Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Power of Sleep



"Sleep is that golden 
chain that ties health 
and our bodies together." 
~ Thomas Dekker




"Consistently sleeping less than six hours a night nearly doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the European Heart Journal (Ferrari, 2017)."

"Sleep deprivation can cause damage to your body in the short term. Over time, it can lead to chronic health problems and negatively impact your quality of life (Pietrangelo, 2014)."

Your brain can not function properly when you're sleep deprived. When sleep deprivation is prolonged, it can lower your body's defenses, and put you at risk for chronic illnesses. Some signs of sleep deprivation are, yawning, irritability, and excessive sleepiness. When it becomes chronic, it can interfere with coordination, balance, and ability to make decisions. You're at risk for falling asleep during the day, and stimulants such as caffeine can't override your body's need for sleep (2014).

Alcohol consumption magnifies the effects of sleep deprivation. Your chances of having an accident are also increased because of being deprived of sleep. "Sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by 15 percent," according to a Harvard Medical School study. It is dangerous to your mental health, and your physical health, and can lower your quality of life, drastically (2014).

Here are 16 effects of sleep deprivation on the body:

  1. Yawning
  2. Memory problems
  3. Hallucinations
  4. Micro-sleep
  5. Weight gain
  6. Weakened immune response
  7. High blood pressure
  8. Moodiness
  9. Depression
  10. Cold and Flu
  11. Accident prone
  12. Impaired brain activity
  13. Cognitive dysfunction
  14. Type 2 Diabetes
  15. Heart disease
  16. Accidental death (2014)
As you can see, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to your health and well-being. I know people who have problems with sleeping for more than 4 hours a night. I hope that the following information can help them, and many others to get a healthy amount of sleep every night.

Here are some sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Make the room pitch-black dark
  • Set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees
  • Exercise every day
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule (same time going to sleep and getting up daily)
  • Shut down your electronics an hour before retiring (the light from these devices can stimulate the brain)
  • Replace your mattress about every 10 years (2017).

For me personally, I am quite fortunate to sleep well every night. Although the tips above are from professionals in the sleep business, everyone will have different things that work for them, and these are mine:

I leave my TV on until right before I'm ready to fall asleep, then it goes off. When I was younger, I used to need my TV on in order to go to sleep, and many times it would remain on until I awoke, or I would turn it off in the middle of the night. I now find the quiet and darkness much more conducive to a great nights sleep.

I make sure that everything is off, including my bathroom nightlight. A pitch black bedroom helps me to get a peaceful sleep. I make sure that my blinds are turned up so that the moonlight doesn't show, and the early morning light doesn't wake me up sooner than I wish. I make sure that my cell phone goes black.

I sleep with a fan on every single night; spring, summer, fall and winter. Actually, my fan is on at all times while I'm in my bedroom, because it is quite soothing to me. It's not just about the breeze of the fan, because I will still have it on in the dead of winter, when it's cold and I'm under my blankets and comforter. As a matter of fact, research has shown that the "white noise" of a fan is soothing for many people, but it doesn't work for everyone (Lecher, 2014).

My bed is super comfy with a good (but not too expensive) mattress. Please try to stay away from refurbished mattresses. I know that they serve a purpose when you need a mattress, and your funds are low; but it may be worth it to wait until the time of year when mattresses are on sale, in order to get a good mattress for a great price. "Most experts recommend purchasing a mattress near a holiday -- like Presidents Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day, or in the month of May (Strutner, 2015)."

Reading puts me to sleep every-time. This is a blessing and a curse, because I love to read, but I can't read much more than an hour before I drift off to sleep. No one has been able to tell me why, but it works every-time, whether I want it to or not. So for some, this is a way to get to sleep if you're having problems getting to sleep.

Other things that I've read that work for some other people are:

  • Changing your bed linens at least once a week. I have to agree that fresh bed linens make a good nights sleep even nicer.
  • Taking a bath or shower right before getting into bed. Bathing right before jumping into bed feels good, and having those nice smelling body lotions are even nicer for me. I love the scent that's left on the sheets and covers. But for some, those scents can be a distraction to sleep, so once again, you have to know what works for you.
  • Don't eat spicy or pungent (onions, garlic, etc.) foods before bed. Those strong flavors and scents can linger on your palate and on your hands if you were the cook, and cause distractions to sleep, and can even cause you to wake up several times a night. 
  • Don't eat a heavy meal within 2 hours of bedtime. This isn't a good idea for many reasons.
  • Meditation and/or prayer. Learn to turn off daily stressors. Meditation or prayer can help to shut down those thoughts or shift those energies to other forms or entities (depending on your beliefs). You can pick them back up the next day, but try to learn to leave them at the bedroom door, if you can, or let your meditation practices dissolve them temporarily.
  • Forget counting sheep! Try counting backwards by 3's from 300. "It forces me to focus enough to block out stressors, but at the same time, it's really boring and puts me right to sleep. I guarantee that even if you do it every night for a month, you still won't make it to the single digits (Pikul, 2015)."
  • To each, your own blanket. Just think about how you and your significant other are always tugging at the same blanket. Just think about what John Dittami (an Austrian based sleep researcher) said, "...using one blanket for two people is not conducive to good sleep (2015)." Makes sense, right? Such a simple solution to an age old problem.
  • Keep the TV out of the bedroom. Their are some people who don't even put a television in their bedrooms. Their bedrooms are strickly for sleeping (and intimacy).
  • Drinking alcohol can interfere with sleep. For me, this is a hit or miss. Sometimes drinking puts me right to sleep, and other times it interferes with a good nights sleep. So I would say, if your looking for a good nights sleep, stay away from the stuff.
  • SEX!!!! Need I say more? 😉

One thing for sure is that all things don't work for everyone, so if you have problems sleeping, you have to find what works for you. Please access the links below and read what others do, and what the sleep experts do to get a good nights sleep. Hopefully, some of these things will help for you. Sleep Tight! 😊       💤😴 💤

References

Ferrari, N. (2017, March). 50 ways to live a longer, healthier life. AARP.org.
     Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/
     50-ways-to-live-longer.html

Lecher, C. (2014, February 17). Why does white noise help people sleep.
     Popsci.com. Retrieved from http://www.popsci.com/article/science/
     fyi-why-does-white-noise-help-people-sleep

Pietrangelo, A. (2014, August 19). The effects of sleep deprivation on the
     body. Healthline.com. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/
     sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body
   
Pikul, C. (2015, April 8). What sleep experts do to get a good nights rest.
     Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/
     08/27/sleep-better-expert-advice_n_3804979.html

Strutner, S. (2015, January, 9). What nobody tells you about buying a
     mattress. The Huffington Post.com. Retrieved from http://www.
     huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/how-to-buy-a-mattress_n_6431374.html

Photo by Pixabay.com

Sunday, March 19, 2017

We're Sitting Our Way To An Early Grave

When we think about how physically active our lifestyles were hundreds of years ago, and how inactive our modern day lifestyles are comparably, it's no wonder that we are a nation of unhealthy people. Our body's are made to do physical work in order to survive, based on our more primal survival needs. Foraging* is what we use to do in order to have food to eat. We have not adapted to our much less physical lifestyles.

Nowadays, about 58% of Americans live sedentary lifestyles (Sedentary Lifestyles, 2014). Much of this is because of the work that we do for a living. Many Americans work out of offices, and sit in office chairs for most of their work day. This is contributing strongly to heart disease and a shorter life expectancy. As a matter of fact, sedentary lifestyles are also contributing to colon cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes (2014).

"Humans sit too much, so you have to treat the problem specifically,' says Hamilton. 'The cure for too much sitting isn't more exercise. Exercise is good, of course, but the average person could never do enough to counteract the effect of hours and hours of chair time (Masters, 2010)." We can't really change the fact that our jobs require us to sit for most of the day, but we can make a conscious effort to move out of those seats several times a day, in order to improve our health and increase our life expectancy.

Try making sure that you are standing for a few minutes every hour; whether that's going to do something that's necessary, or standing for 5 minutes while doing work at your computer. Also, even though exercise can't counteract the effects of sitting all day, it can most certainly improve your health and well being. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, having a regular exercise routine is all the more important.

I am lucky to have a career in retail. I stand and am physically active for most of my 8 to 10 hours of work each day. There are other little things that I do to help with health and weight maintenance. I chose a third floor apartment, because I've always lived in a house with stairs, and was concerned about living in a place without them. I don't park in front of my building, because those few extra steps everyday will help my health and weight in the long run, AND I need to leave the closer spaces open for the elderly, the physically disabled, and parents with young children. I don't try to find the closest parking space at the mall or the supermarket for the same reasons, AND it cuts down on the probability of my car doors getting bumped.

We need to remember that our bodies are made to be challenged. When we keep taking the easy way out to do things, we pay with our health. It's important for us to keep moving, and to keep our bodies strong. It's even more important as we age, when most people can't move as much and begin to lose strength. We can fight against this by forcing our selves to stay active and making sure that we adopt a series of resistance exercises to keep our strength well into old age. Let's all age well with good health, agility, flexibility and strength.

Talk to you all next time! 😊

(Please do yourself a favor, and read the full article in the Men's Health link below, "Is Your Office Chair Killing You?" This isn't just for men.)

*Foraging-the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing or the gathering plant matter (dictionary.com).

References

IAFF. (2014). Sedentary lifestyles. IAFF.org.

Masters, M. (2010, October 27). Is your office chair killing you? Men's 
     Health.com. Retrieved from http://www.menshealth.com/health/
     staying-active/

Photo from Pixabay.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

Eating For Your Age

            
"To keep the body in good health is a duty...otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear."~Buddah

This is where I'm having an issue. Although I'm working out for better health, and a longer life, I would like to lose a few more pounds with all of my hard work, but I like to eat. In the past, my workouts would have been enough to bring my weight down, but with me being over 50 and the fact that our metabolism slows down about every ten years; and the fact that I'm going through menopause, it's harder for me to lose weight. I'm going to have to eat better, to bring my weight down more, and for me that means eating cleaner. Healthier eating is what we all have to do as we age, in order to cut down on the risks of many diseases, and for some us, to keep our weight under control.

I like to visualize that as our bodies age, certain things that we've been eating over the years, become more concentrated in our bodies. So the sodium contributes to causing high blood pressure, sugar wreaks havoc on our pancreas and contributes to diabetes, processed foods contribute to cancer and other diseases, saturated fats (including those from red meats) contribute to causing heart disease. This is just a mental picture that helps me to keep top of mind, the importance of taking these things out of my diet, or at least reducing them significantly in order for me to live a longer, healthier life.

Did you know that as we age, there are certain foods that we should be eating for better health at different stages of our lives? In your 20's it's YOGURT and EGGS. We stop building bone mass in our 30's, so it's important to make our 20's count for bone building. And eggs contain vitamin D, which is needed for the absorption of calcium (Haak, 2016).

In your 30's it's SUNFLOWER SEEDS and ASPARAGUS. The omega 3 fatty acids in sunflower seeds, helps to lubricate the joints and reduce inflammation. The joint damage that can lead to arthritis starts in your 30's, so it's a good time to start protecting them. Asparagus has folate which is important when you're thinking about having a baby, and during pregnancy (2016). (👀Um....hmmm....Yeah....this is mostly for the younger folks.)

In your 40's LENTILS, GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST, and WALNUTS are the best foods to eat. Even though our metabolism can start to slow down in our 30's, it's more common in our 40's, and lentils are among the highest fiber foods. And foods that are high in fiber can help slow down weight gain from a slowing metabolism. Diabetes risks are higher in your 40's so it's important to eat lean meats like chicken breast to limit fluctuations in your sugar level, and to limit your body's insulin pumps due to sugar spikes. 63% of diabetes diagnosis happen between the ages of 40 and 64. Once again, the omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts, may help with the depression that occurs at a higher rate in women between the ages of 40 and 59 (2016).

In your 50's it's COTTAGE CHEESE and SALMON. Most women experience a sharp drop in bone density the first few years after menopause, which can lead to osteoporosis. Women's heart disease risk goes up after the age of 55, and that's because of lower estrogen levels post-menopause. Once again, the omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, is a healthy fat which reduces the risk of cardiac events (2016).

In your 60's and over it's SHELLFISH, because of the vitamin B12. We start to lose stomach acid in our 50's and 60's, and B12 needs stomach acid to be absorbed. So we have to intake more B12 then we used to for our bodies to absorb it. B12 is one of the three B vitamins that can lower the levels of amino acids linked to dementia (Haak, 2016).

The highlighted foods are single foods of certain categories of foods. There are many alternatives that you can eat other than those that have been highlighted.

Antioxidants don't just kill off cancer cells, they also prevent wrinkles. Here are 12 foods that contain high levels of antioxidants that can make you look younger.
   
     1) Tomatoes 
     2) Kale 
     3) Eggplant
     4) Red Bell Pepper
     5) Blackberries
     6) Basil
     7) Brussels sprouts (Frehsee, 2013).
     8) Beets
     9) Asparagus
   10) Carrots
   11) Strawberries
   12) Radishes (Emling, 2017)

As we age, certain foods become more important for every decade of our lives. Learn what those foods are so that your body can better adapt to the aging process. Make these foods a regular part of your diet for better health.

Talk to you all next week! 😊

(Please access my reference links for a more detailed explanation of how the foods we eat affect our health while aging.)

References

Emling, S. (2017, March 7). Spring's anti-aging foods. AARP.org.
     Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/
     anti-aging-foods

Frehsee, N. (2013, April 16). 7 fruits and vegetables that reverse
     the signs of aging. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/food/
     Anti-Aging-Foods-Vegetables-That-Make-You-Look-Younger

Haak, E. (2016, October 26). The best foods for your age according to 
     science. Oprah.com. Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/health_
     wellness/The-Best-Foods-for-Your-Age

Haak, E. (2016, November 11). Surprising things that age you. Oprah.com.
     Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/health_wellness/Surprising-
     Things-That-Age-You

Photo's from Pixabay.com