#312 Sleepy Time

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The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.

George Carlin

7 Myths About Sleep

By Joe Wilkes

A couple of weeks ago, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies concluded its annual meeting in Baltimore. Many new theories about the health costs and benefits of a good or bad night's sleep were advanced, following on the heels of numerous sleep studies since the last time we talked about the effects of sleep on our health. Some of the results were quite a wake-up call. Although as it turns out, in many cases, a wake-up call is the last thing many of us need. Read on to learn about the latest findings in sleep research.

Sleeping at Work and Sleeping at Home

1. You should get 8 hours of sleep every night. The latest studies show that mortality rates were lowest among those who slept between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night. People who slept much more or less had more health problems across the board. It was hard to tell why people who slept more had poorer health. There may have been a chicken-and-egg scenario where they may have slept more because they suffered from depression, alcoholism, or other debilitating mental illnesses that caused them to spend more time in bed. On the other hand, the people who didn't get enough sleep were prone to their own health problems, including problems resulting from stress and lack of concentration, alertness, and physical ability—not to mention falling asleep at the wheel.

2. You should keep the same bedtime every night.Hot Bath While it's preferable to keep a consistent routine and sleep schedule, it's not always possible. Experts now say that if you're a little more stressed out or anxious or just not tired, you're better off staying up than hitting the sack. Our bodies are the best gauge of when we need some shut-eye. Insomniacs often trap themselves into a cycle of anxiety wherein they can't get to sleep for fear of not being able to fall asleep. Instead of forcing yourself into bed at an arbitrary time when you're not tired, spend a little time doing a relaxing activity—reading, listening to music, meditating, taking a hot bath—and then go to bed when you feel like you're ready to lie down and close your eyes. Studies have shown that you're as likely to fall asleep then as when you force yourself to adhere to a self-imposed bedtime—you'll just enjoy the process of relaxing more and will sleep better.

3. Burning the midnight oil is more productive. Haven't we all pulled an all-nighter? It's a grand tradition that many feel provides its own inspiration. I know that I'm a self-avowed night owl, and you could never convince me that I could get more done in the morning than in the late hours of the night. But a study from the University of North Texas discovered that undergraduate students who were "morning" people had much higher grade point averages than their nocturnal counterparts. The night owls had significantly impaired concentration during the day and poorer memory. So apparently, "early to bed, early to rise" does "make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" . . . or at least wise. The jury's still out on the others.

4. Exercising before bed will keep you awake.Aerobics A Brazilian study showed that while heavy aerobic exercises and anaerobic/strength training exercises had little to poor effect on sleep patterns, light to moderate aerobic exercise, like a relaxing walk or a medium aerobic workout, actually helped people sleep better. The old saw about jumping around to "get the blood moving" actually proves to work the opposite way. People who engaged in a bit of light exercise before bed fell asleep more quickly and stayed asleep longer than the more sedentary members of the test group. A UCLA study also found that in older adults (59 to 86 years old), a regular tai chi regimen (regardless of when it was practiced) seemed to provide better sleep schedules and fewer sleep disturbances compared to doing nothing.

5. Sleep is the fountain of youth. That may be a stretch, but a University of Chicago study has shown a strong correlation between lack of deep sleep and physical decline as we age. They studied the level of human growth hormone production in study participants, and found that the people who slept longer in a state of deep sleep produced significantly more of the hormone, which contributes to muscle maintenance and lower body fat. When the participants' sleep was purposely disturbed by the scientists, they produced much less of the hormone. So both the quantity and the quality of the sleep was found to be important in the production of this antiaging hormone. Just think, if all those baseball players had gotten more good nights' sleep, we wouldn't be having Congressional hearings.

6. Insomniacs are more productive.Sleep Aids A study from the Tufts New England Medical Centre in Boston found that in the four companies (airline, manufacturer, pharmaceutical company, and law firm) with a little over 4,000 total employees, the loss of productivity due to sleep issues added up to about $54 million. Much of these costs were attributed to prescriptions for sleep aids, sleep-related disorders like depression, and safety-related costs due to people falling asleep on the job. The rest had to do with general productivity loss. The study estimated the cost of insomnia as 2-1/2 weeks of productivity annually for every worker.

7. Spicy food gives you weird dreams. This actually may be true. A team of researchers from Australia found that participants who ate spicy meals before bed took longer to get to sleep and didn't sleep as long or as deeply as those who ate blander dishes. Some of the evidence is attributed to the obvious indigestion that can occur, but the slight elevation in body temperature caused by the zesty food was linked to poor sleep in previous studies. No real results as to the weird dreams or nightmares of the participants, but suffice it to say, spicy food doesn't equal sweet dreams or at least not good sleep.

Related Articles
"10 Tips for Restful Sleep"
"Food for Thought (Literally)"
"5 Ways to Stay Young"

Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, June 26th at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Beachbody News Roundup

By Steve Edwards

Welcome to the Beachbody News Roundup, where we sit in front of our computers for hours on end seeking out the latest fitness and nutrition news so you don't have to!

Last month, we cited a number of studies showing how important exercise is when it comes to your health and longevity. This month, we're reminded that recovering from that exercise, as well as everything in your stressful lifestyle, is just as vital. Sleep was the headline of five different studies this month! (See the above article.) And you can bet that none of them encouraged that you get less rest. Before we get to that, let's start with something encouraging—finally!—about the obesity epidemic.

Overweight Kids

  1. Kids getting fitter? We may have finally turned the corner on the obesity epidemic. It looks as though all this yappin' everyone is doing (well, us anyway) is finally getting through. A study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that the percentage of American children who are obese has leveled off after increasing each year over the last 25 years.

    Even so, across the board, experts warned that it was premature to celebrate.

    "That is a first encouraging finding in what has been unremittingly bad news," said Dr. David Ludwig, director of an obesity clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, to the Associated Press (AP). "But it's too soon to know if this really means we're beginning to make meaningful inroads into this epidemic. It may simply be a statistical fluke."

    HeartAccording to the study, roughly 32 percent of children were overweight but not obese, 16 percent were obese, and 11 percent were extremely obese. Those levels held steady since 2005–06 after rising without interruption since 1980. CDC data reported last year showed that obesity rates for men also held steady from 2003–04 to 2005–06, at about 33 percent after two decades of increasing. The rate for women, 35 percent, remained at a plateau reached in 2003–04. "Without a substantial decline in prevalence, the full impact of the childhood epidemic will continue to mount in coming years," warned Ludwig. That is because it can take many years for obesity-related complications to translate into life-threatening events, including heart attacks and kidney failure. Dr. Reginald Washington, a children's heart specialist in Denver and member of an American Academy of Pediatrics obesity committee, summed up the situation to the AP, saying, "We still have a long way to go."

    Source: Tanner, L. "Heart Disease Study hints obesity epidemic among US children has peaked." AP News Wire. May 28, 2008. JAMA: http://jama.ama-assn.org; CDC: http://www.cdc.gov.

  2. Big BreakfastBreakfast is back! The "most important meal of the day" is back, according to Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, of the Hospital de Clinicas in Caracas, Venezuela. She conducted a study showing that those on a "big breakfast" diet lost weight better than those on a low-carb diet.

    In the study, two groups ate low-calorie diets and lost similar amounts of weight during the initial phase. However, the low-carb group participants gained most of their weight back over time, whereas those who at a large breakfast continued to lose weight.

    And according to Jakubowicz, women who ate a big breakfast reported feeling less hungry, especially before lunch, and having fewer cravings for carbs than women on the low-carb diet. It's important to note that the "big breakfast" was highly nutritious, well balanced, and not "big" by most people's standards, around 600 calories—about half the daily caloric consumption of each participant.

    Source: "Big, Well-Balanced Breakfast Aids Weight Loss." Reuters. June 20, 2008.

  3. Freshman 5Fresh news for freshmen. The good news is that the "Freshman 15" is actually the "Freshman 5," according to a study released by the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The bad news is that those who do gain weight during their freshman year tend to follow this road to obesity.

    "It's still alarming because that happened over six to seven months," Dr. Janis A. Randall Simpson told Reuters Health. "If young women going to university continue to put on weight at that rate it could be very problematic."

    The most interesting aspect to the study was that these women tended to neither overeat nor drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Most of the weight gain seemed to come from reducing their amount of physical activity. Simpson suggested that this may be because most girls play a sport or participate in PE in high school, while in college, they may spend this extra time studying.

    Source: Harding, A. "Freshman 5 may put young women on road to obesity." Reuters. June 16, 2008.

Related Articles
"9 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids"
"5 Ways to Bring Back Breakfast"
"10 Ways to Avoid the Freshman 15"

Got something to say? Chat with the author and other readers this Thursday, June 26th at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Test Your Sleep IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. Sleepy ManHow many minutes does it take the average person to fall asleep? Seven minutes. People who fall asleep in less than 5 minutes are more likely to be sleep-deprived. Ideally, a person should fall asleep in about 10 to 15 minutes. This means they are sleepy, but not exhausted, and are less likely to be groggy upon waking the next day.

  2. How many dreams does the average person experience each night? The average person experiences about five dreams a night, ranging in length from 10 to 45 minutes, with dreams generally lasting longer as the night progresses. Non-REM dreams are generally repetitive and dull, while REM dreams have the crazier, more vivid plots.

  3. Asleep on a Chair Who is more prone to insomnia—women or men? Women are 20 to 50 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia than men.

  4. How long can the average human being live without sleep? The average person can only live for 10 days without sleep, as opposed to several weeks without food. The longest waking period on record is 18 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes.

  5. A Sleeping KangarooWhich country's citizens sleep the most and the least? Australians sleep the most, with 31 percent reporting more than nine hours of sleep per night. The Japanese sleep the least, with 41 percent getting less than six hours of sleep a night. Seven out of 10 of the most nocturnal nations are in Asia, but the real party animals are in Portugal, where 75 percent stay up past midnight (from Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health by Dr. Michael Breus).

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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