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Sleep More in Class, Teens Learn More. Surprise!

Filed in Adults, Heart Disease, Preventable Issues, Sleep, Teens, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/24/2017


Sleep Deprived Teen - brendawatson.com

Sleep. How great it is when we’ve rested well the night before. How distressing it can be when that just wasn’t the case. Over the years I’ve offered many tips and hints on how to grab those extra winks.

Recently I enjoyed reading a report in the Wall Street Journal about organized napping in high school. According to study after study, lack of sleep in adults reduces workplace efficiency, can lead to overeating, and recently was even associated with stress on the heart.

            Short-term sleep deprivation has now been shown to affect heart function. Read more here.

Babies and school age children tend to get the healthful sleep they need, largely because we adults are able to make sure that happens. Stress increases and circumstances shift as our youth enter high school. Studies show that our teenagers are the age group most seriously impacted by lack of sleep. It’s generally agree that 8.5 to 9.5 hours nightly are needed to optimize teen growth. Many of these youth fall very short of that goal and school start times have been associated.

How much sleep is enough? Find out.

Did you realize that in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement for high school to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., allowing teens to get more sleep nightly? A study of over 9,000 students was conducted that compared early and late school start times. Marked improvements in class performance as well as bettered national test scores were recorded with later arrival to school. Daily attendance improved. And here’s an unexpected stat. Car crashes by drivers 16 to 18 years old were reduced by 70% when school began later, at 8:55 as opposed to 7:35.

Inside of heightened pressure to perform for college and other activities, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believe that insufficient sleep as a teenager may be associated with weight gain, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, drug use – and subsequently, poor academic performance. I’m sure you’ll agree – falling asleep in class just doesn’t bode well for a student’s future.

            Check out the CDC report.

If you parent a teen, you may be thinking “my child’s school never read that report!” Your son or daughter’s required arrival time to class is probably around 7:30. Since institutions tend to be slow to change the way things are structured, it may be by adding napping to the high school curriculum, students may find some additional winks.

Due to increased awareness of sleep teen needs, here are some great napping programs that are cropping up in schools across the country:

  • Students with good grades get a weekly first period free so they can sleep in.
  • Quiet time for students – 20 minutes at the beginning and end of each day with closed eyes, no talking. One group is actually practicing transcendental mediation!
  • The Path Program in Boston has high-schoolers spend one period each day in a special area designed with comfy chairs and yoga balls to rest and de-stress. Counselors are available to offer guidance on good sleep habits.
  • A New Mexico pilot program purchased Restworks EnergyPods through a government grant. These pods, originally designed to afford stress relief in the workplace, seem perfect for students as well. After a 20-minute session, participants report emerging rested and refreshed.

Although most sleep professionals still feel an earlier bedtime is preferred over napping, I feel hopeful when I hear about these innovative rest programs. After all, these are the young people who will be shaping our futures. I for one would like to imagine they will be clear-minded and well-rested.

Sleep Your Way to Happy and Thin

Filed in Adults, Chronic Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Obesity, Sleep, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/11/2015


At this extremely busy time of year, it may seem like even more of a challenge to maintain your weight along with your good attitude. Could it be because you are not getting enough sleep?

Through the years I’ve blogged often on how important sleep is to your health. And it’s simply so important that I wanted to have a chat about it again.

I read an interesting article describing how metabolic syndrome, described as insulin resistance, a pro-inflammatory state, hypertension-elevated sympathetic tone, dyslipidemia, dysglycemia and obesity – is actually a survival advantage for animals in the wild during seasons of stress, like in the winter. Their physiological processes are tied to their biological clocks, which regulate all the major activities of the body like behavior, metabolism, reproduction and immunity. As days shorten and animals behave differently, they sleep more or less. As a response, their bodies create “metabolic syndrome” which helps them to survive. Here’s the news. Animals don’t suffer any pathology from the metabolic changes since they are not chronic, ongoing adaptations.

The biological clock pacemaker system for our own bodies is located primarily in the hypothalamus. Sleep disruptions whether too little sleep, even too much sleep or medical conditions like sleep apnea over time have been found to lead consistently to metabolic syndrome in humans. Sadly for us, due to chronic stress and sleep disruptions, our bodies respond as though winter survival is necessary all year long, every day! This may explain why, although we may try to lose weight through excellent dietary shifts, the pounds may stubbornly stay glued to our hips.

Sleep deprivation can also change your genes! In one study conducted in the UK, blood samples taken after just one week of getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night showed changes to more than 700 genes due to sleep deprivation alone. Eek! The genes affected seemed to be in the area of immune, stress and inflammatory responses. I don’t know about you, but I really want those particular types of genes to be in top form in my body!

An entertaining episode of Secret Eaters, a UK based TV show that examines weight issues in England, conducted a research project with two groups of people. One group was allowed to sleep soundly through the night. The other group was awakened a number of times to focus and complete a survey. The groups weren’t told the true reason for this study. The next day, the two groups were offered the same foods. The group whose sleep was disrupted actually consumed 35% more carbs and fats than the well-rested group. Wow!

If you’re confounded by weight that just won’t budge, please carefully review your sleeping habits. Turn off the television, drink hot tea, journal, pray, meditate, breathe. Here are some other great tips to help you get to sleep.

Allowing your body and mind to recognize that it can rest and restore itself will pay off in so many ways, and certainly give you a happier holiday season. Although it may be winter outside at this time of year, our bodies in our warm, safe houses don’t need to behave as though it’s “metabolic winter” in the wild. That good night sleep may keep those pounds at bay and put big smiles on your face too!

Diet & Sleep Habits Linked to Inflammation – 4 Important Diet Tips

Filed in Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, General, Immune System, Inflammation, Obesity, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/28/2014


Clinical studies continue to link chronic, low-grade inflammation—also known as silent inflammation—with a growing number of health conditions and diseases. Because it can be present without being felt, this type of inflammation is particularly dangerous and can be harmful to the body over time.

Recently, a team of scientists from Texas A&M University found a link between our internal “body clocks” and the inflammatory response tied to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. It has to do with immune cells called macrophages, which control inflammatory response. Study results involving mice showed that a high-fat diet and irregular sleep disrupts the natural rhythms of our cells and tissues, which in turn triggers inflammation, fat accumulation, and ultimately insulin resistance—creating a vicious cycle.

“To promote human health, we need not only to eat healthy foods, but also more importantly to keep a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding sleeping late and eating at night,” said Dr. David Earnest, Texas A&M professor and one of the study’s lead authors. Here are four simple ways you can change your diet to help reduce the risk of inflammation and metabolic disorders:

  • Partner with Probiotics: In clinical studies, daily supplementation with a high-potency probiotic has been shown to support the healthy function of white blood cells and help reduce the risk of inflammation-associated metabolic disorders.‡
  • Add More Omega-3s: The Omega-3s that come from fish oil—specifically EPA and DHA—are particularly good at helping to prevent silent inflammation, in part by helping to balance out the inflammatory effects of the Omega-6 fats found in high amounts in the Standard American Diet (SAD).‡
  • Don’t Forget the Fiber: If you aren’t eating enough fiber, the good bacteria in your gut may not be able to produce enough protective short-chain fatty acids.‡ This can lead to inflammation as the immune system responds inappropriately to healthy gut microbes and treats them as harmful bacteria. Aim for at least 35 grams of fiber daily.
  • Load up on Antioxidants: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables target free radicals in the body, which can damage cells and tissues and trigger inflammation. Opt for low-sugar fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, plums and cherries, along with non-starchy veggies such as kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Olive oil, raw nuts and nut butters are also a good source of antioxidants.

Omega-3 Linked to Sleep Quality in Children

Filed in Children, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Sleep | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/29/2013


In a new study by the researchers from Oxford University, data from the DOLAB research project showed that low blood omega-3 levels—particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—were associated with decreased sleep quality and an increased risk of sleep disorders in children. Upon further study, the researchers found that supplementation with DHA increased sleep quality.

“We have got far less waking during the night. We’ve got more sleeping, and more efficient sleeping as the ratio of time in bed to time asleep is significantly improved,” stated Paul Montgomery, PhD, lead researcher. “These are not small changes. These are substantial changes. I think clinically they are very significant changes too.”

In addition to linking omega-3 levels to sleep quality, they also noted that, “As sleep problems increased, so did behavioral problems,” not surprisingly. “We know that sleep is very important for behavior. It’s been demonstrated in a large number of trials. But what has not been shown [until now] is what fatty acids might have to do with it,” noted Montgomery.

I recently blogged about another of Paul Montgomery’s omega-3 studies in children, and also about how children are not getting enough omega-3 from the diet. Fortunately, it’s easy for children to take an omega-3 supplement to increase their omega-3 levels.

Sleep Deprived? Watch your Snacking

Filed in Brain, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/27/2013


Have you ever found yourself reaching for unhealthy foods after a sleepless night? A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found impaired activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, which functions in decision making. They also found increased activity in brain regions that respond to rewards. Sleep-deprived participants were also more likely to choose unhealthy snacks and junk food compared to those who had a normal night’s sleep.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” stated Matthew Walker, lead author and professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkley. “High-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

Sleep deprivation affects more than our cravings. Chronic lack of sleep worsens almost any health condition. The body restores itself as we sleep. Forgoing this vital restoration means your health will suffer. Sleep well and you will crave less. That sounds like a good reason to get your zzz’s to me.

Make-Up Sleep Improves Insulin Sensitivity—Possible Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/14/2013


The destructive effects of sleep deprivation include weight gain, insulin resistance, increased risk of stroke, among a long list of conditions and symptoms. Yet many of us do not get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, especially during the week. A study presented at The Endocrine Society’s recent Annual Meeting offers some good news for those of us who sleep less on weeknights while making up for it on weekends.

The researchers studied 19 non-diabetic men who reported at least six months of insufficient sleep during weeknights. The men reported sleeping an average of 6.2 hours on weeknights, which was verified by a monitor that detects sleep-wake cycles. The men spent three nights in a sleep lab on two separate weekends. Those men who slept 10 hours a night for three nights had greatly improved their insulin sensitivity when compared to those men who only got 6 hours of sleep, or who slept for 10 hours with continual sound-interruption.

“The good news is that by extending the hours of sleep, adult men—who over a long period of time do not get enough sleep during the working week—can still improve their insulin sensitivity,” stated lead researcher Peter Liu, MD, PhD.

Insulin sensitivity is the ability of the body to move sugar (glucose) into cells from the bloodstream. Insulin sensitivity determines blood sugar levels. The more insulin sensitivity there is, the better the blood sugar levels are. Conversely, insulin resistance is the inability of the body to move sugar into cells, thus raising blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation has been found to increase insulin resistance.

More research is needed to confirm these results in a larger group of people, and also in women. Whether make-up sleep helps reduce the other detrimental effects of lack of sleep remains to be seen, but at least there is some hope for those of us who lack sleep. Getting seven to eight plus hours of sleep per night is still the best way to maximize health benefits, however. So when you can, try to get a full night’s sleep.

Sleep—Just Do It

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

The health consequences that arise from a lack of sleep are becoming more and more apparent as studies investigate the importance of sleep on human health. A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston found that regularly sleeping less than six hours a night increases the risk of stroke in people of normal weight who have no other risk factors for stroke. This is alarming.

Even if you have normal cholesterol levels, normal blood pressure, are normal weight, and you don’t smoke, if you get six or less hours of sleep per night, you’re at increased risk. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of sleep. The body regenerates during sleep—we need this regeneration!

About 30 percent of people get six hours of sleep or less. Experts recommend seven to nine hours. This week, if you are one of the 30 percent, find a way to increase your sleep. Go to bed a bit earlier than usual. Assess your nighttime routine. If you find that you stay up late to watch a TV show or surf the Internet, perhaps you might consider the consequences. If you have trouble sleeping, try to create a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps induce sleep and try to make your room completely dark to induce the natural circadian rhythm.

Are Your Sleep Habits Making You Fat?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/30/2010


As if losing weight isn’t hard enough in the first place, now our sleep habits might be making it even harder! A recent study done at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and published in the journal Sleep found that in people under 40 who got five or fewer hours of sleep per night (or, to a lesser extent, more than eight hours of sleep nightly) the accumulation of fat around the organs—also known as visceral fat—was higher. 

What a lot of folks don’t realize is that visceral fat is actually more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which accounts for those familiar “love handles” and “thunder thighs”, and that fat around the organs is associated with some pretty significant health problems—including metabolic-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. Results further showed that women of minority seemed to be at the greatest risk for visceral fat accumulation, largely because they are the group that gets either too little or too much sleep. 

What this study helps bring to light is that fat accumulation—and the health consequences that come with it—does not occur simply because of poor eating habits, and that other factors such as sleep, stress and lifestyle also play a large part in America’s growing obesity problem. This concept of looking at the ‘whole picture’ is one that natural health practitioners have been practicing for decades, and it’s essential for all of us to remember if we’re going to make important changes in how we look at our health.

As for the study, researchers concluded that getting between six and eight hours of sleep each night is best, which coincides with many other studies linking sleep and overall health. While each person may differ, the best way to test if you are getting enough sleep is to gauge your sleepiness when you wake up. Sure, some people take longer to transition from sleep to waking, but if you’re still really groggy an hour after waking, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

Trouble Sleeping? Try this Quick Tip!

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/19/2010


‘Renew You Challenge’ – Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up a lot during the night, or have a hard time waking up in the morning? Insomnia can be a real downer, especially since it affects how you feel during the day, and not just at night—so here’s a quick tip that might help you find relief.

If you’re among the millions of people who suffer from insomnia, try this: Do your best to create a darker sleeping environment, since complete darkness is the best environment for deep sleep. And no, I’m not saying you should go sleep in a cave or lock yourself in the closet, but take a look around your bedroom and ask yourself if it’s really dark enough for healthy sleep. Is there an outside light shining through the window? Are there electronic devices like clocks or computers blinking or lighting up the space? Or worse, do you sleep with the TV on??

This week, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible, then see how it affects your sleep over the next week or so. With any luck, it’ll be just what you needed!

Manage Stress Effectively – Energize!

Filed in Adults, Cleansing, Cleansing & Detox, Exercise, Sleep, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/26/2017


manage stress with bands - brendawatson.com

Today let’s continue to Energize as we move through the RENEW Total Body Detox program! I’d like to share two of my favorite movement programs with you – as I promised in my last post. As we Energize we are better able to manage stress in all areas of our lives.

 

Rebounding to Health

A rebounder, aka mini-trampoline, is an excellent detoxification tool. Most sporting goods stores carry rebounders or you can find many rebounder suppliers online.

No matter your fitness level, there is a rebounder program for you. Even a “soft walk”, where you simply shift your weight from one foot to another, lifting your heels as you do so, serves to stimulate that ever-important lymph flow. Rebounding so effectively moves lymphatic fluid that it has been referred to as “lymphasizing”.

In addition to clearing the lymph glands, rebounding will provide aerobic exercise (once you’ve worked up to a sustained motion for fifteen to twenty minutes), oxygenating your body.

When you jump up and down on a rebounder, the force of gravity alternately pulls and then releases each cell. Toxic material is flushed out and nutrients are absorbed. During this process white blood cells are also produced. Even a short (two- to three-minute) rebounding session will dramatically increase your white blood cell production, again strengthening your immunity.

Rebounding also exercises the musculoskeletal system, protects and strengthens the cardiovascular and peripheral vascular systems, and helps restore bone density.

It’s best to use your rebounder at least once daily. Short, frequent rebounding sessions can be as beneficial as a single long one. You may find this a simple way to effectively manage stress.

Of course, if you have health issues, always consult with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise routine.

 

Exercise Bands for Strength Training

There are many benefits that are realized as you increase your strength. These include:

  • Injury prevention through correction of muscle imbalances
  • Delay (or even reversal) of muscle mass loss experienced with aging
  • Decrease in total cholesterol and improvement in the ratio of good to bad cholesterol (lowering the risk of heart disease
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased circulation that moves toxins and amplified the body’s detox process

It may be difficult to find time to visit a gym inside of the busy lifestyles that we live these days. Using exercise bands for strength training allows for a work out anytime.

These flexible elastic bands or tubes provide a progressive stimulus to your muscles to help build lean mass and increase your strength. Initially used in rehabilitation setting, exercise bands are rapidly becoming common in a variety of fitness and sports settings.

The bands are extremely portable and don’t take up much space, fitting easily into your overnight bag, purse or backpack. You can go through a complete workout program using just a couple of bands with different resistance levels. And you don’t need a lot of space to do your routine.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of exercise bands for me personally is that they don’t aggravate my chronic neck problems. People with pain issues can safely and comfortably work with resistance bands in a number of effective ways. Bands don’t rely on the force of gravity to provide resistance like exercise machines and dumbbells. Instead, it’s the stretching of the band that creates the resistance: the further you stretch it, the greater the resistance. Simple, safe and easy to manage.

Not only do the bands increase strength, but they also help build flexibility, power, balance, and speed. And because they improve circulation, they help you maximize your body’s detoxification at the cellular level. Extra added benefit – they stimulate burning off fat, which eliminates more toxins, while increasing lean muscle mass and improving your overall fitness! And all these improved functions will serve to help you manage stress with ease.

 

In Conclusion – Mind Your Spirit to Manage Stress

To Energize, sometimes we need to exercise more than our physical bodies by addressing and nurturing that all-important mind-body connection.

I’m a big believer in engaging in activities that help one cope with inevitable stress and create a relaxed mind. We all live busy lives and typically have more to-dos than we can possibly handle. Learning to relax both mind and body is the key to inner peace, increased confidence and a sense of wellbeing. More accomplishment will be yours, both at home and at work. You’ll feel more alive and capable to handle whatever stressors may present.

I have blogged often on the importance of getting enough sleep to reduce the stress levels in your body. Just about every system in the body, including the detoxification process, is affected by the quality and amount of sleep you get nightly. A full eight hours has been found optimal to maintain your metabolism and supporting hormonal balance. Establishing habits that support healthful sleep patterns will result in boundless rewards in the areas of vitality and energy.

For some people, physical exercise is enough to de-stress and provide much needed relaxation. For others, a practice such as yoga and mediation prove more effective. As I mentioned previously, I find yoga to truly help me become more attuned to my body and its needs. I’m able to tap a source of renewed strength and spirit to deal with life effectively.

Your personal journey to manage stress can take many forms. Many people find great value in counseling or perhaps reading and listening to enlightening material. Whatever form works for you, choose to engage regularly. Dedication to the practice of decreasing stress, perhaps more than any other pursuit, will reward you with the life you love to live.