Getting a Goodnight’s Sleep😴

Picture credits: University of Michigan School of Public Health

There are plenty of quotes I am pretty sure you have heard many times: ‘I will sleep when I am dead’, ‘There will be plenty of time to sleep when I am dead’. I am not sure who said all this but what I am sure of is that they were totally wrong and they are very bad advices to follow because by not sleeping enough we will definitely die a lot earlier.

We look at sleep not as a necessity but as a luxury and whenever we feel overwhelmed or overburdened due to some work load, number one thing we sacrifice is SLEEP. It is true that sometimes we are bounded by extraordinary circumstances like something unexpectedly has come up at the eleventh hour and demands our attention or couples having a newborn. I am not talking about those circumstances. But in general when things are relatively normal people don’t prioritise their sleep. Maybe it’s because people don’t understand well enough the significance of sleep.

Before I begin with how to get a goodnight sleep I think it is equally important to have a look at the consequences of getting an insufficient sleep.

Consequences of Getting Insufficient Sleep

  1. Mental- more prone to depression and anxiety
  2. Respiratory- more likely to catch a cold
  3. Cardiovascular- boost in blood pressure and higher likelihood of a heart attack
  4. Metabolic-propensity for packing on pounds, increases risk of diabetes

Note: The above information has been taken from  Harvard Health and researchers have come across many health hazards associated with insufficient sleep. 

Now coming on how to get a goodnight sleep so that we feel more energetic, concentrated and productive throughout the day. 

7 Tips for a Goodnight’s Sleep

1. Consistency: Number one reason why I never and I literally mean never have trouble with my sleep is because I have a consistency. No matter it’s Monday or Friday or Sunday I sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. That kind of consistency doesn’t allow my circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle to get disrupted.

2. Sleeping for the adequate number of hours: While consistency is important it is not enough because it doesn’t matter if we are sleeping and waking up at the same time if we are not sleeping for the adequate number of hours. On an average, an adult human body needs at least 7 hours of sleep but for some people it can be +, – 1. I have been sleeping for 7 hours every day for the past two years but recently I have come to realise that I function relatively better if I am sleeping for 8 hours. So do your little experiments and find out if you need 7 hours or 8 hours or 9 hours of sleep. The idea is not to under sleep or over sleep but to sleep for the adequate number of hours that your body needs.

3. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day: Alcohol comes under the category of drugs that we call ‘sedatives’ and by the very word sedative we think it will induce sleep. However, that’s not true. Alcohol consumption later in the day affects our REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep and REM sleep is quite significant when it comes to our emotional and mental health. Caffeine is a stimulant and coffee which contains caffeine is good when we are drinking it during the day but not so good when we are drinking in the afternoon or at night. It takes about 4-6 hours for caffeine to get metabolised in our body which means if we drink coffee at 4 pm then only half of caffeine has been processed through by 10 pm. Half is still there. And that obviously affects our sleep significantly. There are some people who face no problem when they drink coffee later in the day but for majority of the population that’s not the case. So watch out for your body is trying to tell you.

4. Comfortable environment: Our environment matters a lot when it comes to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable enough. Ideally it should be quite, dark and cool. Temperature of the room shouldn’t be too cold or too hot.

5. Unwind or in simple terms have a sleep ritual: Having a sleep ritual is very important in this world full of distractions. It helps give signals to our brain that our bed time is near and it’s time to prepare for bed. Some people prefer keeping away their phones an hour or two before bed. Some prefer reading or taking a hot bath. Whatever works out for you.

6. Don’t exercise too late: Exercise is very important but exercising too late during the day can be stimulating. Instead  go for a walk or maybe do some light stretching but intensive workouts should be avoided because it will affect your sleep quality.

7. Beds are for sleep not work: Beds should be reserved for sleep because when we do our daily activities in our bed we kind of confuse our brain. It gets confused whether bed is for sleeping or its for work. Make sure you work space is different from your sleeping space. Bed should be a stimulus for sleeping.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is about some general tips for sleep that are science based. If you or your loved ones are having some sleep problems which can’t be fixed by these tips then you should immediately talk to your doctor.

The blog is based on a video I made ‘7 Tips for a Goodnight Sleep- Backed by Science’. Don’t forget to check that out. It would mean a lot if you can like the video and subscribe to the channel ‘A Psyched Mind’. Your support will help ensure that science based information reaches more and more people.

A Psyched Mind

Diet and your Mental health

Picture credits: FitNtip.com

It is not rocket science to know that diet plays a crucial role in our mental health and overall well-being. In schools we came across a very common word quite frequently and that word is ‘balanced diet’. We were taught that foods rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals should be taken and such diet is a balanced diet. Sadly, we seem to have forgotten the lesson now. We are jeopardizing our mental and physical health by eating junk food filled with ‘empty calories’.

Mental illnesses have become very prevalent. In the United States, nearly one in five adults is suffering from mental illness. The data is quite shocking. There are mood disorders, anxiety disorders, hypertension, etc. There is no single factor causing mental illnesses. There are genes, environment and chemicals in the brain contributing to mental health issues. However, through studies it is now being established that there is a relation between poor diet and poor mental health and the vice versa. When we eat good food it is often associated with feelings of well-being. A study was conducted by researchers on this line of thought and it was found that consumption of fruits and vegetables in good amount may be associated with higher levels of mental well-being in both the sexes. A systematic review of 12 epidemiological studies also found that eating good and healthy food items facilitates good mental well-being.

Good diet fighting depression

A clinical trial led by Dr Felice Jacka who is a director of Food and Mood centre at Deakin University, Australia became the first randomized control trial (RCT) that answers a very important question regarding good diet and good mental health. People who suffer from clinical depression get the best results when their treatment is a combination of medications and therapy. As it turns out, a good diet can also play a critical role in alleviating the symptoms of depression.

a. The Experiment

For the experiment, a total of 67 men and women participated. The participants were suffering from depression and were taking medications and/or going for therapy sessions regularly. The participants in the study were all consuming lower amount of fruits and vegetables, lower dietary fibres, too much sugar, too much unhealthy snacks and processed food. In other words, their diet was poor. Participants in the study were divided into two groups: an intervention group and a controlled group. Participants belonging to the intervention group were put on a Mediterranean diet (diet typically rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, beans and olive oil) and met with their dietitian regularly. While people belonging to the controlled group were not put on Mediterranean diet but were required to attend social support groups. After 3 months, depression symptoms of the participants were recorded.

(Note: The scale used was MADRS scale (Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale). The scale is from 0-60 in which a high score means an individual is very depressed as compared to a lower score. An average score of the participants came out to be 25).

The result?

People who took Mediterranean diet for 3 months improved their score on depression scale by an average of 11 points. While people who were on their usual diet improved by an average of 4 points.

b. The Diet

What should you Eat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat/unsweetened dairy, raw unsalted nuts, legumes, eggs, fish, chicken, olive oil and lean red meat.

What should you avoid: too much sugary items, processed foods, breads, refined cereals, fast and fried food.

It will not be right to comment that a good diet is one thing that will help people fight depression. A causal relationship cannot be established. However, they are definitely co-related. A good diet helps and if followed properly benefits will be visible. Mental health problems have become quite common now and it is a good thing that scientists are diving deeper to find different ways through which such problems can be tackled. ‘We are what we eat’ is not after all a bad advice.

Craving for bad food? It all goes back to Agricultural Revolution

Picture credits: The Atlantic

Imagine I am holding a powdered-sugar doughnut right in front of you. It is very delicious, no doubt!! Now tell me, would you be able to control yourself from eating it; at least a bite of it? If we are both being honest then I can openly say- NO!! Yes, a big NO…

Why do we crave for sugar and carbs  so much? Why they seems so delicious and tasty to us? Why is it so hard to resist ourselves from eating deserts or doughnuts or ice creams or rice or even having drinks filled with sugar?

It all goes back to our ancestors. It all goes back to millions of years ago.

We are living in a modern world that is suffering from an obesity epidemic. According to CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) in the year 2015-16, approximately 40% of adults aged 20 and over were obese. In other words, they were suffering from obesity. The fundamental reason behind obesity is a long-term energy imbalance. By energy imbalance it means that people are consuming more calories while burning lesser and lesser amount of it over a period of time. Sadly, consuming too much sugar is one of the biggest causes of energy imbalance among children and an adult population.

Something that went wrong in history

Not just us- Homo Sapiens– but other human species including Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthals, Homo Ergaster survived by gathering plants and hunting wild animals. By plucking wild gigs and hunting wild sheep they managed to survive for millions of years.

But things changed about 10,000 years ago when Agricultural revolution began. From hunting and gathering our ancestors began diverting their time to sowing seeds, watering plants, plucking weeds, etc.  Domestication of plants and animals became common. Wheat, rice, maize, potatoes became the main plant crops that provided majority of calories to Sapiens. And this was the turning point- consuming handful of plant species like wheat, potatoes, maize and rice which were not doing a lot good to the bodies of Sapiens. These plants species were the main culprit. Too much carbohydrates!!

Then v/s now

Although it is true that the beginning of bad diet began during the agricultural revolution, the story doesn’t end here. When Sapiens were hunter-gatherers they needed a lot of energy to look for food that required many longer hours. And whenever they found any sweet fruits they used to consume them as much as they could because food was not guaranteed to be found after covering some distance. Even as farmers they were required to do a lot of work including clearing fields, weeding under the scorching sun, building fences, watering plants, etc. And their bodies were not evolved yet to manage so much of work. So, it was natural to consume more and more calories. Carbohydrates and sugar helped them in the process.

Story of the modern world is a lot different.

Our ancestors had some very genuine and good reasons to consume carbs and sugar in large quantities. We don’t. And there are reasons for it too.

Carbohydrates are not all bad and we do need them to survive every day. Such carbohydrates are called good carbohydrates/complex carbohydrates and they include whole grains, vegetables and fruits. We also need natural sugar that comes along with many fruits and other food items. The real problem comes with refined carbohydrates including sugar that causes a sudden spike in our glucose level making us feel all energized only to find out that very soon we are hungry again. Refined carbohydrates are equivalent to “empty calories” and are affecting our health badly; very badly. Our bad diet is one of the biggest reasons why we are seeing so many people suffering from Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

Solution?

There are two best solutions to the health epidemic that we are facing in the 21st century at an alarming stage:

  1. Restoring our diet
  2. Physical activity

Food industries are not helping us. They are not our friends. They are our enemies making every way possible to ruin our bodies. That is why our health is in our hands. Moreover, governments are also needed to stop being on the side of food industries and start making some stringent policies to ensure good health of its citizens. It is completely irrelevant to blame our ancestors- what had happened throughout millions of years is of no significance right now because we can’t go back and change it all. Evolution doesn’t care about our resentment. But after having all the facts right in front of us and still turning a deaf ear is no wise.