HEALTH NEWSLETTER #10

EVO•TEE
EVOLUTIONARY THINKING, EATING AND EXERCISING

28th February 2016

Welcome to the February health newsletter from EVO•TEE. This month has flown by, as per usual! At the start of the month, I taught my second workshop on the psychology of eating. It was a great success and I now have another five workshops in the pipeline. Details to follow, but you can take a sneak peak right here.

Read time: 8 mins


Sleep like your health depends on it!

Do you crave this all the time?”
 
Or these?”

Or do you suffer from these?

  • dependence on stimulants like tea, coffee, energy drinks
  • insatiable appetite
  • undesirable fat around your waist (I'm talking love handles)
  • waking up tired
  • feeling tired throughout the day
  • try to lose weight but keep putting it back on again
  • slow metabolism/ thyroid

If so, you're not alone. We try to fix these problems by working out harder or going on strict diets. But instead I am going to give you a prescription of more quality sleep. Is it that easy? Yes and I’ll help you to understand why.

So many of us get lost in the sea of healthy living information. We obsess about the details of a diet or exercise programme and forget to take care of the basics. Everyone knows we need to get enough sleep but how many of us prioritise it?

From a young age we dream about staying up late, like our parents. When we’re older, we get into the habit of going to bed later and later. In the past, a television programme or film might have kept us up late. But today we have so much more competing for our attention.

Lost down the rabbit hole?

Lost down the rabbit hole?

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are experts at keeping us hooked. We get locked in and time disappears! Before we know it, we’ve sailed past our bedtime. Taking a smart phone to bed is a great way to solve loneliness, but it’s terrible for our health.

Then there's the social occasions, that we love so much. No one wants to be that boring person who leaves early to go to bed on time! Now, I'm not suggesting we give them up entirely, but a lack of sleep from a boozy night out makes a difference to our health!

Instead of trying to stop you from going out, I will tell you what I know about sleep and a magic hormone called leptin!


Control Leptin control health

If you've heard of leptin you’ll know it governs appetite and food cravings. But leptin is a hormonal master of ceremonies. It has an influence on so many other biological systems, many of which we don't yet understand. Some of these include the metabolism, immune system, sex drive and mental illness.

For a long time scientists thought that fat cells were just a store of energy. In fact, adipose tissue (what’s inside love handles), is a metabolically active tissue. Fat cells secrete leptin throughout the day, sending messages to the brain. This helps us regulate our hunger and metabolism.

In a healthy body, this system works well. But in an unhealthy individual, we become leptin resistant. In essence, leptin is knocking at the door, but the no one is listening. Instead of knowing when we've had enough, the hypothalamus thinks we’re going without. So it ramps up our appetite our we spend all day looking for food!

Unfortunately when this happens to us, we do not crave healthy food. We crave sweet and savoury foods, high in calories, low in nutrients. These foods increase the release of insulin, the fat storage hormone, which drives up inflammation. The result, is a vicious cycle of unhealthy hormones and increased fat storage!

But fear not, because one of the major lifestyle factors influencing leptin is SLEEP. Sleep is free and can be hacked with ease. Let’s take a look...

Sleep

Seen as we spend around a third of our life asleep, it's a good idea to get it right. When we sleep we repair all the damage caused by being alive. Just like our cars need a regular service and MOT, our bodies need repairing.

Every second of the day, our body is under attack from oxidative stress. The process of making energy, creates free radical damage. A healthy body is well equipped to clear up this damage. But as we age, this insidious damage, accumulates faster than we can clear it. And in an unhealthy body this accumulation begins much earlier in our life.

During the first part of the night, the body takes care of the physical damage. We destroy cells that are no longer functioning and new cells are created. During the second part of the night, we take care of the brain.

When we sleep, the glymphatic system pushes cerebrospinal fluid into the brain. This fluid removes biological waste from the brain. In particular, this fluid takes care of a protein called, beta-amyloid. The buildup of beta-amyloid is thought to influence the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Benefits of getting good quality sleep

  • Improved memory, learning and intelligence
  • Increased creativity and sex drive
  • Increased attention span and focus
  • Increased recovery from injury or training stress
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Reduced inflammation which leads to diseases of ageing
  • Improved appetite control
  • Improved blood chemistry
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased will power
  • Reduced chance of mental illness

Stages of sleep

Most of us know we should be getting seven to nine hours sleep at night. But most us focus on sleep time over sleep quality. Six hours of quality sleep trumps eight hours of tossing and turning.

One of the easiest ways to guarantee a good night’s sleep, is to take care of our sleep environment. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Bedroom should be cool, not warm (around 18 degrees Celsius)
  • Bedroom should be as close to pitch black as possible
  • Bedroom should be well ventilated
  • Remove or cover electrical devices that emit light
  • Make sure phones are off, or on aeroplane mode
  • Never have a wifi router in the bedroom
  • Get some air purifying plants
  • Use candles instead of bright light bulbs

The second best way to improve sleep, is to get the body and mind ready to sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks after 2pm
  • Avoid intense exercise and large meals before bed
  • Start winding down 2 hours before bed
  • Read before bed instead of watching the TV
  • Use calming music or sounds from nature to help lull yourself to sleep
  • Use candles and dimmer switches after 7pm
  • Limit exposure to blue light from electronic devices, once the sun has gone down

Blue light

I won’t mince my words here, blue light from electronic screens is wreaking havoc with our health!

This is a particularly inconvenient piece of advice, that's hard to swallow! But blue light, emitted by electronic screens, interferes with our biological clock.

Our whole body works on a 24 hour cycle, called a circadian rhythm. Every single organism on the planet has this rhythm. It is controlled by sunlight, stress and meal times. This biological clock coordinates everything process in the body. Knocking it out of sync, begins a cascade of problems in the body. Chronic stress, living in another time zone or excessive light exposure influence the natural rhythm of life.

The brain uses the eyes and skin to detect light. Which then influence the release of two hormones that control our sleep and wake cycle:

  1. cortisol
  2. melatonin

Cortisol wakes us up in the morning and melatonin helps us fall asleep. But cortisol that is too high, interferes with the release of melatonin. The result isn’t just a night of tossing and turning. It’s a night where the body and mind cannot fully repair themselves!

If this happens every once or twice a month then there’s nothing to worry about. But if this happens all the time, there is an accumulative effect.

Fear not, I have a solution. To avoid blue light, walk around with your eyes closed! If that doesn't work give away your smartphone, laptop, tablet and television.

I know, useless advice, that would be impossible! So instead, I recommend you try the following:

  • have a techno curfew, like no screens after 9 pm
  • if you have to work on a screen, install software like F.lux which blocks blue light soon to be available on Apple devices. G.lux works in Chrome browsers.
  • turn the background light down on your laptops and smart phone
  • install dimmer switches in the rooms you relax in before bed

According to the experts, the best way to avoid unnecessary brain stress is to wear a pair of these bad boys:

Certain orange lenses block blue light! Rock on! 

Certain orange lenses block blue light! Rock on! 

Here are a few other things to consider to improve sleep quality:

  • Reduce stress by learning to relax and meditate
  • Take a magnesium citrate supplement before bed
  • Drink a small cup of chamomile tea before bed
  • Take a relaxing bath/ shower before bed
  • Use calming essential oils like lavender (a little on the wrists works well)
  • Keep a sleep/ dream diary and track sleep with apps like Sleep Cycle

One reason we wake up in the middle of the night is due to low blood sugar. To fix this problem, avoid sweet snacks before bed and eat a well balanced meal. If you are still struggling the following tricks have worked for me and others in the past:

  • Eat a teaspoon of peanut butter before bed
  • Take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water with 1 teaspoon of raw honey

Still can't sleep?

The worst thing you can do is stay in bed, ruminating about not being able to fall asleep. Get up, make a small cup of chamomile tea then, sit in another room and read a book. Or journal your thoughts down onto paper. One of the best ways to manage stress before sleepy times, is to write down everything that’s on your mind. Journalling is a fantastic way to get closure on our thoughts. Otherwise they end up running round and round our heads all night long!

Be careful not to switch bright lights on and sorry, still no screens!

Waking up 

There is a trick to waking up well. The sun is the best option but not so easy with black out blinds! I loved staying in a house in Germany where they had electronic window shutters that woke the whole house up in unison. 

When an alarm clock goes off and we're in REM sleep we wake up feeling groggy. There are sleep apps like Sleep Cycle that have intelligent alarms. They will try to wake you when you're in non-REM sleep. 

Or there are the intelligent alarm clocks that I cannot vouch for, having never tried them.

Although I am experimenting with having my bedside lamp hooked up to one of these timers. Which is a cheaper alternative!

Shift work

Sorry shift workers, it's bad news. Messing with the internal clock shortens your life! I've lived with a emergency department doctor and nurse and I have nothing but respect for them. But messing around with our sleep patterns so much is asking for trouble. I can only advise you use all these tips here to limit the damage. Or find a day job.

Bad habits

Many people get into a bad sleep routine, staying up late and getting up at lunch. To fix this, get up 10-15 minutes earlier each day. This is much more effective than going from getting up at 10 am to 7 am. Another trick is to make a commitment to meet someone. This forces you to get up on time.

The most effective way to fix biological clocks is to get outside. Spending at least a few hours outside in the morning sun is golden! The sunlight resets the circadian rhythm. And a morning walk is great for our brains and waistlines.

Evolution

We didn't evolve over thousands of years working long hours, at computer screens, inside buildings. The light bulb was only invented in 1800's, a mere blink of an eye, in our evolutionary history.

The more we work with our biology, the better our health and happiness.”

And don’t forget, there’s always counting sheep!

Still want more sleep education? Check out this TED talk by Jeff Iliff...


Blog

If you missed either of these articles, I'd strongly recommend getting stuck into them! 'Poo and you' is a short, entertaining read. Stressed, is a little longer and tackles a  more serious topic. But it is a subject very close to my heart. Definitely worth reading if you ever feel stressed!


Videos

This month I didn't quite get as many videos made as I was hoping, but I did manage a few. I know how much I prefer learning from people than learning from words on a screen! Unfortunately it's much harder than it looks.

The picture below is my deleted video folder! It will give you an idea of how many times it takes me, and my perfectionist mind, to get a one take video! Oh and times this by about four!!!

File_000 (1).png

Cringe central!

Here's the final product! Far from perfect but it's a start!

 

I made a few others too, so head over to my new YouTube channel and subscribe if you like what you see!

EVO.TEE YouTube Channel


Social

This quote epitomises everything I believe in. To achieve a vibrant life, we need to put the work in. Taking time each day to appreciate the people in our life. Taking the time to notice the sound of the birds. Going that extra mile to make sure we eat well. Or putting on our gym clothes, even though we really want to sit at home in front of the television!

Head over to my social pages to be inspired and to learn from the very best in the world of health and happiness! 


Two months of 2016 are through, how well would you rate it so far? No matter how well it's gone, it's never too late to get to work. Who you are is a product of yesterday. But who you are tomorrow is a product of today!

I'm happy that you are here reading my work and I hope it is proving useful.

If there is topic you'd like me to address in a blog or newsletter, please get in touch. I'm here to help you guys out, so please don't be shy.  

All the best

James @

EVO•TEE


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