Is Spring Fatigue Real? 3 Reasons You’re Feeling Sleepy This Season

If you’re feeling unexpectedly tired, spring fatigue could be to blame

As we exit a long, dark winter, surprised you don’t have much of a spring in your step this season? You may be suffering from a phenomenon known as spring fatigue. From how changes in your environment collide with your internal clock, to the quality of your sleep, there are many surprising factors that can contribute. 

So, KCM teamed up with Sleep Number to ask some experts to help you better understand why you might be feeling more tired than usual. They offer some solutions so you can find more energy to enjoy, arguably, the best season of the year! 


1. Daylight saving time 

The transition to Daylight Saving Time, and its accompanying loss of an hour of sleep, can have adverse health effects, ranging from mood changes to cardiovascular issues to tiredness. Why? You’re likely out of sync with your internal clock. 

Dr. Eve Van Cauter, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago and Board Chair of the Sleep Number Scientific Advisory Board, recommends re-syncing your bedtime with the sleep routine you followed before DST. 

That means setting up a strict bedtime schedule, and being careful not to “let the evening drag on until wee hours.” If you’re looking for a data-proven way to get back in touch with your internal clock, check out the Sleep Number 360® smart bed. Sleepers who use the bed’s circadian rhythm feature* improve their bedtime and wake time consistency by 35 minutes for better quality sleep.

2. “Social jetlag” 

Speaking of bed times, “humans are more likely to drift towards later bedtimes during summer because the longer days with natural light shift the biological clock,” Dr. Cauter says. As the days get longer, many suffer from “social jetlag,” which means you’re overestimating your energy levels and packing your days with extra activities because of sudden bouts of sunshine and nice weather. 

“This is when [you’re] having a lifestyle that works against our natural body clock,” she added. “ You know, more going out, more eating out, more shopping at night, just typically staying up later. That staying up later can also be coupled with an increase on devices.” 

This year, Spring “social jetlag” may be even more compounded by the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic. As the weather improves in many parts of the U.S., and more people are vaccinated, we’ll be gradually seeing more of a return to normalcy — which means more activities and extra stimuli that many of us aren’t used to. 

3. Not enough quality sleep 

If you’re feeling extra tired this season, make sure to check in on your quality of sleep! Increased social activity comes coupled with spring allergies and increases in natural outdoor stimuli. 

You want to create a cool, dark oasis for sleeping, and make sure to limit your exposure to allergens that might affect you. Dr. Cauter also recommends getting in some physical activity every day! 

“Sleep, together with a healthy diet and exercise, is a pillar of health,” she says. “ Sleep is a particularly important component of health in this epidemic because the immune system is strongly modulated by sleep.” 


*Based on SleepIQ® data from 6/9/20 to 8/15/20 of sleepers who viewed the circadian rhythm feature vs. those who did not, with sleep timing capturing bedtime and wake time consistency.

Why a Lack Of Sleep Makes You Hungry — And Other Sleep Questions, Answered

A Mayo Clinic expert shares important insights and sleep tips

May is Better Sleep Month — and this year, it happens to coincide with a time marked by stress, uncertainty, and health worries stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. We all know, at a base level, that sleep is important… but why exactly is it so vital for our health and performance? And how can we actually get “better” sleep, especially during a time like this?

To help us find out, we turned to Virend Somers, MD, PhD, the Alice Sheets Marriott Professor of Medicine and a physician in Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic, as well as a member of Sleep Number’s advisory board. He offered up some important insight and tips.

Wake-Up Call: Why, through all this uncertainty, is sleep more important than ever?

Dr. Virend Somers: This is obviously a different time — and then we have to think about what people are doing right now. Generally, they’re more anxious than ever, for understandable reasons. The anxiety and the stress is often raising their blood pressures. Depression and suicide is worrisomely high, and likely to increase as the fallouts and lockdowns continue. But there are some natural cures here from sleep — because sleep helps mitigate all of these.

Sleep lowers your blood pressure, and it makes us less likely to be depressed. So we have to think of sleep as nature’s medicine. Then the other aspect, paradoxically, about this very strange time is that people should see this as an opportunity to get more sleep — because more sleep is feasible. People are working from home home. They don’t have to commute. They have more time in which they can sleep. So this is a time to improve sleep habits.

Can you elaborate on how exactly sleep could help us manage our anxiety during this time?

Anxiety and sleep is a vicious cycle. The less sleep you have, the more anxiety you have during the course of the day — and then the more anxious you get, the less sleep you get because then you start ruminating on all kinds of real and imagined issues, problems and occurrences. We could break the cycle by taking medication that blunts our anxiety, or alternatively, we could try to get more, healthier and restful sleep.

The other thing that they want to be careful about: Where is this anxiety coming from? It’s often coming from the news. So you don’t want to have a TV or a radio in your bedroom — or be listening to that just before you go to sleep. You want a gap period, or a cooling down period, between watching the news and trying to get to bed. That’s one way of decreasing the anxiety around sleep.

When we think about REM sleep — that’s when we dream. During REM sleep, what seems to be happening is that channels open up in the brain that wash away the cellular waste products. Think about how in New York at night, you’ve got all these trucks coming around and washing the streets and the sidewalks and getting rid of the trash. That’s kind of what’s happening to us at night when we sleep — the brain’s cleaning itself. So you have to think about dreams as a way that the mind cleans house. This is why sleep is so important: If you can clean away all that anxiety that’s bouncing around in your mind, you will be less anxious through the baseline. And that’ll give you an opportunity to sleep better at night.

That makes sense. Now, as an expert, can you tell us, briefly, about the link between sleep and cardiovascular health?

In a nutshell, better sleep is linked to lower blood pressures and lower long-term cardiovascular risk. There’s all of this evidence that longer sleep, better sleep, and higher quality sleep is accompanied by improvements in very concrete measures of cardiovascular health and cardiovascular disease.

Can you explain why sleep is important in weight management?

The short answer is we don’t know for sure, but we can make some guesses. We think, perhaps, that sleep affects the production of certain hormones. One is leptin and the other is ghrelin. Leptin is produced by the fat cells and it kind of talks to the brain — telling the brain, “Okay, you can stop eating now.” Ghrelin, on the other hand, makes you hungry.

So there is some evidence that people who sleep less produce more ghrelin and less leptin — and if you sleep more, you produce more leptin and less ghrelin. We don’t know for sure. All we do know, at least from the data from our lab (as well as other people’s work), is that if you compare people who are randomized to sleeping less, to those who are randomized to sleeping more, the ones who are randomized to sleeping less eat several hundred calories more per day than the ones who have longer sleep.

In what other ways does quality sleep help keep us healthy — particularly in regards to our immune system?

The field of immunology is very complex, and the field of sleep is also very complex. It’s just been the last decade or so that we’ve begun to understand how closely the two are linked. Here, an example of how important sleep is: If you sleep more, you tend to have a more robust response to vaccination. So with the flu vaccine, there’s something about getting longer sleep that allows the body to mount a greater immune response. The details of that we’re still working out, but that is what we know — your immune response is improved by sleeping more.

Great. So, our last question: What tips do you have for ensuring we all get quality sleep right now?

Before we sleep, what can we do to ensure that the sleep period is going to be as high quality as possible? The first is let’s avoid taking naps. If you take a nap during the daytime, particularly if you’re older, you are less likely to sleep well during the night — because you’ve already had some sleep. The second is phones. We have to avoid all of the artificial light sources that we’re exposed to, especially in the last two to three hours before bed, because the light from the phones and screens shuts down our melatonin — and melatonin makes us sleep. So the less blue light we’re getting, the better.

Then the obvious thing is to avoid wine, avoid coffee, and avoid eating within a couple hours of going to bed. So that’s all the prep that you need before sleep. Now what happens when you’re sleeping? You need to be sure that you have a very quiet bedroom, with no ticking clocks. You need to be sure that there’s no lights in the bedroom. One quote that I always think of: “Sleep is the rock upon which you build your day.” That’s the way that I like to talk to patients about sleep.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.

An Olympian Shares Her Quarantine Running Tricks

And why quality sleep’s a vital part of her wellness routine

With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, gold-winning triathlete and Sleep Number ambassador Gwen Jorgensen has plenty of time to focus on training. And the transition hasn’t been too hard: She’s grateful for more quality time with her husband and two-year-old son, and has a few wellness tricks (like a great bedtime routine and ways to run safely) that are helping her through this. She explains what’s helping her stay fit and ready for the next chapter.


Wake-Up Call: First things first, your family is all at home. How are you holding up?

Gwen Jorgensen: My husband is normally a stay-at-home dad and so he’s really liking me being home. I’ve been able to spend more time with my son Stanley, who’s two-years-old. When I do need to get work done, he jumps right into his stay-at-home dad role. I’ve actually found the transition kind of nice — which I think is unusual.

I think the hardest part has been explaining what’s going on to my son. He knows where all the parks are in the neighborhood and we’ll take walks there. But we have to explain to him that he can’t go on the equipment. And he doesn’t understand why he can’t go to his friend’s house across the street. I tried to explain: Do you know what getting sick is? And he kind of knows, but he’s never been super sick. So that’s been a little bit of a struggle.

As an extremely avid runner, have you been able to still run during this time? Or is there anything else you’re doing to stay fit?

I am still able to get outdoors and run. I’ve found that I don’t like going on bike paths or running paths because they’ve been really crowded. The thing that’s worked for me is just running in the neighborhoods. There aren’t a lot of cars out, and if I see somebody coming, I can cross the street pretty easily.

I also have a treadmill in my house. I have a virtual reality running program where you kind of run with others, called Zwift. I hosted a run last night where 50 people came and ran with me in this virtual world.

It’s been fun to try different methods of running. That’s not to say it hasn’t been difficult. There was one day I showed up at the track, and it was closed, so I wasn’t able to do a workout that I wanted to do. But I feel really fortunate that I’m not in a team sport, or in a sport where I need a swimming pool or, something like that, where it could be extremely difficult to continue to train during this time.

We know that you’ve been tracking your sleep and fitness. Are you still able to track during this time or is it a little bit more difficult when we all have kind of irregular schedules?

I found that keeping my routine and keeping a schedule has been super vital in just my happiness.

When everything shut down, during that first week I realized I wasn’t going to be able to meet my team and do workouts like normal. My sleep was for sure affected. I could see on my Sleep IQ app from Sleep Number that my resting heart rate was up. I was more restless, but it took me a week to adjust and accept the changes. I like having control and I needed to accept that I can’t control everything.

I’ve continued to track my sleep and I’ve found that I have the best quality sleep when I keep my routine. I still put Stanley down at 8:30, and then I fall asleep before 9:30 p.m. every night. I try to keep my bedtime and waking up habits the same. I am a creature of habit, and I like routine. I find that it gives me some peace of mind, which allows me to get better sleep, which allows me to be a happier person.

What else do you do at night? Have you been trying to eliminate your nighttime news consumption at all?

Yeah, I definitely don’t listen to the news before going to bed. Actually, like a week before all this happened, in late February, my husband and I decided to get rid of our T.V. in our living room. And then this all happened and we said, “Oh no, we need the T.V. for entertainment, for family, and just like to see what’s happening in the news.”

We still have a T.V. in our bedroom and we use that more just to decompress. So I put Stanley to bed at eight and he’s so great — I just read him one story, leave, and he falls asleep by himself. From eight to nine, my husband and I watch T.V. or read a book that keeps us distracted. Every night, I make sure the lights are out and my eyes are closed by 9:30. Even if I’m not tired, I’m at least laying in bed with my eyes closed, trying to go to bed.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been running on a treadmill at home and then you’ve also been running in your neighborhood. Do you have any tips for people who might not have the treadmill at home, but want to do some at-home exercises to stay active?

Yeah, of course. I actually have a YouTube channel. I have two or three videos of home gym routines. One of them I just posted maybe like two weeks ago. I like to workout at my home gym, but I don’t have a huge array of products — so some of my workouts don’t even require any equipment.

There are apps, gyms, and other athletes doing free online workout courses at home. I like following along a workout — I think it allows me to stay motivated because it’s so much easier when somebody else is telling me what to do.

For other people, it’s important to just stay active. If you don’t feel like exercising, just try to go for a walk, dance around your living room or just do something for 30 minutes every day. I do think that it boosts our energy and it also helps us sleep better, which helps us feel better.


This originally appeared on Medium.com

Why Sleep Is So Important For Your Immune System

And tips for a restful night’s sleep

We’re living in uncertain times — and it’s so important that we prioritize our health and wellbeing during this time. A key component of that? Quality sleep, a cause my friend Shelly Ibach has been championing for quite some time. As the President and CEO of Sleep Number, Shelly is an expert in all aspects of sleep, including its vital importance in boosting our immune system. I recently caught up with Shelly (on the phone, from the safety of our own homes) to find out her best tips for quality sleep right now.

Katie Couric: Shelly, you’ve been preaching the importance of a good night’s sleep for quite a while, but it’s never been as important. Why is that?

Shelly Ibach: Consider the positive impact of quality sleep on your mind and body. It is vital for healthy living. It strengthens your immunity, increases your ability to focus, and improves your emotional wellbeing and your overall physical health. It is really the one natural immunity booster.

I know you recently interviewed Dr. Van Cauter, who is the director of the University of Chicago’s research lab on sleep. She studies the link between circadian rhythm, sleep and disease. She also leads Sleep Number’s Scientific Advisory Board. And according to Dr. Van Cauter, the human immune function is profoundly modulated by sleep and circadian rhythm. Studies strongly suggest that insufficient sleep, poor sleep quality, or irregular day-to-day timing of sleep, may all adversely affect our immunities. So in other words, sleep may make you more susceptible to infection or viruses.

Anxiety and sleep is not necessarily the most useful combination. How do you deal with getting a good night’s sleep — despite the fact that your emotional state may feel a little out of whack?

Sleep stabilizes us and it supports our emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as our physical health. So when you’re feeling overly emotional or anxious, sleep actually helps ground us and brings back a feeling of steadiness, decisiveness, and clarity. Therefore, by giving yourself a quality night’s sleep, you’ll be more balanced in your emotional reactions. You’ll likely have less anxiety and feel mentally stronger.

If you think about your night of sleep — and why people talk about eight hours of sleep — the first half of the night is dedicated to your physical recovery, while the second half of your sleep night is all about the mental recovery. That’s when you are recuperating the brain and pruning the unnecessary information. When people shorten their sleep, or they sleep only four or five hours, they’re not giving their brain the rest it needs. That further adds to that overall anxiousness, and it becomes a cycle.

So, how do you break that cycle? Sometimes people have a hard time falling asleep because of their anxiousness, or they’ll wake up at 3 a.m. and won’t be able to get back to sleep. It starts with having the right bed, Katie. Your body has to have the right level of comfort and support so that you can stay asleep. With our research, we’ve proven that people who sleep on the Sleep Number 360 smart bed benefit from 15 minutes more quality sleep every single night, which equates to nearly 100 more hours per year. Our research also shows that people who stopped drinking caffeine by noon benefitted from 13 more restful minutes a night.

What are other things we can try? Isn’t it better to, for example, try to stay off your devices for a certain period of time before you retire for the night?

Absolutely. Reducing or eliminating your screen time at least one hour before your sleep routine time — and making sure you exercise daily — are both important. Our research shows that individuals who exercise daily benefit from seven more minutes of restful sleep. People who make their bed? They get four minutes more restful every single night. All these simple tips can really add up and make a difference.

It’s also important to point out that not enough sleep can almost have a cascade effect on other aspects of your life. When you wake up and you don’t feel rested, you tend to be more irritable. Your whole day can be completely messed up if you’re not getting enough sleep.

It affects all aspects of your well-being. That’s why we always say, sleep is the center of a healthy mind, body and soul. In Twin Cities Business this month, I highlighted that society is beginning to understand how important sleep is to your overall well being, but they don’t yet know how to achieve it.” That’s the next big life change that we’re striving to make at Sleep Number — your bed matters. We want people to really be proud of how well they’re sleeping. Our SleepIQ score is a way to make quality sleep a badge of honor. I’m quite proud of my mine: Last night, it was 86, which is higher than my average.

Obviously, you understand the importance of self-care — that’s why you are the CEO of Sleep Number, Shelly. But is there anything you’ve been doing differently? How are you maintaining your zen?

Well, it’s such an important area for every single leader — and every family member — right now. It does all start with quality sleep, exercise and healthy eating. But I also start every day with gratitude, taking time to be thankful. That restores my faith and ignites my curiosity. I have a great view with a lot of windows in my office. I seek joy every day and I usually find that joy in nature. I’ll share an example from the other night: I was looking out the window and we had eight inches of snow on Easter. And there were 20 deer frolicking around outside the window. All of a sudden, two of these deer stood up on their hind legs and started boxing with their front legs.

That’s such a good example of seeing joy in nature and just being present. That keeps me grounded. Worrying about the future, and projecting about what’s going to happen, can literally waste the day that you’re in. Even now, in the midst of such a difficult time, life is a gift. We need to make sure that we are fully present for it — and enjoying and appreciating all the gifts that it provides us.

That’s really lovely. Not only appreciating nature but being grateful for the things you have to be grateful for. I think I’m going to start my day that way too because it only takes a few minutes. If you think about that and think about the special people in your life, and the things that you have to be thankful for, you’re ahead of the game when you get out of bed.

You start with a great night’s sleep and begin with gratitude, and it gives you your best shot to find all the gifts of the day.

Well, I love my Sleep Number beds, so hopefully, people will check them out if they don’t have one — because I sleep better than ever because of them. You guys are also doing your part to help healthcare workers with PPE, their personal protective equipment. Tell us about that, Shelly.

As a purpose-driven company, we are dedicated to improving peoples’ lives by individualizing sleep experiences. I am so proud of our manufacturing team in Irmo, South Carolina, who has been supporting the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) by refurbishing N95 surgical masks.

My team heard of the need to replace the elastic bands — and the sewers rallied and are now completing approximately seven thousand masks a day. This will equate to nearly 200,000 masks for front line health care workers in South Carolina. Additionally, our teams have produced a mask and gown design spec for other health care workers. In fact, we hope to have it approved this week so we can support more individuals during this pandemic. We are grateful to all of them.

We are also championing the importance a good night sleep has on your immune health and emotional well-being. I’d encourage anyone with sleep questions to call a Sleep Number store for over-the-phone, one-on-one assistance from a trained Sleep Professional — or chat with a Sleep Professional online at SleepNumber.com.

Sleep Number sleepers are prioritizing sleep. By looking at our SleepIQ technology data for the last month, we found our sleepers are averaging 7 hours of restful sleep each night! They shifted their bedtime slightly later, but they are gaining minutes by sleeping later in the mornings.

Thank you so much, Shelly!


This originally appeared on Medium.com

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How To Actually Get Some Sleep While Stressed

A sleep expert shares useful tips

April is National Stress Awareness Month — and beyond that, many of us are experiencing heightened stress during this uncertain time. As lots of people can attest: It can be especially hard to get some shut eye during periods of stress. But, of course, sleep is very important to boosting one’s immune system.

So, to help us get some quality sleep, our friends at Sleep Number connected us with a sleep expert. Dr. Eve Van Cauter weighed in on how to manage stress, what to do if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, and how to establish a nighttime routine.


Wake-Up Call: It’s National Stress Awareness Month, and we’d love to learn more about the correlation between sleep and stress. Can you tell us how stress can impact a person’s sleep?

In all mammals, activation of the stress system, often called the “fight or flight response,” is a normal and healthy reaction to a threat, real or perceived. When faced with an acute stressor, our body releases hormones that mobilize energy and enhance arousal to facilitate responding to the threat. Thus, stress generally inhibits sleep.

Conversely, voluntary sleep curtailment, a behavior that is almost uniquely human, tends to activate the stress system and generally increases the levels of stress hormones even in the absence of an identifiable threat.

Stress may delay the onset of sleep, promote awakenings after sleep onset or make sleep shallow and less restorative. A vicious cycle may be established where exposure to stress may impair sleep and then poor sleep quality or reduced sleep duration will in turn amplify or extend the stress response.

Generally speaking, why is sleep so important? And then more specific to now, what role does sleep play in keeping us healthy?

Sleep affects every process in the brain and in the rest of the body. Sleep should be considered as a pillar of health and well-being, on par with good nutrition and physical exercise.

Multiple well-documented studies have shown that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality increase the risk and the severity of a wide range of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Most relevant to the current pandemic, there is strong scientific evidence indicating that insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality have an adverse effect on the immune system and may make you more susceptible to viral infection. Thus, maintaining good sleep habits will promote immune resistance to the coronavirus.

We’re living in uncertain times — and that’s likely contributing to feelings of stress. Do you have any tips for managing stress right now?

Uncertainty and lack of control over a situation increase feelings of stress. This is what most of us are experiencing right now.

One way to manage stress is to try to maintain regularity and predictability in our daily life routines, including our sleep-wake cycle, the timing of our meals, and our work, social and leisure activities. To have a plan for the day and try to stick to it makes for a less stressful and more rewarding day.

Helping others deal with the current situation may also elicit positive emotions that help manage the stress. Exercise will help as well as it generally enhances mood. Many people find that reducing clutter and “tidying the nest” reduces anxiety. Last but not least, avoid watching the news in the evening and engage instead in relaxing activities to promote a good night of sleep!

If someone is going through a period of stress and experiencing interrupted sleep, what tips could they use to get back to a more regular sleep schedule?

Try to go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every day to keep your bodily rhythms in synchrony. Sleep in a very dark room and avoid screen time for a couple of hours before lights off. Make sure you are exposed to daylight during part of the day, preferably in the morning. Try to exercise regularly. Early in the evening, make a realistic “to do” list for the following day. That is one way to put your worries to sleep at the same time as yourself.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and start tossing and turning, get out of bed. Remind yourself that it is fairly normal to experience nocturnal awakenings during a period of stress. Engage in some quiet activity, like reading or listening to soothing audio content. When you feel sleepy again, go back to bed. It is easier to re-initiate sleep after a full awakening than after tossing and turning in bed in the dark.

Also, is it true that there’s a link between stress — and vivid dreams?

Nightmares are a common complaint of post-traumatic stress disorder. In this condition, they can recur frequently and are very distressing. However, trauma is an extreme form of stress. Less intense stress experiences are not systematically associated with vivid dreams, although they can occur.

What are some things people should not do at night before bedtime? And beyond that — what’s the ideal bedtime routine?

Day-to-day regularity of bedtime and wake up time is most important. Alcohol, stimulants such as caffeinated beverages and heavy dinner meals must be avoided. Exposure to light, particularly blue light, as emitted by smartphones, tablets and televisions, should be limited. That is because blue light is the type of light that tells our biological clock that it is daytime and therefore we want to avoid blue light exposure when we want to go to sleep. Ideal sleeping conditions also include a dark, quiet room at a cool temperature (60–65 F) and a comfortable sleeping surface.


This originally appeared on Medium.com

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How This Woman Helps NFL Players Get Game-Ready

“Sleep is the number one recovery tool”

Football season is in full swing, which means Kansas City Chiefs’ athletic trainer Tiffany Morton is working to keep the players on the field and healthy. Morton is one of the few women working as a full-time certified trainer at the NFL level. “[The league] is starting to search for experience and production, and are not as concerned with the gender that may come with,” Tiffany told us. This week, we’re featuring Tiffany as part of our Women in the NFL series, in partnership with Sleep Number. Read below for what she’s most excited for this season, and her trick to keeping players game-ready.


Katie Couric: You’re one of just a few full-time certified athletic trainers in the NFL. Tell us about your background and the path that led you here.

Tiffany Morton: I’ve always loved sports; I wasn’t too particular on the type. In fact, the only sport I ever avoided was basketball, and to be honest, it’s because I was never good at it! Growing up, I also enjoyed most sciences: anatomy, biology, even genetics. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I started pre-med classes at Auburn, but wasn’t as passionate as I thought I’d be about the coursework needed for medical school. I decided to drop my pre-med classes and found myself in the career counseling center taking a personality test. Shocking result: I should be a doctor.

Thankfully in small print below that was another option — athletic training. It was so obvious, I wondered why hadn’t I thought of this before. Not surprising, the sport that really drew my attention was the competitive fast-paced, adrenaline-packed sport of football. With three brothers, a stint at a SEC powerhouse, and my healthy dose for competition, I knew football was where I should be. And my competitive side knew that to have the best chance to be the best I needed to work with the best — in the NFL.

Like a lot of professions, you’ve noted that women athletic trainers often have to work twice as hard to get that same respect as their male counterparts. Are you hopeful that those attitudes are beginning to change?

This year, the Vikings hired their first full-time female staff assistant athletic trainer. The Colts searched for an experienced smart talented assistant athletic trainer and hired a woman I look up to, Kerry Gordan. They join five other teams that have or have had female staff athletic trainers.

Organizations are starting to search for experience and production and are not as concerned with the gender that may come with. Women have spent years banging on glass ceilings and building bridges, all in hopes to have a change. It’s a tribute to them that I am here. Those women put in double and triple time, so that when I worked hard to get my shot, organizations would finally accept. The most special thing is seeing a woman like Kerry who set the bar for us ladies with her own dedication and work ethic finally make it. Attitudes are changing, and you will see more opportunities for women. And that’s all we need.

Your job entails trying to prevent player injuries, and also rehabilitating them if they do end up hurt. What do you think the average viewer doesn’t understand about your job?

People don’t know the education and time needed to get these guys healthy. More than 90% of NFL athletic trainers have a higher-level degree. We are one of the most educated departments in each organization. We are required to maintain up-to-date and relevant medical information by attending seminars, conferences, symposiums, and adding credentials and new tools to the tool belt. And that takes time. We spend 60–80 plus hours a week working to give our guys the best. Our guys look to us first to get them better. It’s our job and our passion to be able to do that for them better than anyone. And if we can’t, we make sure to bring in those who can. First, to help our guy, then to teach us.

I heard from my friends at Sleep Number that over the last two seasons, 2,000 NFL players have purchased Sleep Number® 360 smart beds to help with their performance and recovery. Given your focus on getting players into their best physical shape, what part does sleep play in that equation?

Sleep is the number one recovery tool. Lack of sleep could cause a decrease in reaction time, strength and coordination, and mental acuity. We obviously talk about strength training, prevention, nutrition. But we are sure to educate players about sleep going as far as having curfews, conducting sleep studies, checking on sleep trends, and stressing the importance after tough days. Chronic sleep deprivation has serious side effects, and we need every guy at his top in order to get to the next level.

During the season, your travel schedule must be brutal! How do you make sure you’re taking care of your own health and well-being, particularly when it comes to getting the proper amount of rest?

Staying on a schedule helps tremendously. Long days usually start and end at the same time, so I can plan my self-care. I know which nights I would like to workout, cook, or visit with friends and still have time for my nightly routine. Sometimes it deviates, but I’ve learned to be pretty selfish about my sleep in order for me to give my best to our team when they need me. The other huge component is that while I may not get the quantity of sleep I would like, I regularly get quality sleep from my Sleep Number bed and using my SleepIQ app. I set realistic sleep schedule goals in the app and check myself to see if I am meeting them. If I’m tossing and turning, I evaluate what was different and try to make changes. It’s the same process I’d advise our guys to be sure they’re getting quality rest as well.

Finally, what are you most excited about this season?

Every year brings excitement, but this year, I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn from my coworkers and as a team getting our guys healthy. I want our guys to feel like they have the best shot on the field due to preparation. If something happens I want to them to have one less thing to worry about because they know their medical staff is the first class medical crew they deserve, and more than prepared to do whatever is necessary to get them back to the field.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

How Sleep-Tracking Changed My Life

The director of women’s initiatives for the Minnesota Vikings on mentorship and getting enough sleep for game day

Calling all Minnesota Vikings fans! Meet Tami Hedrick. She’s the director of women’s initiatives for the NFL team and has a full-packed schedule during football season. We talked to Tami for our “Women in the NFL series” with Sleep Number. She opened up about being the busy mom to seven kids, and shared how she manages to get enough ZZZs — even on game days!


Katie Couric: You have spoken before about being passionate about your job — which we really relate to! Share with us a little bit about what you do.

Tami Hedrick: People are my passion, and I have had the blessing to work nearly my entire career in a male dominated industry, while focused on women! It’s amazing. I oversee our female fan initiatives, activations, our internal female employee small group mentoring, development and engagement events, our cheerleaders as ambassadors in the community, and their cheer youth programs.

This is your 22nd season with the Vikings. What do you think has changed most over the years — both in terms of your organization and the game itself?

The most obvious change over the years have included changes in ownership, coaching, and our address. The Wilf family are the best owners in the NFL! They care about the team, the community and doing things the best. Coach Zimmer is going to lead us to a Super Bowl championship. And our new stadium and training facilities are world class and have been so exciting to witness their development and see the fan’s pride.

Your job focuses in large part on women in the Vikings organization. What do you mean when you say that “Viking women really are every woman?”

We want every woman to know they can connect to the Vikings in however they want and can! Are you a season ticket owner, or just love to wear purple? However you connect with us, we want you to know you are a Vikings woman and we are here to empower, connect, and impact with you.

Beyond your busy job, you have seven kids at home! How do you manage to get enough rest with so many responsibilities?

Sleep has to be a priority — and when you have a bed that is SO comfortable you honestly can’t wait to jump in at the day’s end! I need seven hours to be at my best. Aligning my schedule to that means I am healthier and can feel my best. We have a lot of people in our home that I love and want to take the best care of, and when I’m at my best and rested, it helps!

I love that you have an ongoing SleepIQ tech competition with your husband because Molner and I do the same thing with our Sleep Number bed! How do you think keeping track of your sleep stats helps you both get better rest?

Accountability in so many things in life helps us to reach our goals. It’s a goal for our home to be well rested and healthy. Using the SleepIQ app with my Sleep Number bed was first fun, but it became motivational and helped me stay accountable to the hours I was sleeping.

Many times trainers will say to track your food or log your workouts when you are trying to improve those areas. You can learn from tracking and it can be empowering! I’m a big fan of using tech for good.

Have you heard any interesting stories across the Vikings organization from others who are prioritizing sleep, and tracking their sleep habits?

The Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders are true dance athletes. They train harder than you can imagine. In order to recover from intense workouts, great sleep is required. I know they are focused on this as part of their overall training. Jenn, one of the MVC is an overnight nurse. She tracks her SleepIQ score and knows even more than the average person how sleep can impact your quality of life!

Your husband is a police officer, which means he often has to work unpredictable hours. How has your Sleep Number bed helped prevent disruptions during the night for you?

Matt may have to come and go during the nights when he is investigating, on call, or working a night shift. His movement would often shift me in bed and wake me from sleep, upsetting the quality of hours I would get. Now, I barely notice he has left or returned! He’s grateful to climb into a comfy bed after those LONG shifts as well.

Last question! Football season is in full swing. What part of this time of year do you love the best?

The excitement around each Sunday and the possibility of the game outcome is thrilling. Communities, families, friends, and fans all gather around game day! Seeing people connect through the Vikings as they dispute rivalries, fantasy football scores, game highlights, predictions, tailgating food preparations, etc. is heart-warming to me!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

Important Sleep Solutions for Teens

“The bottom line is students are up too late and too long”

Sleep is so important for our kids’ mental and physical health, but unfortunately the data shows that they’re just not getting the rest they need. The CDC reports that nearly 73% of U.S. high school students and almost 58% of middle-school students receive less than the recommended amount of nighttime sleep. But a new survey by Sleep Number in partnership with GenYOUth found that adding just a few simple steps into kids’ nighttime routines can make a big difference. Read my conversation below with GenYOUth CEO Alexis Glick and Kathy Higgins, CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation to find out more.


Katie Couric: It’s really disturbing to learn how sleep deprived our kids have become. Can you help us understand what factors could be contributing to this pretty massive sleep loss?

Alexis Glick, CEO, GenYOUth

Alexis Glick: In 2018, GenYOUth, home to the largest health and wellness program in schools in the nation, in partnership with Sleep Number and in counsel with Edelman Intelligence, conducted a national youth survey to gain perspective on teens and sleep. Like nutrition and physical activity, adequate sleep is vital to students’ health and well-being, and essential to learning. According to our survey results, 71% of middle and high school-aged students are getting less sleep on weekday nights than they need to perform at their best throughout the school day. This is in alignment with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) findings, which report that nearly 73% of U.S. high-school students get less than the recommended amount of nighttime sleep.

Although the distractions of screen-based media — TV, tablets, smartphones — are frequently cited as popular villains and contributors to widespread sleep deficiencies, what we found is that the sheer length of the student “workday” is the principal factor.

Students put in an 11.5-hour workday on average, including school, school-related activities, and homework. And that’s before doing any household chores or other tasks. Given their various responsibilities, in general students have about 8.75 hours as the best-case scenario in terms of time between lights-out and getting out the door in the morning. That makes it almost mathematically impossible for them (at least those who do not fall asleep immediately at night and/or who wash, dress, and have breakfast in the morning) to get the 8 hours or more of sleep they need. The bottom line is students are up too late and too long because their school days are elongated, and they have more work than they are equipped to manage.

Kathy Higgins, CEO, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Kathy Higgins: There are many factors that keep youth from getting enough sleep — from the use of technology to extracurricular activities that demand more of their time. Research shows that it is critically important to put away electronics and prepare for bed at the same time, every night, even on the weekends. In absence of a bedtime routine, youth are more likely to experience fewer hours of consistent, quality sleep which affects their health and productivity the next day and over time.

What do we know about brain development during these middle and high school years? And why is sleep so integral to that development?

Alexis: For both boys and girls in middle and high school, although the brain may be as large as it will ever be, the human brain doesn’t finish developing and maturing until one’s mid- to late-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses.

During sleep — which the National Sleep Foundation refers to as “food for the brain” — one of the most important things that happens is rejuvenation of neurons, which are the essential building blocks of the brain. At no time is this rejuvenation more important than adolescence, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

What are the three key elements that the Sleep Number study found to helps kids’ overall sleep health?
Alexis
: Sleep Number’s eight-week 2019 study of 50 middle and high school students revealed that three key elements rose above the rest to improve the teens’ sleep quality:

  1. Practicing a consistent sleep schedule — Setting and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, which includes committing to going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Going to bed/waking up within a half-hour of your target time also counts as a success.
  2. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine — Creating a nightly routine at least twenty minutes (and up to an hour) before bed to prepare the body for sleep and signals to the mind that sleep is coming soon. This could include anything from picking out an outfit for the next day, listening to relaxing music, or journaling about the day.
  3. Getting the right type of light exposure — Avoiding screen use one hour before bed and getting at least 15 minutes of bright light first thing in the morning.

Which of these elements proved most effective in improving the sleep of your subjects?
Alexis:
With the support of Sleep Number, at GenYOUth’s annual Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit this summer, over 250 students learned about the importance of sleep to their health and academics, obtained tips to improve the quality of their sleep, and kept sleep diaries to track what worked for them. Because GenYOUth is all about student empowerment and “the youth voice,” here’s what students themselves named as techniques for helping them to improve the quality of their sleep:

  • Picking out clothes and attire for the next day the night before.
  • Listening to calming music before going to bed.
  • Eliminating bright lights and screen time before bed.
  • Deep-breathing exercises for relaxation and to clear the mind.
  • Turning off the phone 20 minutes or more before turning in.
  • A hot shower before bed rather than in the morning.
  • Making their bed each morning and clearing off desk, to feel calmer.
  • Writing in a journal at night.

Kathy: Both creating a bedtime routine and practicing a consistent sleep schedule seemed to prove nearly equal in how they affected the sleep of teens who participated in the study. Teens did note that it was easy to create a bedtime routine and therefore wanted to continue the routine after the study concluded. With both activities, teens felt less stressed about the next day, which led to more hours of restful sleep.

You both work so closely with kids, parents and educators…did anything surprise you?

Alexis: One surprise was the direct effect of adequate sleep on mood. Participating teens incorporated at least two recommended daily activities into their routines to see how they impacted sleep quality and quantity. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine was the most successful daily activity change which resulted in 93% of participants reporting improved sleep, and 70% of participating teens reporting at least one positive mood change. Teens also reported that when they included next-day preparations in their bedtime routine, like picking out their clothes or reviewing the next day’s schedule, they felt less stressed and more prepared for the next day.

The GenYOUth/Sleep Number youth insights survey revealed other surprises. One is that sleep deficits are more serious among girls than boys, worse among high schoolers than middle schoolers, and more serious still among African Americans than Whites. A concerning 82% of racial minority teen girls are getting too little sleep. It remains unclear what is driving this fact, and it demands further research.

Another intriguing insight revealed in the survey is that it’s things that students HAVE TO DO, not things they CHOOSE to do, that’s keeping them up nights. The percentage of students who say they don’t get enough sleep because of things they HAVE TO DO (42%) is almost double the percentage of students who say it’s because of things they CHOOSE, or WANT, to do. In other words, it’s obligations that are the issue, not hobbies, distractions, friends, or recreation.

Yet another surprise is that students with higher grades are NOT getting less sleep per night, but instead MORE sleep than students with lower grades. And, perhaps gratifyingly, only 29% of students surveyed agreed with the statement that “it’s cool to stay up late.”

Kathy: Working at Healthier Generation this study is in line with what we have witnessed in communities across the country. Parents, guardians, and educators understand the importance of sleep and we have worked closely with Sleep Number to provide resources that can help kids and their families achieve healthier sleep. This study reaffirms that small changes can lead to major impact and we are thrilled to incorporate these insights into our work moving forward.

School is starting up again, which seems like a great time for kids to start routines for better sleep. What advice would you give to both kids and their parents so that they can get on the path to being more rested and ready to learn and grow?

Alexis: As a mother of four amazing school age children and the CEO of a health-and-wellness nonprofit dedicated to helping youth achieve healthy, high achieving futures, the focus of my work is empowering students to take charge of their health destiny. GenYOUth does this through a variety of initiatives that encourage kids to embrace the importance of improved nutrition and more opportunities for physical activity in the school environment — where they spend so much time. Quality sleep is a key element to this equation.

At back-to-school time, our kids are looking for guidance, help, and strategies to cope. As the caring adults in their lives, we should focus on two things:

(1) help make youth less busy while helping them manage their time better; and…

(2) teach them and help facilitate, good sleep hygiene — especially as they move from middle to high school age. In particular, the role of a regular routine, or ritual, when it comes to sleep is essential.

From the perspective of the school environment, parents can advocate in their schools and districts for later school start times; allow for a study hall period to get a head start on homework in school; give their children a “Pause for Play” in between homework assignments for better focus; and above all be cognizant of the pressure parents themselves put on their children to achieve.

And from the technology perspective, less time on social media is good, turning off all screens an hour before bed even better. With my kids when they are restless, we use an app called Calm where they can listen to the sound of rain or the ocean — sometimes the sounds of nature is a recipe for sleep success.

Kathy: What we have seen from our work, that this study reiterates, is that consistency is key. Summer break can be a challenging time to continue the routines and learning that kids have picked up during the school year. We know that by being consistent through the summer and school year, especially on weekends, kids can achieve more quality sleep — leading to an improvement in mood, more positive behavior, as well as better performance in the classroom and in life.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


This originally appeared on Medium.com

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Olympian Gwen Jorgensen On Her Secret to Running Fast

“Sleep is just as important as training”

Gwen Jorgensen knows how to set big goals. A year after winning Olympic gold in the triathlon in 2016, she had a baby, changed her sport, and set her sights on bringing home another gold medal in 2020’s Olympic marathon! She told me the decision was actually pretty straightforward: “I felt I had reached my potential in triathlon…The marathon is a huge challenge, but one that keeps me motivated on a daily basis.” Getting a good night’s rest is an essential part of Gwen’s training. Read our conversation below for the nightly routine that helps her balance new motherhood with her marathon medal goal.


Katie Couric: Your story is pretty amazing, Gwen! In 2017, you announced–after winning the 2016 gold medal in Rio for triathlons–that you would go for the gold in the marathon! Tell us about that decision…

Gwen Jorgensen: I set big goals in triathlon and worked for years to accomplish them. I felt I had reached my potential in triathlon and I was no longer motivated to go after something I had already accomplished. I am a very driven person, but I am driven by new challenges. The marathon is a huge challenge, but one that keeps me motivated on a daily basis.

You also recently had a baby, congratulations! Was it difficult to transition back to your regular training and get your performance where you want it to be?

I did not give the birthing process enough respect. My actual pregnancy was manageable, but the birth was extremely scary and difficult. I was bedridden for weeks and had to go in for a surgery a week after giving birth. It was a very long recovery back, however I had a great team helping in my comeback. I’m so thankful for my pelvic floor PT Jessica Dorrington and all of her knowledge to help get me back to pre-pregnancy strength.

What advice would you give other moms who are trying to fit exercise into their busy routines?

Give yourself time and don’t compare yourself to others. I had so many people supporting me as I continued to train at a high level while pregnant. Every pregnancy and birth is different. See a pelvic floor specialist to ensure you are able and ready to get back to exercise. Once you are able to return to exercise, either find a gym with a daycare or workout with your baby. You can use your baby as a weight or push them in a stroller.

I love that you and your husband work together and that he’s so supportive of your athletic career. What do you think makes you such a great team?

My husband is incredible. He breaks the norm and we have been able to accomplish so much because of his support. He gave up his career to support me full time. I can say with confidence that without Patrick by my side I would have not been able to win gold in Rio. Patrick and I communicate extremely well and we know that we are a team. Every decision we make is one that we make together. Our communication is one thing that sets our marriage apart. We are with each other a lot, and I love it! I don’t know many other couples that spend more time together than us. I feel so fortunate to spend so much time with my best friend.

I read that you often run up to 120 miles a week when you’re in marathon training — that’s incredible! What difference does a good night’s rest make in your performance?

Sleep is just as important as training. Without sleep, our bodies cannot recover and won’t be able to perform. I love being able to use SleepIQ to track my sleep. I’m able to see if I am getting sick or if my training load is increasing too much by my SleepIQ score, breathing rate, and resting heart rate.

Okay, take us through your nightly bedtime!

My bedtime routine starts at 8 pm when I brush my teeth with my son, Stanley. After brushing teeth, Stanley turns off the lights as I carry him to his bedroom. I lay him down with his (empty) yellow pillow case and ask him who he wants to sleep with that night: “Mr. Moose, Bunny Bun-Bun, Mrs. Bear, or Puppy.” He almost always chooses Mr. Moose. I give Stanley a kiss and walk back to my bedroom to close my blackout blinds and curtains. I have both because I sleep a lot better in the dark. I make sure the room is between 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit, and I turn on my white noise machine. I spend about 30 minutes watching TV with my husband before we turn off the TV. I put my phone on airplane mode in another room and get back in my Sleep Number bed. I then read for about 30 minutes before falling asleep. I am very strict about my routine and always make sure I’m attempting to fall asleep without distraction by 9:30 pm at the latest. I have found that having a routine has allowed me to get the most out of my sleep. The biggest game changer has been eliminating my phone by turning it off and leaving it outside the bedroom. I normally wake up around 630 a.m. because this is when my son, Stanley wakes and comes to our room.

What’s on your bedside table?

Honestly, it’s a ton of children’s books because the first thing Stanley wants to do in the morning is crawl into our bed and read. Right now I have My Dad is Fantastic, Alphabet Trucks, Toots, Elmo, and The Way Back Home. I also have my journal next to my bed as I write notes in it if I think of something while sleeping or around bedtime.

As for a book recommendation, my favorite books are autobiographies and I love Open by Andre Agassi.

Do you have a winding down playlist?

I have just recently started listening to podcasts, but am still searching for the perfect one. I do listen to classical music before bedtime, which is something I started once having our son, Stanley. He seems to love it and I do too.

What’s your most valuable sleeping tip that you’d like to share with everyone?

Make a routine and stick to it. Make sure your room is quiet, dark, and turn off your phone. I suggest getting a Sleep Number bed. It changed my relationship with sleep and my husband enormously. Patrick likes a soft bed, and I like it hard. We never had a bed that we both enjoyed until we got our first Sleep Number i10 bed. It has been an amazing thing for our relationship and sleep.

Thanks so much, Gwen!


This interview originally appeared on Medium.com

The Crucial Thing People Forget to Do Before Vacation

There’s still a few weeks left in summer — which means you still have time to plan a last-minute vacation to the locale of your choice. (Preferably somewhere sunny but not too hot, where you can hang out, relax and unplug from your phone for a few days.)

But too often, the promise of relaxation to come can lead us to push ourselves to the extreme. We can stay up way too late in the days before a trip to tie up loose ends; the anxiety of sleeping through our alarm to head out early makes it impossible to get any shut-eye.

It turns out, neglecting to be well-rested before a trip is a recipe for disaster. Or at least, some uncomfortable moments with your travel partners.

One of the most cliched images of family holidays is one of everyone clambering into the car and… immediately biting each other’s heads off. In a recent interview with the BBC, psychologist Linda Blair, who writes books on calmness and relaxation, said that this can be attributed to the lack of sleep that so many of us suffer from before vacation. And instead of simply planning on catching up on sleep during your holiday, you should aim to get as much sleep as possible beforehand.

“If you crowd any mammals, they get aggressive,” she says. Blair notes that it can take about four days to start to wind down and start feeling relaxed — definitely too long if you’ve only got a week off. She adds that if you start off feeling tired and stressed, you may feel emotionally vulnerable as you start your break. All in all, there’s too much potential for things to wind up like a fraught family road trip.

Now, we all know that trying to catch extra sleep can get complicated if you happen to share a bed with a partner. As you may have gathered from our recent chat with Dr Kristin Daley, more and more couples are considering getting a “sleep divorce,” to avoid the heartache of being kept awake all night by a partner. No need to call your lawyer (unless you both feel very, very strongly about sleeping on the left hand side); all this means is sleeping in separate rooms so that your different sleep patterns — or one person’s snoring! – don’t affect each other.

But no spare room on your trip? Plan bedtimes considerately, remove electronics, and consider a pillow barrier. And check out the full interview for more detailed tips on how to maximize your sleep potential with a partner.

This feature appears in Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter. Subscribe here.