Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Dark chocolate and cheese have antibacterial properties that inhibit tooth decay, according to experts.

  • Your body is actually designed to get 4 hours of sleep twice per day instead of 8 hours once.


  • Studies have found that smiling is 69% more attractive than wearing makeup.

  • Onions have been proven to lower cholesterol, reduce chances of a stroke, and reduce chances of various types of cancer.

Happy Friday!
source: @Fact


Why ‘get A Good Sleep’ Should Be Your Top New Year’s Resolution

If getting a good night’s sleep is not on your list of New Year’s resolutions, you might be setting yourself up for failure with the other goals on your list, including health-related ones, according to a sleep specialist from Ryerson University.

“If you’re having poor quality sleep it can actually interfere with some of your weight loss and weight maintenance goals,” said Colleen Carney, director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University. “It actually affects your metabolism, your ability to process insulin, and makes you hungrier and makes you feel less full when you’re eating so you’re prone to overeating.”

Not only does poor sleep affect a person’s physical health, it’s connected with mental health problems as well, said Carney, speaking on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

“Unfortunately, people suffering from insomnia are susceptible to developing depression, so it’s really important for us to understand those links,” Carney said.

Create a routine for winding down

To get 2018 off on the right foot, Carney recommends implementing a routine for winding down that begins one hour before bed.

“You want to make sure that the phone is put away because that’s the device that keeps you plugged in to problem-solving, sometimes bad news or exciting news,” Carney said. “And you want to really cease any goal-directed problem-solving that we regularly do during the day.”

Suitable replacements for looking at one’s smartphone could be any relaxing, enjoyable activity, such as taking a bath, meditating, yoga or hobbies, Carney said. If you use your phone as a wake-up alarm, turn off the notifications so you’re not tempted to pick it up.

Sleeping well makes it easier to achieve other goals such as those for
exercise and weight loss, according to a Ryerson University sleep expert.

Find your perfect sleep cycle

People vary in terms of the times when they typically get sleepy or wake naturally, Carney said. This often changes over one’s lifetime, for example, teenagers generally prefer to go to sleep later than adults, but adults can figure out their natural cycle and plan to sleep accordingly.

“If you typically get sleepy around 11 and your body would actually wake you up around six or seven, then you know that’s pretty much the sweet spot for you and this is largely genetically determined,” Carney said.

As far as how much sleep you really need, Colleen recommends looking at how much you sleep on average over a two-week period. Sleeping nine hours on a single weekend night may not mean you need nine hours of sleep every night.

“Some people are longer sleepers, but you shouldn’t be sort of picking what your longest sleep is and say ‘that’s what I’m going to go for’ because that will create insomnia over time.”

Adults can take a cue from children

While adults push their children to go to bed early and give them routines for winding down before bed, many don’t apply the same rules to themselves, Carney said.

“We know it’s good for how alert they’re going to feel during the day, their emotion regulation and how well they sleep,” Carney said. “But when we become adults we think we outgrow that and we throw all that out the window, and when we feel crappy and have trouble sleeping, we can’t understand why.

“We have to get back to basics.”

CBC News    Jan 06, 2018
source: www.cbc.ca

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This Food May Help You Sleep Better

Forget warm milk. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania says that fish may be the key to a good night’s sleep.

The paper, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, found an association between regular fish consumption and high sleep quality among Chinese schoolchildren, likely thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Largely as a result of that improved sleep, the researchers found, the children also scored higher on IQ tests.

“There’s a relationship between fish consumption and higher cognitive functioning. What what we document here is that it’s the better sleep that explains the relationship,” says Adrian Raine, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of criminology, psychiatry and psychology at Penn. “From A to B to C: From fish consumption to better sleep to higher cognitive functioning.”

The researchers asked 541 schoolchildren in China between ages 9 and 11 to describe their eating habits, including how often they ate fish. Their parents, meanwhile, were asked to answer questions about the kids’ sleep patterns. Researchers then administered IQ tests when the children turned 12.

They found links between eating fish regularly — the more, the better — and both improved sleep and higher IQ scores. But, Raine explains, it appears that many of the cognitive benefits can be traced back to bedtime. “The brain is so much more plastic early on in child development,” he says. “We might anticipate that fish consumption earlier in life may be particularly beneficial for a child’s sleep and cognitive functioning.”

While the study focused on kids, Raine says “it’s quite reasonable to imagine that these findings can also apply to adults,” citing studies that have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can alter psychological functioning in adults.

Eating fish just a few times a month may improve your brain functioning, Raine says. (Fish and omega-3s have also been shown to be good for your heart.)

“The important thing is really having a balanced diet. It needn’t be a lot,” Raine says. “Even if parents could just get fish on the table once a week, that could be enough to make a bit of a difference over at school and in long-term performance, and especially sleep.”

By JAMIE DUCHARME       December 22, 2017      TIME Health
source: time.com


Lack Of Sleep May Mess With Your Health On A Molecular Level

The impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

You no doubt have heard about the need to get a proper amount of sleep. Public health authorities continually declare we all need on average seven hours of slumber every night to be at our best. Yet while these recommendations come with a warning about the troubles stemming from a lack of sleep, when it comes to what happens inside our bodies, the details are usually few and far between.

Now, thanks to a team of Australian researchers, we have a clearer understanding of what happens at the molecular level when we disrupt these needed times of rest. The work reveals the impact goes far beyond grogginess and irritability. In many cases, sleep loss can give certain diseases the upper hand.

The team focused on the effects of what is known as the circadian rhythm. This biological phenomenon exists in all living organisms — even bacteria — and dictates when bodies should be active or at rest. The discovery was considered of such great importance the original researchers were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine.

When the circadian rhythm was discovered, it was a mystery and any connection to health was speculative at best. But by 2007, researchers began to understand how disruptions in this rhythm can lead to health problems. A new branch of sleep medicine was developed in which disorders such as jet lag and altered timing of sleep became conditions worth documenting and treating based on our wake-sleep schedules.

Yet the studies did not stop there. Secondary consequences — known as sequelae — also were investigated and showed symptoms such as weight gain and poor decision making were directly linked to a lack of proper rest. As for the Australian researchers, they focused on a different problem with a much wider scope for health. Their interest lied in inflammation, one of the most troublesome issues in health today.

Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times 

… are all affected.

The author’s investigations stems from a relatively recent finding from 2015. Researchers learned of a connection between our immunity and a small section of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, more commonly known as the SCN. At just under two millimetres in length, you might think this region would have little effect on us. Yet close to 20 years of research has revealed this tiny region seated deep in the brain is the primary regulator of the circadian rhythm. As studies have shown, the area also impacts almost all of our bodily processes.

The extent of influence on our bodily functions by the SCN is fascinating. Body temperature, blood pressure, feeding times and (not surprisingly) the feelings of wakefulness and tiredness are all affected by this little region. The 2015 study shows the immune system also responds to the calls from this region, altering how it functions during the course of a day. During the day and into the early evening, our immunity is active. Late at night and into the early morning hours, it is at rest. The balance ensures the forces maintain a proper balance and do not end up hyperactive or fatigued.

With this in mind, the Australian researchers explored the consequences to immune balance as a result of sleep deprivation. They found studies both in animals and humans revealing even a slight change in our regular circadian rhythm can lead to the development of low-level inflammation. For the authors, the rise of inflammation could worsen chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. No to mention the inflammation also leads to a poorer response to infection.

Thanks to this overview, the Australian researchers have shown at the microscopic and molecular levels why getting those seven hours of sleep is so important. They underscore the necessity of making sure people take better care of their health when faced with disruptions to the sleep cycle as a result of shift work, time zone travel and other disturbances. Perhaps most importantly, for those who cannot change their sleep schedules, the inner struggles may require us to be more observant of our behaviours.

As to how to accomplish this balance, the authors suggested treatment options focusing on inflammation as a target. While this direction will no doubt take years to achieve, there may be more natural options to improve the outlook. Proper diet and exercise can help to minimize the extent of inflammation. In addition, the use of melatonin also can provide some assistance. Then there is the potential for probiotics. While still in the early stages, we may be able to one day find a mixture designed to help us stay balanced when the world around us is being disrupted.

11/06/2017    Jason Tetro Microbiology, Health & Hygiene Expert

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Fun Fact Friday

  • Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.

  • 1 out of every 100 people are psychopaths and they look just like everybody else.


  • Dancing often increases happiness.

  • A condition called “False Awakening” occurs when you’re dreaming that you’ve woken up, but still are in deep sleep.

~ Happy Friday!~

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8 Sleep Mistakes You Can Fix Tonight

How to ditch bad habits and start prioritizing sleep today.

If you’d like to get more sleep or think there is room for improvement, try avoiding the habits you may have slipped into. 

You’ve done it every night of your life (more or less). Yet when it comes to hitting our pillow, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect for all of us.

As many as 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S. have some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to estimates from the Institutes of Medicine. More than a third of Americans reported regularly getting fewer than the seven-to-nine hours of sleep that is recommended per night for adults for good health, survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. And a 2014 survey from the National Sleep Foundation revealed that a whopping 45 percent of Americans said that poor sleep had affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.

Numbers like those make sleep experts cringe.

“Sleep coordinates brain and physical function, including hormone regulation, mood, appetite, immune function and alertness, among other things,” Ana Krieger, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells NBC News BETTER. “And optimizing our sleep can lead to an improvement in our overall health.”

“Sleep has been overlooked for many years, and we often find ourselves stealing time from sleep for work, leisure and travel,” Krieger adds.

If you’re not in the habit of prioritizing sleep (and taking steps to make sure your body is ready to get good sleep), it may feel a bit selfish, Krieger says. “But treating ourselves to a good night of sleep is a good way to start defeating this pattern.”

So what are we doing wrong? For starters, a lot of us may be guilty of these common sleep mistakes:


One of the most common mistakes people make about sleep is thinking there’s this switch that gets triggered as soon as you jump into bed that cues sleep, Krieger says. That is not how sleep works, she explains — “not even turning off your computer is that simple.”

Physiologically sleep is defined by the body’s key functions — brain wave activity, heart rate, breathing, body temperature and more — slowing down and decreasing. Those are complex processes that don’t happen instantaneously (or just because the episode you were watching on Netflix ended).

For some creating an environment that cues our body to sleep might mean reading, listening to calming music, taking a warm shower or practicing some gentle yoga stretches. Even if it’s just taking two minutes before you crawl into bed, take those two minutes to sit in the dark, do nothing, and quiet and calm your mind, Krieger suggests.

And an important part of creating that unwinding environment means NOT…


Cell phones bring the world to your fingertips wherever you go, which is great — except when you’re trying to signal to your body to shut down and power off. And the same goes for laptops, TVs, tablets and other electronics, Krieger says.

Studies show that the bright blue and white light waves radiating from these devices throw our body’s internal clock, our circadian rhythm, off kilter. Our brain likens this type of light to that from the sun, and signals to the body to stay awake by suppressing the body’s natural release of melatonin, a hormone the body produces that keep our body clock running on time.

Plus, all the information we’re absorbing, whether it’s from “just one more” episode of Law and Order, that irritating email from your coworker (you swear you’re not going to think about until you get to the office tomorrow), or your Facebook feed, stimulates the brain, Krieger says. “Now you’re engaged,” she says — which is opposite of what you want to do to create a sleep-friendly environment.

Bottom line: power down and keep it out of bed when it comes to electronics — at least 30 minutes before you turn in and ideally an hour.


Survey data suggests as many as 85 percent of Americans have at least one caffeinated beverage every day, with many of us consuming a lot more. And it’s that “lot more,” particularly of the late-afternoon variety, that can be really detrimental to our sleep, Krieger says.

Technically, caffeine is a drug. More specifically it’s a stimulant that temporarily makes us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. While it’s useful for many of us in the morning to help jumpstart the day, it can take up to six hours for the body to completely eliminate the caffeine in a cup of coffee. That means your 4 p.m. Red Bull break may be affecting your wakefulness well past dinnertime.

That said, everybody’s body is different to some extent, Krieger adds. Some people are affected by caffeine less than others. If you’re sleeping through the night (without other sleep aids) and feel well rested the following day, you shouldn’t necessarily worry about needing to change your habits, Krieger says.

While it’s useful for many of us in the morning to help jumpstart the day, it can take up to six hours for the body to completely eliminate the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

But if you are looking for ways to improve sleep, limit caffeine to the morning hours, Krieger says. (Recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are slightly more lax, recommending you should avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening.)


Alcohol can make you drowsy and may send you to sleep quickly. It’s a sedative. The problem is that that’s an artificial way of falling asleep, and your brain goes straight to deep sleep and stays there, rather than cycling through the other stages of sleep (like REM sleep, the stage of sleep during when we dream), which all play their own role in rejuvenating our bodies and minds for the next day. Plus the effect wears off later in the night, so your body will spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep later in the night, during which you’re more likely to toss and turn and wake up (and dream).

Go ahead and enjoy that cocktail during happy hour rather than too close to bedtime and stick to one or two drinks to avoid it messing with your slumber, the National Sleep Foundation recommends.


Part of the body’s process of falling asleep is decreasing its temperature. (Physiologically, that’s part of what happens during sleep!) So keeping your bedroom temperature cool just helps this happen faster, Krieger explains.

Ideally keep your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If that feels chilly, cover with a light blanket (or keep one nearby) that you can shove aside as needed, Krieger adds.


It’s kind of like skipping meals. If you skipped lunch for a week, most of us wouldn’t necessarily be able to eat five lunches on Saturday to make up those calories (at least not the nutritious quality calories our bodies need). Similarly, if you’re a poor sleeper during the week, you can’t make up those lost hours of shuteye on the weekends (or another day you’re able to sleep in), Krieger explains. “The body is very resilient. We make up just enough so that we feel better.”

That means you might feel better the day after you get a good night’s sleep, but you can’t store up sleep for the coming week. And over time, being chronically sleep deprived has been linked to increased risk of some pretty severe health problems, like weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and memory loss.


“I’ll just power through tomorrow…” Yeah right. In general we don’t have a good perception of how much sleep we need, Krieger says. Again, the body is resilient. It’s the same effect as when you go too long without eating and grab a snack or just ‘get through’ the next hour until you’re ready for a meal. “You’re body’s not going to shut down,” Krieger says. But you’re probably not feeling and/or functioning at your best.

In a similar way, your body isn’t performing at its best when you’re under-rested. And that’s even if you don’t realize it, Krieger says.

Individuals do vary in the amount of sleep they need per night, though clocking between seven and nine hours every 24 hours has been linked to the most health benefits, which is why those are the sleep recommendations for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Want to know more specifically where you fall within that range? If you are well rested overall, you should be able to wake up consistently at the same time without an alarm clock, Krieger says.


It may sound contradictory given all the well-touted sleep recommendations and guidelines that exist (not to mention the seven points above), but another important way to sleep better is just to not stress about it too much. “Sleep isn’t something you can tell your brain, ‘ok, now shut down and go to sleep,’” Krieger says. “It’s not a voluntary phenomenon.”

And the more you stress and worry about having just the right sleep routine or following the rules so exactly, the tougher it is for your body to relax, which is what initiates all the internal chemical processes in the brain and the rest of the body that initiate sleep.

The bottom line, Krieger says, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If you’re sleeping well, no need to change your routine. If you’d like to get more sleep or think there is room for improvement, try avoiding any or some bad habits you may have slipped into. And remember, listen to you and what works for your body.

by Sarah DiGiulio /  Oct.16.2017 

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Poor Sleep Associated With Higher Risk Of Chronic Pain

(Reuters Health) – People who sleep poorly may be more likely to develop a chronic pain condition and have worse physical health, a study from the UK suggests.

A general decline in both the quantity and quality of hours slept led to a two- to three-fold increase in pain problems over time, researchers found.

“Sleep and pain problems are two of the biggest health problems in today’s society,” said lead study author Esther Afolalu of the University of Warwick in Coventry.

Pain is known to interfere with sleep, she told Reuters Health by email. But the new study shows “that the impact of sleep on pain is often bigger than (the impact of) pain on sleep,” she said.

Sleep disturbances, she added, contribute to problems in the ability to process and cope with pain.

Afolalu and colleagues reviewed 16 studies involving more than 60,000 adults from 10 countries. The studies looked at how well people were sleeping at the start, and then evaluated the effects of long-term sleep changes on pain, immune function and physical health. Half the participants were tracked for at least four and a half years.

Overall, sleep reductions led to impaired responses to bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances, more inflammation, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and other biomarkers related to pain, fatigue and poor health. Newly developed insomnia doubled the risk of a chronic pain disorder and hip fracture problems, the study authors wrote in the journal Sleep Medicine.

Deterioration in sleep was also associated with worse self-reported physical functioning.

At the same time, researchers didn’t find links between increased sleep and less pain or arthritis, although they did find that improvement in sleep was associated with better physical functioning.

One limitation of the analysis is that the studies relied on participants to recall their own sleep patterns. Also, the studies didn’t all use the same tools to measure sleep quality and quantity.

Future studies should look at sleep patterns for different groups of people and how that affects health, Afolalu said. Her team is now analyzing data from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey to understand sleep, insomnia and health for people with arthritis.

Additional studies should also investigate how sleep deficiency leads to chronic pain disorders, said Dr. Monika Haack, who studies sleep, pain and inflammation at Harvard Medical School’s Human Sleep and Inflammatory Systems Lab in Boston.

Haack, who wasn’t involved with the new research, said in an email, “It is also important to identify whether there is a specific sleep pattern that is most dangerous for pain. For example, does sleep disruption (with frequent, intermittent awakening throughout the night) have a higher impact than a short but consolidated sleep?”

Haack and colleagues recently reported in the journal Pain that restricting sleep on weekdays and catching up on the weekends led to more pain. Furthermore, people who caught up on weekends had a tougher time dealing with pain than those who slept eight hours every night.

“In those already suffering from chronic pain, it is of critical importance to incorporate sleep improvement strategies,” Haack said. “And to have sleep specialists as part of the pain management team.”

SEPTEMBER 19, 2017    Carolyn Crist
SOURCE: bit.ly/2xcwb8b Sleep Medicine, online August 18, 2017.    www.reuters.com