Sleep. I bet you could use some.

Twenty-four hours in a day usually doesn’t seem like enough to “get everything done,” does it? Exercise and sleep are often sacrificed in our busy lives.

You may think that you’re tough – that you can “get by” on just a few hours of sleep. I assure you, you are wrong. Your “sleep debt” (the accumulated lack of sleep that causes daytime fatigue) will catch up with you.

Consider this statement: “the effects of sleep deprivation are actually so damaging that it is now prohibited as a method of interrogation in most countries.”1

And yet so many of us consistently deprive ourselves of sleep – by choice!

Photo of sleeping baby

Americans are sleepy people. Sleep studies have revealed that the average American’s sleep debt is likely close to 25-30 hours at any given time.2 According to the National Sleep Foundation’s most recent poll, 63% of American adults report that their sleep needs are not being met, and 43% report that they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights. As a result, according to data from the CDC, 37.9% American adults report falling asleep unintentionally during the day in the preceding 30 days – a sign of being dangerously sleep-deprived.2

Daytime sleepiness is dangerous. Inadequate sleep is a health hazard; even worse, the resulting daytime fatigue impairs performance (just like alcohol). Sleep-deprived people perform tasks poorly, make more mistakes, and experience more accidents at work – it’s similar to being intoxicated.3 One Australian study showed that 24 hours without sleep is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1% (0.08% is legally drunk in most U.S. states) with regard to hand-eye coordination. Being awake for only 17-19 hours still impaired hand-eye coordination – this was equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.4 Numerous accidents – of small and large scale – have been attributed to fatigue; from medical errors to plane crashes to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.2

More consequences of inadequate sleep:

  • Impaired immune response.5 The quality of sleep before becoming infected is a significant determinant of the severity of cold symptoms. Even one night of inadequate sleep reduces the number and activity of natural killer cells the next day.2
  • Impaired learning and cognitive function– blood oxygen levels in the brain are measurably lower after insufficient sleep.6,7
  • Increased snacking – lack of sleep results in dysregulation of hunger and satiety hormones.8,9
  • Weight gain, impaired insulin sensitivity, and increased risk of diabetes.10-13
  • Increased inflammation, high cholesterol, and hypertension.14,15
  • Diminished appearance - sleep-deprived people look less healthy and attractive than well-rested people.16
  • Emotional disturbances and excessive emotional reactivity.17
  • Increased risk of death.18

What is sleep and why is it so important?
The question ‘what is sleep?’ is still somewhat of a mystery. Sleep occurs in 90-minute cycles of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep; REM sleep is thought to be the most restorative part of the sleep cycle; REM sleep is thought to contribute to brain development, and almost all dreaming occurs during REM sleep. Tissue repair and growth (in children) is heightened during sleep.2 Also during sleep, our brains ‘stabilize’ newly formed memories, which is one reason why lack of sleep can impair learning (caffeine does not help, by the way). This is thought to occur by the brain ‘replaying’ brain activity from waking experiences during sleep. Interestingly, the greatest impact of sleep deprivation is on memories associated with positive emotions, compared to those associated with neutral or negative emotions.17 Sleep is also thought to fuel creativity, since creativity is dependent on learning, memory, and motivation.2

Sleep, like good nutrition and exercise, is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t try to be tough – practice self-care and make sleep a priority. Maybe you didn’t finish everything on your mile-long to-do list. Let it go - you owe yourself some rest!

 

References:

1. Hunter P: To sleep, perchance to live. Sleeping is vital for health, cognitive function, memory and long life. EMBO Rep 2008;9:1070-1073.
2. Dement WC, Vaughan C: The Promise of Sleep. New York: Delacorte Press; 1999.
3. Swanson LM, Arnedt JT, Rosekind MR, et al: Sleep disorders and work performance: findings from the 2008 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll. J Sleep Res 2011;20:487-494.
4. Williamson AM, Feyer AM: Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med 2000;57:649-655.
5. Opp MR: Sleeping to fuel the immune system: mammalian sleep and resistance to parasites. BMC Evol Biol 2009;9:8.
6. Miyata S, Noda A, Ozaki N, et al: Insufficient sleep impairs driving performance and cognitive function. Neurosci Lett 2010;469:229-233.
7. Taras H, Potts-Datema W: Sleep and student performance at school. J Sch Health 2005;75:248-254.
8. Kim S, DeRoo LA, Sandler DP: Eating patterns and nutritional characteristics associated with sleep duration. Public health nutrition 2011;14:889-895.
9. Aldabal L, Bahammam AS: Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation. Open Respir Med J 2011;5:31-43.
10. Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Sleep duration as a risk factor for diabetes incidence in a large U.S. sample. Sleep 2007;30:1667-1673.
11. Spiegel K, Leproult R, Van Cauter E: Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet 1999;354:1435-1439.
12. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, et al: Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med 2011;364:2392-2404.
13. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, et al: Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol 2006;164:947-954.
14. Gangwisch JE, Malaspina D, Babiss LA, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypercholesterolemia: analyses of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sleep 2010;33:956-961.
15. Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension: analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hypertension 2006;47:833-839.
16. Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, et al: Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. BMJ 2010;341:c6614.
17. Walker MP: The role of sleep in cognition and emotion. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2009;1156:168-197.
18. Cappuccio FP, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, et al: Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep 2010;33:585-592.

 

Eat cherries for a healthy heart, a good night's sleep and more

The cherry is a stone fruit, in the same family with plums, apricots, and peaches. The majority of edible cherries have been derived from two species: Prunus avium – the wild cherry (sweet cherries like Bing and Rainier) and Prunus cerasus – the sour cherry (like the Montromorency and Morello varieties).  Most sour cherries here in the U.S. are grown in Michigan with some growing on the East coast as well, and sweet cherries are grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Michigan.1 Cherries, especially sour cherries, have a short growing season.  Sweet cherries are generally available between May to August, and sour cherries are available for just a couple of weeks either in mid-June (in warmer areas) or either July-August (in cooler areas).2

Cherries. Flickr: jayneandd

Cherries protect against oxidative stress:

Cherries range in color from yellow and pink to bright red to deep, dark red. The colors of sweet and sour cherries come from their rich supply of anthocyanins, including chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol.3,4 Regarding antioxidant content, cherries are some of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) foods in existence – the ORAC score of sweet cherries ranks just as high as strawberries (though not quite as high as blueberries).5  

Anthocyanins protect the body against oxidative damage in a number of ways: they scavenge free radicals directly, bind to DNA to protect it from oxidative damage, and activate detoxification and antioxidant enzyme systems in the body. Cherry anthocyanins have been shown to protect blood vessels and brain cells against oxidative stress, implying that cherry consumption may help to prevent atherosclerotic plaque formation and neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.3,6 Cherry anthocyanins also slow the growth of human colon cancer cells.7

Cherries reduce inflammation:

Cherries and cherry juice have been used since the 1950s by sufferers of gout and arthritis to ease their symptoms.  Gout results from an overload of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia), which accumulates and forms crystals in the joints, causing painful arthritis; cherry consumption has been shown to reduce circulating levels of uric acid, which may be one pathway by which cherries improve gout symptoms.8

New evidence presented in April at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting related the anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherry juice to both gout and heart disease.  Overweight and obese subjects consumed 8 ounces/day of tart cherry juice or placebo for 4 weeks.  Tart cherry juice consumers experienced reductions in uric acid levels and inflammation markers.  With regard to cardiovascular disease, reductions were also seen in triglycerides, VLDL, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), a molecule involved in atherosclerotic plaque formation.9  Previous studies on sweet cherry consumption have similarly documented reductions in C-reactive protein (CRP), another inflammatory molecule that is also a marker of cardiovascular disease risk.10

Cherries act as a natural painkiller:

Cherry extracts inhibit the action of cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 enzymes.  These enzymes are important components of the inflammatory process and the sensation of pain. Also, these are the same enzymes that are inhibited by many common pain medications.  In fact, the COX inhibitory activity of cherry anthocyanins is comparable to that of equal concentrations of ibuprofen and naproxen.11,12  This may be another way that cherries and cherry juice can ease symptoms of gout and arthritis, and also may help athletes to cut down on post-workout muscle pain. Distance runners training for a race who drank tart cherry juice twice daily for 8 days (7 days prior to race plus race day) experienced less post-race pain than those who drank a placebo.13 Similarly in strength workouts, tart cherry juice consumers experienced less pain and strength loss over the four following days compared to placebo.14 

Cherries may help you sleep:

Tart cherries are one of the few rich food sources of the hormone and antioxidant melatonin, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle in the human brain.15  Tart cherry juice supplementation has been associated with improvements in sleep quality.16

When we think about high-antioxidant, health-promoting fruits, sometimes cherries are overlooked.  But as you can see here, cherries are an excellent food that benefits the heart, brain, and joints, and may even prevent tumor growth and improve the quality of sleep – and they will be in season very soon, so enjoy them!

 

References:

1. Cherry. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry. Accessed on May 2, 2011.

2. Cherries. Aboutcom Local Foods. http://localfoods.about.com/od/summer/tp/CherriesHub.htm and http://localfoods.about.com/od/cherries/ss/cherryvarieties.htm. Accessed on May 2, 2011.

3. Kim DO, Heo HJ, Kim YJ, et al: Sweet and sour cherry phenolics and their protective effects on neuronal cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2005;53:9921-9927.

4. Phenolic compounds in sweet and sour cherries. Cornell University. http://ecsoc2.hcc.ru/ecsoc-2/dp260/dp260.htm. Accessed on May 2, 2011.

5. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of Selected Foods. 2007. US Department of Agriculture. http://www.ars.usda.gov/sp2userfiles/place/12354500/data/orac/orac07.pdf Accessed on May 2, 2011.

6. Traustadottir T, Davies SS, Stock AA, et al: Tart cherry juice decreases oxidative stress in healthy older men and women. J Nutr 2009;139:1896-1900.

7. Kang SY, Seeram NP, Nair MG, et al: Tart cherry anthocyanins inhibit tumor development in Apc(Min) mice and reduce proliferation of human colon cancer cells. Cancer Lett 2003;194:13-19.

8. Jacob RA, Spinozzi GM, Simon VA, et al: Consumption of cherries lowers plasma urate in healthy women. J Nutr 2003;133:1826-1829.

9. Martin KR, Bopp J, Burrell L, et al: The effect of 100% tart cherry juice on serum uric acid levels, biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors. In Experimental Biology 2011. Washington, D.C.: The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology; 2011.

10. Kelley DS, Rasooly R, Jacob RA, et al: Consumption of Bing sweet cherries lowers circulating concentrations of inflammation markers in healthy men and women. J Nutr 2006;136:981-986.

11. McCune LM, Kubota C, Stendell-Hollis NR, et al: Cherries and health: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2011;51:1-12.

12. Seeram NP, Momin RA, Nair MG, et al: Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine 2001;8:362-369.

13. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, et al: Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:17.

14. Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, et al: Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med 2006;40:679-683; discussion 683.

15. Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, et al: Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemis ry 2001;49:4898-4902.

16. Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, et al: Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food 2010;13:579-583.

 

 

Lack of Sleep Boosts Diabetes Risk

Are you tired? You might get diabetes! A new report Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism claims poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and insufficient sleep heightens risk of diabetes:

Dr. Plamen Penev, of the University of Chicago, Illinois, and a senior author of the study and colleagues subjected 11 healthy but sedentary middle-aged men and women to two 14-day periods of sedentary living with free access to food and either 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

As nightly sleep times changed from 8.5 to 5.5 hours, the participants went to bed later and got out of bed earlier and, as a result, average sleep duration was reduced by about two hours a day.

When the adults had their bedtimes decreased from a healthy 8.5 hours to 5.5 hours they showed changes in their response to two common sugar tests, which were similar to those seen in people with an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Go to bed already! Previous studies have linked lack of sleep to weight-gain, getting the common cold and obesity. Now, do you really need to know why sleep is a good idea? Here Dr. Fuhrman explains the importance of getting shuteye:

During sleep, your body removes the buildup of waste in the brain. Sufficient sleep is necessary for the normal function of your nervous and endocrine systems. Most civilizations in human history recognized the value of mid-afternoon naps. The desire for a rest, short sleep, or “siesta” after lunch should not be seen as an abnormal need, but rather a normal one. People who “cover up” their lack of sleep by using drugs (such as caffeine) as food and/or food (such as highly processed, sugary foods) as drugs sometimes claim (even boast) that they can get by with very little sleep. As you begin to live more healthfully, you may quickly recognize that you need more sleep than you previously thought.

Via Reuters.

Image credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Driving Cars is Making Us Fat and Unhealthy

Evolving from hulking apes to car driving suburbanites isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some health officials claim that America’s love for driving is a bad habit, resulting in poor health. Driving more means you walk less and walking is a great exercise. Walking is something us bipedal hominids are specialized to do. Experts say people should take about 10,000 steps a day to maintain good health, but driving a car all day causes that number to drop to about 1,000; Reuters explains.

I drive my friends crazy. I always park far away. So I can walk a little. But listen, exercise is very important. According to Dr. Fuhrman, regular exercise pays huge dividends, such improving mood, building stronger bones and reducing risk of disease, like type-2 diabetes.

In related news, walking for 30 minutes each day was found to reduce age-related weight gain and taking the stairs helps lowers lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Image credit: Georgios Karamanis

Health-Points: Friday 5.22.09

  • Sex is important, especially if you’re not getting any, and for women with type-1 diabetes sex can be a real drag. According to a new study in the journal Diabetes Care involving 652 women with type-1 diabetes, completing a survey on sex and undergoing a physical examination, mood evaluation and laboratory testing, 51% of women reported orgasm problems; Reuters explains.

Image credit: alterna boba y las terribles pecas 22/05 19hrs Mm

Skipping Sleep May Lead to Weight-Gain

Stop yawning! It’s a bad sign. Discussed at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, a new study suggests body mass index and sleep share a strong relationship. Scientists analyzed sleep, activity levels and energy expenditure of 14 nurses enrolled in a heart-health program, which included stress management and sleep improvement. Data revealed numerous conclusions, but most notably that insufficient sleep causes or worsens stress, leading to stress eating and weight-gain; via EurekAlert!

Sleep is very important. According to Dr. Fuhrman, sleep allows your body to clean up brain waste, which helps keep your nervous and endocrine systems functioning normally. Your immune system too! Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to get the sniffles.

And just last week, a report conveyed the grim news that lack of sleep in areas with extended seasons of daylight, like Greenland, increases the number of suicides. Eek!

Image credit: scott92116

Constant Daylight Leads to Insomnia, Suicide

New research in the journal BMC Psychiatry claims constant sunlight may cause sleep disturbances, leading to insomnia and ultimately raising suicide risk. For the study, scientists analyzed suicides in Greenland between 1968 and 2002, finding a cluster of suicides during summer months when the days are longer. Experts speculate days of constant sunlight may cause an imbalance of brain chemicals linked to mood and when paired with lack of sleep, could be deadly; Reuters investigates.

I’d have to put tinfoil on the windows! Dr. Fuhrman told me it’s about balance. Sunlight is necessary, our bodies convert the sun’s ultraviolet rays into vitamin D, which improves bone health, but sleep is important too. When we sleep our body removes brain waste and this allows for normal function of the nervous and endocrine systems.

In related news, expectant mothers getting enough sun are more likely to have children with stronger bones and sunlight helps older people avoid depression.

 

Image credit: markbarky

Health-Points: Friday 3.20.09

  • I guess I’m going to die soon, because I’m a big dummy! New findings in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reveals an association between higher IQ and decreased mortality, i.e. death, in men. Researchers believe people with higher IQ test scores are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol and more likely to eat better and exercise; ScienceDaily reports.

Image credit: Listal.com: I.Q.

Mental Fatigue Makes Workouts Harder

Wow, new findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggest being mentally tired may cause you to become exhausted more quickly during exercise, but researchers claim your muscles and heart don’t underperform. It’s your “perceived effort” that’s dragging you down. On one day 16 participants were given a demanding 90-minute test and on another day they watched TV for 90-minutes. When put on a stationary bike 15% of subjects stopped exercising sooner when they were mentally pooped; Reuters explains.

I relate to this big time! Tell me if you do too. A year ago I exercised a ton; Yoga, running, weights and more running! But I couldn’t do it anymore, too busy. Nowadays, DiseaseProof draws major attention, so I had to step up my game, hopefully you’ve noticed. Long story short, I was leaving the gym near death. Now I’ve cut back. I still exercise 6 days a week, but for shorter intervals and no more working out twice a day. That was crazy!

Clearly, pushing yourself to mental and physical exhaustion is a dumb idea. Our bodies need sufficient rest and recovery to function properly and previous reports insist Americans are overworked and under-slept. So cut yourself a break. You probably need it.

Image credit: Happy Dave

Lack of Sleep Leads to More Colds

This is ironic. I’m both exhausted and sniffley today. A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine claims people who sleep for less than 7 hours every night may get more colds. Researchers examined healthy men and women between 2000 and 2004 and found participants who didn’t get enough sleep were more likely to develop a cold after being exposed to a cold virus, backing up previous studies suggesting sleep deprivation may impair immune system function; Newswise reports.

Crap! I better go buy some tissues. Now, not getting enough sleep is no joke. Other research has associated lack of sleep with heart problems and obesity and 40 million Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. That means there are a lot of sleepy fat people running around with bad hearts. Eek!

And another way to avoid a cold, and even the flu, is practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands.

Via Vitamin G.

Image credit: jspad