Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newsletter About Sleep

Lifting Club Takes a Siesta!

Get ready to be blown away by another fantastic email about crap you don’t care about… psyche! Pay attention, you sleep-deprived Andover zombies because this newsletter covers sleep and how to optimize it.

Now, a quick disclaimer: I don’t have extracurricular activities and am a general bum. I get my homework done, am in bed by 11 on weeknights, and take a power nap during 5th period every day. I win. I cannot help you much if you are falling asleep at 3 in the morning consistently. With that said, I hope to give some practical advice that I’ve read and implemented with success in my own life.

Another disclaimer: I know use the caveman rhetoric a lot, but I don’t use the logic that “if caveman did it, it must be good.” That’s a logical fallacy. It just so happens that—surprise—adopting a lifestyle similar to a human living in 40,000 B.C. would probably optimize sleep and energy. Just know that there’s science to back this up and it’s not simply romanticism. Blah, blah, blah, let’s talk sleep.

Here’s what people want from their sleep: get high-quality rest, have boundless energy and focus during the day, have a better brain, and be in a better mood. Here’s where most people go wrong: they get too much light at the wrong times, eat a crappy diet, get too little exercise, have a lifestyle that promotes too much stress, and have inconsistent wakeup times. I’ll tackle these issues one at a time.

Melatonin, as some of you may know, is the sleep hormone. It gets triggered at night and makes you fall asleep. However, melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects can be offset by light. As a caveman, the sun would go down and the only light might be a fire and the stars. Today, we’ve got lights everywhere: computers, lights, alarm clocks, etc. All these lights work against you when you try to fall asleep because they stunt melatonin production. What should you take away from this? Dim the lights at night if you can (or wear shades inside for style points), make your bedroom as dark as possible (ANY light hurts, so cover your alarm clock), and wear an eye cover. I started using an eye cover last year and I noticed a difference right away. The initial discomfort of wearing it was a miniscule disturbance compared to the benefits of getting to sleep easier. Harvard studies also show that it’s a pussy magnet. Okay, I made that one up. You can get them for $10-15—a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, light can wake you up in the morning. The best light to shut off melatonin is the sun. Odd fact: there’s a stat called lux, which measures light intensity and the sun produces 10,000-25,000, while office lights produce only 320-500. Yes, I stole these stats from Wikipedia. The takeaway message: wake up and get some sunlight to help wake you up.

You’ve heard me babble on about diet for months now, so I’ll spare you the details, but the effects of diet on sleep are eye-opening. This is just one person’s experience, but this sleep guru spent a few months following a very low carb caveman diet (<30g) and kept a sleep log. His need for sleep decreased by an hour and a half. By eliminating grains and sugars, he was able to sleep less and maintain his superb energy levels. (He wrote a great post about it, but I can’t get the link because his site is under construction, so I’ll post it in another newsletter) Carbs send blood glucose levels spiking, then the body scrambles to normalize, and the moral of the story is that you end up a sleep loser. I won’t go into the benefits of fish oil, but just remember that fish oil literally helps everything. Everything. Moral of the story: ditch the bagels, eat your meats and veggies, and take your fish oil.

Perhaps the most important and controversial tenet of my sleep bible, but should make sense: I wake up at the same time every day. Yes, that means weekends and Thursdays *gasp*. Why? Your body has an internal clock, which controls your circadian rhythms. Sleep quality is optimized during certain points of your circadian rhythms. If you wake up at 7 Monday through Friday, but sleep in Saturday and Sunday until 11 in order to make up your sleep debt, you’ll throw your circadian rhythms out of whack. Waking up at a consistent time every day is a difficult transition to make, but the benefits are huge: your body gets in a groove, you get high quality sleep as a result of stable circadian rhythms, and you have more energy. Thus, we can understand why Mondays suck: you have to wake up at 7 when a day after you woke up at 11. Taking a step back and considering the life of the ancestors helps explain things. Cavemen would not have had sleep-ins on weekends because they had the sun to wake them up. They slept when it got dark and woke up when it got light. The issue people have with consistent wakeup times is they’ve accumulated a sleep debt over the course of the week. My practical recommendation: instead of sleeping in, get to sleep earlier and wake up at the same time. Waking up early on weekends is also the best time to get homework done.

If you’re still reading, gold star for you. I hope this material is engaging and relevant. I just realized I wrote 1,000 words, I’m not done, and it’s bed time for this big boy. Still to come: napping, exercise’s role on sleep, and sleep’s effects on the brain. I’ll also talk about some of my own experiences and sleep habits I might fool around with in the future. Too much to say, too little time.

Get your sleep,

Features Article: Musings

This is an article I wrote which is a compilation of absurd "musings."

Features Article

I write in the funny section of my school newspaper. This week's theme was the future, so I gave a brief overview of the coming decades.

- After a heated election between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, Obama prevails and is re-elected. Palin’s running partner, Tiger Woods, claims that her poor public image held them back.
- Anticipating the end of the world, millions of people flock to churches and pray for forgiveness. Of course, the world doesn’t end even though some coked-up Mayans predicted its demise hundreds of years ago.
- Snooki from “The Shore” enters mixed-martial arts after realizing she has an iron jaw. She has a successful career that ends prematurely after a scandal revealed she had several dozen STD’s after hooking up with every guy from the Jersey Shore.
- Twilight “Old Sun” breaks all box-office records as millions of prepubescent girls camp out in movie theaters months in advance. The forty five minute movie features shirtless dudes running around and not much else.
- LeBron is traded to the Knicks, prompting all Cleveland natives to burn themselves alive.
- Exeter deems relaxing a punishable offence.
- Obama is re-elected for the fifth time after narrowly edging out born-again Christian Lindsay Lohan. Ralph Nader finishes in a distant third.
- Muslims and Jews reach peace in Israel. The peace ends ten days later after a heated match of ping pong.
- At her own funeral, Oprah Winfrey gives everyone attending a Ford Taurus.
- Harvard scientists discover that global warming is a myth. Al Gore is forced to watch Glenn Beck for the rest of his life.
- Rocky 13 is released. Sylvester Stallone makes his triumphant comeback starring as Rocky, a morbidly obese, decrepit old man who steps into the ring one last time. By all measures, this was the worst movie ever released.
- After USA defeats Brazil in the World Cup Finals, soccer becomes popular in the US. Just kidding. Soccer never becomes popular in the US, so don’t get your hopes up.
- “The Situation” is elected president of the United States. His success is attributed to his shrewd economic strategies, articulate speeches, and hawt abz.
- Only days after “The Situation” is elected president he legalizes steroids and subsidizes all hair gel manufactures.
- After one and a half successful terms in office, The Situation is found dead in a tanning salon. His vice president, Ralph Nader, assumes his role as leader of the free world.
- Congress quickly impeaches Nader and he is never seen again.
- In a tell-all interview with Barbara Walters’ corpse, the girls’ Chinese gymnastics team admits that they entered 4 year olds into the 2008 summer Olympics. Big surprise.
- Scientists in Brazil invent a successful cloning device, flooding the world with thousands of Ricky Martins.
- Scientists discover the cure for hangovers. Finally.
- According to a study sponsored by Playboy, masturbation is found to increase intelligence in adolescent boys. Men and boys of all ages across the world celebrate.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lifting Club Newsletter

Sup bros and bras,
So far this term I have been reliably inconsistent with these spammings. I can only hope that I will improve my production of said spammings, but I cannot make any promises because my schedule is just booked with all my extra-curricular activities. Like, all those extra-curricular activity which I do so much… (read: I do no extra-curricular activities and my college application is blank. I say the whiteness of the blank page represents purity, but my mom says it represents my laziness. Agree to disagree.)

Enough of beating around the bush and onto the awesome content (woo-hoo). In case you haven’t noticed, it’s winter term, which means everyone is sick. Sadly, this includes me this year. Yes, even I get sick and it still sucks. Why bring up the misery of illness? Because there is hope. Perhaps some of you have heard of probiotics or at least live active cultures (yogurt products highlight this). What do probiotics/LAC do? They replenish healthy bacteria in the gut, which can be destroyed by diets high in processed grains, sugar, a high omega-6 to omega 3 ratio, and other processed foods. Now, prepare yourself for a serious knowledge bomb: the gastrointestinal tract comprises 75% of the body’s immune system. Methinks gut bacteria may play a role in preventing illness. Now, could there possibly be a study showing probiotics aiding the immune system? Whoop, there it is:

The study showed that the use of probiotics significantly decreased the incidence of coughing, fever, and runny noses significantly (the numbers are astounding). So, if you’re still reading this (chances: exceedingly low), you probably want some probiotics and practical advice. The good news is that probiotics are fairly affordable. After I got sick I went down to Whole Foods and got 90 days worth for $30 (in other terms, 2 or 3 nights of ordering out). In the fall, I also got 30 days worth for $11, so you can get a starter pack. Summing things up, for optimum gut health, which is good for your immune system, weight loss (didn’t mention this, but gut health does seem to play a role in weight loss), and for ensuring you’re going number 2 often, do the following:

- Take a quality probiotic supplement daily
- Avoid refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Eat foods that improve the quality of gut health (vegetables, fruits, yogurt, raw fermented foods)
- Avoid foods that you have allergies to
- Take an omega 3 supplement (fish oil, 1-3g EPA+DHA)
- Limit omega 6 intake (no salad dressings with vegetable/soybean oil)

Well, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’m noticing a pattern: eating a diet consistent with our evolutionary past results in optimal health and function. Furthermore, this was long, so I deserve some kind of reward. Maybe a Pulitzer. Perhaps a juicy steak. I’m not too picky.

That’s all for this week, but the next spamming should be equally as awesome with regards to content because I’m going to be talking about barefoot running and I’ll try to convince you that the barefoot movement is more than just a couple of hippies that are still trying to fight the man.

Muchas love,

p.s. for more reading about GI health/probiotics, check out the following links: