruin your sleep in non-obvious ways. Yes, the devices can hinder winding down your mind, but that's not the biggest issue. The main issue is exposure to unnatural light that inhibits the neurochemistry of sleep. 

Exposure to blue light increases alertness. This makes sense. During the day we get exposed to the blue light of the sky. Thus, the brain interprets exposure to blue light as a cue that it's time to be awake.

As covered in a prior post, blue light is great if you're looking to be more productive. The opposite is true if you're looking to fall asleep and wake up refreshed. Neurochemically this is because blue light suppresses the release of melatonin - a sleep-promoting hormone.

So what can we do? The obvious and most healthy answer is to stop looking at screens before going to bed. Yet there are alternative strategies.

One way to go is to wear a pair of blue light blocking sunglasses at night. Another alternative is to use a free piece of software called F.lux.

F.lux works by adapting the tint of color emitted from your screen to match the time of the day. As day turns to night, the software shifts the hues from blue light to warmer tones.

If you'd like to give it a try, You can download F.lux here.
It is available for Windows, Linux, and jailbroken iOS devices.


SOURCES:

What's in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light Holzman DC 2010. What's in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light. Environ Health Perspect 118:A22-A27. doi:10.1289/ehp.118-a22

Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness

Meditation May Decrease Your Need for Sleep

 Meditation May Decrease Your Need for Sleep

A study conducted by the University of Kentucky investigated claims that meditators have decreased sleep needs.

The strategy was to group and place participants in different conditions: Control, Nap, Meditation, and Sleep Deprivation plus Meditators. Then, they tested the different groups with a Psychomotor Vigilance Test (response-time test).

As one would expect, they found that when participants were sleep deprived, their reaction times suffered. However, novice meditators "improved their reaction times immediately following periods of meditation." 

Ultimately, whether meditation can actually replace sleep or pay-off sleep debt is unknown, but the results of this study suggest that meditation provides immediate performance improvements for sleep-deprived people.

SOURCE:

Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need.
Kaul P, Passafiume J, Sargent CR, O’Hara BF.  Behavioral and Brain Functions : BBF. 2010;6:47. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-6-47.

Background

A number of benefits from meditation have been claimed by those who practice various traditions, but few have been well tested in scientifically controlled studies. Among these claims are improved performance and decreased sleep need. Therefore, in these studies we assess whether meditation leads to an immediate performance improvement on a well validated psychomotor vigilance task (PVT), and second, whether longer bouts of meditation may alter sleep need.

Methods:

The primary study assessed PVT reaction times before and after 40 minute periods of mediation, nap, or a control activity using a within subject cross-over design.

This study utilized novice meditators who were current university students (n = 10). Novice meditators completed 40 minutes of meditation, nap, or control activities on six different days (two separate days for each condition), plus one night of total sleep deprivation on a different night, followed by 40 minutes of meditation.

A second study examined sleep times in long term experienced meditators (n = 7) vs. non-meditators (n = 23). Experienced meditators and controls were age and sex matched and living in the Delhi region of India at the time of the study. Both groups continued their normal activities while monitoring their sleep and meditation times.

Results

Novice meditators were tested on the PVT before each activity, 10 minutes after each activity and one hour later. All ten novice meditators improved their PVT reaction times immediately following periods of meditation, and all but one got worse immediately following naps. Sleep deprivation produced a slower baseline reaction time (RT) on the PVT that still improved significantly following a period of meditation. In experiments with long-term experienced meditators, sleep duration was measured using both sleep journals and actigraphy. Sleep duration in these subjects was lower than control non-meditators and general population norms, with no apparent decrements in PVT scores.

Conclusions

These results suggest that meditation provides at least a short-term performance improvement even in novice meditators. In long term meditators, multiple hours spent in meditation are associated with a significant decrease in total sleep time when compared with age and sex matched controls who did not meditate. Whether meditation can actually replace a portion of sleep or pay-off sleep debt is under further investigation.