Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Many Reasons Why You Need Sleep

by Joseph Mercola Oct 15, 2015
(Reprinted from, Robert Stickgold video courtesy of Tedx)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lack of sleep is a public health epidemic, noting that insufficient sleep has been linked to a wide variety of health problems.

After reviewing more than 300 studies to determine how many hours of sleep most people need to maintain their health, an expert panel concluded that, as a general rule, most adults need right around eight hours per night.
Unfortunately, an estimated 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived.

Many get less than five hours of sleep per night, which can have a wide range of health repercussions, from an increased risk of accidents, weight gain and chronic diseases, to reduced sex drive, and decreased sexual satisfaction.1
It also plays an important part in memory formation, and sleep dysfunctions such as sleep apnea have been shown to speed up memory loss.
I used to be one of those people who disregarded the value of sleep, rarely getting more than five or six hours of sleep each night.

I typically average between 8 ½ to 8 ¾ every night, now that I more fully appreciate sleep’s massive value for overall health and longevity.

Sleep and Memory Formation
In the featured video, Robert Stickgold, director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, discusses some of the lesser known reasons for why we need to sleep.
Sleep is actually essential not just for cementing events into long-term memory, but also for making sense of your life.

According to Stickgold, during sleep your brain “extracts the gist of what happened” to you during the day, and fosters insight into the workings of your life.

Essentially, during sleep, your brain pulls together and extracts meaning, while discarding unimportant details. In fact, sleep increases your ability to gain insights that would otherwise remain elusive by about 250 percent!
Dreaming plays a role in this process too. One test showed that thinking about correctly navigating through a maze really had no effect on performance.

Ditto for taking a nap during which no dreaming was reported. Dreaming about navigating through the maze however, increased performance 10-fold!
According to Stickgold, the act of dreaming acts like a predictive marker, indicating that your brain is doing what it needs to do to successfully accomplish the task at hand.

These types of tests also showed that in the dream state, your brain is processing information at multiple levels. Your whole brain is engaged. So, during sleep, part of your brain is busy stabilizing, enhancing, and integrating new memories. It’s also extracting rules, and the “gist” of what’s going on.
Then, during dreaming, old and new memories are integrated to form a new whole, and possible futures are imagined. This is what you actually perceive as “the action” of your dream. The sum total of these processes then allows you to see the meaning of your life.

Less Sleep Results in Greater Calorie Consumption While Awake
On a more physical level, getting less than seven hours of sleep per night has been shown to raise your risk of weight gain, by increasing levels of appetite-inducing hormones.

Recent research in which people’s sleep and food intake was carefully tracked confirmed that more sleep correlated with fewer calories consumed, and vice versa.

Most participants spread their eating and drinking over the course of 15 hours each day. About 25 percent of their daily calories were consumed before noon, and more than 35 percent after 6 pm.

This kind of eating pattern is, I believe, a major reason why so many Americans struggle with their weight. They’re grazing all day long, and eating a majority of their food far too close to bedtime.
This flies in the face of our genetic ancestry, as our bodies are not designed to continuously receive calories. In fact, a number of beneficial effects take place when you go for periods of time without eating. This includes improved insulin and leptin sensitivity, which plays an important role in weight and health.

Eating too close to bedtime also disrupts the function of your mitochondria, thereby speeding up cell damage and contributing to DNA mutations. Indeed, the benefits of restricting your eating to a narrower window each day are revealed in this study too.
As reported by Reuters:5
“The researchers also tested whether the app might help people eat less by encouraging them to consume food and drink over a shorter stretch of the day.

They asked eight overweight people who tended to eat over more than 14 hours of the day to cut back to 10 to 11 hours. After 16 weeks, these people lost about 3.5 percent of their excess body weight and reported sleeping better…”

Poor Sleep Raises Risk of Accidents and Depression
Getting less than six hours of sleep leaves you cognitively impaired, which can have repercussions both at home, at work, and on the road. In 2013, drowsy drivers caused 72,000 car accidents in which 800 Americans were killed, and 44,000 were injured.6

Even a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. Lack of sleep has also been firmly linked to a heightened risk for depression.
Of the approximately 18 million Americans with depression, more than half of them struggle with insomnia. While it was long thought that insomnia was a symptom of depression, it now seems that insomnia may precede depression in some cases.7

Research has also found that sleep therapy resulted in remarkable improvements in depressed patients. About 70 percent of those with sleep apnea, whose sleep is repeatedly disrupted throughout the night, also tend to suffer from symptoms of depression.8
It’s interesting to consider that if lack of sleep and lack of dreaming prevents you from seeing the meaning of your life, and prevents you from integrating memories and imagining possible futures (as discussed in the featured video), couldn’t thatplay a significant role in fostering depression? I believe it could.

Long-Term Sleep Deprivation Is a Risk Factor in Many Chronic Diseases
Over the long term, sleep deprivation — regardless of the cause — has been linked to a number of serious health effects, including but not limited to:
• Diabetes. One of the most recent studies9 on this linked “excessive daytime sleepiness” with a 56 percent increased risk for type 2 diabetes
• Decreased immune function. One recent study10 suggests deep sleep plays a role in strengthening immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens in a way similar to psychological long-term memory retention. In this way, your immune system is able to mount a much faster and more effective response when an antigen is encountered a second time
• Cardiovascular and heart disease. In one study, women who got less than four hours of shut-eye per night doubled their risk of dying from heart disease.11 In a more recent study,12 adults who slept less than five hours a night had 50 percent more coronary calcium, a sign of oncoming heart disease, than those who regularly got seven hours.
Interestingly, sleeping more than nine hours a night was associated with 70 percent more calcium in the coronary arteries, compared to sleeping seven hours. The quality of sleep also had a big impact on blood vessel health. Those who reported sleeping poorly had 20 percent more arterial calcium than those who slept well.
• Alzheimer’s.13 A number of studies have linked poor sleep or lack of sleep to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. One of the reasons for this has to do with the fact that the glymphatic system — your brain’s waste removal system — only operates during deep sleep. Researchers have discovered14 that your blood-brain barrier tends to become more permeable with age, allowing more toxins to enter.
This, in conjunction with reduced efficiency of the glymphatic system due to lack of sleep, allows for more rapid damage to occur in your brain and this deterioration is thought to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
• Cancer. Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions. The primary mechanism thought to be responsible for this effect is disrupted melatonin production, a hormone with both antioxidant and anti-cancer activity. Melatonin both inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and triggers cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). It also interferes with the new blood supply tumors required for their rapid growth (angiogenesis). A number of studies have shown that night shift workers are at heightened risk of cancer for this reason.

Unless nations act, air pollution deaths will double by 2050, study concludes

The annual death toll from outdoor air pollution could double to 6.6 million globally by 2050 without new antipollution measures, a new study suggests. But policymakers seeking to reduce the death toll will need to clamp down on a wide array of potentially hard to control pollution sources—including household furnaces and agricultural activities—that are expected to play a growing role, researchers report today in Nature.

The study marks a solid step toward clarifying exactly how major sources of air pollution contribute to premature death around the world, says Aaron Cohen, an epidemiologist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Boston, who wasn’t involved in the study. That information will prove useful to policymakers, he suggests.

Existing estimates have been hampered by gaps in air pollution data, particularly in the developing world, and a lack of knowledge about how specific air pollution sources contribute to the risk of disease and death.

To get a clearer picture, researchers led by Jos Lelieveld of the Germany-based Max Planck Institute decided to take a global look at outdoor air pollution, which the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates is responsible for almost 3.5 million premature deaths annually. (WHO estimates indoor air pollution accounts for an additional 3.5 million.)

Using a computer model that fused air pollution and atmospheric chemistry data, they estimated what annual average levels of ozone (a key smog ingredient) and fine particulates smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) were in 2010 within 100-km-by-100-km grid squares across the world. Then they forecast what the levels of both pollutants would be in 2050, assuming policymakers implemented no new controls.

Next, the researchers estimated how many premature deaths the pollution caused in each square. To do that, they used a set of equations—recently updated based on the most recent epidemiological research—describing how exposure to air pollution affects a person’s risk of dying from various diseases. These “exposure response relationship” equations enabled the researchers to calculate how fine particles and smog would affect the risk of a range of diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and pulmonary disorders.

In a final step, they estimated the fraction of deaths in each square attributable to a specific pollution source, including automobiles, power plants, in-home energy generation, and farm activities such as burning crop residues.

Overall, the researchers concluded that, in 2010, 3.3 million people died prematurely from outdoor PM2.5 and ozone pollution. That number echoes recent WHO estimates. But the more troubling finding, the researchers say, is that the annual death toll would rise to 6.6 million by 2050 without new controls.

The deadliest outdoor pollution source—accounting for 31%, or about 1 million, of premature deaths in 2010—is residential energy use, such as furnaces. And the bulk of these deaths would occur in Asian countries such as India and China, the researchers concluded, where households often use soot-emitting stoves and furnaces powered by wood. These emissions could be tricky to clamp down on; for instance, persuading residents of India to adopt cleaner technologies has proven difficult, Lelieveld says, in no small part because of cultural and family traditions.

The second deadliest source of pollution in 2010 was agriculture, accounting for about 20%, or more than 600,000, of the premature deaths in 2010, the researchers say.

“I was surprised” by that result, Lelieveld said. “What you tend to think is that [air pollution comes from] mostly traffic, and maybe industry.” But agricultural activities such as animal husbandry and fertilizer use generate ammonia, which can be converted to fine particles in the air, he explained. Agriculture is the leading source of outdoor pollution–related premature mortality in the eastern United States, Europe, and in countries such as Russia, Japan, and Turkey, the researchers found.

Other pollution sources, including the power sector, industry, biomass burning, and vehicle traffic, each made smaller contributions to the death total, the study concluded.

Keep the air in your home clean this winter

Tips from the experts at Austin Air
As winter approaches, we seal up our houses to keep the cold weather out but this lack of ventilation can have a serious impact on the quality of our indoor air. And as temperatures outside drop, we tend to spend much more of our time indoors too, making it even more important that our indoor air quality is as good as it can be.

So with this in mind we have put together a few expert tips, to ensure the air in your home and work space is clean and safe during the colder months.

One simple way to improve the air in your home is to invest in lots of house plants, as they work to naturally oxygenate the air around them. According to a NASA Clean Air Study, it is necessary to have at least one plant for every 100 square feet of indoor space.

As winter approaches, now is a good time to give your home a deep clean, to ensure dust and allergens are kept to a minimum. Wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth to stop dust being released back into the air. Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to clean carpets, soft furnishings and rugs. Vacuum cleaners with a HEPA filter work to trap fine particles of dust and pet dander in a way that traditional vacuum cleaners cannot. A HEPA vacuum cleaner also traps the dust without it escaping back into the room.

Be sure to check your house for damp and mold, particularly in problem areas such as bathrooms and basements which are perfect breeding grounds for mold to develop. It may also be a good idea to dedicate some time to grooming your pets at this time of year, as regular washing and brushing will keep shedding to a minimum.

All of the above are an important part of keeping your home dust and allergen free. But if you want to guarantee the highest quality indoor air, investing in a HEPA air cleaner is the way to go. Our Austin Air Cleaners, with proven filter technology, will provide the very best overall protection from a wide range of airborne particles, as well as chemicals, gases and odors, keeping the air in your home or work space as clean as it can be.