Category Archives: sleep

The dark side of blue light – Harvard

Elsewhere in the blog I have written repeatedly about the how valuable it is to get a good night’s sleep. For a full rundown, please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep?

In the meantime, here is an excellent study from Harvard Medical School on our vulnerability to our evening illumination.

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Exposure to blue light at night, emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs, harmful to your health.

Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.

But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Continue reading

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Little things mean a lot

Here is a list of simple things that can make your life run better and make you a healthier person. Take it from an old guy who is still in there kicking.

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Give Yourself More Credit for Doing These Things

There are some really nice positive ideas here. What seem like little things often count plenty in the big picture.

Tony

Our Better Health

Let’s do a roll call: who here has been giving themselves a hard time lately? If this is you, it’s time to cut yourself some slack! You may not realize it, but there are countless things you accomplish every day that are absolutely praiseworthy.

No, really! If we don’t give ourselves credit for the small stuff, how can we feel comfortable patting on ourselves when we accomplish something massive?

The next time you start doubting yourself and your capabilities, reflect on this list as a reminder of all that you do that is right as rain. And give yourself some credit – you really deserve it.

1. Catching Some ZZZs

Getting enough sleep every night is not an easy feat! Whether we’re a working parent of triplets or someone who is struggling with managing their anxiety levels, the fact that we get as many ZZZs as we can is a…

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Filed under good night's sleep, Positive Psychology, positive thinking, positivity, sleep, sleep deprivation

Poor sleep habits related to dementia

I have written about the value of sleep for some years here. It along with walking are two of the most unappreciated aspects of living a healthy life. You can check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details.

I wanted to share the following video with you as it highlights another aspect of the value of a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Breus is a clinical psychologist, and is known for his expertise on sleep and health. He’s a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine,.

Poor sleep literally causes dementia. It’s one of the causes, and fixing it is one of the ways you can reverse dementia.

Dr. Breus explains exactly how lack of sleep affects your body and brain, and how disturbances in your sleep cycles can “turn on” the progression of dementia, and cause many other serious health problems too.

The good news is that you can avoid mental and physical disorders that poor sleep causes by following easy, at-home recommendations Dr. Breus will give you to cure sleep disorders and sleep peacefully all through the night.

Tony

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Filed under Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's risk, dementia, good night's sleep, sleep, sleep aids, sleep monitors

Deep sleep reinforces the learning of new motor skills

I would like to remind you that I am a strong proponent of a good night’s sleep. Check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more information.

Medical Press reports the following:

The benefits of a good night’s sleep have become widely known, and now neuroscientists at UC San Francisco have discovered that the animal brain reinforces motor skills during deep sleep.

During non-REM sleep, bolster neural touchpoints that are directly related to a task that was newly learned while awake, while weakening neural links that are not, the researchers found.

Credit: University of California, San Francisco

“This phenomenon may be related to the notion of ‘extracting the gist’ of how to perform a novel task,” said Karunesh Ganguly, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology. “Sleep appears to reduce that is not related to a task we are in the process of learning.”

Having a better handle on the mechanics of how sleep affects learning could lead to new medical stimulation devices, and consumer-driven wearable devices, or “electroceuticals,” which stimulate brain cells and improve learning as we snooze. Devices from some startups are headed in that direction, but so far they are designed to stimulate the brain while we are awake.

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Sleep aids can be risky – Harvard

Sleep is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of living a healthy life. I felt strongly enough about it to devote an entire Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? to it. My assumption was that you are using no extraneous methods of getting yourself down. I don’t recommend taking any kind of drugs to help yourself get to sleep. There are a number of relaxation methods that work wonders and have no ill effects. The Harvard Health Letter warns about taking sleep aids.

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Millions of Americans rely on prescription sleep medications, called sedative hypnotics, to fall asleep. While the drugs can help people get a decent night’s rest, they are not designed for long-term use. “Each of the pills has its own risks,” says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Types of sleep aids

Sedative hypnotics fall into three categories.

Melatonin-receptor agonists such as ramelteon (Rozerem) leave the body quickly. They target melatonin receptors in the brain and are not thought to be habit-forming. Continue reading

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Controlling Memory By Triggering Specific Brain Waves During Sleep – IBS

Have you ever tried to recall something just before going to sleep and then wake up with the memory fresh in your mind? While we absorb so much information during the day consciously or unconsciously, it is during shut eye that a lot of facts are dispatched to be filed away or fall into oblivion. A good quality sleep is the best way to feel mentally refreshed and memorize new information, but how is the brain working while we sleep? Could we improve such process to remember more, or maybe even use it to forget unwanted memories?

I would just like to add that my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? includes further information on how the brain benefits from good sleep habits.

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Scientists at the Center for Cognition and Sociality, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), enhanced or reduced mouse memorization skills by modulating specific synchronized brain waves during deep sleep. This is the first study to show that manipulating sleep spindle oscillations at the right timing affects memory. The full description of the mouse experiments, conducted in collaboration with the University of Tüebingen, is published in the journal Neuron.

The research team concentrated on a non-REM deep sleep phase that generally happens throughout the night, in alternation with the REM phase. It is called slow-wave sleep and it seems to be involved with memory formation, rather than dreaming. Continue reading

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The Best Health Advice Ever

I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is a wonderful little compilation of guidelines for a healthy life.

 

Tony

Our Better Health

The Best Health Advice Ever

Keeping your mind and body in tip-top shape is essential for living your best life. It’s difficult to attain success when you’re dragging yourself through the day, feeling stressed out, anxious, and generally unwell. That’s why you need to make yourself a priority. Focusing on your wellness is not selfish, it’s necessary for you to be able to give your best self to others. The Cheat Sheet spoke with six leading health experts about the best health advice they’ve ever received.

1. Let go of unforgiveness

Learn to forgive! At the heart of many chronic diseases is stress. At the heart of much stress is a lack of forgiveness. Not being able to let go of the past produces a lot of stress in our lives. This stress increases the incidence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and more.

My advice for men: Don’t be embarrassed…

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6 ways your pet can boost your health and well being – Medical News Today

As regular readers know, I am a dog lover . I have posted about my poodle, Gabi, a number of times. She accompanies me on about 5000 miles of bikes rides every year. So, I was very pleased to run across this item by Honor Whiteman on Medical News Today.

On arriving home after a long, stressful day at work, you are greeted at the door by an overexcited four-legged friend. It can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Pet ownership is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures in life, providing companionship and giggles galore. But the benefits do not end there; your pet could be doing wonders for your health and well-being.
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My intrepid little partner, Gabi, in her basket wearing her hat ready to ride.

The United States is a nation of animal lovers; more than 65 percent of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice.

It is no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives; not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer unconditional love.

As British novelist George Eliot once said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”

Adding to pets’ indisputable charm is the wealth of benefits they offer for human health and well-being. We take a closer look at what these are.

1. Lower risk of allergies

Around 50 million people in the U.S. have nasal allergies, and pet dander is one of the most common triggers.With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that pets could actually lower the risk of developing allergies.

One study reported by Medical News Today in 2015 associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life with a lower risk of asthma development by school age.

More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who were exposed to household pets prior to birth and up to 3 months after experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies. Continue reading

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Let’s seek out health

Watching TV the other day, I was struck by how many ads there are for drugs to solve our health problems. We seem to think of drugs as some kind of permanent answer to problems that may only be temporary. Never mind that the list of side effects is often longer than the supposed benefits of taking the drugs in the first place.

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 Eat less; move more; live longer is a really simple way of living and thinking about our lives. If we put this mantra into our heads each morning, we could forget the temporary problem of weight that seems to plague most of us.

Eat good food in reasonable amounts and make sure you get some exercise every day of your life. Avoid bad habits like drinking too much alcohol and smoking. Finally, make sure you get enough sleep. Pay attention to those simple aspects of your life and you will solve a multitude of problems before they ever arise. 

The following Pages have more details on these elements:

How important is a good night’s sleep?

How many ways does smoking harm you?

Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

Tony

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4 ways to boost your energy naturally with breakfast – Harvard

Healthy living requires that we make intelligent choices every day. We need to get enough sleep, eat intelligently and exercise regularly. Sleep is one of the  underappreciated aspects of living a healthy and long life. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details.

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As you sleep, your body is hard at work digesting yesterday’s dinner. By the time you wake up, your body and brain are demanding fresh fuel. “Breaking the fast” is a key way to power up in the morning. Do it right and the benefits can last all day. Continue reading

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Beware of blue light at night – Harvard

Sleep, like walking, is one of the critical elements of good health very commonly not appreciated by the man on the street. I have a Page – How important is a good night’s sleep with a ton of information on it.

Here is some valuable info from the Harvard Health Letter on getting a good night’s sleep.

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Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.

But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. (My emphasis)

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Daily rhythms influenced by light

Everyone has slightly different circadian rhythms, but the average length is 24 and one-quarter hours. The circadian rhythm of people who stay up late is slightly longer, while the rhythms of earlier birds fall short of 24 hours. Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School showed, in 1981, that daylight keeps a person’s internal clock aligned with the environment.

The health risks of nighttime light

Study after study has linked working the night shift and exposure to light at night to several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be so bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.

A Harvard study shed a little bit of light on the possible connection to diabetes and possibly obesity. The researchers put 10 people on a schedule that gradually shifted the timing of their circadian rhythms. Their blood sugar levels increased, throwing them into a prediabetic state, and levels of leptin, a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal, went down.

Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

The power of the blues

While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

In another study of blue light, researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.

Less-blue light

If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. Those curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light.

The physics of fluorescent lights can’t be changed, but coatings inside the bulbs can be so they produce a warmer, less blue light. LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, but they also produce a fair amount of light in the blue spectrum. Richard Hansler, a light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, notes that ordinary incandescent lights also produce some blue light, although less than most fluorescent lightbulbs.

What you can do

  • Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.
  • If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  • Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.When I work on my computer late at night, I always wear a pair of blue blocker sunglasses. You can buy them on Amazon for under $20. I have no problems getting to sleep.

    Tony

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Your brain learns during sleep – Study

I think sleep may be the most under-appreciated aspect of living a healthy life. Diet and exercise and well-known if not often followed, but sleep is often thought of as an intrusion in our busy lives. I know that back when I was in the working world, I certainly thought of it that way.

Scientific data suggests that all animals probably do sleep—including the most unexpected creatures, such as fish, birds, worms, and flies. Sara Aton, University of Michigan ssistant professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, can attest to dozing cats, mice, and even cuttlefish, all of which she’s studied as they snoozed. She marvels that biologists once thought bugs and birds and worms never slept.

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“I think there’s this pervasive misconception that your brain is just turning off when you go to sleep, because there’s no obvious output. Outside of a coma, you can’t think of a less interesting behavior to study than sleep, right?” Aton says. “Sleep is something that, as humans, we spend a third of our life doing. And yet biologists and the neuroscience community didn’t have a lot of interest in it.” (my emphasis)

But now that we know better, new questions arise: Do animals all rest for the same reasons?
After studying sleep for the past decade, Aton is convinced that it matters—a lot. “I’m much more protective of, for example, my son’s sleep than I would have been had I not been in this field,” she says.
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10 Hidden Anxiety Triggers You Need to Avoid

There is a ton of good information in this. Read it and reap!

I have posted previously on:

How important is a good night’s sleep?

Super tools for handling stress

Tony

Our Better Health

Anxiety seems to be a near-universal condition. In the United States alone, approximately 40 million adults – or 18 percent of the population – suffer from an anxiety disorder.

And these numbers represent only the diagnosed (i.e. reported). The actual number is likely to be significantly higher.

The truth is that society is somewhat to blame (not to negate our own sense of responsibility.) We’ve managed to build a 24/7 “constantly connected” infrastructure that has permeated into schools, businesses and elsewhere. Many people are under constant pressure to succeed; most ironically by leveraging this very infrastructure. This only exacerbates the problem.

“Prevention is the best cure” is a universal axiom within the medical community, including within the mental health sphere. Understanding what “triggers” certain symptoms or condition can – in some instances – drastically reduce the likelihood of a symptom or episode.

Here, we focus on ten established “triggers” that…

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Sleep Trackers Can Prompt Sleep Problems

I wrote just three days ago in my post on sleep mistakes, “Sleep is one of the truly under-appreciated aspects of living a long and healthy life….” So, I sympathize with anyone taking steps to improve their sleep. It turns out, however, that using some of the new devices can have a negative impact on your overnight rest. The following is from the Rush University Medical Center.

A 39-year-old man whom we’ll call Mr. R received a sleep-tracking device from his girlfriend. Since starting a new job several years earlier, he sometimes had trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Not surprisingly, the next day he’d feel tired, irritable and absentminded.

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A man sleeping

Based on data generated by his girlfriend’s gift, Mr. R concluded those symptoms occurred only after he failed to get eight hours of sleep the night before. He set himself an ambitious goal: “to achieve,” as he later told a therapist, “at least eight hours of sleep every night.”

His gauge for deciding whether he had succeeded: his new sleep tracker. And so each night, Mr. R went to bed feeling the pressure of ensuring that the next morning the tracker would display the desired eight hours — a self-induced level of increasing anxiety that’s hardly the ideal recipe for achieving a sound night’s sleep.

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7 Sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making – Infographic

Sleep is one of the truly under-appreciated aspects of living a long and healthy life. I know for sure that when I was in the working world, I pretty much considered sleep to be an imposition on my busy life.

Times, and my mind, have changed. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep for more on this crucial aspect of our daily lives.

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Tony

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