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Fun Fact Friday

  • It takes about 7 minutes for the average person to fall asleep.
  • A “gut feeling” is a chemical signal that your stomach creates to warn the brain of danger.
  • Fast food restaurants use yellow, red, and orange because those are the colors that stimulate hunger.
  • In the next 30 seconds, you will, on average, produce 72 million red blood cells, shed 174,000 skin cells, and have 25 thoughts.
  • Studies show those who don’t eat breakfast, or eat it only sometimes, are twice as likely to be overweight as those who eat two breakfasts.
  • It only takes 0.2 seconds to fall in love.

 

Happy Friday  🙂
 
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact


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This Simple Realisation Linked To 80% Depression Recovery

Six months later, 80% had recovered from depression, researchers found.

Rumination — thinking about the causes and consequences of depressing events — is common in depression.

However, simply realising that you don’t have to ruminate can be liberating, new research suggests.

When people learned to reduce how much they ruminated, 80% had recovered after six months (including 10 weeks of therapy).

Professor Roger Hagen, who led the research, said:

“Anxiety and depression give rise to difficult and painful negative thoughts.
Many patients have thoughts of mistakes, past failures or other negative thoughts.
Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes.”
One of the problems in depression is that people…
“…think too much, which MCT [metacognitive therapy] refers to as ‘depressive rumination’.

Rather than ruminating so much on negative thoughts, MCT helps patients to reduce negative thought processes and get them under control.”

Taking control of your thoughts is an important part of modern cognitive therapies.

Professor Hagen said:

“Instead of reacting by repeatedly ruminating and thinking ‘how do I feel now?’ you can try to encounter your thoughts with what we call ‘detached mindfulness.’

You can see your thoughts as just thoughts, and not as a reflection of reality.
Most people think that when they think a thought, it must be true.
For example, if I think that I’m stupid, this means I must be stupid.
People strongly believe that their thoughts reflect reality.”

Many patients who took part in the study were pleasantly surprised, said Professor Hagen:

“The patients come in thinking they’re going to talk about all the problems they have and get to the bottom of it, but instead we try to find out how their mind and thinking processes work.
You can’t control what you think, but you can control how you respond to what you think.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Hagen et al., 2017).

 

MARCH 19, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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What is BDNF and What Does it Do?

BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is a protein produced inside nerve cells.  The reason why it is so important to a healthy brain is because it serves as Miracle-Gro for the brain, essentially fertilizing brain cells to keep them functioning and growing, as well as propelling the growth of new neurons.

Although neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are important in helping the brain function because they carry the signals of neurons, the protein BDNF build and maintain the brain circuits which allow the signals to travel.

BDNF improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens/protects them against premature cell death.  It also binds to receptors at the synapses, to improve signal strength between neurons.

Essentially, the more BDNF in the brain, the better the brain works.  

What Happens When There’s Not Enough?

Naturally, we want more of this protein in the brain.  But what exactly happens when there is a lack of BDNF or when something prevents it from working properly? Along with impaired learning, decreased levels have been associated with a variety of neurological/mental conditions such as alzheimer’s, epilepsy, anorexia nervosa, depression, schizophrenia, and OCD.  Let’s talk about the specifics of a few of them.

Connection Between Depression and BDNF

Although researchers do not say that low levels of the protein is the cause of depression, many studies have found a connection between the two.  In the book Spark, Dr. John Ratey pointed out that a study of 30 depressed people found that every single one of them had low levels of the protein.  In a postmortem study of people who committed suicide and had depression, the researchers also found significantly decreased levels of the protein.

Even in individual without a mental illness, lower levels of the protein have been correlated with personality traits that make them less mentally resilient and more vulnerable to depression.

Again, researchers have not been able to find a single cause of depression and saying that low BDNF is the cause of depression would be irresponsible.  But it looks to be a factor.

Connection Between Anxiety and BDNF

Anxiety is fear.  Fear, to the brain, means a memory of danger.  Danger means something different to someone with a diagnosed anxiety disorder than someone without.

Here’s how anxiety works in the brain.  When confronted with real threat, there is no difference in brain scans of someone who doesn’t have anxiety disorder and someone who does.  However, the difference comes into play when it comes to everyday life, when situations are non-threatening.  A brain with anxiety cannot distinguish between a threatening situation and a nonthreatening situation, so it is always on high alert and fearful.  So to someone with an anxiety disorder, every situation is a dangerous situation.

The National Institute of of Mental Health labels anxiety a learning deficit—because the brain is unable to learn to discriminate between dangerous situations and benign situations.

Recent research has led scientists to believe that the protein is an essential ingredient in combating anxiety.  Scientists think this is due to the fact that it helps the brain learn to essentially work around the fear and create positive memories. In addition, higher levels of the protein ramps up levels of serotonin, which calms the brain down and increases the sense of safety.

Low BDNF and Impaired Learning

Since BDNF provides the infrastructure for effective learning, it follows that the lack of the protein impairs effective learning.  Additionally, people with gene mutations that robs them of the ability to produce the Miracle-Gro are more likely to have learning deficiencies.

In a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learned vocabulary words 20 percent slower when compared to people that increased BDNF levels right before learning (by exercising).

Essentially, the protein is a mechanism for the brain to learn.  It gives the synapses the tools it needs to take in information, process it, associate it, remember it, and put it in context to see the big picture.

Age as a Factor

Alike many other chemicals in the human body, aging decreases BDNF levels.  That’s why it takes us longer to learn to do complex tasks as we age.  Remember, the protein is instrumental in learning quickly and learning well.

To make matters worse, it is estimated that 1 in 3 people have a genetic mutation that makes BDNF levels fall much faster than average.

Just how fast do the levels drop when you have this genetic mutation?  A study at Stanford University sought to answer this question.  The study took 144 airplane pilots ages 40 to 69.  They had the pilots do annual flight simulator test over a few years time.  The end result? The test scores of pilots who had the genetic mutation dropped twice as fast as the scores of the pilots that did not have the mutation.

But luckily, we don’t have to live with ever-decreasing levels.  That is because we can increase them through various ways, whether we have the genetic mutation or not.

Increasing BDNF Levels

As the Miracle-Gro of the brain, the more of it we have, the better.  Although it is a relatively new discovery, scientists do know that it can be increased in several ways.

 

Exercise

Aerobic exercise increases its production.  But science thinks exercise not only increases production the protein, but it also adjusts it to optimal levels that have been programmed into our DNA through evolution.

Carl Cotman, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine, ran an experiment with rats to see if there was a difference in BDNF production between various exercise routines.  Turns out, there is.  After just two weeks, those who exercised daily produced the protein much more rapidly than those who exercised on alternating days (150 percent of baseline versus 124 of baseline).  However, after a month, there was no difference in production of BDNF between those who exercised daily and those who exercised every other day.

But the study also noted that the protein returned to baseline (non-exercise) levels just after two weeks of not exercising.  This was true for both groups.  However, it shot right back up after just two days of exercising: 139 percent for daily exercisers and 129 for alternating day exercisers.

Researchers found that exercise in old rats made the brain function (almost) just as good as young rats.

Exercising is by far the most surefire and fastest way to increase BDNF levels.  That is why it is so effective in relieving stress and symptoms of mental illnesses.  This is also why exercise allows the brain to learn so effectively.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are plentiful in fish, especially deep-water fish (salmon, tuna, cod).  They have been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, heart problems, oxidative damage, and inflammation of the neurons.  They also provide a neuroprotective layer for the brain by raising and normalizing BDNF levels.

Although some sources say that you can take omega-3 supplements, there are studies out there the question the overall efficacy of fish oil supplements.  So the best way to get your omega-3 fatty acids is to eat them.  But if you are interested in seeing how much (and if) omega-3 supplements increase BDNF levels in men, then keep up with this clinical trial, which has not been completed yet.

While there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well like nuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds, there is insufficient evidence to show that they have the same benefits as omega-3 from fish.  Omega-3 fatty acids from deep-water fish contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are essential to many of the benefits it provides.

Probiotics

In the book Brain Maker Dr. David Perlmutter recommends five strains of probiotics to increase BDNF levels in the brain.  Those are Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifodobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium longum.  Here are the common foods in which you can find each strain:

Lactobacillus plantarum: sauerkraut, pickles, brined olives, kimchi, Nigerian ogi, sourdough, fermented sausage, stockfish, and some cheeses (such as cheddar)

Lactobacillus acidophilus: yogurt, kefir, miso, and tempeh

Lactobacillus brevis: pickles, saurkraut, and beer hop

Bifodobacterium lactis: yogurt, miso, tempeh, pickled plum, pickles, kim chi, and many other forms of fermented and pickled fruits/vegetables that have not gone through the manufacturing process

Bifidobacterium longum: yogurt, milk, fermented dairy foods, saukraut, and soy-based products

Intermittent Fasting

For those that are not familiar, intermittent fasting is a form of dietary restriction in which the person goes without food for a certain amount of time (usually 12 to 24 hours).

Although the evidence is still thin, there are some studies out there that show intermittent fasting can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor.  Dietary restriction seems to stimulate the production of new neurons, increase the brain’s ability to resist aging, and restore function to the brain following injury.  More specifically, intermittent fasting appears to result in a stress response at a cellular level that stimulates neuronal plasticity and the production of certain proteins, like BDNF.

Again, more research needs to be done on the connection between intermittent fasting and brain-derived neurotrophic factor but results so far look promising.

*******

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is the foundation of all things good in the brain.  It allows the brain to work effectively and efficiently.  When there is enough Miracle-Gro in the brain and it is allowed to work efficiently, it enables the brain to create more memories, learn quicker, and operate at a higher level. When there’s a deficiency of it in the brain, it causes all kinds of cognitive and mental issues.

 


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The Most Addicting Foods on the Planet, According to Science

Chips, chocolate, cheese. There are some foods we simply can’t get enough of.
And turns out there’s good reason why we’re hooked.

Why we can’t get enough

What is it about the three Cs: Chocolate, cheese, and chips? For some reason, we can never get enough of them. But wanting to chow on a particular food is one thing, being addicted to it is another. Fact is, you can become addicted to a certain food, and you can blame your brain’s response to it. That’s because certain foods elicit a release of dopamine in the brain, which can lead to more cravings for that particular treat, especially when it comes to foods that are high in sugar, salt, and/or fat. Addictive foods are ones that hit your brain right in its pleasure center, ostensibly telling you that you need more, more, more. “When this pleasure/reward center is stimulated, the brain starts secreting dopamine and other chemicals that make us enjoy the experience even more,” says Ashvini Mashru, a registered dietitian in Malvern, Pennsylvania. “Because your brain loves the sensation caused by that dopamine release, it seeks more of it by creating cravings, that if listened to can cause a vicious cycle of addiction.”

Chocoholics take note

That bowl of M&Ms sitting on your office mate’s desk is a delicious temptation, a crunchy chocolatey treat that’s hard to resist. What we know is that chocolate is one of the most addictive foods around because it binds to the same pleasure centers in the brain as alcohol and certain drugs, according to a 2011 study conducted by Drexel University. It also boasts a nice “mouth feel,” which stimulates oxytocin production, another feel-good hormone, according to Dan DeFigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies. “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that ‘wiring,'” he says. You’ll feel less guilty munching on these next-level chocolates with added superfoods.

More cheese please

If you’ve hovered over a cheese platter and piled up the cubes, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s not just you. Cheese, which is generally high in fat and cholesterol, also contains a substance called casomorphin that binds to the opioid or feel-good receptors in the brain. “Casomorphins attach to neurotransmitters in our brains and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals, that often lead us to wanting more,” says Neal Barnard, MD, author of The Cheese Trap, adding that the average American today consumes 30 pounds more cheese per year than we did 100 years ago. “While cheese does have its health benefits, it also can be seriously addictive.” (If you’re having some wine with your cheese, here are the best pairings to try.)

Carb fix

Reach into that bowl of potato chips, tortilla chips, or pretzels over and over again, and you’ll know something is happening on the addiction front. And, while there’s no particular compound in these foods that bind to specific brain receptors to cause a euphoric, stimulating, or addictive behavior, there’s something else at play. “Simple carbohydrates are seen as ‘addictive’ because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy, says Celina Jean, a nutritionist in Austin, Texas. “This energy will quickly be used up, and then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.” These are the silent signs you’re eating too many carbs.

Oh, sweet sips

Not only do sugary sodas (also lemonade and sweet tea) provide us with very little nutrients, but one 12-ounce can contain a staggering 35 grams of sugar. Like sugary treats, soda can stimulate the release of dopamine too. Add caffeine and you’re getting a double-energy hit. “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches, and emotional distress,” says Mashru.

Pass the French fries

French fries are typically crisp, hot, and salty. This is a triple-threat that signals the tongue and the brain to eat more, Mashru says. The fat content in French fries triggers receptors in our mouths that send a signal to our brain and gut reinforcing the desire to eat more. “These little potato sticks are also a comfort food,” Mashru says. “Therefore, every time you go through the line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entrée irresistible.”

Ice cream you scream

Cravings for ice cream can be insatiable—it’s all about the sugar content and creamy texture, and researchers agree that foods like ice cream, which is basically cream and milk, stimulate the brain in the same way drugs do, inducing behaviors that resemble addiction, says Keri Glassman, RD, a dietitian in New York City. “The sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ you experience are consistent with sugar ‘dependency,'” she says. “When your body gets used to sugar, you feel out of sorts when you consume less, which causes you to eat more.” Here’s how to crack your sugar addiction.

That slice of ‘za

Whether it’s the stringy salty mozzarella cheese, the fluffy dough or the sugar in the tomato sauce, pizza ranks first in food addiction, according to a recent University of Michigan study. That’s because when you eat it, your blood sugar zip up quickly and then when it drops, you feel hungry again and want more. These are the healthier pizza crusts that won’t blow your diet.

BY LAMBETH HOCHWALD
 
source: www.rd.com


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Sleep Apnea in Children Tied to Changes in Brain

In children with a common condition that causes them to periodically stop breathing during sleep, areas of the brain involved with thinking and problem-solving appear to be smaller than in children who sleep normally, a study finds.

Researchers can’t say the brain changes actually cause problems for children at home or school, but they do say the condition, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), has been tied to behavior and cognitive problems.

“It really does seem that there is a change in the brain or that the brain is affected,” said study author Paul Macey, who is director of technology and innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing.

Macey and colleagues write in Scientific Reports that up to 5 percent of all children are affected by OSA. The condition causes the child’s airway to become blocked, which ultimately causes the brain to go without oxygen for short periods of time and may wake the child up.

Previous studies on lab animals and adults with OSA have shown changes in the brain due to nerve cells dying, they add.

For the new study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to analyze the volume of children’s gray matter, which is the outermost layer of the brain that allows for higher levels of functioning like problem solving.

They compared brain scans from 16 children with OSA and 200 children without the condition. All the youngsters were between 7 and 11 years old.

Overall, children with OSA had decreases in gray matter volume in areas of the brain important for controlling cognition and mood, compared to the other children.

Macey, who is also affiliated with the UCLA Brain Research Institute, said it’s unclear how closely changes in the brain are connected to behavior, cognition and other issues.

“We know these two things are happening, but we’re not sure how much the reduced gray matter tracks with poor scores,” he told Reuters Health.

The researchers also can’t say exactly why OSA is tied to reduce gray matter volume among children. A lack of oxygen may kill off brain cells or it may stop the brain from properly developing, for example.

Macey’s team wants to see whether treating the condition helps children get back on track with their healthy peers.

“If we did that we would know better how people recover from it or not,” he said.

Dr. Eliot Katz, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, said previous research shows treating OSA by removing tonsils and adenoids improves children’s school performance, behavior and sleep-related issues. Evidence is mixed on whether it improves cognition.

Katz, who wasn’t involved with the new study, said the previous research on problems faced by children with OSA – like behavior and cognition – is fitting nicely with the brain imaging studies.

“This is really the first large, really well controlled study that has found decrements in gray matter in children with obstructive sleep apnea,” he told Reuters Health.

He said parents should discuss symptoms of OSA with children’s healthcare providers. Those symptoms include chronic snoring and gaps in breathing while they sleep.

“Sleep complaints are often not addressed in well child care visits,” he said, or in training programs for pediatricians.

He advises parents to “take a brief phone video of the breathing pattern that’s concerning to them and show it to their pediatrician.”

Macey said daytime tiredness and mood issues can also be symptoms of OSA. Children who are overweight and obese are at higher risk for the condition.

By Andrew M. Seaman (Reuters Health) 
 
source:    bit.ly/2mY9IFX        Scientific Reports, online March 17, 2017.        www.reuters.com


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10 Ways to Find More Happiness

Happiness can be hard to feel at times

Sometimes the quest for happiness can be as confounding as Indiana Jones looking for lost treasure. Just when you think you have a clue, some giant boulder comes rolling toward you. Here are some tips to help you find some joy.

  1. Reach out to others. You may have good people in your life but have been out of touch. Picking up the phone and giving old friends a call can brighten both of your days and perhaps your lives as well.
  2. Remember that happiness is an inside job. That means that no one but you can really make you happy, even though it may not feel that way. When I see a smile on the face of someone I care about, it makes me happy, especially if I helped put it there. Maybe it is an inside job after all.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you are relying on one set of circumstances or person to make you happy, it probably won’t happen. You need to broaden your scope of friends and activities. Also, know that engaging in new adventures creates brain chemicals that add to your happiness.
  4. Trust your gut. When we go against our instincts, and it backfires, we usually feel sad. Follow your intuition and let it guide you toward people and things that will make your life just a tiny bit better. Day by day, your happiness will grow.
  5. Is meditation for you? Most books on happiness say that meditation is key, but most people don’t know even how to get started. There are classes all over the place, CDs, downloads, and websites—and you can also try just being nature. The idea is to allow you to calm yourself, so you can feel the good things that your fear and sadness are pushing away.
  6. Organize your thoughts. Many people push away happiness when they are overwhelmed. When you keep everything in your head, it can be difficult to get the perspective you need. Try making lists of the things that seem too big to manage on your own. You may find that you can do most of these things on your own and that the list isn’t as long as you thought, but if you need help, ask for it.
  7. Stay away from people who bring you down. This may sound simple, but if you are living with those people, it can be very complicated. In that case, a family therapy session could be very helpful. Many people don’t recognize that they are making life difficult for others, and in a group setting with a trained professional, they can learn to behave differently without feeling attacked.
  8. Look at the big picture. Most of the things that prevent us from feeling happy are day-to-day life issues. Once in a while, you go through something that makes the little things seem inconsequential, and this is when you need to remember that life is still going on, and whatever the issue is, it will end. Look at your life as a whole—not just the bad parts.
  9. Value your values. We all have a value system, a way we have decided to go through life, which makes us feel like a good person. When you know what works and what doesn’t, it can make your life a whole lot easier. The important thing to remember is to not lose sight of your values when life becomes a roller coaster. Keeping your values strong will help create happiness.
  10. Play more. Sometimes we get so involved in doing our lives and problem-solving that we forget to take time to have some fun. You may have to block out a day for fun in your calendar. But the important thing is to have a little joy every day to keep you going and growing.

Happiness can be hard to feel at times, so don’t think there is something wrong with you if you don’t feel it. We all go through phases, and some people are just naturally happier than others, so try to avoid comparing yourself with them. The truth is that happiness is here for you, and using the techniques above will allow you to feel more of it.

Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.        Emotional Fitness        Mar 20, 2017


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More Than a Quarter of Canadians Get Fewer Than 7 hours of sleep

Canada loses 80,000 working days a year to lack of sleep, and sleep deprivation costs the economy $21B

More than a quarter of Canadians get fewer than seven hours of sleep every day, and it’s harming their health and the economy as a whole.

According to a report published Friday by the Rand Corporation, the situation isn’t as dire in Canada as it is in some other developed economies, but it’s nonetheless a matter of public concern.

Health experts recommend that adult humans need just under eight hours of sleep every night, on average, and the consequences of not getting that on a consistent basis are far more serious than just feeling worn out.

Rand compared information from various existing peer-reviewed surveys dealing with people in the U.S., Japan, the UK, Germany and Canada, and imposed various econometric models on the result.

The eye-opening conclusion? We’re not getting nearly enough shut-eye.

Costs Canada $21B

About 20 per cent of Canadians get between six and seven hours of sleep every night. And six per cent consistently get less than six hours a night.

That may sound like a mere nuisance, but the reality is there are serious consequences for those people and the economy as a whole. “Insufficient sleep has been found to be associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including adverse performance effects at school and in the labour market,” the report said.

In the U.S, the equivalent of almost 10 million working hours are lost every year due to employees who are too tired to work as efficiently as they would normally do — or play hooky to catch up on sleep.

In Japan, the situation is about half as bad, with the total tally at 4.8 million working hours a year.

Germany and the U.K. came next, with an average of 1.65 million working hours lost every year.

Canada, meanwhile, loses about 600,000 working hours every year to lack of sleep.

The losses to the economy include not just hours of work lost, but reduced productivity, health costs, premature deaths and inability of students to learn properly and reach their full potential.

About a quarter of Canadians get less than
seven hours of sleep every night, research shows.

In Canada, even at that comparatively low level of sleep deprivation, it knocks off more than $21 billion from the economy every year, the report estimated.  That’s roughly 1.35 per cent of Canada’s GDP, and about what Canadians spent on alcohol in 2016.

It’s more than just a nuisance, too.

A lack of sleep has been linked with seven of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, malignant neoplasm, cerebrovascular disease, accidents, diabetes, septicaemia and hypertension.

And major accidents and catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Exxon Valdez spill and the space shuttle Challenger tragedy have all been linked with a lack of sleep, Rand noted.

Major causes of lack of sleep

All in all, the risk of mortality is believed to increase by about 13 per cent for someone who is consistently not getting enough sleep.

The paper summarizes a few of the known risk factors associated with lack of sleep:

  • BMI — People with a body mass index considered to be overweight or obese sleep on average between about 2.5 minutes to seven minutes less per night, on average.
  • Smoking — Smokers sleep on average five minutes less every night.
  • Gender — Men sleep on average nine minutes less than women do every night.
  • Sugary drinks — Have been associated with 3.4 minutes less sleep every night.
  • Shift work — People with irregular working hours tend to get 2.7 minutes less sleep every night.
  • Commuting — People with commutes of between 30-60 minutes each way tend to get 9.2 minutes less sleep. Those with longer commutes of more than an hour fare even worse, with 16.5 minutes less sleep.
  • Exercise — People who get less than two hours of activity per week tend to get 2.6 minutes less sleep than those who exercise.
  • Mental health — People with medium to high risk of mental-health problems sleep on average 17.2 minutes less per day than those with low risk.

Those numbers may sound small in the abstract, but they can add up. An overweight male smoker who commutes an hour each way to his shift work job would average about more than 28 minutes less sleep every day.

Over a year, that’s 173 fewer hours of sleep — or the equivalent of 21 entire nights worth.

“Sleep deprivation adversely affects individuals through negative effects on their health and well-being and is also costly for employers due to lost working time by employees, which is associated with large economic losses,” the report said, so “solving the problem of insufficient sleep represents a potential ‘win-win’ situation for individuals, employers and the wider society.”

By Pete Evans, CBC News         Mar 17, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca