Healthy Sleep — Think Quality, Not Quantity
Nearly one in four of us reports trouble
sleeping. New research suggests that part of the problem comes
from misconceptions about what makes for healthy zzz’s. For
starters, it turns out we don’t
all need 8 hours of nightly shut-eye. It’s how well we
sleep that matters, not how long. So forget old assumptions and
consider these emerging facts…
■ Sleep deprivation can kill
you. Studies out of both Columbia and Harvard find
that your risk of developing many life-threatening diseases (like
cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression) increases
if you regularly sleep less than 6 hours a night.
■ But too much sleep
is just as bad. Researchers at the University of California,
San Diego have found that all the health risks we associate with
sleep deprivation are equally associated with overly long sleep,
which means anything over 8 hours. So 8.5 hours may be as risky
as only 5.
■ Unhealthy sleep also
correlates to overweight. Habitual sleep deprivation,
as well as chronic long sleeping, boost your risk for weight
gain because they cause hormone imbalance. Unhealthy sleep
habits lower your level of leptin (which gives you a “full” feeling)
and increases ghrelin (which promotes appetite). In other words,
compelled to eat more.
■ Short naps are good;
long naps are bad. A study out of NASA finds that
20-40 minute nap in the early afternoon significantly
improves alertness (100%) and performance (34%). The boost is
most intense right after you wake up, but it also extends general
alertness up to a few hours at the end of the day. Don’t nap
longer than 40minutes, though, or you’ll disrupt
your nightly sleep.
■ Take melatonin to promote
sleep and overall health. Harvard Medical School
experts find that in low doses, a high-quality melatonin supplement
can aid in the quest for sleep. What’s more, it’s believed
to protect against cancer cell growth.
■ Bottom Line: Studies have found
that the people who live longest typically sleep between 6.5
and 7.5 hours a night.
Fight Back, Insomniacs!
Try cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a technique dating back to
the 1950s. It's the newest rage — with solid science to back
Once you start to sleep well for your allotted hours,
you can add 15-30 minutes a night for the following week. Each week
repeat this process until you routinely fall asleep quickly, stay
asleep and feel well-rested throughout your day. Remember: don’t
exceed 8 hours of sleep per night. For
more tips, check out one woman’s success story at www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/sleep/great-nights-sleep.
- Start with however many hours sleep you typically get
at night. No matter how few that may be, don’t allow yourself any more than
- Set a rigid wake-up time and obey it even on weekends & holidays.
- Now do the math. If you choose 7:00 a.m. as your wake-up time, and
your nightly sleep allotment is 4 hours, then no matter how tired
you feel, you must stay awake until 3:00 a.m.
- You should fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed. If
get up and stay awake until you feel sleepy. Then return
to bed, and if sleep doesn’t follow within 15 minutes, get up
and repeat the process.
- Go to bed only for sleep or sex.
- Allow yourself no naps—not even short ones!
Apple A-Peel ...
A Cornell University study
suggests that apple skin may be responsible for the fruit’s legendary
health benefits. Researchers identified more than a dozen flavonoids
(called tripenoids) in apples and, in laboratory experiments, tested
their effect on human cancer cells. Most showed strong activity
against breast, colon and liver cancer cells. So bite like Adam
into the peel. Amazing-Health
Tip: Always wash fruit well.
Dangerous pesticides may have been sprayed on it, even if it’s
Natural Anti-Aging Creams . . .
If you want to look great but avoid all the typical suggestions—laser
surgery, microdermabrasion, cryosurgery and chemical peels—consider
using vitamin A (as retinol) cream. It’s proved to be the most
effective natural therapy for lines & wrinkles (and age spots,
too). In unrelated research, a 12-week clinical trial found that
a 10% concentration of vitamin C cream also reduced wrinkles
and improved skin tone. Amazing-Health
Tip: Many facial creams contain ascorbyl palmitate, a
derivative of vitamin C. But it’s not likely to be effective at
the low concentrations typically found in these products.
Ginger Relieves Nausea from Chemotherapy . . .
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center
have shown that 1,000-1,500 mg of ground ginger a day (equivalent
to a half-teaspoon) can reduce nausea from chemotherapy up
to 40%, when taken along with standard anti-nausea medications.
important to divide the ginger into several doses each day,
because too much at once can worsen stomach and intestinal
Tip: Ginger should not taken by anyone on a blood-thinning
medication because it increases the drug's efficacy and ups
the risk of dangerous bleeding.
You Gotta Love Cranberries . . .
The well-respected Cochrane Collaboration
finds that 8-oz of 100% cranberry juice can reduce your
chances of developing urinary tract infection. Best of all,
the regimen proved most helpful to those who need it most: women
with a history of recurrent UTIs (three or more a year). Among
this group, cranberry consumption cut the annual rate of new
infections by 30%. Amazing-Health Tip: Each
8-oz “dose” contains 140 calories—about 50%
more than orange juice. So easy does it.
Reconsider Aspirin to Prevent Stroke . . .
The Women’s Health Study tested low dose aspirin,
taken daily, in healthy women 45 and older. Among those 45-65,
the aspirin lowered risk for the most common forms of stroke
but actually increased the chances for a less prevalent
hemorrhagic stroke. For women 65 and older, the benefits
of aspirin were considerably higher: 34% fewer heart attacks
and 30% fewer strokes. So discuss the issue with your doctor.
under 65, the risks may outweigh the benefits. If you’re
65+ (or have a family history of cardiovascular disease)
daily aspirin therapy may be adviseable. Amazing-Health
to your doctor about 81-mg baby aspirin. Many
experts say that’s
enough to provide protection and easier on your stomach.