Monthly Archives: August 2016

You really need to sleep well

We’ve all been told that we should get eight hours of sleep per night. This information is an average and might not be a perfect fit for everyone. Some may need more sleep and others less, and our needs may actually change through the years. Thus, the oft-recited advice that every person needs eight hours of sleep a night is a myth.

Short Sleepers vs. Long Sleepers

Everyone has a sleep need that is likely determined by genes, or genetic information.

This need is the amount of sleep our body requires for us to wake up feeling refreshed. This difference likely occurs across a spectrum, with “short-sleepers” needing less than average and “long-sleepers” needing more.

Changing Needs Across a Lifetime

The average amount of sleep needed changes over our lifetime, especially during childhood and adolescence. Although there are averages, there will be individuals who fall both above and below these needs, including the following groups of people:

  • Infants (3-11 months) need 14-15 hours
  • Toddlers (12-35 months) need 12-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-6 years) need 11-13 hours
  • School age (6-10 years) need 10-11 hours
  • Adolescents (11-18 years) need 9.25 hours
  • Adults need an average of 8 hours
  • Elderly adults may need less sleep


Sleep Debt

What happens if we don’t meet our sleep needs? By not getting enough sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that we usually have to “pay off.” This pay-off might involve extra sleep by napping, going to bed early, or sleeping in to catch up.

If we sleep less than our body needs to feel refreshed and don’t catch up we might experience:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • poor thinking
  • increased risk of accidents
  • other health complications (i.e., weight gain)


How Can I Determine My Sleep Needs?

There is an easy way to determine how much sleep you need.

Follow these steps:

  1. Set aside a week or two that you can focus on your sleep and not allow disruptions or changes to your sleep schedule
  2. Select a typical bedtime and stick with it, night after night
  3. Allow yourself to sleep in as long as you want, awakening without an alarm clockin the morning
  4. After a few days, you will have paid off your sleep debt, and you will begin to approach the average amount of sleep that you need
  5. Once you determine your need, try to set your bedtime at an hour that will allow you the sleep you need, while still waking up in time to start your day


Effects of Sleep Deprivation

It’s extremely important that your body gets the sleep it needs. Chronic, or long-term, sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of problems that impair your health, safety, productivity, mood, and more.
Here are some possible repercussions secondary to sleep deprivation:

  • decreased alertness
  • decreased performance
  • memory impairment
  • cognitive impairment
  • injury on the job
  • injuries due to automobile crash or other heavy machinery

Pills may further raise risk of blood clots

images-47Newer versions of the Pill may raise a woman’s risk of dangerous blood clots even more than older versions, a large U.K. study suggests.

Women taking any combined oral contraceptive pills – containing both estrogen and progestin – were three times as likely to develop a blood clot in a deep vein in the leg or pelvis, compared to women not on the Pill. The risk was higher still with all the newer Pill versions except one, researchers found.

“This association is between 1.5 and 1.8 times higher for the newer formulations,” said lead author Yana Vinogradova, a research fellow in medical statistics at the University of Nottingham.

The blood clots, known as venous thromboembolisms (VTEs), are common and can be deadly if the clot dislodges and travels to the heart, brain or lungs. They are more common among women taking estrogen medicines, and the risk is even higher if the woman smokes, according to the National Library of Medicine.

But the overall risk of a blood clot for women on any combined oral contraceptives is still relatively low: between six and 14 extra cases per year per 10,000 women taking the drugs, Vinogradova told Reuters Health by email.

Newer combined pills, including the progestins drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene or cyproterone acetate, have been suspected of carrying an even higher clot risk compared to older versions that include levonorgestrel and norethisterone. But most past studies have been small or flawed by not taking into account certain other risk factors for clots, the study team writes in BMJ.

To assess VTE risk in women on both older and newer-generation pills, the researchers analyzed U.K. general practice databases covering the period between 2001 and 2013. They found 5,062 cases of VTE among women ages 15 to 49, and matched each of these women with up to five women who did not have a blood clot in the same year, but were of similar age and treated at a similar medical practice.

The researchers accounted for smoking, alcohol consumption, race, body mass index and other health problems, and found that women taking any combined oral contraceptive were almost three times as likely to suffer a blood clot as those not taking contraceptive pills.

Women taking older-generation drugs were about 2.5 times as likely to have a blood clot as women not taking any oral contraceptives over the previous year. Those taking newer types of combined pills were about four times as likely to suffer a clot compared to women not taking oral contraceptives.

The exception among the newer formulations was norgestimate, with a risk profile more similar to the older drugs.

The results would translate to a number of “extra” cases of VTE among women taking the combined pills versus women not on the Pill. These numbers were lowest for the older drug levonorgestrel and the newer norgestimate, with an additional six cases per 10,000 women per year, and highest for two newer drugs, desogestrel and cyproterone, with an extra 14 cases each.

“However,” Vinogradova noted, “these increased risks of (venous thromboembolism) associated with both the older and the newer pills are lower than those associated with pregnancy,” which may increase clot risk tenfold.

Tricks to Fight Fat

Is your brain sabotaging your diet? Experts say it plays a big role in how and when we eat. So how can we train our brain to make healthier decisions? From turning down the music to stumping your sense of smell, here are 8 ways to stop your head from messing with your waistline… Sure, spending time at the gym and counting calories are good for keeping the scale steady. But experts say the key to hitting your goal weight could be all in your head. That’s because your brain – not your stomach – dictates what and how much you should eat. “Many of the hormones that impact your appetite and weight are either produced or regulated by your brain,” says Svetlana Kogan, M.D., board-certified internist and founder of the medical facility Doctors At Trump Place in New York City. “So it’s smart for women to step in and stop things like overeating at the source: their head.” From stimulating appetite to directing eating habits, your brain is in the driver’s seat when it comes to your diet.

1. Don’t pump up the volume.
Loud music (88 decibels, or dB) ramps up signals in your brain to drink almost 30% faster than you would if the music were at decibels you didn’t have to shout over (72 dB), according to a 2008 study by the University of Ulster in Ireland.

The scientists found that the louder the music blared, the longer people hung out at a bar, and the more booze they guzzled.

The fix: Wear a watch.

Ever notice the lack of clocks in clubs? It’s for a good reason. The owners don’t want you to realize how much time – or money – you’re spending.

The scientists suspect that exposure to loud music changes your perception of how quickly time is passing. So slipping a watch around your wrist or even setting an alarm on your cell phone to go off once an hour will help you stay focused on how long you’ve been out.

This awareness can make you consume fewer liquid calories, says lead researcher Nicolas Guéguen, Ph.D.

2. Stop thinking about losing weight.
A day of dodging cakes and chips in the breakroom just might make you fall off the diet wagon.

Dieters, or people trying not to think about food, are 30% more likely to give into impulses at the grocery store, according to 2008 University of Minnesota research. Their theory: Concentrating all that willpower on not eating leaves you vulnerable to impulse buys and, subsequently, food splurges. The fix: To keep from binging in the checkout line, shop for groceries early in the day, advises lead researcher, Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., professor of consumer psychology at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. Your self-control will be stronger and fresher because it hasn’t been tested that day. Still, have an “if/then” plan for making healthier choices when cravings hit. “If you’re hungry or fixated on food while shopping, [tell yourself that] you’ll grab a piece of fruit, a handful of protein-packed almonds or a similar low-calorie snack,” Vohs says.

3. Thinking you’re fat makes you heavier.

When Harvard researchers told women working in hotels that their activity satisfied the U.S. surgeon general’s recommendation for an active lifestyle, they lost weight and lowered their blood pressure, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio. Women performing the same tasks who weren’t told their activity qualified didn’t lose weight. A few even gained a couple of pounds (over 30 days). The researchers speculate that mind-set determined weight loss.

Worst Foods to Eat

There’s no denying to the many bacon lovers that bacon is delicious. But it’s not very good for you — in fact, it’s one of the worst things you can eat. One average serving of bacon — three slices — contains 435 milligrams of sodium — about one-fifth of the average adult’s daily allowance [source: Magee].

An average healthy adult eating a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet should aim for 45 to 65 percent of those calories to come from carbohydrates, preferably unrefined (and remember, carbs include all the sugar you eat, not just bread and pasta). You also want no more than 66 grams of fat (including less than 20 grams of saturated fat) and no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day [source: Klein, Jacob].

If your daily diet is full of junk foods such as fried foods, processed deli meats, bacon and soda, you have an increased risk of some major health conditions — and if you eat these kinds of foods six days a week, you increase your risk of stroke by 41 percent compared to if you only indulged in them once a month [source: AP].

Following nutrition guidelines and eating healthy foods does make a difference. People who eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day live longer than people who don’t. But even if you’d rather have a slice of apple pie than an apple, you can make healthier choices, at least avoiding the foods you know absolutely aren’t good for you [source: Paddock].