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The Darkest Night Of The Year, According To Our Circadian Rhythms

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Today and tonight mark the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Of course, the significance of this date has everything to do with our reliance on the light-dark cycles of the planet to keep our circadian rhythms aligned with the Earth's revolution around the sun.

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What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? How do you treat it?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

When fall arrives in the Pacific Northwest, it comes wrapped in a dark, gray, wet blanket. 

Take one quick look outside. Yes, unfortunately, the dark season is here.

We've all got names for the general drop in energy and enthusiasm we experience to some degree when the seasons change:

"winter depression," "winter blues," "seasonal depression," "cabin fever."

All of these nods to the "dark season" acknowledge a very real mood disorder for many who live in our latitude: seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Not everyone who lives in northern climates suffers from SAD, but it is still prevalent. SAD is triggered by changes in natural light during the fall and winter that alter the circadian system. It has been shown to measurably alter both behavior and biology for an estimated three to ten million people worldwide. 

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How do circadian rhythms influence productivity in the workplace?

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Early to bed, early to rise... doesn't seem to have the same meaning these days, if you consider the way in which our circadian rhythms shape our behaviors and patterns, both day and night.

Circadian rhythm patterns, also known as chronotypes, are something we are all born with, and these can vary greatly from one person to the next. 

Big business is beginning to realize that Benjamin Franklin's proverb may no longer be relevant, given the wide differences in their employees' rhythms.

This has led to changes in the way the workplace is designed already (such as with the creation of flex time jobs).

The trend isn't going to go away any time soon, as research into circadian rhythms continues to show that the more that businesses ignore their employees' patterns, the more it may end up costing them in productivity overall.

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What is melatonin and how does it work? (Benefits and Usage)

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

According to statistics published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) last August:

"Melatonin use among adults in the United States more than doubled between 2007 and 2012," with over 3 million people currently taking the supplement.

This substance has recently gained attention as the subject of new research for applications that include more than just sleep health.

But what is it, exactly? 


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9 ways teens benefit when schools start later

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Parents all across the metro area may not be entirely clear on the benefits of the public school district's change to later start times for high schoolers (and for many middle schoolers as well) in Seattle public schools.

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Burning the midnight oil and creativity

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Are you a creative person? And if so, do you tend to stay up later than most other people in your household? 

A link between staying up late—"to burn the midnight oil," as the cliché goes—and creativity has been found by researchers testing the behavioral patterns of people characterized by a certain kind of chronotype.

People who prefer to stay up late, or who find they are more energized in the evening, or simply do their best work at night, have been shown to follow a biological rhythm referred to as eveningness (as opposed to their so-called "morning lark" companions, who practice the rhythms of morningness).

There seems to be a difference between both chronotypes when it comes to creativity. Let's take a look at why our resident "night owls"—another cliché—seem to be best suited for late-night living. 

While we're at it, let's consider whether staying up late always points to the presence of circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

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Phototherapy and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, bright light therapy, or blue light therapy, is a popular buzzword these days for people trying to improve their sleep health.

What is it, exactly? And who can it help?

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Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) and Teenagers

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

The scenario of the late-night teenager being dragged out of bed in order to go to school is classic. Up until recently, such behavior was blamed on poor sleep hygiene, laziness, and maybe the side effects of hormone imbalances. 

Now we know better. Research shows our kids are more likely to become night owls during their teens, and that this is a normal part of growing up. 

What's unfortunate is that some of our teens develop delayed sleep phase syndrome or DSPS, which exaggerates this late rhythm shift. Add other influences like cell phone use, caffeine as self-medication, and the demands of school, sports, and job schedules, and it's easy to see how our young people have become dangerously sleep deprived.

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Peristalsis and Sleep: How both work in tandem with circadian rhythms

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

Though it may be common to get out of bed at night to use the restroom, very rarely is it due to a need to empty the bowel.

Our brains and bodies are built, in fact, to "avoid the void" at night as we sleep. 

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Food and Sleep: What and when we eat matters to the body clock

Tamara Kaye Sellman, RPSGT, CCSH

leftover pizza might be a midnight snack you should avoid due to GERDMuch has been made in the media about the relationship between what you eat and how well you sleep.

Since eating and sleeping are two seemingly separate processes, it might seem like a leap to assume that one can influence the other.

However, the human body is an interconnected system. What we eat can influence our sleep, in ways both positive and negative. 

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