Here are a couple of good studies I’ve recently run into, both of which made me stop, reflect, and lay down – just a few minutes earlier than usual. It’s a good start, right?
Study 1 – Sleep Loss Linked To Muscle Loss
Ideally, when you lose weight, the goal is to lose pure fat while maintaining (or for some, gaining) lean muscle, right?
While it is nothing new that sleep habits are linked to body weight, a recent study by the University of Chicago reveals a fresh connection between the two.
They have shown that, while dieting, sleep deprivation can actually lead to a loss of muscle mass.
Their study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, followed the sleep patterns of 10 overweight men and 10 overweight women, and took place in the controlled and observable setting of a sleep lab.
The study took place over two separate two-week periods.
All of the participants were kept on the same reduced calorie diet for each of the two week periods.
During the first two week period, the participants were required to sleep for 8.5 hours per night, which sounds pretty nice to me!
For the second two week period, the participants slept only 5.5 hours per night – and remember the participants’ diets stayed the same during both weeks.
The Results – Sleep Protects Muscle
Senior researcher, Dr. Plamen Penev, reported that during each two week period, about 7 pounds were lost, on average, by all of the participants.
However, Dr. Penev notes that “the composition was different,” of the pounds lost during each period.
To clarify, when study participants got 8.5 hours of sleep, more than fifty percent of the weight lost was from pure fat. This is what we want when looking for successful weight loss!
When participants slept only 5.5 hours, it was discovered that only one quarter of the weight came from fat – and what is most telling, 55% of the loss was from lean tissue.
Lean tissue is muscle and other non-fatty tissue! This is not what we want to lose!
Real World Application
Dr. Penev and his team also reported that during the 5.5 hours per night sleep period, the participants reported being hungry more often – even though the participants stayed on the same diet during both trials.
So, what does this mean in the real world?
Odds are fairly good that if the participants had not been in a controlled environment, they may have decided to eat something not on their diet plan and would have less of a chance to lose weight.
One thing this study does not address is the duration of the “perfect night’s sleep” that each person needs for their nightly rest to also aid in weight loss.
The researchers could not make a universal claim because everyone’s requirements are different, says the study’s co-author, Dr. Shahrad Taheri.
In conclusion, this study adds to the research on sleep habits and weight loss, and suggests that if you’re trying to lose weight by reducing calories alone, you should pair your diet with a full night’s sleep to ensure you’re losing pure fat and not muscle.
(Also – one thing I thought of that is not mentioned…exercise wasn’t a factor here – I bet that by adding that to the mix, the results could be totally different, but that is for another article.)
The Take Home
The researchers leave us with some lasting advice, regardless if we are trying to lose weight or not.
They suggest we all take the time to learn the unique rhythms of our own bodies. Notice how “refreshed” you feel when you wake up from a solid night of sleep –for some it may be 8 hours and for others only 6 to 7 hours.
Allow yourself to sleep in and find out! Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to participate in that experiment?
Study 2 – Turn Off the Night Light
I emailed a few of you about this already, but I wanted to share again…an article just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that you may gain weight just by sleeping with a dim light on, like the glow from a night light.
Researchers discovered that mice exposed to dim light during their sleeping hours gained 50% more weight than mice sleeping in total darkness.
To test the significance of the light in relation to other factors, the researchers went ahead and reduced the calorie intake of the mice sleeping with the dim light on, and they added also more exercise to their routine.
Even with this intervention, they still gained more weight than the mice sleeping in total darkness – pretty crazy stuff.
The authors of this study, from the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychology at Ohio State University and the Israeli Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Chronobiology at the University of Haifa, also found that the mice not sleeping in total darkness experienced glucose intolerance (a pre-diabetic condition).
It is too early to tell if this study will translate in the exact same way to humans.
However, common sleep help advice suggests you stop using anything with an artificial glow – like watching television or playing on your laptop or cellphone – a couple hours before you go to bed.
So, if that is true, and this study is true for animals, I would assume that there has got to be a relationship between sleeping in dim lights for humans, too.
Starting tonight, I’m going to un-plug my Mickey Mouse night light and I am going to try to turn in – in complete darkness – at a consistent time every night…wish me luck.
PS – If you’re interested in reading more on this important health issue, check out our past article: http://exploringthemind.com/the-mind/secrets-of-sleep-revealed on shift-work disorder and the health issues for those who lose sleep when switching late night work shifts.
Sources: Nedeltcheva, Artlet V., et all. “Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity.” Annals of Internal Medicine. October 2010. Vol. 153, no. 7: 435-441.
Bedrosian, T.A., Fonken, L.K., Walton, J.C., Haim, A., & Nelson, R.J. “Dim Light at Night Provokes Depression-like Behaviors and Reduces CA1 Dendritic Spine Density in Female Hamsters.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. October 2010. Published Online.
A female friend forwarded this to me…and although it was written for a female audience, the information was too accurate – for all genders – for me not to share.
In this month’s Glamour magazine (a good lesson to not judge a book by its cover!), Dr. Julie Holland suggests we take a page out of the book from our caveman and cavewomen ancestors in order to be our healthiest and happiest selves. She suggests that we have ‘primal needs’ that get ignored in favor of prescription medicines, social media, and unnatural ingredients in foods.
So, Dr. Holland suggests 9 helpful ways to live like the cavemen did…and you may discover your healthiest self yet.
Here are her tips:
1. Don’t Forget To Move!
Cavemen and women were quite active – from hunting, gathering, preparing meals, carrying water, to building shelters, and more. Since we do not have to manually prepare for our own survival in the same way, we’ve gotten too comfortable.
So many of us claim to be too tired and too busy to go to the gym, but really, some form of cardio – every day – is necessary. If you can’t hit the gym, take a walk around your office building at lunch, park your car further away from the store, or find a friend to help motivate you.
2. Fluorescent Lights Don’t Count as Sun Light
Once in a while, leave the office and soak up some sun. Vitamin D is produced naturally when you’re in real sun light – and without enough of it, you can become the victim of depression, headaches, chronic pain, and for women, PMS symptoms may also be stronger (and more uncomfortable).
We have covered the necessity of taking a 5 minute break outside before, and the good doctor just reaffirms this again. If you can’t make it outside daily, bring a plant into your window-less office to mimic the benefits.
Our cave-people ancestors lived every moment of their lives outside, and we, like the cavemen, thrive outdoors.
In short: go outside.
3. Eat Naturally
The best things for us to eat are the things that grow naturally – fruits, vegetables, and nuts. This is a given. Anything processed, fried, dyed, or made with artificial ingredients is simply that – artificial – and not good for any part of you.
Dr. Holland has a mantra called the “junk-in, junk-out” analogy, which states that if you put bad fuel in your engine, it won’t run well. Makes sense to me!
While we are talking about food, make sure to drink plenty of water. You know this drill too – but it never hurts to repeat it. Avoid beverages that can actually dehydrate your further, like juice and yes, even diet soda.
4. Danger: Avoid “Sex Drive Predators”
Dr. Holland notes that in her private practice in New York, clients complain that they want to have sex, but the desire is gone.
There are more than a few triggers that can lower our sex drives… including lack of sleep, too much stress, anxiety, and, get this…possibly the biggest culprit to strip our desire to strip? Prescription pills.
For women, birth control pills often lead to lower desire for women. The Pill (and the shot, and others) lower testosterone in the body, which lowers desire.
For both sexes, taking anti-depressants also lowers the sex drive. And, for a double whammy, there are plenty of women who take The Pill and an anti-depressant. No wonder the desire has departed!
In general, some prescription drugs are necessary, but many do interfere with other bodily processes, so check to make sure you’re only taking pills you need.
5. Bad Moods Are OK
It is perfectly normal to have a bad day, or hell, even a bad week. And a blah mood that matches your bad day is normal, too.
For men and women, some bad moods may be hormonal, so you simply must accept the good with the bad.
If the bad tends to outweigh the good considerably, see your Doctor. Don’t change or stop taking medications without seeing your Doctor, either. Lastly, be wary of side effects (see # 4).
6. Schedule Face Time
With more social media networks than one can imagine (or stalk their exes on), we often forget to schedule time to see one another in person.
Although we are still “connected” to one another virtually, Dr. Holland reminds us that mankind is a social creature by nature…our “primal needs” include the touch of another person, and eye contact, among other bonding elements. Without planning some mandatory face to face time with those we love, we lose out on a lot, including sharpening our social skills.
Make sure to see your friends and family in person, not only through your Skype screen, at least once in a while.
7. Sleep Enough
Sleeping long enough, and well enough, is just as important for us as it was for our cave-dwelling kin. When we are overtired, we tend to reach for sugar foods or drinks loaded up with caffeine (or both, thank you, Red Bull) to get us through the day.
But in the long run, this may do more harm than good. Drinking caffeinated beverages all day keeps us awake later at night, which makes it harder to fall asleep. It can be a vicious cycle!
Dr. Holland suggests that in order to get a good night’s sleep, stop consuming caffeine after noon. That way your body has long enough to metabolize the caffeine you’re giving to it.
Also, turn off your electronic devices at least a full hour before you turn in. Bright lights from your electronics reduce the natural amount of melatonin you produce, which is a hormone that is necessary for a quality sleep cycle.
8. Schedule Some R&R
This relates back to #2. Unplug and go outside! Take the time to sit still, even for a few moments, with no distractions, and to just reflect.
If we just run and run and forget to stop, we neglect our health! We are more likely to remain indoors, to eat poorly, and to stay plugged in at all times, which pretty much covers this list.
Dr. Holland suggests spending your You-Time outdoors for maximum benefit.
9. Have Fun!
Yes, you should have fun, but your party time should not involve binge drinking or excessive drug use. Dr. Holland defines “binge-drinking” as having more than 4 drinks in a single setting – and this could be a huge reality check for some of us!
As far as drug use goes, Dr. Holland said it best already, so it is best to let her do so here:
“In some ancient groups, altered states enhanced communal rituals and gatherings. They were infused with meaning and spirituality. We should emulate that approach, rather than use substances to numb ourselves, zone out, and escape.”
Right. So, you can drink in moderation, but you need to consume your drinks slowly, and always remember how many you’ve had. (If you can’t remember, the answer is automatically “too many!”).
In conclusion, there is a lot to take away from this information. You do not immediately have to switch your entire life around and live according to the caveman ways, but there is a lot here that can help you to have an enjoyable, productive, and healthy life. Enjoy!
Source: Holland, Julie, M.D. “The Cavewoman’s Guide to Good Health.” Glamour Magazine. October 2010.
New research presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies* exposed alarming information for insomniacs.
Results of the study indicated that individuals with chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of death. In fact, people with insomnia have a “hazard ratio” for all types of mortality that is over three times as high as people without insomnia.
According to lead author, Laurel Finn, “The most surprising result was the increased high risk for mortality among individuals with chronic insomnia versus those without insomnia, even after adjustment for all of the potential confounding variables.”
So, if you have chronic insomnia, this is something you are going to want to take care of right away.
Treating Chronic Insomnia
Some proven strategies to help beat insomnia include:
- Good sleeping habits.
- Go to bed only when sleepy.
- Sleep only in the bedroom.
- If still awake after 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return when sleepy.
- Get up at the same time each morning regardless of the amount of sleep during the night.
- Discontinue caffeine and nicotine in the evening (if not completely).
- Establish a daily exercise program.
- Avoid alcohol because it may disrupt continuity of sleep.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
Hypnosis and Insomnia – The Not-So-Good News…
Surprisingly, although hypnosis in practice seems to help people with sleep issues – we have not been able to create a program that gets the results we require in order to sell a program. Believe me: we have created a bunch by some prominent psychologists! We just can’t sell them because they do not meet our standards. We have also evaluated competitive hypnosis products and found them lacking as well.
On a positive note, we have found a home use program that is getting great results that does NOT involve hypnosis. We are almost done with the evaluation, and when it is done I will share it with you, so stay tuned.
Please comment here if you are interested in such a solution.
*The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Aging; and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.