Teenagers need 8 and 1/2 to 9 and 1/4 hours of sleep each night to feel good and perform well at school. Continue reading
If you find yourself tossing and turning most nights, unable to fall asleep, you’re in good company. Continue reading
Melatonin supplements may help some people get to sleep sooner, particularly those with chronic sleeping problems, but don’t just buy ANY supplement. A new review says they vary significantly in strength, dosage, and cost. Continue reading
Exercise now, sleep better tonight: A study finds that 150 minutes of exercise a week significantly improves sleep quality. Continue reading
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I explain to parents how there are three keys to prevent or treat overweight or obesity in children and teens: (1) better nutrition, (2) physical exercise, and (here’s the surprise!) better sleep!
You’re lying in a hammock on a warm afternoon. You rock softly back and forth. In no time you’re … snoring. This is no real surprise—after all, we’ve all rocked our babies asleep. But researchers wanted to know how rocking works. Continue reading
In a number of past blogs I’ve discussed the association with lack of sleep and overweight and obesity. This association is found in children, teens, and adults. Now we know another reason why this occurs. Continue reading
If you or someone you love is overweight or obese, here’s some good news on a couple of other ways (other than better nutrition and exercise) you could consider to lose weight. The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” reported, “Getting a healthy amount of sleep, avoiding stress, and complying with specific elements of a weight-loss plan (such as keeping a food diary) seem to boost the odds of” losing weight.” Continue reading
HealthDay reported that “many Americans might be losing valuable shut-eye because they spend the hour before bedtime in front of the electronic glow of a television, cell phone, or computer,” according to the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America poll results released earlier this year. Continue reading
As I’ve discussed in previous blogs (see list below), most people (whether children, teens, or adults) are simply not getting enough sleep. And now a couple of studies are providing more stark proof of what we’re doing to ourselves. The Centers for Disease Control is putting new numbers on this problem. Continue reading
Well, technically this year’s DST (or what some countries call “Summertime”) begins on Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011, at 2 am. And while it may be time to “spring ahead’’ and move the clock up by one hour, that lost hour of sleep has many wishing it was “fall back’’ to bed instead. Continue reading
In my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, I made the then startling claim that childhood obesity was associated with a lack of sleep. And, in a clinical study, we showed that families who make wise nutrition choices, activity choices, AND increase the amount of sleep children get, can prevent or treat childhood obesity.
Since the publication of the book, study after study (many reviewed in this blog) have demonstrated the association between poor sleep or inadequate sleep and childhood obesity. Now, a new study suggests that sleeping in on the weekend may help children fight obesity. Here are some details from HealthDay News:
Too little sleep puts kids at risk of obesity and other health conditions, but “catch-up” sleep on weekends and holidays can mitigate the effects of weekday sleep deprivation, researchers say.
“In the United States, the sleep of our children is clearly not enough,” said lead researcher Dr. David Gozal, chair of pediatrics at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago.
Gozal’s team monitored the sleep patterns of 308 children for a week and compared their sleep patterns with their body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement that takes into account height and weight. The children, who were 4 to 10 years old, averaged eight hours of sleep a night.
“This is way lower than the recommended amount of sleep that kids should get, which is about 9.5 to 10 hours at this age,” Gozal said.
Among the children who got the recommended amount of sleep, the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems was nil, Gozal said.
“But, as the amount of sleep became shorter and the regularity of sleep became less organized, the risk for obesity increased,” he said.
“Kids who had the shortest sleep and had a more disorganized sleep schedule had more than a fourfold increase in the risk of being obese,” he noted.
These children also had increased risk for cardiovascular problems and pre-diabetes, Gozal said.
However, if these children consistently slept longer on weekends to compensate, the risk for obesity and metabolic problems was reduced to a 2.8-fold increase. “It did not normalize it. It’s still a risk but not as much as keeping your crazy short sleep schedule even during weekends,” Gozal said.
It is this combination of less sleep and irregular sleep that appears to result in metabolic problems, such as high blood sugar, Gozal said.
The report is published online Jan. 24 in advance of print publication in the journal Pediatrics.
Gozal says that other studies have shown that inadequate sleep has biological effects, including high blood sugar and cravings for sweet and high-fat foods. Insufficient sleep also makes it harder to lose weight, he said.
“All this would suggest that sleep is an important regulator of metabolism,” Gozal said. “If we abuse our sleep by not sleeping enough, then we are likely to pay the price by being heavy and being at risk for cardiovascular and all the other metabolic complications,” he said.
Children are sleeping less for various reasons, Gozal said. Busy family schedules and electronic media — cell phones, computers and TV — interfere with healthy bedtime routines. The result is that sleep suffers, he said, noting that while bedtime can be extended, we still have to get up at the same time.
“Children should follow a regular [sleep] schedule,” Gozal said. “Follow the rule of sleep and you will be happy,” he urged.
Frederick J. Zimmerman, of the department of health services at the University of California Los Angeles, said the study largely confirms earlier research that found inadequate sleep is a risk factor for obesity among children.
The new research offers a “tantalizing suggestion that sleep that is inadequate both in duration and in consistency may have adverse metabolic effects,” he added. However, it does not explain why obesity and sleep are related, Zimmerman said.
“It could be that obesity causes disturbed sleep or that inadequate sleep increases the risk of obesity. It could also be that a third factor, such as nighttime television, may lead both to obesity and to poor sleep,” he said.
Despite these uncertainties, the consensus is that parents should create an environment in which children can consistently get adequate, restful sleep, Zimmerman said.
“As difficult as it is for parents to consistently enforce early bedtimes, it may still be one of the easiest ways to promote happy, healthy children,” he added.
So, watch the clock, these experts say. The study found that parents tend to overestimate the amount of sleep their kids get, usually by 60 to 90 minutes, Gozal said.
For more information on children and sleep, visit the Nemours Foundation. Or, purchase a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. It’s on sale at my website. The hardcover is on sale for $3.99 here, and the soft cover for $1.99 here (plus shipping).
The idea of people needing “beauty sleep” has acquired some scientific backing, according to a Swedish study. People deprived of sleep for long periods appear less attractive and more unhealthy than those who are well rested, say researchers. Here are the details from the BBC:
Volunteers were photographed after eight hours sleep and again after being kept awake for 31 hours. Observers scored the sleep-deprived participants as less healthy and less attractive, the BMJ reports.
The concept of beauty sleep is well known. But, according to researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, it has lacked scientific support.
The team asked untrained observers to rate the faces of 23 young men and women who had been photographed after a normal night’s sleep and then after a night of sleep deprivation.
The photographs were standardised so that people were the same distance from the camera, wore no make-up and used the same expression.
The authors wrote in their paper published in the British Medical Journal: “Sleep deprived people are perceived as less attractive, less healthy and more tired compared with when they are well rested.”
They say the results may be useful in a medical setting, helping doctors to pick up signs of ill-health in their patients.
Commenting on the study, Derk-Jan Dijk, Professor of Sleep and Physiology at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, said the effects of sleep loss on beauty may be even more dramatic than the photographs show. He said: “The photographs were taken during the daytime when the biological clock promotes wakefulness.
“Can you imagine how sleep loss makes you look at night or early in the morning when the circadian clock (body clock) promotes sleep?”
Here are some of my other blogs on the health benefits of sleep:
- Lack of sleep linked to risky precancerous colon polyps
- Sleep-Deprived Teens Eat More Fat, Study Finds
- To Not Sleep, Perchance to Shorten Your Life
- Strategies for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
- Study Links Regular Bedtimes to Better Language, Reading, and Math Skills in Preschool Children
- Lack of sleep ‘linked to early death’
More than half of children who use electronic media before bedtime may have mood or learning problems during the day, a preliminary study of 40 young people suggests. The kids in the study, average age 14½, were all treated at the JFK Medical Center Sleep Laboratory in Edison, N.J. About 77% had trouble falling asleep; others had daytime sleepiness. Here are more details from USA Today:
And it’s no wonder: Turns out they sent an average 34 text messages or e-mails a night, according to the study, to be presented today at the meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Vancouver, British Columbia. Texts were sent anywhere from 10 minutes to four hours after bedtime.
“Across the board, all of the children admitted to using electronic media — texting, computers, video gaming — after lights out,” says co-author Peter Polos, a physician at the JFK clinic.
Kids texted an average of four people a night. Electronic media woke them up once a night, when they were texted or called by a friend.
Young people who used the most bedtime media — from cellphones to video games — were more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression and learning problems during the day.
Polos notes that the study has limitations: It can’t prove that late-night media use caused problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders. He adds that results may not represent all kids; everyone in the study came to the clinic with a problem.
HELP KIDS GET THEIR SLEEP
Parents and kids should talk to each other and find solutions together, says Kim West, a family counselor and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle, Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy. Her tips
- Make the bedroom a technology-free zone, with no TVs, cellphones, iPods, computers or video games.
- Turn off electronic devices at least half an hour before bed.
- Don’t allow kids to read or do homework in front of a computer screen so they can avoid the temptation of checking in on Facebook or answering an instant message.
Now, one caution about these data. They were presented at CHEST 2010, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Vancouver, British Columbia. Therefore, the findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
In most of my health books, I discuss the reams of studies now showing myriad benefits from consistently getting a good night’s sleep. Now, we have another health benefit from good sleep. A recent study is showing that people who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to have dangerous precancerous polyps in their colon or rectum compared to better-rested patients.
The polyps, called colorectal adenomas, progress to become cancerous tumors in about 10% of cases. As a result, they are considered to be “precancerous” polyps and a strong predictor of the disease. The findings don’t prove that lack of sleep causes these polyps to occur. The scientists note in the journal Cancer that this is the first time anyone has ever found a link between sleep duration and risk of colorectal adenomas, and the findings need to be confirmed in other studies.
Still, they say, the results indicate that people who don’t sleep much at night might have the same chance for developing colorectal cancer as other high-risk groups, such as people with a close relative who has been diagnosed with the disease or those with a diet high in red meat.
Here are more details from Reuters Health:
“Even if this is causal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get colon cancer,” said Dr. Li Li, associate director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, who headed the research team. “But if you get enough sleep it could prevent polyps, which could prevent colon cancer.”
How sleep and polyps might be connected isn’t clear, Dr. Li said. One of his hypotheses didn’t pan out in the study: a theory that poor sleep would be linked to obesity and insulin resistance (when insulin manufactured by the body becomes less effective at controlling blood sugar levels, because the cells no longer respond to it properly). Both of these problems are known to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Some evidence has shown that the sleep hormone melatonin may protect against colorectal tumors, a lead Dr. Li said he hopes to explore further.
More than 140,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and some 51,000 will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, called the study “intriguing” and worthy of additional research. However, he stressed, the findings are by no means conclusive and the average differences in sleep times observed were small. That suggests that what looks like an effect of sleep might in fact reflect some other factor the researchers were unable to measure.
“Although the authors mention that sleep may need to be considered as a risk factor,” he said, “I think there’s a lot more work that has to be done before we can endorse that position.”
Tired of counting sheep? Consider one of these remedies for the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep when you have occasional insomnia. These tips were posted on Health.com and are from RealSimple.com:
Try it: When you’re drowsy but slightly tense.
How to use it: Massage a dab of aromatherapeutic balm or oil into the back of your neck and shoulders (and inhale deeply) before you hit the sack. Certain fragrances, including lavender and lemon balm, promote snooze-inducing relaxation, says Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, in Tucson. (Try Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Night Health Bedtime Balm, which contains lavender; $25, origins.com.)
Good to know: You don’t have to stick to traditional aromatherapeutic scents — any fragrance that makes you feel good can be calming, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University, in Chicago.
2) Valerian tea
Try it: If you are getting a full night’s sleep but still feel tired in the a.m.
How to use it: Sip a brew made from the flowering plant an hour or so before bedtime. (Try the Republic of Tea Get Some Zzz’s; $10.50 for 36 bags, republicoftea.com.) Some studies have shown that valerian can help increase sleep quality (it’s packed with antioxidants, too). You may have to drink it for several nights in a row before it works, says Naiman.
Good to know: Valerian shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks at a time, since prolonged use can lead to dependency. And it can interfere with some prescription medications, including cholesterol drugs, so check with your doctor before steeping.
3) GABA-enhanced drink
Try it: When your head is racing with worries.
How to use it: Down a shot of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) right before bed. (Try Arizona P.M. Relax FastShot; $3, drinkarizona.com for stores.) “GABA, an amino acid found in your body, has been shown to quiet the mind when taken orally,” says Naiman.
Good to know: Certain foods, including brown rice, bananas, and mackerel, contain GABA. Consuming them during the day may help you sleep better at night.
4) Melatonin supplement
Try it: If you don’t feel tired until way past bedtime.
How to use it: Take a three-milligram tablet 15 to 20 minutes before bed. (Try GNC Melatonin 3; $5 for 60 tablets, gnc.com.) Your brain makes this neurohormone naturally to “tell the body that it’s time for sleep,” says Naiman. “But many people have suppressed melatonin production because they’re overexposed to light in the evening.” Naiman has been using it nightly for 20 years.
Good to know: Consult with your doctor before taking melatonin. It is not recommended for pregnant women, women trying to conceive, children, and adolescent boys (it can affect testosterone levels in maturing males).
5) Over-the-counter sleeping pill
Try it: When you’re going through a short period of sleeplessness, like during a stressful time at work.
How to use it: At bedtime, take two tablets that contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that makes you feel sleepy (research shows that an excess of histamine in the body may cause insomnia). “The less often you take these pills, the better,” says Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D., a sleep specialist in Evanston, Illinois. “You can build up a tolerance, and then they won’t work as well.” (Try Unisom SleepGels; $10 for 32 gel tabs, at drugstores.) Note: Never mix alcohol and sleeping pills.
Good to know: “The older you are, the slower you metabolize this type of drug,” says Shives. That means you may experience lingering sleepiness in the morning.
6) Prescription medication
Try it: When insomnia becomes a chronic problem.
How to use it: Work with your doctor to figure out which medication is best for you. Shives’s favorite is Rozerem (rozerem.com). It acts on the melatonin receptors in the brain that help you fall and stay asleep (other aids act only as a sedative). However, only Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Silenor (doxepin) are approved by the FDA for long-term use. Take a tablet about 30 minutes before bed.
Good to know: Finding the right medication may require trial and error: Some can make you more wired and awake. Side effects are common, says Shives, and range from the annoying (headaches, grogginess) to the serious, like unconscious nighttime binge eating and driving. Pregnant women may want to avoid these aids, even though they have not been proven to be dangerous.
Insomnia is considered chronic when it lasts most nights for a few weeks or more. This longer-term condition deserves professional attention, says Tom Roth, Ph.D., head of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you’re unsure about whether you have chronic insomnia, Roth suggests looking at it like a headache. “If it goes on day after day and nothing you do makes it go away, then you should see a doctor,” he says. “Ask yourself: Do you know the cause?”
When you turn your clocks back an hour tonight, it might be a good opportunity to think about whether you’re getting enough sleep. The switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time officially occurs at 2 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday) morning, and it moves one hour of daylight from the evening to the morning. You’ll likely appreciate the extra hour of sleep you’ll gain with the return to Standard Time, but it won’t be enough to eliminate any major sleep debt you may have accumulated due to a hectic lifestyle, experts say. Here are the details from HealthDay News:
Chronic sleep deprivation can affect attention levels, reaction time and mood, leading to decreased productivity at work, increased family stress, and potential health problems, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
“People tend to ignore the need for sleep in order to get other things done, but sleep is as important as what you eat, how much you exercise, and other healthy lifestyle practices,” Dr. Nancy A. Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center and president-elect of the AASM, said in an academy news release. “It’s important to acknowledge the role that sleep plays in our daily lives, and recognize that how we feel, think and perform is all dictated by the amount of sleep we get.”
The amount of sleep needed for good health and optimum daytime performance varies by age: preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours a night; school-age children should get 10 to 11 hours; teens must have at least nine hours; and adults should get seven to eight hours each night.
The AASM offers these tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Don’t exercise or have caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or heavy meals close to bedtime.
- It’s fine to eat a small snack before bedtime to avoid going to sleep hungry.
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
- Don’t sleep in on the weekends. That just makes it harder to wake up on Monday.
For More information, the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about sleep here.
Children in households with bedtime rules and children who get adequate sleep score higher on a range of developmental assessments, according to a research abstract that was recently presented at at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Continue reading
In a number of my health books (including 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, and God’s Design for the Highly Healthy Teen), I discuss the growing number of studies showing that a good night’s sleep (the right quantity and quality of sleep – not too much or too little) is associated with a wide range of good mental and physical health outcomes. Now comes a new study showing that getting less than six hours sleep a night can lead to an early grave. (You can find a list of my blogs on sleep at the bottom of this page)
The UK and Italian researchers say that people regularly having too little sleep were 12% more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who got an “ideal” six to eight hours. They also found an association between sleeping for more than nine hours and early death, although that much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health.
Nevertheless, those getting too much sleep (more than 9 hours per night) were 30% more likely to die over a 25-year period compared with those who got six to eight hours.
Sleep journal reports the findings, based on 1.5m people in 16 studies. The study looked at the relationship between sleep and mortality by reviewing earlier studies from the UK, US and European and East Asian countries. Premature death from all causes was linked to getting either too little or too much sleep outside of the “ideal” six to eight hours per night.
But while a lack of sleep may be a direct cause of ill health, ultimately leading to an earlier death, too much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health already, the UK and Italian researchers believe.
Professor Francesco Cappuccio, leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the UK’s University of Warwick, said: “Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work.
“On the other hand, the deterioration of our health status is often accompanied by an extension of our sleeping time.”
If the link between a lack of sleep and death is truly causal, it would equate to over 6.3 million attributable deaths in the UK in people over 16 years of age.
Prof Cappuccio said more work was needed to understand exactly why sleep seemed to be so important for good health.
Professor Jim Horne, of the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre, said other factors may be involved rather than sleep per se. “Sleep is just a litmus paper to physical and mental health. Sleep is affected by many diseases and conditions, including depression,” he said.
And getting improved sleep may not make someone better or live longer, he said. “But having less than five hours a night suggests something is probably not right. Five hours is insufficient for most people and being drowsy in the day increases your risk of having an accident if driving or operating dangerous machinery.”
You can read more about improving your sleep habits in my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy:
- You can order an autographed copy of the book here.
- Read the Table of Contents here.
- Read the Forward to the book here.
- Read the First Chapter here.
- Print a free Reader’s Study Guide for the book here.
Here are some of my blogs on sleep and sleeping:
A study is claiming that snoozing refreshes the brain’s capacity to learn. While the findings are preliminary, this new research raises the prospect that sleep, specifically a lengthy afternoon nap, prepares the brain to remember things. Think of it as similar to rebooting a computer to get it to work more smoothly.
Here are some of the details as reported by Health Day News: Want to ace that next test? Try taking a mid-afternoon siesta.
“Sleep is not just for the body. It’s very much for the brain,” said study author Matthew Walker, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Walker and colleagues divided 39 young adults into two groups. At noon, all the participants took part in a memory exercise that required them to remember faces and link them with names. Then the researchers took part in another memory exercise at 6 p.m., after 20 had napped for 100 minutes during the break.
Those who remained awake performed about 10 percent worse on the tests than those who napped, Walker said.
There’s one more twist: People’s ability to learn declines about 10 percent between noon and 6 p.m. normally, but the nappers were able to negate that decline.
The structure of the study suggests that a phase of non-dreaming sleep that the nappers went through is boosting memory, he said.
“This is further evidence that sleep plays a critical role in the processing of memories,” he said. “It provides more evidence that it’s not just important to sleep after learning, but you need it before learning to prepare the brain for laying down information.”
But it’s important to sleep long enough to give the brain an opportunity to go through various cycles of sleep, he said. Using electroencephalogram tests to track electrical activity in the brain, the researchers determined that memory-refreshing seems to occur between deep sleep and the dream state, called rapid eye movement or REM.
“The brain’s ability to soak up information is not always stable,” Walker said. “It seems as though the brain’s capacity may be a little like a sponge. It may get waterlogged with continued learning throughout the day.”
Jessica Payne, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame, said the study findings “really add to something we already know about why sleep is important.”
One message from the research, she said, is that sleep can be valuable for “students and for people who are struggling with their memory because they’re aging.”
Other recent research has suggested that sleep can help you think more creatively, have better long-term memory and preserve important memories.
The study findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science in San Diego by Matthew Walker, an assistant professor in psychology and neuroscience at the University of California at Berkeley and Jessica Payne, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame.
In my newest book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I teach people how to utilize the ten essentials that are necessary to live a happy and highly healthy life. Under The Essential of Self-Care, I’ve developed a list of what I call “The 10 Commandments of Preventive Medicine.” Here’s the second installment of this ten-part series.
More information: Continue reading
When I wrote my book, 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People, I included information on how people can make decisions that will affect the quantity and quality of their lives. Here’s a redux of a number of studies on longevity (adapted from an article from Fox News).
More Information: Continue reading
When I published in my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat, and on my SuperSized Kids Website, it shocked many parents to learn that helping their kids consistently get a good night’s sleep helps protect children from becoming obese. Now, a new study, published Monday, confirms what I have said and other studies have shown.
More Information: Continue reading