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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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What Snacks To Eat For Better Sleep

Story highlights
=> Foods that boost the production of serotonin and melatonin in the brain might benefit sleep
=> Experts weigh in on what and when to eat before bedtime

(CNN)Many people chug caffeine-packed coffee or scarf down an energy bar to wake up, but what should you eat to wind down?

More than a third of adults in the United States are not getting enough shut-eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, to make sure that your bedtime snack can be effective in promoting sleep, some experts say it should contain one essential amino acid: tryptophan.

“There is a real lack of studies that show that specific nutrients can influence sleep, either better or worse. There are a few exceptions. Tryptophan has been shown to induce sleep,” said Michael Grandner, director of the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Sleep and Health Research Program.

Tryptophan, an amino acid, might help you snooze because once it enters your body, it’s converted into two brain chemicals associated with sleep: melatonin, which helps regulate your body’s natural sleep and wake cycles, and serotonin, which causes relaxation and drowsiness.

“Tryptophan is the reason why it is widely perceived that a Thanksgiving dinner causes drowsiness, because of the tryptophan in turkey. However, other foods contain tryptophan, and some have more tryptophan than turkey,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and specialist in nutrition and preventive medicine.

Does your diet influence how well you sleep? Snacks containing high amounts of tryptophan include egg whites, soybeans, low-fat cheese, chicken and seeds, such as pumpkin or sesame, Hensrud said.

Foods rich in carbohydrates, lean in protein and low in fat also may boost the production of serotonin and melatonin, such as granola, unsweetened cereals or whole-grain crackers with milk, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Have a sweet tooth? Pineapples, oranges and bananas also may be linked to increased melatonin levels, according to a small study published in the Journal of Pineal Research in 2012.

On the other hand, eating foods low in fiber but high in saturated fat and sugar is associated with a lower quality of sleep, such as having difficulty falling asleep or not spending as much time during your sleep cycle in a deep sleep. That’s according to a small study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Spicy foods and caffeine before bedtime are also associated with impaired sleep – and not only what you eat but when you eat can play a role in how well you snooze. One small study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013 suggests that you should refrain from consuming caffeine within six hours of bedtime.

The CDC recommends avoiding large meals too close bedtime. Grandner said people can eat a big meal about four or five hours beforehand.

And what about late-night snacks? “It’s never too late to eat a small snack,” he said. “I might have a small snack about an hour before going to bed, but many nights, I don’t.”

People with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, should be careful not to lie down within three hours after a meal. That might trigger symptoms of reflux, which could interfere with sleep, Hensrud said.

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN      Thu May 11, 2017
source: www.cnn.com


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Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You

You’ve heard that using screens before bedtime can mess with your sleep, but new research suggests the problem is even more serious.

Reading from an iPad before bed not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also impacts how sleepy and alert you are the next day, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, said the findings could impact anyone who uses an eReader, laptop, smartphone, or certain TVs before bed.

The new research supports conclusions from older studies, which have also found that screen time before sleep can be detrimental.

“We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels,” Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, an associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders who was a co-author on the study, told The Huffington Post via email. “This study shows comprehensive results of a direct comparison between reading with a light-emitting device and reading a printed book and the consequences on sleep.”

If you don’t want to feel like a zombie during the day, the findings are clear: Read an actual, printed book if you must stimulate your mind before bed, and avoid screens like your life depends on it, because it actually might. Chang said that sleep deficiency – not getting enough sleep or obtaining poor quality sleep – has been linked to other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic suppression of melatonin has also been associated with increased risk of certain cancers, she said.

Needless to say, sleep has its own innate benefits, so cutting it short is a bad idea anyway.

phone-bed

The study ran for two weeks and included 12 participants who read on an iPad for four hours before bed for five days straight, a process that was repeated with printed books. For some, the order was reversed: They started with printed books and moved to iPads.

iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.

The real-world effects may be even worse than what researchers observed over the course of their study, however. Chang told HuffPost that because iPad users were found to be more alert, people who look at screens before bed may stay up later than the study participants were allowed to, wrecking their sleep even more.

If you absolutely, positively must be on your tablet, phone, or computer before bed for whatever reason, there may be a way to make it safer. Try a filter that blocks blue light – there’s an app for Android that produces this effect, though you’ll have to purchase a physical filter for your iOS device. Try F.lux if you’re using a computer. Research has shown that blue light makes you more alert and suppresses your melatonin, thus hurting your quality of sleep.

“The best recommendation (although not the most popular) would be to avoid use of light-emitting screens before bedtime,” Dr. Chang told HuffPost. “For those who must use computers or other light-emitting devices in the evening, software or other technology that filters out the blue light may help.”

 

By Damon Beres       12/23/2014
 


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Foods That Help Increase Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland situated in your brain. This chemical offers so many benefits, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that melatonin protects the heart from damage. It’s also proven to help ward off cancer.

However, the most popular role played by melatonin is the regulation of the circadian rhythm — your body clock. Individuals lacking in melatonin often find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is something that you will find on various internet articles pertaining to how to combat insomnia.

Because of the ability of melatonin to combat sleep deprivation, so many pharmaceutical companies offer the said hormone in supplement form. The downside to taking melatonin supplements is every capsule or tablet usually contains synthetic ingredients. Their intake can actually do more harm than good in the long run because of the man-made chemicals in them.

Fortunately, there are a handful of ways of naturally boosting the amount of melatonin your pineal gland produces and secretes. With increased levels of the chemical in the bloodstream, getting to dreamland won’t be a problem. Including certain foods known to have melatonin-boosting properties can help your body produce sufficient amounts of melatonin so that you may take advantage of all the benefits the chemical offers. Here they are:

Pineapples

Among all your fruit options, experts agree that pineapples are the best in enhancing melanin production. Snack on them if you want to bid insomnia farewell. However, it’s a good idea to consume pineapples in moderation most especially at night in order to avoid acid reflux. Another nice thing about these tropical fruits is they are packed with vitamin C which helps strengthen your immune system.

melatonin benefits

Cherries

When going though online listings of naturally regulating your circadian rhythm, it’s for certain that you will find cherries in majority of them. This doesn’t come as a surprise because cherries, in particular the tart varieties, are known to help promote melatonin production. Aside from this, cherries have anti-inflammatory properties. Their consumption may help suppress chronic inflammation that’s associated with various problems, from obesity to cancer.

Bananas

Available all year round and practically everywhere, bananas help promote the production of more melanin. It’s true that consuming these elongated fruits allows you to gain energy. However, snacking on them before you hit the sack can keep you from ending up sleepless. Experts say that bananas are also good sources of tryptophan, a kind of amino acid that helps calm down your mind and promote sleep.

Oranges

Drinking a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice is a thirst-quenching way to boost the amount of melanin your pineal gland produces. Including oranges in your diet also allows you to enjoy stronger bones and teeth due to their calcium content. As you may already know, oranges are excellent sources of vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is essential not only for a bolstered immunity, but also young-looking and healthy skin.

Tomatoes

Whether added to salads, turned into sauces or in taken in juice forms, tomatoes help your body produce sufficient amounts of melatonin to ward off insomnia. What’s so nice about tomatoes is they are excellent sources of a cancer-fighting antioxidant called lycopene. Tomatoes also supply your body with energy-boosting vitamin B6 and immune-strengthening vitamin C. In addition, they contain potassium which is good for the heart.

Oatmeal

Fiber in oatmeal makes this breakfast staple very good not only for your gut but also heart. Fiber sweeps out cholesterol as well as impurities along the intestinal tract. Did you know that a serving of oatmeal is also good for someone battling insomnia because it helps boost the production of melatonin naturally? Topping oatmeal with slices of fruits or a handful of nuts or seeds helps increase its health-giving benefits.

Posted by: Natasha Edwards   November 10, 2015