Monthly Archives: April 2015
A green tea habit is tied to a lower risk for dementia and mild declines in thinking and memory among older people, a new Japanese study shows. The piping-hot perk doesn’t seem to apply to black tea or coffee, though, the researchers say.
In the study, they looked at the tea- and coffee-drinking habits of people older than 60. The people were grouped by how often they drank green tea: not at all, 1 to 6 days a week, or every day. (The 3 groups didn’t differ by gender, smoking status, alcohol use, or coffee drinking.)
Of the 723 starting participants, 490 completed a follow-up survey. The results showed that drinking green tea 1 to 6 days per week or every day was linked to less mental decline. People who didn’t drink it, on the other hand, scored slightly lower on a thinking and memory test. They also had fewer hobbies and years of education, and they got less exercise, all factors previously tied to worse thinking ability.
One drawback is that the researchers didn’t say how long the participants had been drinking green or black tea or coffee throughout their lives. They presented their results at the 2015 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.
Other studies suggest that all three drinks offer certain health perks. And one dementia researcher at the conference said he wouldn’t dismiss black tea or coffee from the conversation on mental decline. Knud Larsen, PhD, of Aarhus University, said coffee might help guard against Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
It seems like almost everyone is getting involved in group exercise today. On any given day in a warehouse, in a park or at the gym you can find people exercising together. There’s everything from Running Clubs, Active X, and Roller Striders to Boot Camp classes. So why exactly are so many people jumping the ‘lone wolf’ ship to work out with others in a group setting? What is the big attraction?
I’ve been involved in fitness for 25 years now and have belonged to power lifting and running clubs, but I’ve also been that solitary figure in the gym and on the road. I do feel this has given me a pretty good understanding of the appeal and the dynamics of both. Years ago I started my own outdoor fitness company, Gut Check Fitness, which recently got voted “A-List Best Boot Camp” San Diego and Competitor Magazine, “Hardest Workout.” This is where my passion lies.
Whether you join a workout group or get your own group of friends together for a workout, here are three reasons more is merrier for earning your fitness gains.
Unless you’re that rare person that can jump out of bed at 5 a.m. and hit the ground running, odds are that getting and staying motivated are difficult for you. You are not alone. The majority of the people I’ve worked with over the years have had the same problem. That’s one of the great things about the group setting. Many people who attend a class will show up exhausted from the ups and downs of everyday life. But once they join the group, they become re-energized. With a friendly fitness instructor there to light a fire under you rear, it can’t get any better.
Not only are you more motivated to get out of bed and exercise, but there’s the motivation to improve your current fitness level. If you work out with people who are faster, stronger or fitter than you, you are probably going to get in better shape. There’s an old saying that goes, “The lead dog sets the pace for the rest of the pack.” Think about it.
Remember when you were a high schooler and your mom would wake you up in the morning to go to school? She was holding you accountable. If you were anything like me, you probably wouldn’t have graduated without her wake-up calls. Thanks Mom! A workout group can do the same thing for your exercise routine. I’ve had countless clients over the years at Gut Check Fitness say, “I wouldn’t be there in the morning if I didn’t know that Kim, Ron, Nancy, etc. were going to give me a hard time for not showing up.”
The fear of group teasing gets them out of bed. Hey, it works!
Plus, there’s the friendly instructor again that keeps track of your tardiness. I take a daily roll at my classes then each week I look to see who’s been playing Harry Houdini. If I haven’t seen someone for a week or two, I’ll generally send them a friendly reminder with the threat of numerous burpees. This usually does the trick.
Human beings are social creatures. Yes, a few are hermits and recluses, but the majority of us love to be around other people. We love to laugh, joke and have fun. I feel this is one of the greatest products of a group workout setting. Nothing brings people closer quite like misery and physical suffering. If you’ve ever done a boot camp or similar class, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Many people sign up to get more fit and along the way become friends through this mutual ritual. Many become lifelong best friends. My classes not only work hard together, but they play hard together. We regularly have happy hours, wine tastings, and sports days where we do races and events together. We sincerely enjoy one another’s company. It’s truly one of the best ways to meet people like you and develop a common bond while getting into the best shape possible.
Joining a workout group can keep you motivated, hold you accountable and help you develop a sense of group camaraderie.
Finally, in a world where we’ve become so dependent on email and texting, working out with a group offers that human interaction that is slowly disappearing. We can do just about everything today virtually without ever talking to a person. That is outside of a group fitness setting. With group fitness, you have to get involved. You can try to escape to the back of the pack, but a good instructor will integrate you into the group whether you like or not. That’s why it’s called group dynamics, and that’s why technology will never replace the good ‘ol fashioned group workout. Get out of your cubicle, your car or your house and go meet other people that have a common interest just like you. You never know, you might just meet some real friends instead of the ones you find online.
Shoulders in pain? We can FIX that. Call or click to schedule a consultation with
one of our caring chiropractic practitioners today!
The shoulder is an elegant and complex piece of machinery. Its design allows us to reach and use our hands in many different positions. However, while the shoulder joint has great range of motion, it is not very stable. This makes the shoulder vulnerable to problems if any of its parts aren’t in good working order.
The rotator cuff tendons are key to the healthy functioning of the shoulder. They are subject to a lot of wear and tear, or degeneration, as we use our arms. Tearing of the rotator cuff tendons is an especially painful injury. A torn rotator cuff creates a very weak shoulder. Most of the time patients with torn rotator cuffs are in late middle age. But rotator cuffs tears can happen at any age.
This guide will help you understand
- what the rotator cuff is
- how it can become torn
- what treatments are available for a torn rotator cuff
Your chiropractic doctor’s first goal will be to help control your pain and inflammation. At first, treatments, such as electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, heat and ice, focus on easing pain and inflammation. Hands-on treatments and various types of exercises are used to improve the range of motion in your shoulder and the nearby joints and muscles. Gentle joint mobilizations and adjustments are performed to help restore normal biomechanics to the shoulder joint. This is where chiropractic manipulation has an advantage over other specialties. It is important to manipulate and stretch capsular joint restrictions during the treatment phase. Additionally, spinal manipulation to the spine can help remove any joint fixations that can inhibit normal healing and proper motion to the shoulder. Advanced muscle massage and release techniques are used to help restore normal length and elasticity to the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It can also help break down scar tissue and adhesions which in and around the joint and associated soft tissues.
Later, you will do strengthening exercises to improve the strength and control of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. Your chiropractor will help you retrain these muscles to keep the ball of the humerus in the socket. This will help your shoulder move smoothly during all of your activities.
You may need chiropractic treatments for six to eight weeks. Most patients are able to get back to their activities with full use of their arm within this amount of time.
Even if you don’t need surgery, you may need to follow a program of rehabilitation exercises set forth by your chiropractic doctor. We will create an individualized program to help you regain shoulder function. This includes tips and exercise for improving posture and shoulder alignment. It is also very important to improve the strength and coordination in the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. Your chiropractor can also evaluate your workstation or the way you use your body when you do your activities and suggest changes to avoid further problems.
What exactly is the rotator cuff, and what does it do?
The shoulder is made up of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), the humerus (upper arm bone), and the clavicle (collarbone).
The rotator cuff connects the humerus to the scapula. The rotator cuff is formed by the tendons of four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
Tendons attach muscles to bones. Muscles move the bones by pulling on the tendons. The rotator cuff helps raise and rotate the arm.
As the arm is raised, the rotator cuff also keeps the humerus tightly in the socket of the scapula. The upper part of the scapula that makes up the roof of the shoulder is called the acromion.
A bursa is located between the acromion and the rotator cuff tendons. A bursa is a lubricated sac of tissue that cuts down on the friction between two moving parts. Bursae are located all over the body where tissues must rub against each other. In this case, the bursa protects the acromion and the rotator cuff from grinding against each other.
What causes the rotator cuff to tear?
The rotator cuff tendons have areas of very low blood supply. The more blood supply a tissue has, the better and faster it can repair and maintain itself. The areas of poor blood supply in the rotator cuff make these tendons especially vulnerable to degeneration from aging.
The degeneration of aging helps explain why the rotator cuff tear is such a common injury later in life. Rotator cuff tears usually occur in areas of the tendon that had low blood supply to begin with and then were further weakened by degeneration.
This problem of degeneration may be accelerated by repeating the same types of shoulder motions. This can happen with overhand athletes, such as baseball pitchers. But even doing routine chores like cleaning windows, washing and waxing cars, or painting can cause the rotator cuff to fatigue from overuse.
Excessive force can tear weak rotator cuff tendons. This force can come from trying to catch a heavy falling object or lifting an extremely heavy object with the arm extended. The force can also be from a fall directly onto the shoulder. Sometimes injuries that tear the rotator cuff are painful, but sometimes they aren’t. Researchers estimate that up to 40 percent of people may have a mild rotator cuff tear without even knowing it.
The typical patient with a rotator cuff tear is in late middle age and has had problems with the shoulder for some time. This patient then lifts a load or suffers an injury that tears the tendon. After the injury, the patient is unable to raise the arm. However, these injuries also occur in young people. Overuse or injury at any age can cause rotator cuff tears.
What does a rotator cuff tear feel like?
Rotator cuff tears cause pain and weakness in the affected shoulder. In some cases, a rotator cuff may tear only partially. The shoulder may be painful, but you can still move the arm in a normal range of motion. In general, the larger the tear, the more weakness it causes.
In other cases, the rotator cuff tendons completely rupture. A complete tear makes it impossible to move the arm in a normal range of motion. It is usually impossible to raise the arm away from your side by yourself.
Most rotator cuff tears cause a vague pain in the shoulder area. They may also cause a “catching” sensation when you move your arm. Most people say they can’t sleep on the affected side due to the pain.
What tests will my doctor run?
Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history, your injury, and your pain. Your doctor will then do a physical examination of the shoulder. The physical exam is most helpful in diagnosing a rotator cuff tear. A complete tear is usually very obvious. If your doctor can move the arm in a normal range of motion, but you can’t move the arm yourself, you most likely have a torn rotator cuff.
X-rays won’t show tears in the rotator cuff. However, your doctor may want you to have a shoulder X-ray to see if there are bone spurs, a loss of joint space in the shoulder, or a down-sloping (hooked) acromion. These findings are associated with tears in the rotator cuff. An X-ray can also show if there are calcium deposits in the tendon that are causing your symptoms, a condition called calcific tendonitis.
Your doctor will probably also want to do an arthrogram test. An arthrogram involves injecting dye into the shoulder joint and taking several X-rays. If the dye leaks out of the shoulder joint, there is probably a tear in the rotator cuff.
Your doctor may ask you to have an MRI scan.
An MRI scan is a special imaging test that uses magnetic waves to create pictures of the shoulder in slices. The MRI scan shows tendons as well as bones. This test is painless and requires no needles or injections.
Do you drink enough water? Everyone know’s it’s healthy for you – but you might be surprised at some of the benefits of staying hydrated. Some of the most common problems that you might face because of drinking less water include constipation, eczema, cold toes and fingers, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, wrinkled and dry skin, brittle nails and hair, infections of the urinary tract, muscle pains and headaches. The problems that have been mentioned above serve as major symptoms of dehydration. The human body consists of 70% water and this water is used up in various bodily functions.
1. Relieves fatigue and increases energy
The brain is mostly composed of water and therefore drinking more water helps you in focusing, concentrating and thinking in a better way. It also helps you in being more alert along with a boost in levels of energy.
2. Promotes the pattern of weight loss
Water helps in removing the derivatives of fat and helps in bringing about a reduction in eating intake if consumed before meals. Water also reduces hunger, raises the metabolism and contains zero calories.
3. Flushes out harmful toxins
Water helps you get rid of wastes through urination and sweat and ultimately helps in reducing the risk of urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
4. Improves the complexion of the skin
It moisturizes the skin and helps in keeping it smooth, glowing and fresh. Water also helps in getting good riddance from wrinkles and works in the form of anti-aging treatment. Your skin appears jubilant and bright by the intake of extra water. If you want to have soft skin, then the best option for you is to drink water is large quantities.
5. Maintains regularity
Water plays a very important role in helping an individual digest the food that he or she takes in the best way possible. It maintains regularity and even helps in the prevention of constipation.
6. Makes you stay sharp
People who have this strong desire of being focused and upbeat, it is essential for them to drink lots of water. Brain fog can trigger dehydration and therefore drinking water is essential for people who feel forgetful and confused.
7. Prevents cancer
It has been proved through research that the intake of more water helps in the prevention of cancer in human beings. Staying hydrated can save you from the risk of contracting bladder cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.
8. Helps you in being less cranky
Dehydration can have a negative impact on your mood which will make you confused and grumpy. You can therefore try drinking extra water to be able to be happy by thinking in a clear manner.
9. Helps in alleviating joint pain
The acute pain felt in the joints can be reduced by drinking water in large amounts. Water keeps the cartilage hydrated and soft.
10. Prevents headaches
Sometimes dehydration might cause headaches and therefore drinking enough water can help in alleviating or preventing nasty headaches. There are a variety of other health related problems that can be solved effectively by the intake of enough water. It is best to have one or two glasses of fresh water as soon as you get up from bed. This will help you in staying fit and healthy. These are the top 10 reasons to drink more water.
Take a look in your cupboard. Do you have any supplements from Walgreens, GNC, Target, or Wal-mart?
If so, you may want to toss them out.
According to DNA tests completed by the New York State attorney general’s office, supplements from all four of these giant retailers proved to contain none of the ingredients they were supposed to contain.
On top of that, researchers found lots of cheap fillers, some of which may be dangerous for individuals with food allergies.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about fraud in the supplement industry. Is there any way to know for sure if what you’re buying is the real thing?
What They Found Out About Supplements in New York
Authorities from the attorney general’s office sent “cease and desist” letters to all four retailers after DNA testing revealed the pills inside the bottles contained little of what the outside labeling said they contained.
For the tests, authorities gathered sample products from various locations around New York State, and then genetically tested them five times per sample. Results showed the following:
In all four cases, the attorney general demanded that the companies stop selling the products immediately, and provide the office with information related to the manufacturing, production, previous DNA testing, distribution, and acquisition of the products.
“Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal,” he stated. “They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families—especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”
- GNC: Six popular GNC “Herbal Plus” brand supplements purchased at four different New York State locations were tested. These included ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, ginseng, garlic, Echinacea, and saw palmetto. Results found no trace of the actual herb in the gingko biloba, St. John’s wort, ginseng, or Echinacea products. They found positive results for saw palmetto in only one of the samples. Garlic was the only one that tested positive in all tests. Fillers: Tests also discovered the supplements contained DNA from rice, beans, houseplants, spruce, asparagus, wheat/grass, citrus, and primrose.
- Target: Six of Target’s own “Up and Up” brand dietary supplements, purchased at three different New York State locations, were tested. These included gingko biloba, St. John’s wort, garlic, Echinacea, saw palmetto, and valerian root. Results found no trace of the actual herb in the gingko biloba, St. John’s wort, and valerian products. Most tests did find Echinacea and saw palmetto, though not all. All tests found garlic. Fillers: Included DNA from rice, beans, houseplants, wild carrot, and pea family.
- Walgreens: Six of Walgreens’ own “Finest Nutrition” brand dietary supplements, purchased at three different New York State locations, were tested. These included gingko biloba, St. John’s wort, ginseng, garlic, Echinacea, and saw palmetto. Results showed no trace of the actual herb in all but the saw palmetto products, which tested positive for saw palmetto. Fillers: Included DNA from rice, houseplants, wheat, palm, and daisy.
- Wal-mart: Six of Wal-Mart’s own “Spring Valley” brand dietary supplements purchased from three different New York State locations were tested. These included the same products as those listed above for Walgreens. Results showed no trace of the actual herb in four of the products, and only small amounts in some samples of saw palmetto and garlic. Overall, results were deemed negative for the actual supplement material in all six products. Fillers: Included DNA from rice, houseplants, mustard, wheat, radish, garlic, a tropical root crop, wheat grass, and white pine.
This Isn’t the First Time Supplements Have Been Found Wanting
Though this was perhaps one of the most scathing reports concerning the supplement industry, it certainly isn’t the first to cast light on some of the shady goings on there.
In 2010, a Congressional investigation of herbal supplements found traces of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals in nearly all products tested.
In 2012, researchers published a comment in the Archives of Internal Medicine warning that the current lack of regulation in the industry could lead to “adverse events.”
That same year, Consumer Reports found that more than 6,300 reports of serious adverse events associated with dietary supplements were sent to the FDA between 2007 and 2012, including 115 deaths and more than 2,100 hospitalizations, 1,000 serious injuries or illnesses, and 900 emergency-room visits. Experts believe adverse events related to supplements remain underreported, and that the real numbers are much higher.
In 2012, researchers from Stony Brook University medical center tested 36 black cohosh supplements from online and chain stores, and found that a quarter of them were not black cohosh at all, but contained an ornamental plant from China (Asian Actaea).
In 2013, Canadian researchers used DNA testing on 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found many of the products contained none of what they said they did, and were filled with soybeans, wheat, and rice instead. One-third of the products contained not a trace of the item advertised on the bottle. Researchers concluded “most of the products tested were of poor quality, including considerable product substitution, contamination and use of fillers.”
A 2013 Consumer Lab report on the testing of 75 multivitamins found defects in nearly 40 percent. Among these, 12 multivitamins provided less vitamin A, vitamin C, or folate than claimed, some with less than 30 percent of the listed amounts. A range of products also contained more than the tolerable limits of niacin, vitamin A, magnesium, and/or zinc.
That same year, 72 people in 16 states developed hepatitis after consuming a tainted supplement. Three had to go through liver transplants, and one woman died.
In 2014, Dr. Pieter A. Cohen published a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine in which he noted that “more than 500 supplements have already been found to be adulterated with pharmaceuticals or pharmaceutical analogues, including new stimulants, novel anabolic steroids, unapproved antidepressants, banned weight-loss medications, and untested sildenafil analogues.” He added that previous studies had identified stimulants in widely marketed supplements, including a new analogue of methamphetamine.
The New York State attorney general also acknowledged in his cease and desist letters that previous studies conducted by the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph “and others” had already alerted the supplement industry “to the fact that it is not providing the public with authentic products without substitution, contamination or fillers,” and that it was disappointing that “the industry has failed to clean up its practices.
The Industry Says the Testing is Flawed
What’s the industry’s response? They’re questioning the method of testing, stating that DNA testing is ineffective because manufacturing processes can destroy DNA.
Genetic testing allows researchers to identify plants by looking for sequences of DNA and comparing those with others in an electronic database. It is possible for manufacturing to destroy DNA, but in this case that explanation is coming up short. Researchers did find traces of the proper ingredients in some supplements, and also found DNA from other plants (houseplants, rice, wheat and grass) that apparently were not destroyed. Why would that be?
Industry experts maintain that DNA testing alone is inadequate, and only certified botanical analyses are acceptable for determining what’s in the supplements. They add that particularly when dealing with plant extracts, DNA may be missing, since it often doesn’t make it through the extraction process.
Even Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, dismissed the attorney general’s studies as “inappropriate for validating herbal supplements,” according to CBS News. (ConsumerLab frequently reports on defects in dietary supplements using their own testing processes.)
Other critics have noted that DNA testing is insufficient as it does not detect dangerous contaminants like methamphetamine and other drugs or potentially dangerous chemicals. GNC has also responded, arguing that the DNA testing is not the best way to detect herbs in herbal supplements. Dr. Pieter Cohen, author of the 2014 perspective mentioned above pointing out the problems with supplements, actually agreed with GNC. He told the Genetic Literacy Project that he is an outspoken critic of the industry and rarely agreed with GNC, “but on this DNA barcode question I do.”
Instead, traditional testing, which involves chromatography to look for patterns in the botanical ingredient, are considered the standard when it comes to detecting herbs.
Retailers are likely to lean on this argument, particularly since the lawsuits are piling up. So far, at least six class-action lawsuits have been filed against Wal-mart, Target, GNC, and The Walgreen Co., with plaintiffs bringing counts of deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, breach of warranties, and negligence.
Meanwhile, Walgreens has stated it will remove the offending products. Wal-mart and GNC said they would respond “appropriately.” Target did not comment.
Many Americans purchase supplements under the false assumption that the FDA regulates them. But go to the FDA’s site on the matter and you see it just isn’t so.
According to the administration itself: “Dietary supplements are not approved by the government for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for making sure their products are safe, and “do not contain contaminants or impurities, and are accurately labeled.”
Studies like those above highlight how toothless the FDA is when it comes to enforcing these standards, as manufacturers are left to police themselves. It’s only when a product is found to be unsafe that the FDA can take action to remove it from the market.
Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor of Harvard Health, urged increased regulation on supplements in 2012, stating that under the terms of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), supplements can be marketed “without any evidence that they are effective or safe.” He added in his NEJM perspective: “If consumers and physicians are to have confidence that all supplements are safe, the law regulating supplements must be reformed.”
Shelly Burgess, a spokeswoman for the FDA, told the New York Times that while companies are required to meet certain standards, many were ignoring the rules, and that the administration was seeing a “very high percentage—approximately 70 percent—of firms’ noncompliance.” She added that the FDA is taking action against such violations, but others have noted that the administration’s resources are limited.
What You Can Do to Find Safe Supplements
With all this going on, what are health-conscious people to do?
After all, we all know that the best nutrients are found in food, but sometimes we want to supplements for various applications. Echinacea to ward off a cold or respiratory illness. St. John’s wort to even out mood swings. Ginseng to boost the immune system.
Though there is always a risk, taking the following seven steps will help you increase your odds of actually getting what you’re paying for.
- USP Verified: Look for this label on your product. It indicates that the product has been independently tested and found to contain the ingredients listed in the declared potency; that it does not contain harmful levels of certain contaminants like lead, mercury, pesticides, bacteria, and molds; that it will break down within a specified amount of time in the body; and that it has been made according to FDA good manufacturing practices. Find more information here.
- Location of Manufacturer: Check the label to see where the supplement comes from. Though tests on U.S. products have shown defects, those coming from other countries, including China, Mexico, and India, have been found to contain toxic ingredients and prescription drugs. Best bet: choose supplements manufactured in California, as the state has more stringent safety standards compared to other states, particularly concerning contaminants in supplements.
- Check for Tainted Supplements: The FDA keeps an updated list of tainted supplements you can check here.
- Check with ConsumerLab: ConsumerLab regularly provides independent testing of dietary supplements. When you become a member, you receive updates on test results.
- Look for the NSF Label: NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides third-party certification for dietary supplements. Find more at nsf.org.
- Choose Reputable Companies: Some companies have a good reputation for providing quality herbal supplements, based on ConsumerLab tests, traceability programs, purity tests, and USDA-certified organic standards. Mother Earth Living recommends Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs, Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems, New Chapter, and Barlean’s Organic Oils.
- Ask Questions: You can contact the manufacturer and ask key questions that should give you some idea of how they produce their products. Can they provide lot-specific certificates of analysis for every ingredient they use? Are raw materials purchased from distributors or directly from the farms that grow them? Are the products submitted to a qualified laboratory for independent quality testing?
Most people don’t get enough sleep. According to a recent survey, 42% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, while 6% get more than 9 hours a night. This means that just 52% of Americans fall within the recommended number of hours of sleep a night, with most getting too little sleep.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
It’s not possible to give an exact number of hours that you need to sleep a night because individuals vary in terms of their sleep needs. A small portion of the population, for example, has a genetic mutation that allows them to need only 6 hours of sleep a night. Given that, the National Sleep Foundation sets ranges for recommended sleep needs. To determine the recommended number of hours, a panel of scientists reviewed more than 300 studies and determined that the average adult needs between between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Here’s the breakdown by age:
Why does sleep matter?
Getting too much or too little sleep has been associated with an increased risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disorders, and obesity. Getting too little sleep has also been shown to cause a steady decline cognitive function. A new poll by Gallup also found that happiness levels closely tracked the above recommendations:
So here’s 7 research-backed ways to improve your sleep:
1. Wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day:
Your circadian rhythm, or body clock, is an internal system that regulates feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24 hour period. Your circadian rhythm also controls hormonal levels, body temperature, metabolism, and your immune system. When you wake up at erratic times, your body’s functions become misaligned with the needs of the day. So, going to bed and waking up the same time every day (including weekends!) helps keep your internal clock from getting disrupted.
2. Get Outside First Thing in the Morning:
Being exposed to light first thing in the morning also helps keep your internal clock on pace. One study monitored participants with insomnia, then exposed them to light in the morning for a week and tracked their sleep for 3 additional weeks. Half of the participants were exposed to a bright light (2500 lux) while the other half was exposed to a dim light control (100 lux). The bright light group fell asleep faster and slept for 51 more minutes on average. The bright light group also reported less insomnia, less sleep related anxiety, less daytime fatigue and improved daytime functioning. So go outside first thing in the morning. Otherwise, open the blinds and turn on the lights in the house if you can’t make it out.
3: Avoid Bright Lights at Night:
On the other side of the spectrum, you should avoid light exposure as much as possible at night. One study had participants either read a book for four hours before bed or read from an iPad. They found that reading from an iPad “prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.” So, try your best to limit your exposure to blue light 2-3 hours before going to bed.
4: Limit/ Avoid Caffeine
As most of you know, caffeine can keep you up at night. One study had participants take a 400 mg caffeine pill (about the equivalent of 32 ounces of coffee) either at bedtime, 3 hours before bedtime or 6 hours before bedtime. The researchers found that caffeine reduced sleep time when taken at bedtime, 3 hours and even 6 hours. Caffeine actually reduced total sleep time by an average of 41 minutes when taken 6 hours before bedtime. Taking caffeine 6 hours before bedtime also more than doubled the amount of time it took to fall asleep, increased wake time during sleep by 8 minutes, and reduced stage 1, stage 2 and slow wave sleep! Another study found that taking 200 mg of caffeine first thing in the morning (at 7:10 am) also impacted sleep later that night (although slightly). So if you’re having trouble sleeping, you might want to consider giving up caffeine altogether. If not, the earlier you drink caffeine the less it will impact your sleep. Don’t forget that caffeine isn’t just in coffee. Other common sources of caffeine include soda, tea, chocolate and energy drinks.
5: Limit/ Avoid Alcohol
While alcohol can help you fall asleep, a review found that it can significantly disturb the quality of your sleep and cause you to wake up more frequently during the night. Most alarmingly, it reduces total REM sleep and increases the time it takes to fall into REM sleep. Lack of REM sleep can impact concentration, motor skills, and memory. It takes roughly an hour for your body to remove a drink from your system (depending on your weight). So if you have two drinks, try and stop 2 hours before hitting the sack (but not drinking at all is better).
One study found that patients suffering from insomnia slept 1.25 hours more a night, fell asleep faster, experienced higher quality sleep, and had less depression symptoms, less sleepiness and more vitality during the day after 4 months of exercise. When it comes to timing, the meta analysis found that participants went to sleep faster and woke less in the middle of the night if exercise was done 4 to 8 hours before bedtime.
7. Turn Your Thermostat to 61 °F- 66 °F:
Your body temperature naturally declines right before you fall asleep. Turning down the thermostat can actually help your body temperature cool down and induce sleep. Studies show that the ideal temperature for sleep is between 61 °F and 66 °F (given that you’re wearing clothes and have at least one sheet). Interestingly, having a lower core body temperature has also been found to facilitate deep sleep. Some research even supports that insomnia occurs partly due to elevated core body temperature at night.
Vegetarians can certainly get enough protein (and muscle!) in their diets, especially with a little planning. Meat-abstainers and carnivores alike can sneak more protein into meals by following these easy six strategies throughout the day.
- Diversify protein sources. Meat is certainly not the only protein source out there. There’s protein to be found in nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes — and even produce! Legumes (such as peas and lentils) and beans offer a flavorful, inexpensive, and protein-rich alternative to meat. If you eat dairy, there’s a lot of protein in eggs, yogurt, and low-fat milks and cheeses. One of my favorite treats is six ounces of Greek yogurt with two tablespoons raw almonds — for a total of more than 20 grams of protein! Perhaps surprisingly, veggies and fruits can also be a source of protein: For example, one cup of cooked spinach has4.7 grams!
- Incorporate protein into side dishes. When people think protein, they often think of main dishes such as eggs, meat, or fish. But it’s possible to get a big percentage of your daily protein needs from side dishes by using beans, legumes, and grains (and even greens, as mentioned above!). In my family, we whip up a batch or two of hummus every week and regularly make black bean burgers (check out the recipes below!). Also popular at my house is quinoa, a gluten free grain loaded with fiber and about six grams of protein per serving. Use it to accompany stir fries and add it to salads for an extra dose of protein. With a little planning, it’s easy to incorporate protein into all parts of a meal.
- Use substitutes in meat-based dishes. In moderation, soy products can serve as healthy alternatives to meat. I recommend that people avoid Genetically Modified varieties (check the labeling to figure out if a product is GMO free), though the verdict is still out on whether they pose a human health risk. Genetically modified soy consumption has been shown to havenegative health effects in animal-based studies, but traditionally fermented soy products like tofu and tempeh are generally considered healthy for humans in reasonable quantities. Two of my favorite options are tempeh and seitan. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and mixed with grains like rice or barley; thanks to the grains, it has a nutty flavor and firm texture. Seitan is made from wheat protein. It’s chewy and dense and often used in dishes as mock meat. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan should all be available at most grocery stores.
- Make some protein shakes. Shakes are another good protein option, especially post-workout: Studies suggest that eating protein within 30 minutes to two hours after a workout helps repair muscles and even prevent muscle soreness. My personal favorite is whey protein (a dairy product and one of the most common protein powders available), which an effective protein source for muscle recovery. Just add whey protein to anysmoothie recipe and enjoy it as a meal replacement or snack. Don’t eat dairy? No problem. There are many dairy-free protein powders made from hemp, brown rice, and pea protein.
- Don’t overdo it on the carbs. Too often, when people give up meat they end up eating more carbohydrates and not-so-healthy snacks in order to feel full. But a diet high in simple carbohydrates (such as white bread or pasta) can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar, which leads to hunger and cravings. Don’t rely solely on simple carbs to fill you up. Instead, choose high-fiber carbohydrates (such as whole grains, vegetables, berries, and nuts) and be sure to pair them with at least some protein at each snack or meal.
If you’re thinking about switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet (or you simply want to eat less meat), know that you can do so without needing to worry about whether you’re getting enough protein. With some simple meal planning, it’s easy to get all the protein you need.
- Get sneaky. Look for recipes that can include kidney beans, chickpeas, quinoa, lentils, nuts, and/or low-fat dairy products — either as substitutions or as add-ins, even if they’re not used in the original recipe — and incorporate these ingredients whenever possible. Some other sneaky tips? Snack on foods like trail mix and sunflower seeds. Add nuts and seeds to salads, stir fries, and other dishes. One my favorite tricks is to add protein powder to morning oatmeal.
Pair it with chopped veggies for a healthy appetizer or mid-day snack.
What You’ll Need:
1 15oz can Garbanzo beans, drained
½ cup Tahini
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cumin
2 lemons, juiced
Paprika (for garnish)
Sliced veggies of your choice (peppers, carrots, celery, and cucumber are all great options!)
What To Do:
- Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Feel free to play with the amounts of garlic, salt, and cumin based on your taste buds.
- Blend until smooth.
- Scoop the mixture into a serving bowl and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika.
- Serve with veggies of your choice, and/or whole-wheat pita chips!
Recipe: Meatless Spicy Black Bean Burgers
Looking for a meatless, protein-rich food to add to your repertoire? Try out the recipe for my Spicy Black Bean Burgers! Also try my family’s favorite hummus recipe, below. And feel free to check out my other recipes here.
What You’ll Need:
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 large egg white
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced red onion
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ cup shredded pepper-jack cheese (optional)
For Serving (optional!):
4 whole wheat-buns, toasted
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
What to Do:
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the black beans, breadcrumbs, egg white, garlic, red onion, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pulse until mixture is well combined and beans are finely chopped (but not entirely smooth).
- If using, fold the pepper-jack cheese into the blended bean mixture.
- Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat.
- Form the bean and cheese mixture into four equal patties.
- Place in the hot pan, cooking for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until heated through.
- Serve alone, on a bed of lettuce, or on toasted buns and top with sliced avocado and any other veggies or condiments you like!