By Dr. Mercola
For thousands of years, Eastern civilizations have used forms of energy medicine to unblock and regulate energy channels in the body. For example, acupuncture has a long history of success in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The West has been slow to embrace energy medicine, holding a more biochemical view of the human body, as opposed to “the body electric.”
Hold a stethoscope to your body and you’ll hear a lot of electrical chatter. Your nervous system communicates using electricity (i.e., movement of electrons), receiving and transmitting electrical signals throughout your body. Most of your biological processes are electrical.
Most people in the medical world have no background whatsoever in the electrical world, which is why Clint Ober is so uniquely qualified to offer this fresh perspective, which is brilliantly simple and intuitive, given how our ancestors lived.
Ober spent three decades working in the cable television industry prior to changing course to investigate how Earth’s electrical energy influences health. While struggling to recover from his own healing challenges, he received the following internal whisper:
“Become an opposite charge. Status quo is the enemy.”
This inspiration was the beginning of what could end up being a discovery as groundbreaking as germ theory. What he has discovered could be a major underlying thread in all chronic disease, a phenomenon he calls “electron deficiency syndrome.” The premise is simple. If you are deficient in electrons, your body is unable to effectively combat inflammation.
When inflammation runs rampant, as you probably know, you are vulnerable to a plethora of chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other illnesses that are appearing at alarmingly high rates today.
The Earth is the natural antidote for electron deficiency and can provide you with an infinite flow of electrons through grounding, also known as “Earthing.” And I will spend a large part of this article explaining how this works. But here’s the rub. You can’t benefit from this electron flow unless you are directly connected to the Earth. And today, people in industrialized countries are anything BUT connected.
Humankind’s Disconnect from a Healing Source: Mother Earth
Industrialization and the introduction of plastics and other synthetic materials have disconnected us from the Earth and her energy. Whereas we once walked barefoot across the grass and slept on the cool dirt floors of a cave, we now live ABOVE the ground, separated from the Earth by raised wooden floors, rubber-soled shoes, and sometimes hundreds of feet of air, if you live (or work) in a high-rise building.
We are ungrounded—literally!
Have you ever noticed how good it feels to walk barefoot on a sandy beach, or in a forest? There is a reason for that—it’s called the grounding effect. The reason you feel so good on that sandy beach is you are receiving a surge of healing electrons from the ground. The Earth is a relatively infinite source of electrons, having a slightly negative charge. But the Earth’s electrons are free to move. So, when you stand barefoot on that sand, electrons from the Earth flow into your body, a virtual “transfusion” of healing power. This occurs until you equalize with the Earth. Meaning, you cannot get too much—the process simply stops when your charge (your voltage) returns to zero. It’s completely safe and natural.
The Earth is the biggest electrical object, and we are part of it. When you are grounded (i.e., in contact with the Earth), it’s impossible for your body to carry a charge.
Humans used to be naturally grounded. First, we were barefoot, and then we donned leather-soled shoes, which are still moderately conductive. When you wear a shoe with a leather sole, your feet sweat and permeate the leather with moisture and body salts, so the shoe becomes a semiconductor permitting you to receive some electrons.
But, for the past 50 years or so, we’ve added carpets, plastics, synthetic-soled shoes, and athletic sneakers, all serving as non-conductive barriers between the Earth and us. During that same period of time, we’ve seen an explosion of inflammation-based diseases. Our immune systems are struggling.
Pets are designed to be in contact with the Earth as well, but now they live above ground in houses, as we do. Anecdotal evidence shows they are suffering the same effects of electron deficiency as humans. Animals that live in the wild are not bothered with inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, or even plaque on their teeth. This is why your dog or cat will crawl under the porch and lie on the bare earth if he isn’t feeling well.
What animals have always known, “modern science” is just now figuring out.
Even water is influenced by the Earth’s electrical energy. Water in contact with the Earth has a structure that makes it conducive to healing. When you are grounded to the Earth, it is thought that the negatively charged electrons you are receiving may help increase the structure of the water in your cells—just as water increases in structure when a negative charge is introduced by an electrode. By going outside, barefoot, touching the earth, and allowing the excess positive charge in your body to discharge into the earth, you can alleviate some of the stress on your system. So how does this grounding effect work?
You Are An Earthly Antenna
Your body is a conductor. You are an antenna for the Earth. When you are ungrounded, electric fields are attracted to your body and create a surface charge—a voltage. You know this to be true if you’ve ever shocked yourself after walking across a carpeted floor.
When living above Earth, your charge is positive; when connected to the Earth, your charge is negative—in other words, you become an opposite charge. You accumulate this surface charge any time you’re not grounded. When your charge reaches 3,000 to 5,000 volts and you touch a metal object, ZAP… this is static discharge, the sudden outflow of built-up electrical energy from your body.
This static electricity is the reason workers in microchip factories must be grounded—so they don’t blow the chips. The same goes for operating rooms. Everyone involved in a surgical procedure must be grounded—the patient as well as the medical personnel. Your skin offers some protection from static electricity, but when it’s open (as in surgery), that protection disappears. In fact, in the early days of open-heart surgery, this lesson was learned the hard way when many patients died from static electricity because patients weren’t grounded.
The higher the conductivity between you and the Earth, the more likely you’re going to be grounded. Proximity is key.
The more distance there is between you and the Earth, the greater the charge on your body. In fact, this has been precisely calculated. For every meter you are above the ground, 300 volts of charge will build up in your body. (See The Feynman Lectures on Physics) So, if you are in a second story bedroom, your charge would be 1000 volts, on average. Do you think your risk for illness could be higher living on the second floor? How about the 5th floor, or the 25th? Indeed, a study in 2009 from the University of Iowa revealed a 40 percent increase in stroke risk among people living in multistory homes.
Besides living and working above ground, invisible electromagnetic fields from devices such as cellular and cordless phones, computers, tablets and other technology assault us around the clock. You are bathed in background electricity from ordinary household wiring in the walls of your home, which contributes to your positive electrical charge and therefore increases the stress on your immune system. And if you are on the computer several hours a day, combined with several calls on your cell phone followed by an hour or two of television, you are getting several more hefty exposures to these unnatural electrical fields. If you want an in-depth discussion about Earth’s electrical surface potential, read this article by Gaetan Chavalier, PhD.
Playing with a Voltmeter
If you need convincing, you can watch your own body’s electrical charge wax and wane by availing yourself of a voltmeter, as Clint Ober demonstrates in the above interview. What you need is a low voltage field detector; one that reads in millivolts. Play with this, as it will show you that grounding works!
Measure your body’s charge when you are at varying distances from electrical devices, power cords, your computer, your phone, your refrigerator, etc. You will see that moving away from these objects drops the charge—and grounding zeros you out. This way, you can witness firsthand the effect of these devices on your body, in a very concrete way. You will see that you receive far more electrical noise from devices that are plugged in than from those running on battery power. This is why I recommend NOT using electronic devices while they are charging.
If you’re going to experiment with a voltmeter, make sure you do it safely, using conventional cord that has resistors built into it.
Although grounding does not eliminate dangerous exposure to EMFs, your risk for adverse health effects from them is drastically reduced. Still, I don’t recommend holding your cell phone right next to your head, even if you’re grounded. But grounding is the least expensive, most basic strategy that will allow you to resist that type of biological damage and decrease your body’s risk for developing prolonged inflammation.
Electron Deficiency Syndrome and Inflammation
If you Google the word “inflammation,” you’ll come up with more than 62 million links. This is indicative of just how much of a problem inflammation is. Inflammation is the root of virtually ALL of our chronic diseases. So, the question you should ask next is, what’s CAUSING all of this inflammation? It may very well be a deficiency of electrons—at least, this may be one of the most significant factors.
Electricity is as important for powering your body as for powering your computer and household appliances. We are beginning to understand, with the help of scientists like Clint Ober and James Oschman, that the Earth is our greatest source of healing because it supplies us with an unlimited flow of electrons. These electrons act like little antioxidants—cleaning up the free radicals and toxins that are byproducts of everyday human metabolism and environmental exposure.
Free radicals are primarily produced via metabolic processes, although you also get them from the foods you eat, the water you drink and the air you breathe. Your immune system is the main generator of free radicals, and it’s in operation 24 hours a day. In the process of oxidizing invading pathogens and disposing of damaged cells, your immune system generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are molecules short an electron or with an electron imbalance—they take away electrons from the cell or pathogen.
This creates the need for a “mop” to absorb or give up electrons so that electrical stability can be maintained within your body. Grounding to the Earth fulfills this role—and it’s nearly instantaneous.
Many of these metabolic/electric processes are occurring at the speed of light, just like the electrical current in a wire flows immediately to a light bulb when you flip the switch. When grounding to the Earth, electrons flow instantly into your body, much faster than waiting for particles to travel around in your bloodstream.
How Earthing Affects Your Blood
An important discovery is that Earthing thins your blood, making it less viscous. This has huge implications for cardiovascular disease because virtually every aspect of that disease has been correlated with elevated blood viscosity.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra, cardiologist and Earthing expert, discussed the zeta potential of RBC’s that decreases blood viscosity, when exposed to an electrical field. Within minutes of grounding to the Earth, your zeta potential quickly rises, meaning your blood cells have a greater charge and actually repel each other. This action causes your blood to flow more easily and your blood pressure to drop. When your zeta potential is lower, your blood cells tend to clump together, which is unfortunately what most people’s blood looks like when they are not grounded.
For a visual aid, the difference between grounded and ungrounded blood is like comparing red wine to catsup—thin and flowing with ease, versus thick and sticky and stagnant. Getting back to the increased risk of stroke for folks living in multilevel dwellings, it makes sense when you consider your blood cells being in a perpetual state of “clumping,” which increases the risk of clot formation.
Earth’s Gift to Athletes
The scientific research related to Earthing is really still in its infancy. Nevertheless, studies so far are very promising for a variety of heath benefits. Clint has been involved in more than 30 Earthing studies over the past decade, which have gradually verified that his inspiration to “become an opposite charge” was right on.
I first met Clint Ober about seven years ago through a chiropractor Jeff Spencer. One of the foundational elements he integrates into his training is Earthing. In fact, 200 to 300 of the world’s most elite athletes have been using Earthing as part of their training regimen for the last five years because they feel it offers them a competitive edge, including many professional football players.
Since the athletes were showing such great benefit, researchers at the University of Oregon conducted a study, referred to as the DOMS study (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Researchers induced inflammation by repetitive and intensive use of a muscle group, and then measured both subjective pain experience and objective markers of inflammation in study participants. The participants were divided into two groups, one grounded and one not. The muscle soreness was essentially the same as what you experience after your first weekend of yard work in the spring—when you wake up a couple days later extremely sore and barely able to hobble out of bed. The results of this study were remarkable:
- White blood cell count was extremely elevated in the ungrounded group, but not elevated at all in the grounded group.
- Bilirubin dropped 40 percent in the ungrounded group but only 5 percent in the grounded. Bilirubin is one of your body’s primary antioxidants.
- The grounded group experienced less pain than the ungrounded group.
Researchers concluded that all signs point to grounding having the effect of markedly decreasing inflammatory response. And this is HUGE as inflammation is key in just about every chronic disease you can name. Reduce inflammation, and you reduce disease. But Earthing has benefits that reach far beyond preventing sore muscles.
Pain Reduction, Better Adrenal Function and Improved Tolerance to Cold
In addition to decreased inflammation, two studies have shown that grounding can stabilize your autonomic nervous system (ANS). Oftentimes, the inflammatory cycle starts with an illness or injury that fails to heal. Besides pain and inflammation, your body’s inability to “restabilize” results in chronic stress. Why is this important? This ongoing stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is epidemic today. If your ANS can be stabilized, your chronic stress level will decrease. Grounding appears to be able to do this.
Grounding was found to regulate cortisol levels, according to one small study involving 12 subjects. The 12 were grounded over the course of eight weeks, during which time their saliva levels were monitored for cortisol, DHEA, and other stress-related hormones. All subjects with abnormal cortisol levels normalized, indicating the grounding reduced the stress in their bodies. This has huge implications for public health since the majority of all visits to healthcare practitioners are for stress related disorders.
The new study by Sokal provides even more good news about Earthing’s effects on inflammation. Researchers attempted to answer the question of whether or not Earthing affects human physiologic processes. So, they grounded people and tested their blood and urine chemistry. Just like the prior study, researchers found a significant reduction of inflammation indicators in the grounded test subjects. Specifically, in the group that slept Earthed, they found the following:
- Reduced renal excretion of calcium and phosphorus during a 7- to 8-hour period of sleeping grounded (which reflects a reduced risk of osteoporosis)
- Decreased blood glucose levels (reducing risk for diabetes)
- Decreased free tri-iodothyronine, and increased free thyroxin and TSH (meaning better thyroid function)
- Accelerated immune response following vaccination (as evidenced by gamma globulin concentration), which would suggest a more robust immune system
Having a simple, natural way to reduce stress and inflammation would have benefits for a wide array of medical problems, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, as well as for issues like carpal tunnel (repetitive stress syndrome). Grounding also appears to help with Raynaud’s syndrome, which involves cold peripheral extremities. Although it isn’t understood exactly how grounding improves temperature regulation, it may be due to the thinning of your blood and improved circulation. It’s interesting that chickens that are allowed to live outside in the pasture don’t freeze, but those in chicken coops need artificial heat to keep from freezing on cold nights. Perhaps chickens grounded in the pasture share similar thermoregulation benefits with people who have Raynaud’s syndrome.
Unearthing the Fountain of Youth
Earthing may actually slow down the aging process. One of the dominant theories on aging is the free radical theory, which is that aging occurs as a result of cumulative damage to your body by free radicals. While you don't want to completely eliminate ALL free radicals, you do want to maintain a good balance of antioxidant electrons in your body to ensure the damage from free radicals doesn't' get out of hand. Earthing can provide this continuous supply of electrons. According to Dr. James Oschman, biophysicist and coauthor of Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?:
"It looks to me, from my study of biophysics and cell biology, like the body is designed with a semi-conductive fabric that connects everything in the body, including inside of every cell. I refer to this system as the living matrix. Those electrons that enter the bottom of your foot can move anywhere in your body. Any place where a free radical forms, there are electrons nearby that can neutralize that free radical and prevent any of those processes: mitochondrial damage, cross linking of proteins, and mutation or genetic damage. So the whole fabric is basically an antioxidant defense system that is in every part of your body.
We have this material called ground substance, which is part of the connective tissue. It goes everywhere in the body. It's a gel material and it stores electrons. So that if you go barefoot, you will take in electrons and your body will store them, and they will be available at any point where you might have an injury, or any point where a free radical might form."
So, to summarize then, Earthing offers many potential health benefits from better sleep, to less pain and inflammation, to reducing your risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg as research in this area is just getting going. So, how do you basically “get grounded”? Let’s take a look at some practical approaches for introducing more Earth energy into your life.
Plugging into the Earth
The best way to gain the benefits of these healing electrons is to simply put your bare feet in contact with the Earth, especially damp Earth, as often as possible. Because water is such a great conductor, seawater is the absolute best. Swimming in seawater, dangling your feet in it, or walking on a sandy beach are all great ways to ground yourself. If you don’t have access to a shoreline, damp grass is a good substitute.
Concrete will work to a degree, but better if it’s got some moisture to it. Sealed or painted concrete, wood, asphalt, and typical insulators like plastic or rubber soles will not allow electrons to pass through.
As I said earlier, the closer you can get to being grounded 24 hours a day, the more benefits you’ll see. Unless you are sleeping in a cave or living on an island somewhere, chances are your domicile isn’t allowing you to be grounded all day every day, and so the most practical alternative is making use of new technology… Which brings me to the grounding mat.
Grounding Mats, Sheets and Patches
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is certainly true for grounding science. Technology now offers us ways to stay grounded while in buildings, cars, and even airplanes.
There are a variety of mats, pads, sheets and patches that you can put in contact with your bare skin to restore this much-needed connection to the Earth. The grounding device is connected to a cord that plugs into the ground of an ordinary household electrical outlet. The grounding devices have resistors incorporated into them, so they are completely safe to use—you are protected from unexpected electrical currents.
For a grounding mat to work, your outlet must be grounded. In the United States, about 40 percent of houses do not have a ground in the bedroom, particularly homes built before 1970. Even if the outlets have been replaced, they are not necessarily connected to any ground wire, and the only way you can tell is to test them. If your outlet isn’t grounded, then you can have someone install a ground to those outlets. There are a number of ways to do this.
The most important time to be grounded is while you’re sleeping. There are two reasons for this.
First, the average bedroom typically contains more electrical noise than any other room in a house, especially near where your head rests on your bed. You’ve probably got a tangle of wires behind the wall, as well as wires running under the floor if you’re in an upstairs bedroom. Second, you spend a third of your life lying there. This is the time when your body should be repairing and regenerating, and electrical noise interferes with this process, potentially causing chronic stress and inflammation.
I recommend using a grounding sheet on your bed. Earthing happens to be very helpful for sleep. In fact, many people fall asleep within 5 to 10 minutes of becoming grounded. Better sleep and less pain are probably the most immediately appreciated benefits when people begin Earthing.
A Few Medical Precautions
Earthing is so effective that some people have had to decrease their medication dosage. Having to make changes in your meds is not a bad thing, but rather a sign that your body is working better. If you are taking any of the following three types of medications when you begin Earthing, you should be especially careful to observe how you feel and be diligent about monitoring your blood levels:
- Blood Thinners: If you take Coumadin (warfarin) or other blood thinners, your blood is going to get even thinner when you’re grounded, as described previously. You will want to be very diligent about monitoring your blood levels and watching for warning signs, such as bleeding or bruising.
- Oral Hypoglycemics: Grounding is shown to reduce blood glucose levels. A study of rats showed that grounding decreased their blood glucose levels, as well as lowering their triglycerides and body weight by 10 percent. So if you take oral hypoglycemics, you will want to monitor your blood sugar carefully.
- Thyroid: Many people who are on thyroid replacement for hypothyroidism started having heart palpitations within the first few days of Earthing, a sign of thyroid excess, which was confirmed by blood tests. These individuals had to decrease their thyroid dose. Lack of free electrons may be the most unrecognized cause of thyroid dysfunction.
Learn More: Download Free Earthing Book
I am very excited about this Earthing information, and the potential it holds for helping you with a staggering range of health concerns. The idea that nature has influences that are vital for the optimal functioning of your mind and body has been around for thousands of years, and continues to be confirmed by science. Earthing may be the link we’ve been missing, in terms of explaining our inflammation epidemic.
So, you can add Earthing to your “good health tool bag,” where it can enhance the benefits you are already receiving from good nutrition, restorative sleep, adequate water, exercise and effective stress management.
To learn more, I highly recommend downloading a free copy of Clint Ober’s book on Earthing, which reviews the many benefits of earthing in even greater detail.
By Dr. Mercola
When you mess with your body’s intrinsic need for regular, high-quality sleep, it sets off a cascade of biological changes that can seriously impact your health.
The trouble is, of course, that many people don’t intentionally neglect proper sleep; instead, they simply can’t fall asleep or stay asleep once they do … and this, unfortunately, increases your risk of developing serious chronic diseases.
Hard-to-Treat Hypertension Linked to Poor Sleep Quality
In a study presented at the American Heart Association High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions, researchers found a strong link between sleep quality and a type of high blood pressure known as resistant hypertension, which does not respond to typical drug-based treatments.
In fact, women who had resistant hypertension were five times as likely to also have poor sleep quality. While the average length of sleep in this study was only 6.4 hours a night (and nearly half slept fewer than six hours each night), it was sleep quality, not quantity, that appeared to influence hypertension risk.
While this study only found an association with women, other studies have also linked hypertension in men to a lack of deep sleep,1 and sleeping fewer than seven hours a night has been linked to hypertension in both men and women.2
Even Partial Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Health … And Your Weight
If you sleep less than six hours a night, defined as “partial sleep deprivation,” you may not only be increasing your risk of high blood pressure but also obesity (a known high blood pressure risk factor).
New research found that partial sleep deprivation is associated with obesity and alters your food intake by disrupting key hormones involved with regulating metabolism and appetite.3
“Reduced sleep may disrupt appetitive hormone regulation, specifically increasing ghrelin [a hormone that triggers hunger] and decreasing leptin [the hormone that tells your brain you’re full] and, thereby, influence energy intake. Increased wakefulness also may promote food intake episodes and energy imbalance,” the researchers said.
Reduced insulin sensitivity was also noted among the sleep-deprived subjects, and this not only increases your risk of diabetes but also high blood pressure!
The Same Factors That Cause Diabetes Also Cause High Blood Pressure
Lack of sleep interferes with metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. It’s long been known, in fact, that sleep deprivation increases your diabetes risk … so it’s not at all surprising that it also increases your risk for high blood pressure, because the two are caused by essentially the same factors.
High blood pressure, like diabetes, is typically related to your body developing resistance to insulin. As your insulin level rises, your blood pressure rises. Most physicians – even cardiologists – do not understand the crucial connection between blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and insulin.
Dr. Richard Johnson, author of the book The Fat Switch, masterfully ties together the connection between hypertension, obesity and diabetes in his previous book, The Sugar Fix, which is one of the best books written on this issue. Dr. Johnson is the Chief of the Kidney Disease and Hypertension Division at the University of Colorado, and I would encourage you to listen to his interview below for more information.
Tips for Reducing Your High Blood Pressure (and Diabetes) Risks …
More than 85 percent of those who have hypertension can normalize their blood pressure with some basic lifestyle modifications – and these tips work for lowering your diabetes risk too:
- Normalize your insulin levels by avoiding sugar, fructose and grains: If your blood pressure is elevated and you consume a lot of sugar – especially in the form of fructose (such as high fructose corn syrup) – lowering your blood pressure might be as simple as cutting all forms of sugar and grains out of your diet. Normalizing your blood glucose levels will normalize your insulin and bring blood pressure down into a healthy range. I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams if you have high blood pressure, are overweight, or diabetic.
Unlike glucose, which is burned by fuel in every cell in your body, fructose, if not immediately consumed as fuel, is metabolized into fat by your liver, which can set the ball rolling toward insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. I highly recommend getting a fasting insulin level test, which must be ordered by your doctor. The level you want to strive for is about 2 to 3. If it's above 5, then you have a problem and you definitely need to get your insulin level down as you are at risk for cardiovascular problems.
- Use exercise as a drug. Physical activity is by far one of the most potent "drugs" there is, especially for increasing insulin sensitivity and normalizing blood glucose and blood pressure levels. We have developed a comprehensive fitness program that includes high-intensity interval burst-type activity called Peak Fitness, stretching, and resistance training, which are all important components of a complete fitness program.
- Follow a good nutrition plan that's right for your body. It should be rich in fresh, organic vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, raw organic dairy, eggs from pastured hens, grass-fed meats, healthy fats such as coconut oil and animal-based omega-3, and plenty of fresh pure water.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Sunlight, and the vitamin D it causes your body to produce, has a normalizing effect on your blood pressure. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
The best source for vitamin D is direct sun exposure. But for many of us, this just isn't practical during the winter and fall months. The next best option to sunlight is the use of a safe indoor tanning device. If neither natural nor artificial sunlight is an option, then using oral vitamin D3 supplements is your best bet. If you wish to take an oral vitamin D3 supplement, follow my dose recommendations, which are based on the latest scientific research. The only way to know your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you'll want to maintain a vitamin D level of 50-70 ng/ml year-round.
For an in-depth explanation of everything you need to know about vitamin D, please listen to my FREE one-hour vitamin D lecture.
- Manage your stress. Stress puts the "tension" into hypertension! The long-term activation of your stress-response system can disrupt nearly all of your body's processes, and elevated blood pressure is one of many negative effects. Finding a way to deal with life's everyday stressors is a necessity for good health. My preferred tool is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
- Get plenty of deep, restorative sleep each night.
Lack of Sleep Increases Teen Sports Injuries
If you’re a teenager who plays sports (or the parent of one), here’s one more reason to make sure you get a restful night’s sleep. Teen athletes who slept for eight or more hours each night were 68 percent less likely to get injured than those who slept less, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition.
Perhaps these teens are simply more alert on the field than their less rested teammates, or maybe there is another role sleep plays in helping protect your body from harm. Either way, teenagers are notorious for staying up too late or falling asleep while watching TV or using a computer, which may interfere with their sleep quality. Yet, on average, children and teens need more sleep than adults. Making sure your teen learns healthy sleep habits early on is important not only for injury prevention, but also for preventing chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes down the line.
Top Tips for Healthy Sleep
Making some adjustments to your sleeping area can also go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start:
- Cover your windows with blackout shades or drapes to ensure complete darkness. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland's production of melatonin and the melatonin precursor serotonin, thereby disrupting your sleep cycle.
So close your bedroom door, get rid of night-lights, and refrain from turning on any light during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. If you have to use a light, install so-called "low blue" light bulbs in your bedroom and bathroom. These emit an amber light that will not suppress melatonin production.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom at or below 70 degrees F (21 degrees Celsius). Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 C). Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep.
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can also disrupt your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all power in your house.
- Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet.
- Reduce use of light-emitting technology, such as your TV, iPad, and computer, before going to bed. These emit the type of light that will suppress melatonin production, which in turn will hamper your ability to fall asleep, as well as impact your cancer risk (melatonin helps to suppress harmful free radicals in your body and slows the production of estrogen, which can activate cancer). Ideally, you'll want to turn all such light-emitting gadgets off at least one hour prior to bedtime.
This Nightly Activity Can Have a Profound Influence on How Much You Weigh
What's the Worst Thing You Can Do if You Can't Fall Asleep?
By Dr. Mercola
When it comes to vitamin D research, there seems to be no end to the good news. No matter what ailment is being evaluated, vitamin D churns out positive results. Below, I'll review seven recent findings from the medical literature.
Keep in mind that while these studies looked at the health effects of vitamin D supplementation, the ideal way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through appropriate sun exposure.
If sun is unavailable for whatever reason, next best would be a safe tanning bed, as UV ray exposure appears to have health benefits over and beyond the production of vitamin D. To learn more about safe and effective sun exposure, please see my previous article, Little Sunshine Mistakes that Can Give You Cancer Instead of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D and Strength Training – A Potent Combo to Reduce Dangerous Visceral Fat
That said, one of the most exciting findings, from my perspective, is that vitamin D supplementation combined with resistance training may help decrease your waist-to-hip ratio – a measurement that is far better at determining your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease than body mass index (BMI).
The study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition,1 included 23 overweight and obese participants, all of whom completed 12 weeks of resistance training. Half of them also received 4,000 IU's of vitamin D, while the other half got a placebo. Interestingly, analysis revealed an inverse association between the change in vitamin D status and the change in waist-to-hip ratio.
According to the authors:
"The results of the current study demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation improved muscular power in healthy overweight and obese individuals within four weeks and that elevated vitamin D status was associated with greater losses in waist circumference, with no additional benefits in lean mass accumulation, muscular strength, or glucose tolerance during participation in a 12-week resistance exercise training program.
The current results support previous findings that indicate a relationship between vitamin D status and waist circumference rather than fat mass. The inverse relationship with waist circumference is particularly important as abdominal fat has been implicated as an important factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes...
Waist circumference is also an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Therefore, the greater decrease in waist circumference associated with higher vitamin D intake represents a potential reduction in risk for metabolic disease and cardiovascular risk."
New Tables for Waist Measurement
This recent observation on vitamin D and its connection to fat mass and waist circumference prompted me to research the topic further and compile the following two charts2 to help you guide your health progress. I am convinced that properly measuring your waist size is far more important than monitoring your weight, as it will actually differentiate your fat mass.
More Evidence Vitamin D May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Additional support for the theory that vitamin D can be beneficial in the fight against type 2 diabetes was published in June.3 Here, the researchers found "a strong additive interaction between abdominal obesity and insufficient 25(OH)D in regard to insulin resistance." They also claim 47 percent of the increased odds of insulin resistance can be explained by the interaction between insufficient vitamin D levels and a high BMI. They concluded that:
"Within a cross-sectional, nationally representative sample, abdominal obesity and insufficient 25(OH)D interact to synergistically influence the risk of insulin resistance."
Yet another study4 published in Diabetes Care also suggests vitamin D supplements may help prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus in people with pre-diabetes. While the study is only an observational one and cannot establish causality, the researchers report that the participants who had the highest vitamin D levels were 30 percent less likely to develop diabetes during the three-year evaluation period, compared to those with the lowest levels.
Vitamin D Shows Eye Health Benefits
Next, a study5 published in January found that supplementing with vitamin D3 helps rejuvenate aging eyes by reducing inflammation and amyloid beta – a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness. According to the authors:
"Vitamin D3 plays a key role in immune regulation and may protect against the aging process. A focal point for age-related changes is the outer retina of the eye where there is high metabolic demand resulting in a gradual increase in extracellular deposition, inflammation, and cell loss giving rise to visual decline. Here, we demonstrate that vitamin D3 administration for only 6 weeks in aged mice significantly impacts on this aging process... Recently, vitamin D3 has been linked epidemiologically to protection against age-related macular degeneration. Hence, vitamin D3 enrichment is likely to represent a beneficial route for those at risk."
Dietary Vitamin D and Sun Exposure Linked to Reduced Alzheimer's Risk
Speaking of amyloid beta, this component is not just a risk factor for macular degeneration, it's also found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. No wonder then that scientists have discovered an association between vitamin D status and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.6 As reported by Dr. William Grant for The Vitamin D Council:7
"This cohort included women over the age of 75 years at time of enrollment and was designed to study risk factors for hip fractures over a four-year period. Women who had taken vitamin D supplements in the 18 months prior to enrollment were excluded. Dietary factors and midday sun exposure habits were examined at time of enrollment. The mean dietary vitamin D intake was 334±172 IU/day. The presence of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias was assessed seven years after enrollment.
Those in the highest fifth of vitamin D intake had one-quarter the incidence rate of Alzheimer's disease as the other four fifths... In addition, those in the highest fifth of sun exposure had half the incidence rate of Alzheimer's disease..."
'Sunshine Vitamin' Helps Treat Tuberculosis and Slash Pneumonia Deaths
Vitamin D's ability to fight infection8 has again been highlighted in studies relating to tuberculosis and pneumonia. In the first case, researchers at the University of London discovered that sun exposure – or a high dose of supplemental vitamin D – can be helpful in the treatment of tuberculosis, shortening the length of the illness.9, 10 Tuberculosis is a lung disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. It's one of the top three causes of death, worldwide, for women between the ages of 15 and 44. As reported by CBS News:11
"Before antibiotics were readily available, doctors would to send their patients to receive heliotherapy - basically prescribed sunbathing. The practice was stopped since more effective antibiotics were invented, but physicians have often wondered why the sunshine treatment seemed to somewhat work.
Researchers at Queen Mary at the University of London decided to test out the old treatment with modern day antibiotics. What they discovered was that when coupled together, antibiotics and high doses of vitamin D - which is created in the body when it is exposed the sun - helped people recover faster from tuberculosis."
Ninety-five tuberculosis patients were included in the study. While all received antibiotics, 44 were given supplemental vitamin D, and the remaining 51 received a placebo. Those who received vitamin D cleared the tuberculosis bacterium in just 23 days, compared to 36 days for those given a placebo. The vitamin D group also had less inflammation during the treatment period.
According to the authors, one of the ways vitamin D helps modulate your immune system is via calcitriol, the active metabolite of vitamin D, which induces innate antimicrobial responses in your body and suppresses proinflammatory cytokine responses.
Meanwhile, Dutch scientists have found that measuring vitamin D levels in patients' bodies can accurately predict their risk of dying from pneumonia within a month of admission to the hospital. The findings, which were presented at the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress,12 suggest that treating patients who have pneumonia with vitamin D supplements may stimulate their immune systems and improve outcomes. Adding vitamin D measurement to the pneumonia severity index could also help improve the accuracy of this prognostic tool.
According to GP Online:13
"Researchers examined disease severity and outcomes in 272 adults attending the emergency department with community-acquired pneumonia. Over half (53 percent) of patients were vitamin D deficient, of which 24 percent had severe deficiency. The team then looked at vitamin D status among these patients and compared this to their immune responses, including levels of C-reactive protein, total cortisol and leukocytes.
They found severe vitamin D deficiency raised the risk of intensive care admission and 30-day mortality. Levels of vitamin D independently predicted 30-day mortality, and improved the accuracy of the PSI score from 78 percent to 85 percent.
Co-author Dr Sabine Meijvis... said: 'Based on these results, [testing] vitamin D levels on admissions could be a useful prognostic biomarker for patients with pneumonia.' She added: 'Based on the observational design of the study, we are unable to establish a causal relationship between vitamin D levels and adverse outcomes. However, when future studies are able to confirm such a causal relationship, vitamin D supplementation might be a promising candidate for adjuvant treatment during pneumonia.'"
Correction of Vitamin D Deficiency Improves Seizure Control in Epilepsy
Last but not least, vitamin D appears to be beneficial for those with epilepsy as well. Hungarian researchers discovered that by correcting vitamin D deficiencies, epileptics were able to control their seizures better.14
The pilot study included 13 subjects between the ages of 19 and 60, who had had epilepsy anywhere between 10-42 years. The median vitamin D levels at the outset of the study was 11.8 ng/ml, ranging from less than 4 ng/ml up to 34.2 ng/ml. All subjects were given a one-time mega-dose of vitamin D3, ranging from 40,000 IU's all the way up to 200,000 IU's, followed by a daily dose of 2,000-2,600 IU's a day for three months, in an effort to correct each individual's vitamin D status and bring them up to at least 30 ng/ml.
At the 90-day follow-up, the median vitamin D level for the group was 38 ng/ml, ranging from 23.3 to 45 ng/ml. They then tallied the number of seizures experienced during the three-month long treatment period, compared to the three months prior to treatment.
Ten out of 13 had a decrease in the number of seizures; five of which experienced more than a 50 percent reduction. Two participants had more seizures, while one experienced no change at all. Overall, the group had a 40 percent reduction in the number of seizures. While the authors did not offer an explanation for the results, they did note that vitamin D receptors are present in the brain.
New European Guidance on Vitamin D Intake
The Multiple Sclerosis Trust16 also noted that researchers are studying vitamin D deficiency in people with multiple sclerosis as well, to determine a safe and therapeutic dose. In a surprising but positive move, the European Food Safety Authority has raised the RDA for vitamin D supplementation to levels far beyond American guidelines. The EU recommendations are now as follows:15
- Adults 18 years or older = 4,000 IU/day
- Children 11-17 years of age = 4,000 IU/day
- Children 1-10 years of age = 2,000 IU/day
- Infants less than 1year of age = 1,000 IU/day
Reminder: The Best Form of Vitamin D Does Not Come in a Pill...
Again, while this article is focused on research related to vitamin D supplementation, it's important to remember that the IDEAL way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure. While your skin does create vitamin D3 in response to sun light, which is theoretically the same as the D3 you get from an oral supplement, there's cause to believe that the vitamin D created from sun exposure may have additional health benefits.
If Taking a Vitamin D Supplement, Take the Right Form, and Remember Vitamin K2
Keep in mind that if you do opt for a supplement, make sure you're taking vitamin D3 and not the synthetic D2. This is important, as a recent analysis17 of 50 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 94,000 participants, showed:
- A six percent relative reduction in mortality among those who used vitamin D3, but
- A two percent relative risk increase among those who used D2
Also, while Europe is doing the responsible thing by increasing the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D, it's important to realize that the most important factor is your serum vitamin D level (the level in your blood), not the dose. The only way to determine whether you're within the therapeutic range is to regularly test your vitamin D levels. If you're like most people, you'll likely need far more than 4,000 IU's a day. According to the most recent research, the ideal adult dose is closer to 8,000 IU's a day in order to achieve serum levels at or above 40 ng/ml.
That said, you really should be taking whatever dosage required to obtain a therapeutic level of vitamin D in your blood. For more information, including an in-depth explanation of everything you need to know before you get tested, please see Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.
Also be aware that if you take high doses of supplemental vitamin D, you also need to make sure you're getting enough vitamin K2, as these two nutrients work in tandem. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries.
While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, suggests that for every 1,000 IU's of vitamin D you take, you may benefit from about 100 micrograms of K2, and perhaps as much as 150-200 micrograms (mcg).
The latest vitamin D dosing recommendations, which call for about 8,000 IU's of vitamin D3 per day if you're an adult, means you'd need in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,000 micrograms (0.8 to 1 milligram/mg) of vitamin K2. That said, the most important factor is not the dosage but rather your vitamin D serum level, which should ideally be between 50-70 ng/ml. When taking an oral vitamin D supplement, you should take enough to reach and maintain this therapeutic level.
If You Take Oral Vitamin D You MUST Avoid Making This Serious Mistake
3 Reasons You May Not be Getting Enough Vitamin D this Summer
By Dr. Mercola
In association with the Human Food Project1, University of Colorado researchers and other scientists and collaborators around the world2 are launching what I believe might be one of the most important natural health projects of this century.
The project, known as “American Gut3” will allow participants to learn more about their guts — which microbes inhabit your intestines, and how they’re affecting your health. (A related project, uBiome, will enroll people from anywhere in the world.)
I’m very excited about this, and encourage you to join in what I think is a truly worthwhile science project.
Because let there be no mistake about it, the makeup of bacteria residing in your gut has a phenomenal impact on your health — both physical and mental. Optimizing your gut flora is, quite simply, one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and mental state.
Jeff Leach, a graduate student at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a co-founder of the American Gut Project recently told Prevention Magazine4:
“We hope to enter the national conversation about what you should eat. Our question is this: From the perspective of your microbiome, which is now linked to most acute and chronic diseases, what diet should you follow?”
Join the American Gut Project!
American Gut builds on previous projects, including the Human Microbiome Project5, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The aim of the Microbiome Project was to “characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health.”
American Gut will go a step further by allowing the public to participate, and all the gathered information will be made public (except the personal information of the participants of course). It’s an extremely ambitious project seeking to identify the parameters for the ideal gut flora, and how diet affects it.
The American Gut Project’s website explains how it will work:
“American Gut is a project built on open-source, open-access principles. Our data are for the good of understanding and will be shared both with participants and with other scientists. Our experience has been that our best ideas and work come when we involve people in as many steps of our work as possible...
The more we can understand the complex microbial ecosystems on which we depend, the more everyone will benefit... Human diets vary to the extreme, from complete herbivory (vegans) to something close to pure carnivory. By reaching out to people with all types of diets, whether voluntary due to personal beliefs or to enhance athletic performance, or required by conditions such as celiac disease, we can reach a much broader range of eaters and potentially a much broader range of microbiomes -- but American Gut needs all comers.
We will also be able to cross-reference your data with those living traditional lifestyles such as hunter-gatherers and farmers across the globe (see below), from Peru to Namibia.
However, to do this, good diet information (and other possible influences from smoking to antibiotics) is critical, and so we’ll ask you to fill in detailed information about these factors in the questionnaire with your kit. Your diet and other health information are essential to the project, so please plan on bringing it along! So how does your diet and lifestyle shape your gut microbiome? And how does it compare to folks following different diets - and does it even matter? Most likely yes. Only one way to find out.”
How Joining the American Gut Project Can Benefit You
Signing up as a participant in the American Gut project (by making a donation) will not only benefit science — and in this case the science of diet and natural health — you will also get valuable information about the state of your own gut. Prevention Magazine even added the American Gut Project to its “Top 10 Gifts for the Foodie” on your Christmas list6.
Every bit of evidence indicates that this may be one of the best health tests you can take.I am personally participating in this project and very excited to see what consuming several ounces of fermented vegetables nearly every day has done to my bowel flora.
What’s truly exciting about this project is the fact that it will allow us to really evaluate and compare the effects of a very diverse conglomeration of lifestyles. Scientific studies almost always focus on carefully chosen groups of people who are studied for a specific purpose, typically to confirm or debunk a hypothesis. This project on the other hand will crack the lid open on the effects on gut flora of a myriad of lifestyle choices, by people of all ethnicities and ages. According to Professor Rob Knight of CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute7:
“A key aspect of the project is to understand how diet and lifestyle, whether by choice -- like athletes or vegetarians -- or by necessity, including those suffering from particular autoimmune diseases or who have food allergies, affect peoples’ microbial makeup.”
The project is crowdfunded, meaning it’s funded by volunteer donations. In return, you get certain “Perks,” which include:
- A list of the dominant microbes in your gut
- Visualizations showing how you compare to the general population
- Charts showing the dominant kinds of microbes along with descriptions of what they are most associated with
- If your donation covers multiple sample kits, you may be able to see how your microbes change over time (if all the samples are from you), or how your microbes compare to those in your family members, for example
Here’s a summary of how many sampling kits you receive with your donation (Please understand that we are only endorsing this project and the entire cost below goes directly to the Project):
- $99 — One kit, which can be used for either a stool, skin or oral sample
- $180 — Receive two kits, which can be used by yourself, either by sending in two different types of samples (stool and oral sample, for example), or by sending them in at different times to see how your microbes change over time. Or the kits can be used to send in one type of sample from two different people
- $260 — Receive three kits
- $320 — Receive four kits
- For donations of $500 and over, please see the American Gut Project IndieGoGo website
The kits contain pre-labeled test tubes and instructions for how to properly collect your samples. Each sample must be mailed to the University of Colorado within 48 hours of collection. (You will be responsible for the postage: $1.95 per sample.) Kits will be mailed out starting in January, 2013.
How Your Gut Microbes Can Affect Your Health
In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that the microbes in your gut play a much more vital role in your health than previously conceived. In fact, probiotics, along with a host of other gut microorganisms, are so crucial to your health that researchers have compared them to "a newly recognized organ." Some interesting research to date includes:
- Behavior: A study published in Neurogastroenterology & Motility8 found mice that lack gut bacteria were found to behave differently from normal mice, engaging in what would be referred to as "high-risk behavior." This altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain. Researchers stated:
"Bacteria colonize the gut in the days following birth, during a sensitive period of brain development, and apparently influence behavior by inducing changes in the expression of certain genes."
- Gene Expression: Researchers have also discovered that the absence or presence of gut microorganisms during infancy permanently alters gene expression. Through gene profiling, they were able to discern that absence of gut bacteria altered genes and signaling pathways involved in learning, memory, and motor control. This suggests that gut bacteria are closely tied to early brain development and subsequent behavior. These behavioral changes could be reversed as long as the mice were exposed to normal microorganisms early in life. But once the germ-free mice had reached adulthood, colonizing them with bacteria did not influence their behavior.
In a similar way, probiotics have also been found to influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.
- Diabetes: Bacterial populations in the gut of diabetics9 differ from non-diabetics, according to a study from Denmark. In particular, diabetics had fewer Firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, compared to non-diabetics. The study also found a positive correlation for the ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance. The researchers concluded:
"The results of this study indicate that type 2 diabetes in humans is associated with compositional changes in intestinal microbiota."
- Autism: Establishment of normal gut flora in the first 20 days or so of life plays a crucial role in appropriate maturation of your baby's immune system. Hence, babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems and are particularly at risk for developing such disorders as ADHD, learning disabilities and autism, particularly if they are vaccinated before restoring balance to their gut flora.
To get a solid understanding of just how this connection works, I highly recommend reviewing the information shared by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in this previous interview.
- Obesity: The make-up of gut bacteria tends to differ in lean vs. obese people. This is one of the strongest areas of probiotic research to date, and you can read about a handful of such studies here. The bottom line is that restoring your gut flora should be an important consideration if you're struggling to lose weight, and doing this is relatively straightforward, as I'll describe below.
How to Optimize Your Gut Flora
An estimated 80 percent of your immune system is also located in your gut, so reseeding your gut with healthy bacteria is important for the prevention of virtually ALL disease, from colds to cancer. In light of this, here are my recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria.
- Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots, and natto (fermented soy).
Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load.
Fermented vegetables, which are one of my new passions, are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into our gut. And, unlike some other fermented foods, they tend to be palatable, if not downright delicious, to most people. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture. We recently had samples of high-quality fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium.
Most high quality probiotics supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it’s your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.
- Probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis.
In addition to knowing what to add to your diet and lifestyle, it’s equally important to know what to avoid, and these include:
Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotics supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria) Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals
Simple Acne Treatment Works by Helping Your Gut Brain Connection
Can Inflammation in this Organ be at the Root of Your Depression?
By Dr. Mercola
If you're sleep deprived for a night or two (or more), you expect to feel groggy and irritable.
But losing sleep impacts your body on a far deeper level, too, increasing your risk of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes.
New research has shed some light onto why sleep deprivation may be so damaging to your health, as it linked lack of sleep to serious impairments in the way your body responds to the hormone insulin.
Lack of Sleep Impairs Your Body's Insulin Sensitivity
Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, allowing your blood sugar levels to get too high. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes as well as a risk factor in many other chronic diseases.
In fact, controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The increase in insulin-related diseases we're now seeing is largely due to lack of exercise combined with the excessive consumption of fructose and carbohydrate consumption in the average American diet … but it also appears that lack of sleep is likely playing a part in the equation too.
According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine,1 after four nights of sleep deprivation (sleep time was only 4.5 hours per night), study participants' insulin sensitivity was 16 percent lower, while their fat cells' insulin sensitivity was 30 percent lower, and rivaled levels seen in those with diabetes or obesity. The study's senior author, Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, told CNN:2
"This is the equivalent of metabolically aging someone 10 to 20 years just from four nights of partial sleep restriction. Fat cells need sleep, and when they don't get enough sleep, they become metabolically groggy."
Not Enough Sleep Has Serious Consequences To Your Metabolism
When you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. In one 2010 study,3 researchers found that people who slept only four hours for two consecutive nights experienced:
- 18 percent reduction in leptin
- 28 percent increase in ghrelin
This combination leads to an increase in appetite. Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Researchers have suggested that these sugar cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fueled by glucose (blood sugar); therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, and your brain is unable to properly respond to insulin (which drives glucose into brain cells) your brain becomes desperate for carbohydrates to keep going. If you're chronically sleep deprived, consistently giving in to these sugar cravings will virtually guarantee that you'll gain weight.
As mentioned, getting too little sleep also dramatically decreases the sensitivity of your insulin receptors, which will raise your insulin levels. This too is a surefire way to gain weight, as the insulin will seriously impair your body's ability to burn and digest fat. It also increases your risk of diabetes. In short, sleep deprivation puts your body in a pre-diabetic state, which can lead to increased weight and decreased health.
Can't Sleep? Here are 10 Reasons Why…
If you're staying up late to watch your favorite TV program or intentionally pulling an all-nighter to cram for a test, you know why your sleep is lacking. But far more often, Americans have trouble sleeping and they don't know why. According to the National Sleep Foundation, few Americans get sufficient amounts of sleep. Only four in 10 respondents said they got a good night's sleep every night, or almost every night, of the week,4 and a separate poll found 43 percent of Americans reported "rarely or never" getting a good night's sleep on weekdays.5
There are many factors that can influence your sleep. For my complete recommendations and guidelines that can help you improve your sleep, please see my article 33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep. Following are 10 often-overlooked factors that might be interfering with your sleep:
- Too Much Light in Your Room
Even the tiniest bit of light in the room, including those emitted by electronic devices, can disrupt your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby disrupting your sleep cycle.
So close your bedroom door, install black-out drapes, use a sleep mask, get rid of night-lights, and refrain from turning on any light during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. If you have to use a light you can use a red flashlight, as that wavelength of light has a minimal impact on melatonin production..
- Exercising Too Close to Bedtime
Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime (generally not within the three hours before) or it may keep you awake.
- Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
- Your Bedroom is Too Warm
Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep.
Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body's natural temperature drop.
- Caffeine is Keeping You Awake
Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, which means some will still be in your system even 10 hours later, and 12.5% 20 hours later (see the problem?). Plus, in some people caffeine is not metabolized efficiently, leaving you feeling its effects even longer after consumption. So, an afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night. Be aware that some medications contain caffeine as well (for example, diet pills).
- You're Watching the Clock
The more you watch the clock when you wake up in the middle of the night, the more stressed and anxious you will become, and the more you may actually "train" yourself to start awakening at the same time each night. The solution is simple: Remove the clock from your view so you actually have to sit up or change positions to see the clock.
- Watching TV to Help You Fall Asleep
The artificial glow from your TV can serve as a stimulus for keeping you awake and, possibly, eating, when you should really be asleep. Further, computer and TV screens (and most light bulbs) emit blue light, to which your eyes are particularly sensitive simply because it's the type of light most common outdoors during daytime hours. As a result, it can disrupt your melatonin production and further interfere with your sleep.
- Worrying in the Middle of the Night
If stress keeps you up at night, try keeping a "worry journal" next to your bedside so you can jot down your thoughts there and clear them from your head. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can also help balance your body's bioenergy system and resolve some of the emotional stresses that are contributing to your insomnia at a very deep level. The results are typically long lasting and improvement is remarkably rapid.
- Do Not Eat Three Hours Before Bed
Although you might struggle with this initially, it is ideal to avoid eating any foods three hours before bed, as this will optimize your blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels and contribute to overall good health.
The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant, which can keep you awake much as though you just drank a cup of coffee.
How Much Sleep is "Enough"?
There is no perfect answer to this question because the answer depends on a large number of highly individual factors. The general consensus seems to be that most people need somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep each night. You are seriously fooling yourself if you are sleeping less than six hours a night and saying you don't need much sleep to be healthy.
There's compelling research indicating that sleeping less than six hours may increase your insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. And less than five hours of sleep at night may double your risk of being diagnosed with angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Interestingly enough, the same appears to be true when you sleep more than nine hours per night.
The question of the ideal amount of sleep is a topic Dr. Rubin Naiman -- a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and the leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams -- has addressed on numerous occasions throughout his career as a sleep expert (as well as in the video above), and he agrees: people want a number, but this 'number' must be as individual as the person asking for it.
"I think asking 'how many of hours of sleep should I get?' is like asking, 'Doctor, how many calories should I eat?'" he says. "Of course the answer to that depends on who that person is. It's so individual. It also depends on the quality of those calories. Again, a lot of people are knocking themselves out night after night after night with sleeping pills. They may be getting seven to eight hours, but is it sleep? It looks like sleep. It might feel like sleep, but you know what, it's not really sleep. That's part of the question too—the quality of it."
Again, for a comprehensive sleep guide for quality sleep, please see my article 33 Secret's to a Good Night's Sleep.
This Common Sleeping Mistake Can Double Your Risk of a Heart Attack
Unplug! Too Much Light at Night May Lead to Depression