Obesity and Depression Leads to Sleepiness

According to new research, obesity and depression are but two of the main reasons why an individual might feel sleepy during the daytime. This conclusion was reached after three studies conducted by Penn State researchers with a random sample of 1,741 adults.

The study found that obesity and emotional stress are the root causes for sleepiness and fatigue during the daytime. It also found that insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea play roles in exacerbating the condition. These two are also linked to other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, obesity and accidents.

According to Alexandros Vgontzas MD, the study lead for the three studies, “The ‘epidemic’ of sleepiness parallels an ‘epidemic’ of obesity and psychosocial stress. Weight loss, depression and sleep disorders should be our priorities in terms of preventing the medical complications and public safety hazards associated with this excessive sleepiness.”

One of the studies was a seven year follow up, with 222 adults who reported excessive daytime sleepiness or EDS. With those with EDS, weight gain was one of the biggest predicting factor. He added, “In fact, our results showed that in individuals who lost weight, excessive sleepiness improved.”

Those from the same group who developed EDS within the same timespan was also reviewed. The findings showed, which researchers saying that this was for the time, that depression and obesity were the top risk factors for new-onset excessive sleepiness.

The third study, with a population of 103 research volunteers, found once again that depression and obesity were amongst the best indicators for EDS. He further added, “The primary finding connecting our three studies are that depression and obesity are the main risk factors for both new-onset and persistent excessive sleepiness.”

The study found that the rate of new onset excessive sleepiness was eight percent and the rate of persistent daytime sleepiness was 38 percent. These three studies were presented at SLEEP 2012 at the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Boston.

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Lack of Sleep Related to High Anxiety

The latest technologies have provided scientists with evidence of how sleep deprivation leads to anxiety. These investigators have said that their findings demonstrate increased sleep loss exaggerates the level of anxiety for upcoming social events. This overreaction happens most often to those individuals who are already suffering from high anxiety, making them even more vulnerable.

There are two common features of anxiety disorders: sleep loss and amplified emotional response. With these findings, it is suggested that these features may not be independent but might actually be a causal relationship.

The study was conducted at the University of California Berkeley campus, where researchers used brain scanning techniques on eighteen healthy adults in two separate groups. One group had tests after a normal night’s sleep while the second group had theirs after a night of sleep deprivation. In both sessions, participants were exposed to an emotional task that had a period of anticipating potentially negative experience through an unpleasant visual image or a potentially benign experience or neutral visual image.

In functional MRI scans, it showed that sleep deprivation was amplified with the build up of anticipatory activity in the embedded emotional centers of the brain, most especially the amygdala, where responses to negative and unpleasant experiences were found. It was also found that in many emotional centers of the brain, sleep deprivation triggered a sixty percent increase in anticipatory reactions. The study further found that the effect of sleep deprivation was related to how naturally anxious an individual is in their natural settings.

The study concluded that individuals who were more anxious also showed the biggest vulnerability to the aggravating effects of sleep deprivation. The result further suggests that anxiety has a significant effect in elevating the emotional dysfunction and risk attributable mainly to lack of sleep.

According to the lead author of the study, Andrea Goldstein, “Anticipation is a fundamental brain process, a common survival mechanism across numerous species. Our results suggest that just one night of sleep loss significantly alters the optimal functioning of this essential brain process, especially among anxious individuals. This is perhaps never more relevant considering the continued erosion of sleep time that continues to occur across society.”

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Caffeine as a Sports Enhancing Drink: An Examination of the Positive and Negative Effects of Caffeine for Athletes

Recently, energy drinks containing caffeine have become quite popular within the athletic community. Whereas formerly, caffeine was only ingested through drinks such as coffee, tea and in small doses soda, now the market for energy drinks has increased the access to caffeine.

Caffeine is one of the most consumed drugs in the country. A five ounce cup of coffee contains between 75 and 150 mg of caffeine, while a twelve ounce serving of soft drinks or an ounce of chocolate would have something between 25 and 60 mg of caffeine. Caffeine can  also be found in over-the-counter medications, such as analgesics, stimulants and allergy drugs, somewhere between 30 and 200 mg.

Nowadays, more and more of these energy drinks have appeared on store shelves. A standard sixteen ounce energy drink has between 140 and 170 mg with some having up to 300 mg of caffeine. Their increasing popularity has given rise to the question of whether the chemical can assist in the performance of athletes. The resulting answers give rise to words of caution as well as an assessment of their ability to help athletes have a better game.

Even the scientific community is deep in a debate determining if caffeine is a true ergogenic aid. Caffeine research is quite expansive, with a large number of factors that affect empirical results. These factors include one’s tolerance to the drug, the dosages and the type of activity. What has been determined though is that some activities can be enhanced while some others are limited with the use of caffeine. Another conclusion would be that long-term dependence on caffeine can result in problems regarding performance and overall health of the individual user.

This drug is considered as a central nervous system stimulant as it provides arousal and alertness together with the ability to fight off both mental and physical fatigue. The drug also affects cardiovascular, pulmonary and neuromuscular systems. As a result, many view caffeine as an ergogenic aid, thus aiding athletic performances. Currently, the World Anti-Doping Agency has removed caffeine as a prohibited substance, labeling it merely as a mild stimulant.

Caffeine is still very much an irony, especially when it comes to its effect on the neuromuscular system of an individual. In the laboratory setting, isolated muscle tissue increases in strength when exposed to the drug. However, in order for an individual to achieve this, it would require an ingestion of as much as 500 times the caffeine blood level one might experience even after several cups of coffee. At a more reasonable dose of 300 mg, there is no change in muscle strength or power. The measurable effects caffeine does have, though, are a decrease in reaction time and movement ability because of the arousal effects on the individual’s central nervous system. This effect would be important especially when reacting to the starting gun or the reaction to movements of an opponent.

Despite its reaction time improvement effect, it has a nugatory effect on the fine control movements of the individual. This is characterized with the reduction of hand steadiness and a reduction in fine motor skills. This would essentially affect the performance in sports activities such as archery and other skill competitions.

Another effect of ingestion of caffeine is the options of fuel utilization during exercise. The body has two choices for energy production, namely glucose and free fatty acids. Glucose is found in the blood while free fatty acids are found in cells throughout the body. When the body undergoes endurance events lasting more than two hours, the performance is affected by the available muscle glycogen and glucose in the blood. When the glycogen levels fall, so does blood glucose levels and results in deterioration in one’s performance. Caffeine affects this process through the release of the FFA’s from fat tissue, resulting in greater use of the FFA thus increasing performance. This spares the muscle glycogen and retains the blood glucose levels, maintaining the performance. Even moderate caffeine consumption, about 250 mg, creates this push for better performance.

Despite these benefits, there are also side effects from high doses caffeine. These include severe anxiety and nervousness, gastrointestinal discomfort and cardiac arrhythmia as well as elevated blood pressure. Caffeine is also a diuretic, inducing frequency of urination and a danger towards dehydration. Another major issue is the variable responses of individuals to caffeine. Levels dangerous to some may even just be enough for others to see marked improvements in their sports performance. The third and most important issue is the addictive nature of caffeine. This is often seen in caffeine dependent individuals, where withdrawal symptoms include headaches, fatigue and irritability as well as nausea. The dependence may also be psychological in nature, resulting in greater problems in the long run.

In the end, it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not to use caffeine as an aid in sports performance. A cup of coffee probably won’t hurt, but the regular use of high caffeine sports drinks might be worse in the long-run. Dependence would be the most glaring problem, especially in the psychological sense, as one might get to the point where they feel they are unable to perform at their best without ingesting the sports drink, and long-term high caffeine doses could lead to central nervous system fatigue. Despite its widespread use, caffeine is still a potent drug with effects on the individual and thus must be used with caution.

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How Your Chair is Killing You Softly

Because of the need to be working or at work, many individuals end up being nailed to their chairs for the greater part of the day. The normal eight hour day often extends to ten hours, leaving many with a more sedentary lifestyle. To cram more time, many end up eating at their desk, leading to greater issues health-wise for working men and women all over the world.

Many individuals eventually burn off the stress and the fat accumulated from a hard day’s work with an hour or two at the gym. Employers on the other hand, have started to experiment with standing desks to deal with the health issues associated with extended periods of being seated and non-movement. Having standing desks may be the extreme, but a new study from the ergonomics team of Cornell University also identifies issues when it comes to standing for extended periods of time.

Standing, the team says, “dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (ninefold the risk) because of the additional load on the circulatory system and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit.”

The team further found that standing stations, such as the so called treadputers, actually decrease the work productivity of the individual. While there is a great argument as to the kind of work actually being done, the common sense thinking is quite reasonable for those being switched from sitting to standing.

The happy compromise this team recommends is a regular and scheduled standing and walking, which they believe can compensate for any issues that may arise from long stretches of sitting. The process of breaking the “sitting cycle” so to speak is quite simple and is done this way:

  1. Sit comfortably when doing work at the computer.
  2. Use a height adjustable, downward tilting keyboard tray to find the best posture when performing the work,
  3. Take a break every thirty minutes by standing up for about two minutes and moving about.

Standing up from your chair is not enough as the recommended accompanying movement fosters blood circulation throughout the muscles. The movement need not be vigorous — doing jumping jacks or walking to the water cooler may be enough to get the benefits. There are many other ways to satisfy this movement requirement, such as walking to the printer, standing up during a meeting, or using the stairs.

Other recommended ways to foster the movement from the desk and help in the blood circulation are as follows:

  1. Spread out the office. If you have the space, create a layout that requires getting up from the desk. This includes having the printer or photocopier across the room or opting to walk up to an associate instead of just picking up the phone and dialing.
  2. Wearing Comfort. Wearing a stuffy suit or those attractive stilettos would only convince you to stay at your desk. Choosing comfortable office clothes and shoes can actually make you move more in the office.

In the end, not only will moving keep you healthy, it will also make you more productive and happy in the long run.

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Making Obsession into a Positive Force

Obsession can be a powerful force. It can provide energy, exhilaration, enhanced ability, and a sense of renewed purpose. But it also has the ability to unhinge and unbalance the obsessed individual. The most common signs would be neglect of other aspects of their personal lives, devaluation of other matters, and time consumption of great magnitude for the continuation of the obsessive behaviour. In some instances, when the obsession is removed or diminished, it can result in the obsessed person feeling devastated, equating their obsession with their only chance at happiness and contentment.

Despite its dangers, we should acknowledged that a good number of people who have achieved great things in their lives have been driven by some level of obsession. The secret, then, is controlling that obsession so it doesn’t negatively affect other areas of your life. When properly harnessed, there is an increase in the amount of energy, drive, determination, and increased adaptability despite the difficulties.

Here are some tips to harness obsession, and put this beast under your control without suffering its drawbacks:

  1. Distraction Schedule. Denying the existence of an obsession would be denying reality and it will only make the condition worse. Instead, at varying intervals, find an attractive and pleasurable activity that can break the obsessive habit. This break can help get you back to reality instead of being just cooped up in your own head.
  2. Completing Tasks. Oftentimes, obsession digs its dark talons into one’s psyche because of an uncompleted task or absence of proper closure. In order to control it, put goals and milestones in front of you. Once one of these milestones has been achieved, then take a break, and this will help recharge your batteries. This works best in conjunction with the previous tip.
  3. Larger Focus. Having a purpose or a mission can prevent one from falling into the quagmire of meaninglessness. If your mission brings upliftment to others, then you can find purpose and meaning, making your life more balanced, anchored and upright. With this, you can prevent obsession from overwhelming your life.
  4. Practice Grounding. There are many ways to ground oneself. Examples would be meditation, a physical activity or a martial art that can make other parts of your mind and body to do things aside from the obsessive behavior.
  5. Listen to Family. Being obsessed sends messages to others around you and when they tell you that, listen to them for your own good.

The key here is not extinguishing the obsession but in controlling it. Managing the obsessive behavior can make the obsession helpful rather than detrimental. Ultimately, the need to hold on to these obsessions will pass, leaving memories and good habits in how to control emotions to make them help you in the long run.

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Want to Lose Weight? Get Some Sleep

Sleeping Can Help You Lose Weight

According to Dr. Michael Breus, author of the book “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan”, you can lose three times more fat during sleep than lying awake in your bed. When the author appeared on the Dr. Oz show, Dr. Oz voiced his support for this statement.

According to Dr Oz, while there are so many diets available in the market, one aspect of the dieting lifestyle is often overlooked. This is the element of sleep, and according to the good doctor, one can burn as much as 150 more calories through sleeping an extra hour each evening. With the total calories burned computed for a year, the projected weight loss can add up to fourteen pounds. That’s fourteen pounds of a weight loss by doing nothing other than sleeping more.

The calorie burn occurs during REM or rapid eye movement sleep, as the body burns more calories during this time compared to just being awake and in bed. Dr. Oz further adds that if one sleeps less than six and a half hours each night, this will result in weight gain, as the hormone that tells you to stop eating does not work properly, leaving you constantly hungry. Further making things complicated, the lack of sleep slows down your overall metabolism.

Dr. Breus’s research demonstrated that as the brain triggers the REM cycle, this results in more calories burned. The body’s core temperature also increases during this time, helping the body to burn more fat. Dr. Breus further recommends the following to help in losing weight even when asleep:

  1. Setting the Clock. The snooze button would not help you in this, as one’s sleep cycle is actually disturbed when the alarm goes off. Thus, it is better to set your alarm for the actual time you would wake up, so that you get up right away. You should sleep by the clock as well — set a schedule, and go to sleep at the same time every night.
  2. Taking Naps. Doing short power naps during the midday can help recharge your batteries. One trick is to make cold-brewed coffee and drink it straight away, then go take your nap. In thirty minutes, you are awakened by the caffeine jolt, full of energy from your power nap.
  3. Go to Bed on a Full Stomach. Traditional advice tells us not to eat right before bed, but recent research is demonstrating the opposite. Having a snack with slow-digesting protein and carbs right before bed ensures that you’re satiated, so you’ll sleep more deeply and won’t be awakened by hunger.

The doctors have handed out the information. Your turn to take the lead for your overall better health.

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