Cold Water the Secret to Losing Weight?

by Cheryl/Underground Health Reporter

Leave it to NASA scientists to find the overlooked secret to shedding pounds! No, it is not NOT rubbing bacon on it!

Losing weight can sometimes feel like rocket science, but the formula for melting excess fat may be closer to rocket science than we could have imagined!

The secret… is body temperature.

NASA Scientist Discovers the “Body Temperature—Fat Loss” Code

Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist, spent years trying to shed excess pounds but was never able to keep the weight off. Frustrated, he put his world-class brain to work. Using the tools available to him, he analyzed his goals and how to achieve them. The new dawn of weight loss then started to shed its glorious light. He realized there was something missing from the multitude of popular diet and exercise plans available.

For more of us, losing weight focuses on controlling a few factors: diet, exercise and calories. However, we lack addressing one critical factor: the relationship between body temperature and our surroundings. This is critical, because the human body must maintain its temperature at about 98.6 degrees, regardless of the temperature of its surroundings.

“It takes a lot of energy to keep it that way, no different than heating your house,” Cronise explains.

So, what happens when you expose your body to colder temperatures? Your metabolism is kicked into high gear. Cronise doubled his weight loss in 6 weeks by exposing his body to cold temperatures! He dropped 30 pounds of fat alone!

One of the techniques Cronise used for exposing his body to cold temperatures was to take cold showers. Not only does speed up weight loss, it turns out cold water therapy has some overall health benefits.

Power of Cold Water Therapy

Modern science and history has proved the use benefits of cold water therapy for various health conditions:

Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic pain and inflammation
Frequent colds
High blood pressure
Heart conditions
Insomnia
Cold water therapy has even been useful for treating various forms of non-lymphoid types of cancer.

The How-To of Cold Water Therapy

Don’t have the guts to jump into the deep end of ice water? Don’t worry, Dr. Alexa Fleckenstein, M.D., a board-certified internist who practices traditional and complementary medicine in the Boston area, advises the gradual approach to cold water therapy is best. The shock of stepping into a purely cold shower can have a too-strong effect on your blood pressure.

Start with your usual warm shower.
Once you’ve finished with your usual shower, you can step away from the water stream and turn off the hot water, while leaving the cold water running.
Only then do you gradually ease yourself into the cold stream, moving slowly from your feet to your hands and then your face.
Then finally you can step your whole body under the cold stream.

Work towards a full body cold shower at your own comfort. If the shock of a cold water therapy shower is intolerable, start with just your feet, hands and face. Your whole body will gradually adapt in body temperature to the duration and area of exposure.

Cold water therapy can vary. If cold showers are miserable, start with drinking cold water. Cronise recommends then varying exposure by immersing your face into a sink filled with water and ice cubes. Total dedication to cold water therapy may put you in the “polar bear” club, plunging into near freezing water!

As with many therapeutic health practices, the concept of cold water therapy has given rise to plentiful options. If you’re willing to experiment (in the true NASA spirit), you’re sure to find one you enjoy. Lastly, enjoy the secret benefit of weight loss that cold water therapy provides!

teenshealthandfitness:

The Perfect To-Do list! 
Teenshealthandfitness.Tumblr.Com

teenshealthandfitness:

The Perfect To-Do list!
Teenshealthandfitness.Tumblr.Com

fodmap-healthyrecipes:

If you can make a stir fry you’ll never go hungry! 
Had left over cooked chicken so I cooked some zucchini in a pan threw in some shredded cabbage and chicken and a dressing I made from lemon, boiled water, chilli flakes, cumin, gluten free soy sauce.
Not sure exact quantities I just threw it all together then in the pan til tossed it for a minute or two then enjoyed! Yum! Easy and healthy

fodmap-healthyrecipes:

If you can make a stir fry you’ll never go hungry!
Had left over cooked chicken so I cooked some zucchini in a pan threw in some shredded cabbage and chicken and a dressing I made from lemon, boiled water, chilli flakes, cumin, gluten free soy sauce.
Not sure exact quantities I just threw it all together then in the pan til tossed it for a minute or two then enjoyed! Yum! Easy and healthy

Why Do We Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective

paleorecipecookbook:

I just posted a narrated Powerpoint version of my talk “Why Do We Overeat? A Neurobiological Perspective" to YouTube.  Here’s the abstract:
In the United States, the “obesity epidemic” has paralleled a gradual increase in daily calorie intake.  Why do we eat more than we used to, and more than we need to remain lean— despite negative consequences?  This talk reviews the neurobiology of eating behavior, recent changes in the US food system, and why the brain’s hardware may not be up to the task of constructively navigating the modern food environment.
This is the same talk I gave at the University of Virginia this January.  I had a number of people request it, so here it is:
 
 
This is one of my favorite talks, and it was very well received at UVA.  If you find it informative, please share it!
 
 
ucsdhealthsciences:

Herpes Infected Humans Before They Were HumanThe virus originated in chimpanzees, jumping into humans 1.6 million years ago
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago while the latter jumped from ancient chimpanzees to ancestors of modern humans – Homo erectus – approximately 1.6 million years ago.
The findings are published in the June 10 online issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.
“The results help us to better understand how these viruses evolved and found their way into humans,” said Joel O. Wertheim, PhD, assistant research scientist at the UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center and lead author of the study. “Animal disease reservoirs are extremely important for global public health. Understanding where our viruses come from will help guide us in preventing future viruses from making the jump into humans.”
Approximately two-thirds of the human population is infected with at least one herpes simplex virus. The viruses are most commonly presented as cold sores on the mouth or lips or blisters on the genitals.
“Humans are the only primates we know of that have two herpes simplex viruses,” said Wertheim. “We wanted to determine why.”
The researchers compared the HSV-1 and HSV-2 gene sequences to the family tree of simplex viruses from eight monkey and ape host species. Using advanced models of molecular evolution, the scientists were able to more accurately estimate ancient viral divergence times. This approach allowed them to determine when HSV-1 and HSV-2 were introduced into humans with far more precision than standard models that do not account for natural selection over the course of viral evolution.  
The genetics of human and primate herpes viruses were examined to assess their similarity. It became clear that HSV-1 has been present in humans far longer than HSV-2, prompting the researchers to further investigate the origins of HSV-2 in humans.
The viral family tree showed that HSV-2 was far more genetically similar to the herpes virus found in chimpanzees. This level of divergence indicated that humans must have acquired HSV-2 from an ancestor of modern chimpanzees about 1.6 million years ago, prior to the rise of modern humans roughly 200,000 years ago.
“Comparing virus gene sequences gives us insight into viral pathogens that have been infecting us since before we were humans,” said Wertheim.

ucsdhealthsciences:

Herpes Infected Humans Before They Were Human
The virus originated in chimpanzees, jumping into humans 1.6 million years ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified the evolutionary origins of human herpes simplex virus (HSV) -1 and -2, reporting that the former infected hominids before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago while the latter jumped from ancient chimpanzees to ancestors of modern humans – Homo erectus – approximately 1.6 million years ago.

The findings are published in the June 10 online issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

“The results help us to better understand how these viruses evolved and found their way into humans,” said Joel O. Wertheim, PhD, assistant research scientist at the UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center and lead author of the study. “Animal disease reservoirs are extremely important for global public health. Understanding where our viruses come from will help guide us in preventing future viruses from making the jump into humans.”

Approximately two-thirds of the human population is infected with at least one herpes simplex virus. The viruses are most commonly presented as cold sores on the mouth or lips or blisters on the genitals.

“Humans are the only primates we know of that have two herpes simplex viruses,” said Wertheim. “We wanted to determine why.”

The researchers compared the HSV-1 and HSV-2 gene sequences to the family tree of simplex viruses from eight monkey and ape host species. Using advanced models of molecular evolution, the scientists were able to more accurately estimate ancient viral divergence times. This approach allowed them to determine when HSV-1 and HSV-2 were introduced into humans with far more precision than standard models that do not account for natural selection over the course of viral evolution.  

The genetics of human and primate herpes viruses were examined to assess their similarity. It became clear that HSV-1 has been present in humans far longer than HSV-2, prompting the researchers to further investigate the origins of HSV-2 in humans.

The viral family tree showed that HSV-2 was far more genetically similar to the herpes virus found in chimpanzees. This level of divergence indicated that humans must have acquired HSV-2 from an ancestor of modern chimpanzees about 1.6 million years ago, prior to the rise of modern humans roughly 200,000 years ago.

“Comparing virus gene sequences gives us insight into viral pathogens that have been infecting us since before we were humans,” said Wertheim.

making-it-out-alive:

UPDATED 12.07.13(ONLY THE PICTURE WILL APPEAR ON YOUR BLOG) NOTE: I have been informed that the writting will appear on your blog if you have a theme that shows the comments and captions on pictures. If your theme only displays the picture then it won’t appear. sorry for the trouble. 
BREAKFAST:apple spice oatmeal pancakesapple stuffed french toast baby step buns banana pancakesbreakfast breaddairy and gluten free pancakesdouble whole grain pancakeseggie veggie bakeegg white crepesegg white veggie omeletenglish muffinsfluffy canadian pancakesginger bread oatmealgluten free banana bread pancakesgluten free coconut pancakesgranolaoatmeal breakfast cookieoatmeal pancakespancakes peanut butter granolaturkey breakfast sausagevegan banana strawberry oatmeal squaresvegan and gluten free peach crispvegan banana oatmeal wafflesvegan crepeswhole grain pancakesLUNCH:asian chicken saladbaked zucchini friesbbq tuna frittersbread biscuitsburmese shrimp and cucumber saladcaribbean chicken saladcoconut shrimp lettuce wrapscrispy eggplant with spicy tomato saucefajitasgrilled fish tacosgrilled zucchini pizzahawaian chicken kabobsportobello mushroom friesquinoa tortillaskinny tuna melt soft pretzelssushisushi saladsweet potato chipstaco saladtuna saladvegan avocado stuffed with quinoa saladvegan falafelvegetarian sandwichesvegetarian sloppy joeswhole wheat and honey pizza crustDINNER:baked basil zucchinibaked macaroni and cheesebaked salmonbaked squashbaked turkey burgersbalsamic grilled summer vegetables with basil quinoa saladbbq lime and mango turkeybbq rosemary sweet potatoblack bean veggie burgersbroccoli and sundried tomato pastachicken, avocado saladchicken nuggetscitrus grilled chickendinner rollsfarmers market saladfarro salad with roasted mushrooms and parmesangarlic and lime shrimpgarlic and parmesan turkey meatballsgarlic and rosemary chickengnocchigrilled tuna and cous cous saladmexican twice baked potatoesmoroccan apricot chicken tendersmushroom pizza with caramalised onionsoven fried eggplantpecan crusted dover solepineapple pork kebobspork fried riceroasted rosemary root vegetablesroasted vegetable salad with feta and chickpeassauteed garlic and tomato lentil saladseasoned potato wedgesslow cooker meatloafslow cooker pineapple chicken verde slow cooker pulled pork sandwichesslow cooker rosemary chicken slow cooker two bean chickensouthwestern quinoa pasta saladsticky ricethai spiced bbq shrimptuna stuffed zucchinivegan lasagnaveggie lasagnazucchini sticksDESERT: baked applebanana almond and chocolate ice creambanana berry soft servebanana split cheesecake bitesblueberry-pomegranate ice lollieschocolate hazelnut ice creamchocolate moussechocolate puddingcreamy baked pearsfruity popsiclesgreek yogurt cupcakesgreek yogurt thin mint cupcakesgrilled peaches with gingersnapshealthy banana foster healthy brownie mini protein cheesecakeno bake peanut butter nuggetsnutella fudge popspecan piepeanut butter and chocolate ice creampeppermint meringuespremium poached peachesraw carrot cake raw tropical ice creamroasted maple papayasweet potato pie vanilla ice creamvegan and gluten free, peanut butter, caramel cheesecake vegan and gluten free, peanut butter and chocolate chip banana breadwatermelon tartSNACKS:88 healthy snacks under 100kcalalmond joys apple cupcakes apples peanut butter slicesbanana bitesberry oat cupscaramel chewscaramel popcornchocolate barchocolate chip ballschocolate chip cookiescinnamon fruit kebobscranberry pistachio energy bitescrunchy granola barseggplant chipsfrozen banana bitesfrozen fruit popsfrozen yogurt blackberries frozen yogurt strawberriesfruity fun skewershealthy peanut butter oatmeal cookieskettle cornmeringue cookies no bake healthy protein barsno bake nutella protein cookiesoatmeal, raisin, peanut butter ballspeanut butter cupspizza roll upspumpkin seed power barsroasted chick peas skinny coconut cupcakesstrawberry and mango fruit roll up
DRINKS:apple pie smoothiebanana spice smoothieberry watermelon smoothieblueberry banana smoothieblueberry coconut water frosty chocolate cranberry smoothie chocolate milkshakecitrus frosty coco-berry smoothiecoconut hot chocolatecranberry and banana smoothiefresh orange juice smoothiegrapefruit pink smoothie green lemon and pineapple smoothiegreen tea mango smoothiehealthy vegan breakfast smoothieimmunity builder smoothiemocha coconut frappuccinomocha madness recovery shakepeanut butter, banana green smoothiepurpose smoothies strawberry, blueberry smoothiestrawberry lemonade frostystrawberry shortcake smoothie sweet pomegranate smoothie sweet potato hot cocoatasty fruit smoothietropical smoothievegan almond butter banana shakevegan cashew ripple strawberry shakevegan chamomile banana shakevegan chocolate raspberry smoothievegan chocolate s’mores shakevegan chocolate, strawberry, banana shakevegan double chocolate chip shakevegan peaches and cream smoothie vegan peachy hemp protein smoothievegan red, white and blue smoothievegan secret ingredient matcha shakevegan secret ingredient vanilla shakevegan wild blueberry shake virgin peachy lychee daiquiriwatermelon frostywhipped strawberry lemonadeCONDIMENTS: almond-peanut butterbbq saucechocolate peanut butterfig jam with lavender, thyme and walnutshummusketchuppeanut butter fruit dipspinach dipBASICS: almond flourbreadbread crumbscondensed milk housewarming breadpizza doughGREAT HEALTHY FOOD BLOGS: displayed by calorieseverythingdesserts

making-it-out-alive:

UPDATED 12.07.13


(ONLY THE PICTURE WILL APPEAR ON YOUR BLOG) 
NOTE: I have been informed that the writting will appear on your blog if you have a theme that shows the comments and captions on pictures. If your theme only displays the picture then it won’t appear. sorry for the trouble. 

BREAKFAST:
apple spice oatmeal pancakes
apple stuffed french toast 
baby step buns 
banana pancakes
breakfast bread
dairy and gluten free pancakes
double whole grain pancakes
eggie veggie bake
egg white crepes
egg white veggie omelet
english muffins
fluffy canadian pancakes
ginger bread oatmeal
gluten free banana bread pancakes
gluten free coconut pancakes
granola
oatmeal breakfast cookie
oatmeal pancakes
pancakes 
peanut butter granola
turkey breakfast sausage
vegan banana strawberry oatmeal squares
vegan and gluten free peach crisp
vegan banana oatmeal waffles
vegan crepes
whole grain pancakes

LUNCH:
asian chicken salad
baked zucchini fries
bbq tuna fritters
bread biscuits
burmese shrimp and cucumber salad
caribbean chicken salad
coconut shrimp lettuce wraps
crispy eggplant with spicy tomato sauce
fajitas
grilled fish tacos
grilled zucchini pizza
hawaian chicken kabobs
portobello mushroom fries
quinoa tortilla
skinny tuna melt 
soft pretzels
sushi
sushi salad
sweet potato chips
taco salad
tuna salad
vegan avocado stuffed with quinoa salad
vegan falafel
vegetarian sandwiches
vegetarian sloppy joes
whole wheat and honey pizza crust

DINNER:
baked basil zucchini
baked macaroni and cheese
baked salmon
baked squash
baked turkey burgers
balsamic grilled summer vegetables with basil quinoa salad
bbq lime and mango turkey
bbq rosemary sweet potato
black bean veggie burgers
broccoli and sundried tomato pasta
chicken, avocado salad
chicken nuggets
citrus grilled chicken
dinner rolls
farmers market salad
farro salad with roasted mushrooms and parmesan
garlic and lime shrimp
garlic and parmesan turkey meatballs
garlic and rosemary chicken
gnocchi
grilled tuna and cous cous salad
mexican twice baked potatoes
moroccan apricot chicken tenders
mushroom pizza with caramalised onions
oven fried eggplant
pecan crusted dover sole
pineapple pork kebobs
pork fried rice
roasted rosemary root vegetables
roasted vegetable salad with feta and chickpeas
sauteed garlic and tomato lentil salad
seasoned potato wedges
slow cooker meatloaf
slow cooker pineapple chicken verde 
slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches
slow cooker rosemary chicken 
slow cooker two bean chicken
southwestern quinoa pasta salad
sticky rice
thai spiced bbq shrimp
tuna stuffed zucchini
vegan lasagna
veggie lasagna
zucchini sticks


DESERT: 
baked apple
banana almond and chocolate ice cream
banana berry soft serve
banana split cheesecake bites
blueberry-pomegranate ice lollies
chocolate hazelnut ice cream
chocolate mousse
chocolate pudding
creamy baked pears
fruity popsicles
greek yogurt cupcakes
greek yogurt thin mint cupcakes
grilled peaches with gingersnaps
healthy banana foster 
healthy brownie 
mini protein cheesecake
no bake peanut butter nuggets
nutella fudge pops
pecan pie
peanut butter and chocolate ice cream
peppermint meringues
premium poached peaches
raw carrot cake 
raw tropical ice cream
roasted maple papaya
sweet potato pie 
vanilla ice cream
vegan and gluten free, peanut butter, caramel cheesecake 
vegan and gluten free, peanut butter and chocolate chip banana bread
watermelon tart

SNACKS:
88 healthy snacks under 100kcal
almond joys 
apple cupcakes 
apples peanut butter slices
banana bites
berry oat cups
caramel chews
caramel popcorn
chocolate bar
chocolate chip balls
chocolate chip cookies
cinnamon fruit kebobs
cranberry pistachio energy bites
crunchy granola bars
eggplant chips
frozen banana bites
frozen fruit pops
frozen yogurt blackberries 
frozen yogurt strawberries
fruity fun skewers
healthy peanut butter oatmeal cookies
kettle corn
meringue cookies 
no bake healthy protein bars
no bake nutella protein cookies
oatmeal, raisin, peanut butter balls
peanut butter cups
pizza roll ups
pumpkin seed power bars
roasted chick peas 
skinny coconut cupcakes
strawberry and mango fruit roll up


DRINKS:
apple pie smoothie
banana spice smoothie
berry watermelon smoothie
blueberry banana smoothie
blueberry coconut water frosty 
chocolate cranberry smoothie 
chocolate milkshake
citrus frosty 
coco-berry smoothie
coconut hot chocolate
cranberry and banana smoothie
fresh orange juice smoothie
grapefruit pink smoothie 
green lemon and pineapple smoothie
green tea mango smoothie
healthy vegan breakfast smoothie
immunity builder smoothie
mocha coconut frappuccino
mocha madness recovery shake
peanut butter, banana green smoothie
purpose smoothies 
strawberry, blueberry smoothie
strawberry lemonade frosty
strawberry shortcake smoothie 
sweet pomegranate smoothie 
sweet potato hot cocoa
tasty fruit smoothie
tropical smoothie
vegan almond butter banana shake
vegan cashew ripple strawberry shake
vegan chamomile banana shake

vegan chocolate raspberry smoothie
vegan chocolate s’mores shake
vegan chocolate, strawberry, banana shake
vegan double chocolate chip shake
vegan peaches and cream smoothie 
vegan peachy hemp protein smoothie
vegan red, white and blue smoothie
vegan secret ingredient matcha shake
vegan secret ingredient vanilla shake
vegan wild blueberry shake 
virgin peachy lychee daiquiri
watermelon frosty
whipped strawberry lemonade

CONDIMENTS: 
almond-peanut butter
bbq sauce
chocolate peanut butter
fig jam with lavender, thyme and walnuts
hummus
ketchup
peanut butter fruit dip
spinach dip


BASICS: 
almond flour
bread
bread crumbs
condensed milk 
housewarming bread
pizza dough


GREAT HEALTHY FOOD BLOGS: 
displayed by calories
everything
desserts

(via fitandhealthyfoods)

Mysteries of the Mind

Your unconscious is making your everyday decisions

By Marianne Szegedy-Maszak

The snap judgment. The song that constantly runs through your head whenever you close your office door. The desire to drink Coke rather than Pepsi or to drive a Mustang rather than a Prius. The expression on your spouse’s face that inexplicably makes you feel either amorous or enraged. Or how about the now incomprehensible reasons you married your spouse in the first place?

Welcome to evidence of your robust unconscious at work.

While these events are all superficially unrelated, each reveals an aspect of a rich inner life that is not a part of conscious, much less rational, thought. Today, long after Sigmund Freud introduced the world to the fact that much of what we do is determined by mysterious memories and emotional forces, the depths of the mind and the brain are being explored anew. “Most of what we do every minute of every day is unconscious, ” says University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Paul Whelan. “Life would be chaos if everything were on the forefront of our consciousness.”

Fueled by powerful neuroimaging technology, questions about how we make snap decisions, why we feel uncomfortable without any obvious causes, what motivates us, and what satisfies us are being answered not through lying on a couch and exploring individual childhood miseries but by looking at neurons firing in particular parts of our brains. Hardly a week passes without the release of the results of a new study on these kinds of processes. And popular culture is so fascinated by neuroscience that Blink, journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of “thinking without thinking,” has remained on the bestseller lists for four weeks.

Most of us can appreciate the fact that we make up our minds about things based on thinking that takes place somewhere just out of our reach. But today, scientists are finding neural correlates to those processes, parts of the brain that we never gave their due, communicating with other parts, triggering neurotransmitters, and driving our actions. Says Clinton Kilts, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory, “There is nothing that you do, there is no thought that you have, there is no awareness, there is no lack of awareness, there is nothing that marks your daily existence that doesn’t have a neural code. The greatest challenge for us is to figure out how to design the study that will reveal these codes.”

Burgeoning understanding of our unconscious has deeply personal and also fascinating medical implications. The realization that our actions may not be the pristine results of our high-level reasoning can shake our faith in the strength of such cherished values as free will, a capacity to choose, and a sense of responsibility over those choices. We will never be able to control the rhythm of our heartbeats or the choreography of our limbic system. And yet, Gladwell writes that “our snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled … [and] the task of making sense of ourselves and our behavior requires that we acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.”

bodyreshaping:

No More Trouble Zones Workout- Circuit 3 

Insomnia

By Sarah

Let the end of thy first sleep raise thee from thy repose: then hath the body the best temper; then hath thy soul the least encumbranceFrancis Quarles

Nothing refreshes like a good night’s sleep. And there’s little as frustrating, uncomfortable—and potentially debilitating and even dangerous—as a bad night’s sleep, or no sleep at all. The problem is common and growing, if we take as an index the astonishing increase over the last decade in prescriptions for sleep-inducing medications—including some with positively scary adverse effects.

Volumes have been written about insomnia. The field of sleep studies continues to unlock new discoveries every day. If you have trouble sleeping, you have probably been deluged by now with well-meaning advice from friends and family—whether based on folklore or the latest science—much of it perhaps contradictory, confusing or simply ineffective in your case.

In this space, we cannot do more than address some general principles, a few techniques, and some alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs. We hope you find at least something of value.

First Principle: Relax!

We’ll discuss below some specific relaxation techniques that can help prepare the body for sleep. More important to begin with, though, is the general principle that your expectations for sleep may be unrealistic or unsuited to your needs. Your first level of relaxation comes from accepting that the right amount and kind of sleep for you is the kind that leaves you rested and refreshed, and not some formula of a set number of hours between Time A and Time B. Individual bodies and individual needs vary.

There is fascinating modern research, consistent with testimony from literature dating back centuries, suggesting that a pattern of long unbroken sleep through the night is a modern invention of the industrial age and particularly an artifact of advances in artificial lighting to the point where, unlike the candles and lanterns of old, it now rivals daylight, and interferes with melatonin, a brain hormone that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.

For centuries people retired somewhere around 9 or 10 and would wake somewhere past midnight, without anxiety, knowing that the “first sleep” would be followed by a second. An hour of quiet wakefulness might be spent in prayer or contemplation, enjoying a pipe, conversation with a neighbor, some light household task, or making love.

Human subjects experimentally sheltered from artificial light replicate this pattern, and also show on waking elevated levels of prolactin, a complex hormone (named from its association with lactation) that also is associated in both sexes with parenthood, dream-related REM sleep, restful feelings and post-sexual afterglow.

Like Moths To The Flame, Getting Burnt

In the television and computer age, we don’t just bathe our surroundings in light, we stare fixedly into backlit screens for hours on end. Doing this just before bedtime seems to have a pronounced effect on quality of sleep. Heavy nighttime Internet users, even more than late-night TV watchers, report that they get less sleep even when their sleep is objectively not significantly shorter and that they feel less rested after sleeping.

The Body Needs Rest. The Body Needs Anti-Rest.

You will sleep better if your body has had a chance both to be active and to relax before you hit the sack. If your off-the-grid lifestyle has you doing non-mechanized farming, there’s a good chance you get enough exercise. (And if you’re raising livestock, the necessity of adapting to their circadian rhythms may keep your own more regular.) If your work is mostly sedentary, you probably need to maintain an exercise routine in order to have healthy sleep. Studies suggest evening exercise is not helpful, probably because of the lack of a break between the stimulation of physical exertion and the repose required for sleep. Both morning and afternoon exercise have been shown to contribute to a good night’s sleep (along with the many other well-documented health benefits of regular physical activity).

Think there’s no time in your busy day for exercise? Here’s a clue: It’s not uncommon for regular exercise to so improve the quality of your sleep that each minute spent working out in the day will be rewarded by an equal or greater number of minutes of tossing and turning, or of bad sleep, that you can take out of your nightly “schedule”.

Wakeful Rest and Restful Awakeness

Muscle tension can keep us tossing and turning. So can daytime thoughts and worries we can’t seem to shake off at bedtime. Fortunately, there are ways of dealing with these:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation, sometimes assisted by biofeedback, can be learned (one technique is discussed in greater detail below); it may take several weeks of practice to see steady effects on insomnia.
  • Likewise, meditation techniques can help clear the mind of obtrusive thought patterns that interfere with falling asleep; these also require continued practice to become effective.
  • A particularly powerful tool may be yoga, which combines muscle relaxation with a meditative element. As a bonus, many yogic poses exercise particular muscles by having them lift or balance the mass of the body—much as if working with free weights—and thus provide a kind of exertive strength training as well.

To Nap or Not To Nap?

Debate rages over the humble nap. If you are following a specific program designed to regularize your nighttime sleeping, you may be advised to avoid napping. And of course for many of us, the exigencies of the workday do not allow for napping. Still, there are arguments for this ancient human custom. In hot climates, of course, the nap has been institutionalized as the siesta, timed for the hottest part of the day when any attempt at normal activity is likely to be at best uncomfortable and in all likelihood unproductive. Even in cooler climates, napping seems to be standard behavior among our fellow mammals, and research suggests that humans naturally tire after about eight hours of wakefulness. Your best guide here is what your circumstances allow and how your body responds.

It is worth noting—and we refrain from the obvious cheap shots—that both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton napped while serving as president. Albert Einstein would doze in his chair, holding a pencil that would wake him when it dropped; Salvador Dalí used a similar trick with a spoon; both men wanted the brain refresh afforded by the dozing state without falling into a deep sleep. Other celebrated nappers include Napoleon, Leonardo, Edison and Churchill, and the world-conquering Roman Empire.

People with a history of sleep problems who wake unexpectedly early, and dread a day with insufficient sleep, may be able to alleviate that anxiety by the comforting thought that they have allowed themselves the safety net of a nap some time that day.

You may have read about the flawed conclusions drawn from a study that was widely and badly reported to show that napping may increase the risk of developing Type II diabetes. Although a statistical correlation was found, the researchers themselves point out that any such potential risk is less than that from being overweight, being over 40, or having a family history of diabetes. More significantly, the experiment failed to quantify the suspected reduced level of activity among the subjects, and merely hypothesizes, rather than demonstrates, that daytime napping may interfere with nighttime sleep. There is no way of knowing from the research whether napping is a cause or a result of lower activity and poor nighttime sleep.

Now that we know more about insomnia than we did before, in our next article we will discuss ways to battle the much elusive, all too formidable problem faced by millions of people each and every day.

Solutions to Help You Sleep

Your own experience should be your best guide to combating insomnia. If napping seems to enhance your waking hours, it’s probably a good choice. If it leaves you feeling lethargic, or seems to interfere with your nighttime sleep, then it’s probably not for you.

Beyond Habits: Intervention

OK, so you do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule, you exercise, learn relaxation and meditation techniques, and have made an informed decision about napping.

And you’re still having trouble. What else can help?

Foods That Promote Sleep

Whether through chemistry or cultural association, some foods can help bring on restful sleep, starting with that old standby – the glass of warm milk (unless of course you are like 85% of people on earth who are lactose intolerant). You can probably chalk this up to cultural or infantile sensory association, and perhaps also to milk sugars. A meal or snack of mostly carbohydrates seems to send us off to dreamland (this, rather than tryptophan, is now believed to be the reason for the post-holiday-feast crash). As usual, non-sugary, complex carbs are best, such as those found in bananas, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread. In all these cases, just taking a moment to prepare and enjoy a simple treat after the labors of the day may be as helpful as any food chemistry in promoting a good night’s sleep. Of course, to avoid sleep-destroying reflux (heartburn), avoid chocolate and peppermint as bedtime approaches, and don’t eat too much too late.

A Few Tricks in Bed

A crash course in yoga – a yoga aid to crashing Savasana (accent on the second syllable) is a position for relaxation that is a part of virtually every yoga session. It is one yoga pose not recommended for meditation precisely because its total body relaxation promotes drowsiness! As part of yogic practice, there are very particular procedures for entering and leaving savasana; for our purposes, the essence of it is lying on your back with arms and legs slightly outspread, palms up (or in their most comfortably relaxed position). Breathe deeply, evenly, and naturally. Move mentally through your body: checking for muscle tension, lift and stretch each body part that needs to relax.

Traditionally this is done downward from the top of the head; some yogis advise that if your purpose is sleep rather than a state of relaxed wakefulness, you may want to do your relaxation from the toes upward. If you are avoiding sleeping on your back because of sleep apnea, roll onto your side as you feel sleep stealing over you.

Unclench That Jaw
One of the commonly held tensions that interferes with sleep is the clenched jaw. Whether as part of a whole-body inventory or a shorter checklist, checking your jaw for tension can make all the difference in when and whether you fall asleep. If you habitually hold tension in your jaw, you may not even be aware of it. To check, open your mouth as wide as you comfortably can. Now move your jaw forward (away from your chest) till it stops. Relax: release all tension in your facial muscles, leaving yourself “slack-jawed”. Now slowly bring your still gently-extended jaw upward. As your mouth closes, the hinge of your jaw should drop comfortably into a relaxed position. Once you learn this technique, you can apply it smoothly and in an instant. One more roadblock to sleep has been cleared.

Can’t sleep? Then get up!

You really do not want to stay in bed tossing and turning. You don’t want your brain and your body to react to your bed as a place of torment. Get up. Stretch. Check for muscle tension and try to release it. Sit and read, or knit, or step outside to gaze at the stars. Maybe do that simple task you’ve put more energy into avoiding than you need to accomplish it. You may be surprised at how stealthily sleepiness comes over you. Ride out your wakefulness until you feel sleepy again. And remember, your anxiety over “losing” hours of sleep can be lessened if you’ve made at least a contingency plan for daytime napping as needed.

Food and Your Brain

by Rebecca Johnson

We’re all familiar with some of the ways different foods affect our bodies, such as how dairy products can help build strong bones, or how a diet high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure.  Yet, we rarely consider how eating impacts our brains’ functions, including how we learn, age, think and feel.  A new book by Dr. Gary Wenk of The Ohio State University called “Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings” explores some of the many ways foods and spices can have profound effects on the most complex and remarkable organ in our body.

Supporting the Feeding Tube

Nearly all animals have some sort of feeding “tube” (the digestive tract in our case) which allows foods to be ingested, broken down, and digested, together with some way to remove waste products.  In almost all cases, the brain is next to the entrance of this feeding tube.  It should be no surprise, then, that our brains are located next to our mouths, allowing us to best see, smell, and sense the food we eat – the most necessary component for survival.

Our brains are one of the most power-hungry organs in our body, consuming most of the calories made available after digestion.  Its high-energy demands also make it very sensitive – a 10-minute cut to the brain’s energy supply can cause permanent damage.  Clearly, we are creatures designed first and foremost around the goal of eating.

Food as a Drug

Dr. Wenk points out some popular drugs that are often thought of as actual foods, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, and alcohol.  Moreover, he argues that the distinction between nutrients and drugs is becoming increasingly blurred, and suggests that anything taken into our bodies should be considered a drug.

For example, consider something Wenk calls a very powerful drug – sugar.  Our brains require sugar (glucose) to operate and generate strong cravings after blood-sugar levels drop in the time following our last meal.  This helps explain why we crave sweets and simple sugars such as donuts or bagels after waking up in the morning.  These cravings are the same sorts of cravings the brain produces following the absence of any substance it is accustomed to.  As he says in his book, “if you wish to experience the truly overwhelming and powerful nature of drug craving, just stop eating for a full day.”

Our sugar cravings are rewarded with a good feeling as our bodies release dopamine and a form of opiates.  In addition, the sugar helps produce neurotransmitters that assist with memory and learning.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the brain isn’t always what’s good for the rest of the body.  As we know, sugar provides “empty calories”, which can easily lead to overeating, obesity, and pancreatic conditions.

Other Foods

Nutrients found in commonly consumed foods can also affect the brain.  Nuts, eggs, and milk contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is used by the body in order to produce the serotonin neurotransmitter.  A deficiency in this can lead to depression and sleep problems.

Other foods, such as chocolate, coffee, and fava beans can trigger small releases of dopamine, which produces a feeling of pleasure.

Spices such as nutmeg, saffron, cinnamon, and anise contain psychoactive compounds similar to mescaline, which can cause hallucinations and feelings of euphoria in high doses.