Tag Archives: sleep

Exercise your throat muscles to reduce snoring

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Snoring happens when the tissues and muscles become too “floppy” during sleep and vibrate. Researchers found simply exercising those muscles to maintain their tone can help reduce snoring.

In a 2015 study, researchers looked at groups of men and women who did not have obstructive sleep apnea, which is associated with many health risks, but snored due to mild or moderate sleep apnea.

For the study, all the participants were instructed to irrigate their nasal passages (such as with a neti pot) three times a day to rule out nasal blockage as a cause of snoring. (Sinus infections also cause snoring and regular nasal irrigation can help combat this.)

Then the subjects were divided into two groups. One group used nasal strips and deep breathing exercises to address their snoring.

The other group performed 8 minutes of tongue and palate exercises three times a day.

At the end of the three-month study, only the group who performed the exercises saw a difference in their snoring — and it was a significant difference.

The exercise group saw the frequency of nightly snoring drop by the 36 percent and the intensity of sound by 59 percent.

This explains why people who regularly sing, play horn instruments, and even play the didgeridoo also report fewer problems with snoring.

Throat and palate exercises to reduce snoring

As with any exercise, the key is to stick with it and keep up the frequency. You’ll also need to perform these on a long term basis for the benefits. Add the exercises to your commute, tooth brushing routine, or along with your morning cup of coffee. Your bed partner will thank you and you may experience feeling more rested and energetic during the day.

  1. Push the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and slide it backward 20 times.
  2. Suck your tongue upward against the roof of your mouth 20 times.
  3. Push the back of your tongue down while keeping the tip touching the inside of your front teeth 20 times.
  4. Lift your soft palate and uvula 20 times.
  5. Using your index finger, press the inside of your cheek muscle away from your teeth 10 times on each side.
  6. When you’re eating, bite down, then lift your tongue to the roof of your mouth as you swallow, without tightening your cheek muscles.

Midlife hormones, inflammation, and snoring

Although nasal congestion and obesity can cause snoring, many people notice their snoring kicked in during midlife.

Some research shows this is due to a decline in reproductive hormones — estrogen in women and testosterone in men. These hormones play a role in the part of the brain responsible for throat and palate muscle tone during sleep.

Inflammation of the upper airways have also been shown to increase snoring. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce swelling in those tissues and reduce snoring.

Ask me about maintaining healthy hormone levels and reducing inflammation through nutritional and lifestyle means.

LED streetlights: Should you wear sunglasses at night?

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Have you noticed how shockingly bright streetlights are these days? Although they’re great for night time visibility, the newer LED streetlights tamper with the body’s internal clock, skewing metabolic function and raising disease risk.

The effect of blue-rich white light at night on human health is so significant that the American Medical Association (AMA) issued a policy statement about street lighting.

It warns LED street lights are five times more disruptive to the human sleep cycle than traditional street lighting and that recent large surveys link brighter residential lighting with reduced sleep, poor functioning, and more obesity. The lighting also increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

These bright blue-white lights also strain the eyes and can cause problems walking or driving safely at night. Enough blue light can even damage the retina.

How night time lighting can be safer for health

LED lights were introduced because they consume less energy. The AMA suggests ways to make the lighting friendlier to human biology (and that of wildlife):

• Lowering the color temperature of the lights away from the blue end of the spectrum (which signals the brain it is daytime) and towards the orange end of the spectrum. Current lights have a color temperature of 4000 to 5000 Kelvin. Compare this with fire and candles, which humans have used for most of history, at 1800K. The AMA recommends lights be no bluer than 3000K.

• Better shielding of lights to reduce eye-straining glare.

• Using adaptive controls to dim or extinguish the lights at night.

Residents complaining about bright lights

You don’t have to understand the science to feel the effects of these lights. Residents in areas where they are installed around the country are complaining, saying the lights feel like a car lot or strip mall parking lot. The LED street lamps also light up the insides of homes, especially in hilly areas such as Seattle.

Davis, California residents found them so objectionable the city agreed to replace all existing LED streetlights with more biologically friendly lighting.

Do you need sunglasses at night?

Of course it’s dangerous to wear dark glasses at night. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have recourse if LED streetlights are a part of your night life.

You can switch the light coming into your eyes to a more biologically friendly hue by wearing orange or rose tinted glasses that aren’t sunglasses. Examples include affordable Uvex safety glasses from Amazon, orange glasses from Low Blue Lights (these glasses are more expensive because they are scratch resistant), or rose tinted migraine glasses.

Also, cities are taking note of complaints, so be sure to add your voice.

Avoid night time blue lights indoors too

LED streetlights aren’t the only culprits when it comes to confusing your sleep-wake cycle. LED televisions, smart phones, tablets, computers, and LED bulbs also bombard you with too much blue light at night, hindering the output of sleep hormones.

Purchasing orange bulbs for lamps, orange filters to put over your screens, or wearing orange glasses a couple of hours before bed are ways to encourage the production of sleep hormones and maintain the delicate but important sleep-wake cycle.

Hard time recovering from Daylight Saving Time?

DST health impacts

Do you curse every spring when we have to move the clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST)? Does it take you weeks to recover? You’re not alone. Studies show DST is hard on our health and dangerous to boot, making it an outdated relic that adds stress to an already over-stressed society.

DST doesn’t just make people tired in the morning. Studies show the number of car accidents increases after DST, likely due to tired drivers. A Swedish study also found that the risk of heart attacks goes up the first few days after DST, and that risk drops after setting the time back to Standard Time. An Australian study showed an increase in suicides the first few weeks after DST goes into effect.

Some people aren’t ruffled by the change in time, others recover in a few days, and then there are those for whom DST means a few weeks of feeling out of whack while their body adjusts. In fact, one study showed our bodies never fully adjust to DST until we switch back to Standard Time. Night owls are affected the worst, taking as long as three weeks to recover. Research has shown on their days off, people revert to sleeping and waking according to what’s seasonally appropriate, not what DST dictates.

We are designed to gradually adjust to the changes in light as the seasons change. Forcing this change overnight once a year flies in the face of our internal clocks, which are tuned into nature.

This is because light dictates how much of the sleep hormone melatonin we make. The more light we are exposed to the less melatonin we make so that we are awake longer.

The sudden disruption to our internal clocks with the time change and loss of sleep causes a loss in productivity, concentration, and memory, as well as fatigue and sleepiness during the day.

DST bad for business as well as health

Enacted during World War I to decrease energy costs, DST has now been shown to actually increase energy demands, due largely to more air conditioner use and more driving time to daylight activities. Also, contrary to popular belief, it does not benefit farmers; they actually oppose it. Dairy farmers in particular say cows do not easily adapt to the change in schedule. Orthodox religions don’t like their sunrise and sunset prayer tinkered with. However, the golf, barbecue, and retail industries love it.

Broader research has shown DST costs the economy anywhere from $400 million to $2 billion due to loss of productivity, workplace injury, and “cyber loafing.”

How to cope with Daylight Saving Time

If DST is wrecking you those first few weeks, you can do a few things to help ease the transition (in addition to signing an online petition to end DST):

Lay low until you adjust. Honor the disruption to your natural rhythms and take it easy by avoiding taking on extra activities or added stressors until you feel back to normal. Also, avoid dangerous activities.

Add in extra time to rest and nap. The biggest cost of DST is sleep loss, especially if you are a night owl. It is difficult to go to bed and wake up an hour earlier. Make time for a nap or at least some time to lie down and rest during the day those first few weeks.

Block blue light at night to help you adjust. Wearing orange glasses in the evening a couple of hours before bed will help increase the production of sleep hormones so you can fall asleep. Exposure to sunlight during the day will also help regulate sleep hormones. You can use a light box in the mornings to help you wake up.

Ask me for advice on helping you sleep better.

Teens need enough sleep as much as they need air, water, and food

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Teens burn through life because, well, they can, and research shows two out of three teens are severely sleep deprived. But what teens and the adults in their lives don’t realize is that sleep deprivation raises the risk of car accidents and driving fatalities (driving sleepy is as bad as driving drunk), obesity, diabetes, depression, risk-taking behavior, and suicidal ideation. It also raises the risk of the very adult diseases of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Studies show sleep deprivation also impairs judgment, impulse control, and good decision making, areas where teens are already compromised due to incomplete brain development. Lack of sleep hinders proper development of these skills.

Teenagers need at least 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night and research shows only a small minority meet that requirement. The rest are short changing themselves by two or more hours a night, a significant loss to a body and brain that are still developing and need that precious downtime to rest, regenerate, and grow.

Lack of sleep not only raises health risks but it also robs teens of cognition, good mood, optimal well-being, and even safety. One study showed that the driving accident rate among teens was 41 percent higher in a school that started at 7:20 a.m. than a nearby school district where classes began at 8:40.

Later school starts, which allow for more sleep, have also been shown to improve student test scores and grade point averages; researchers also noted that well rested students were able to finish their homework faster.

Sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to a threefold increase in suicide attempts as well, and depression goes up with sleep loss. Another startling finding showed that for each hour of sleep lost, the odds of obesity goes up 80 percent.

Not only do teenagers need more sleep than adults, their internal sleep-wake cycle shifts by as much as two hours after puberty, making it harder for them to fall asleep early. A teenager who manages to fall asleep by 11 p.m. — already a long shot — should not be getting up until 8 a.m. It’s no wonder so many teachers say their students are “useless” during morning classes. Adding to the problem is that many teens are overscheduled, with sports, dance, jobs, and other activities running late into the night before homework has even started.

Another impediment to sleep, and one that parents didn’t have to grapple with when they were teens, is the intrusion of smart phones and other screens. Texting and social media compel teens to keep each other up, as can video games and favorite shows on tablets and TVs. Not only do these devices distract teens from getting to bed on time, the blue light emitted from such screens suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone. An electronics curfew each night can help teens get more sleep.

Teens typically spend the weekends getting caught up on sleep, which, unfortunately, throws their internal clocks out of whack and can promote a jet lag state that makes for brutal Monday mornings.

Ask me about nutritional and dietary support that can help bolster your and your teen’s attempts to get enough sleep.