Archive for Sleep

Overcoming insomnia – another approach to getting some sleep


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is more effective than drugs in overcoming insomnia.

Insomnia, or regularly not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, is a problem that affects roughly 1 in 7 people in North America and can have serious consequences for daytime alertness and functional ability. Most insomniacs get less than 5 hours of sleep a night, and struggle with extreme fatigue during the day. It’s not any surprise that insomniacs are more accident prone due to daytime drowsiness. Although I seem to be doing much better than before, getting enough sleep is one of my own personal battles, and I feel like I have tried everything possible to improve my sleep, short of quitting my business and going on a vacation for an extended period of time. It feels like my body has forgotten how to fall asleep, which must seem absurd to those who have no trouble sleeping. I'm cozy in bed, feel dead tired, I feel like I'm dropping off and I think I'll be asleep in a few minutes, but I just don't seem to fall through the "sleep threshold", and instead hover in that la la land between sleep and wakefulness for most of the night, with my brain contemplating topics that would probably put most people to sleep, but I seem to find endlessly interesting, such as why trigger points in the platysma muscle would cause ringing in the ears. (Why is that?)

A couple of months ago I got an appointment at the Sleep Disorder Clinic at the University hospital. I was hoping they would hook up all kinds of electrodes to my head and analyze my brain waves etc. to determine why I wasn’t sleeping (wouldn’t that be cool?), but no, after an extensive interview, they opted for a low-tech solution. This was what they told me to do.

  1. Only use the bed for sleep and sex. Do not read in bed, watch TV in bed, do
    homework in bed etc.
  2. Only go to bed when you feel sleepy, not tired. (Can anyone explain to me the difference?)
  3. Give yourself 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you are not asleep in 20 minutes, get up out of bed, and go back to bed when you are feeling sleepy
  4. If you wake up in the middle of the night, once again give yourself about 20 minutes to fall asleep, and if you are still awake, get up and only go back to bed when you feel sleepy.
  5. Get up at exactly the same time each morning, even if it is a day you are not working. So no sleeping in, even on weekends.
  6. No daytime naps or lying down to rest.

The idea is to use cognitive behavioural therapy to make you associate bed with sleep and nothing else. And I have to say it helped, although I found the rules pretty tough – particularly the getting up out of bed if you pass the 20 minute time allotment for getting to sleep. And I was scared about not being able to function adequately during the day if I spent the bulk of the night sitting in my living room. I suggest starting this when you have at least a couple of days off so that you won’t worry about your inability to function at work, as your worst days will probably be right at the start.

By recording your bed time, the time it took you to fall asleep, the number of awakenings, the total time awake in the middle of the night, the time you woke up and the time you got out of bed, you can figure out your sleep efficiency (SE), which is the total time asleep divided by the total time in bed. A sleep efficiency of 85% or higher is the goal. An Excel spreadsheet can work well for this.  I jumped up to a sleep efficiency of 90% within three weeks, which is pretty good! I actually got to the point where I felt quite energetic during the day, but now I am backtracking again as I find myself slacking off on the rules. So, time to get strict again. Whenever my sleep efficiency gets below 60% I become a chronic tea drinker (which is counter-productive), and when it gets below 40% for 2 days in a row, I’m a dizzy zombie. Thankfully that’s a rare occurrence now!

Although the doctor at the sleep clinic did not suggest this, I thought it was important to keep the lights, TV and computer off when I was sitting in my living room in the middle of the night. No point shutting down melatonin, our night-time rest-and-repair hormone that can only function in the dark. So, I listen to relaxing music, or read a book using my red camping light. (Red light does not affect melatonin).

If you have a sleep disorder, sleep meds albeit tempting, are not a good permanent solution as they are addictive, don't give you the right kind of rest, and can have dangerous side effects such as increasing one’s risk of falls and car accidents. Try the suggestions here and in my other post entitled Getting to sleep and staying asleep, or find a sleep clinic in your community for personalized help.

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Related Tips:
Getting to sleep and staying asleep
Sleep – staple or luxury by Cord Reisdorf
Sleep apnea, snoring, and a lack of sleep
Melatonin, our rest and repair hormone

Dr. Randhawa, personal consultation, Sleep Disorder Clinic, University of British Columbia Hospital, August 2009.

Morin CM et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy, singly and combined with medication, for persistent insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2009 May 20;301(19):2005-15.

Neubauer DN, Flaherty KN. Chronic Insomnia Semin Neurol. 2009 Sep;29(4):340-53. Epub 2009 Sep 9.

Sivertsen B et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy vs zopiclone for treatment of chronic primary insomnia in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2006 Jun 28;295(24):2851-8.

Morin CM et al. Psychological and behavioral treatment of insomnia:update of the recent evidence (1998-2004). Sleep. 2006 Nov 1;29(11):1398-414.

Jacobs GD et al. Cognitive behavior therapy and pharmacotherapy for insomnia: a randomized controlled trial and direct comparison. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Sep 27;164(17):1888-96.

Sleep complaints: Whenever possible, avoid the use of sleeping pills. Prescrire Int. 2008 Oct;17(97):206-12.

Copyright 2009 Vreni Gurd

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Getting to sleep and staying asleep


Insomnia affects 1 in 4 people, and can have significant affects not only on one's enjoyment of life, but also on one's health.

First of all, I want to thank every one of you that took the time to respond to my survey – I am so very grateful. Your insights are very valuable indeed and have given me a lot to think about.

Those of you that know me may be wondering how I can possibly give advice on the topic of insomnia, as this is the major ongoing issue that I struggle with and have not personally resolved to my satisfaction. I know first hand how difficult it is to deal with. It is as if the body has completely forgotten how to fall asleep, which seems absurd to those that don’t have this problem. Sure, we all go through rough times where problems keep us awake, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about lying awake night after night, even if there is no major problem to mull. Or waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep again. Needless to say, this hugely impacts how one feels during the day, and with too many days in a row with little or no sleep, it becomes very difficult to function. Some insomniacs actually sleep, but do not feel refreshed at all in the morning. It becomes very understandable why insomniacs rely on caffeine to get through the day, and on sleeping pills or alcohol to sleep, neither of which is a solution to the cause of the problem, and may instead make the underlying situation worse. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, and sleeping pills can be very addictive and can create other problems in the body. After a while, sleeping pills stop working.

Although insomnia certainly does affect men, it seems to affect women more frequently, and often becomes a problem in peri-menopause/menopause when hormone function changes, although it can happen at other times in one’s life. I think women suffer more frequently, because hormonally women are more complicated than men, and it doesn’t take much to throw the hormone balance off. And not sleeping has very serious health consequences, impairing organ function, making one more susceptible to heart disease, depression, not to mention the increased possibility for accidents due to daytime drowsiness.

Most insomniacs have probably tried these common solutions:

  • No caffeine past noon (or none at all, if possible)
  • Plan what needs to be done for the following day and write down an action plan so you don't worry about it
  • Address problems and plan action steps so you don't worry about them in bed
  • Get some exercise during the day
  • Turn off the TV/computer an hour before bed
  • Remove TV and computers from the bedroom
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Hot bath before bed
  • Turn down the temperature in the bedroom
  • Black-out drapes so bedroom is completely dark
  • Eye mask
  • Lights out by 10pm
  • Use a light box in the morning once up
  • Comfortable mattress and pillow (feather pillows have less allergens)
  • White noise (fan?)
  • Read something light/inspirational or listen to relaxing music to wind down before bed
  • Protein snack before bed (amino acid tryptophan aids sleep)
  • Turn off the breaker to the bedroom to remove electromagnetic fields
  • Warm full-fat milk if you are not sensitive to it, before bed (amino acid tryptophan aids sleep)
  • Camomile tea (mixed with lemon balm can be good)
  • Valerian Root
  • Wear socks to bed
  • Comfy headphones with binaural beats to bring brain waves down to delta
  • Keep a sleep schedule – same bedtime and wake time every day including weekends

Often insomnia is caused by another problem such as chronic pain or sleep apnea, and won’t be adequately resolved until the underlying issue is addressed.

The suggestions above address a variety of potential causes of primary insomnia. Circadian-rhythm stress is quite common these days as we tend to keep artificial lights on at night, suppressing melatonin, which is the hormone that is activated by darkness and helps us sleep. Turning the lights out by 10pm, having black-out drapes, turning off computers and TVs, and keeping to a sleep schedule can make a big difference for some. Using a light box in the morning may also help regulate one’s circadian rhythms by emphasizing the difference between light and darkness.

Others (particularly protein types) wake up in the middle of the night when blood sugar levels drop too low, which is why a protein or fatty snack before bed can help. Also, the amino acid tryptophan which aids in serotonin production and sleep, comes from protein sources. Carbs before bed will more likely cause an insulin spike, driving down blood sugar a few hours later, creating a bigger problem. Alcohol before bed would also be counter-productive, as alcohol is sugar.

Prolonged stress of any nature (psychological, nutritional, physical – like pain, chronic illness, lack of sleep, relationship issues, money problems etc.) may eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, which impacts most hormones of the body, as particularly the sex hormones will be sacrificed to make the stress
hormone, cortisol
, to help the body cope with the stress. (This is why often the true cause of hypothyroidism and fertility problems may be adrenal fatigue). If you have significant sleep problems that are not resolving with the above suggestions, get your hormones like cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, melatonin, growth hormone, and thyroid tested with either a 24-hour urine test or a circadian saliva test through a functional medicine doctor or possibly a naturopathic physician. That way, once the hormone picture is known, appropriate treatment can be decided upon. Emotional issues often underlie adrenal issues and sleep problems, so getting psychological help, or using NLP, EFT or whatever technique works for you may make all the difference. Scheduling down time each day, or better yet, a relaxing vacation my be exactly what is needed. Recovering from adrenal fatigue can take well over a year, so do not expect a quick fix, but hopefully the treatment protocols will get you sleeping again in the meantime.

If you want to search for other posts by title or by topic, go to

Related tips:
Light pollution is messing with our hormones
Melatonin, our rest and repair hormone
Sleep apnea, snoring, and a lack of sleep
Adrenal fatigue
Cortisol, our stress hormone
How hormones, neurotransmitters and steroids work
Mind and body, psyche and soma

Gooley JJ. Treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders with light. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2008 Aug;37(8):669-76.

Lack LC et al. The relationship between insomnia and body temperatures. Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Aug;12(4):307-17.

Lack LC, Wright HR Treating chronobiological components of chronic insomnia Sleep Med. 2007 Sep;8(6):637-44. Epub 2007 Mar 26.

Pandi-Perumal SR et al. Melatonin: Nature’s most versatile biological signal? FEBS J. 2006 Jul;273(13):2813-38.

Macchi MM, Bruce JN. Human pineal physiology and functional significance of melatonin. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2004 Sep-Dec;25(3-4):177-95.

Shochat T, Haimov I, Lavie P. Melatonin–the key to the gate of sleep. Ann Med. 1998 Feb;30(1):109-14.

Schmid DA et al. Acute cortisol administration increases sleep depth and growth hormone release in patients with major depression. J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Oct;42(12):991-9. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Palma BD et al. Immune outcomes of sleep disorders: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis as a modulatory factor Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2007 May;29 Suppl 1:S33-8.

Buckley TM, Mullen BC, Schatzberg AF. The acute effects of a mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) agonist on nocturnal hypothalamic-adrenal-pituitary (HPA) axis activity in healthy controls. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007 Sep-Nov;32(8-10):859-64. Epub 2007 Jul 30.

Buckley TM, Schatzberg AF. On the interactions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sleep: normal HPA axis activity and circadian rhythm, exemplary sleep disorders. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 May;90(5):3106-14. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Steiger A. Sleep and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical system. Sleep Med
2002 Apr;6(2):125-38.

Vgontzas AN et al. Chronic insomnia is associated with nyctohemeral activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: clinical implications. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;86(8):3787-94.

García-Borreguero D et al. Glucocorticoid replacement is permissive for rapid eye movement sleep and sleep consolidation in patients with adrenal insufficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Nov;85(11):4201-6.

Bent S et al. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006 Dec;119(12):1005-12.

Hartmann E. Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep. J Psychiatr Res. 1982-1983;17(2):107-13.

Copyright 2009 Vreni Gurd

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Sleep: Staple or Luxury?


By Cord Reisdorf

For those of us working hard to stay fit, eat well and live a healthy lifestyle, sleep – along with exercise and proper nutrition – is a critical component of maintaining that lifestyle.

Unfortunately, due to our invariably hectic schedules, getting adequate sleep often ranks lowest on our list of priorities. In fact, many of us underestimate the value of sleep and subscribe to the myth to think you can “train” your body to function on less sleep. Not so. For the average person, the minimum daily requirement to simply function normally is 7-9 hours of sleep. Based on this figure, an estimated one-third of North Americans are sleep deprived.

Ironically, it is that lack of sleep that renders busy people less effective, as even a modest loss eventually creates a serious sleep debt when sustained over several nights.

“Sleep… who needs it!”

When you do not get sufficient sleep on a regular basis, your body attempts to both preserve & replenish its stores of energy until adequate sleep has been achieved. The result? A higher rate of weight gain, reduced motivation to exercise, and a reduction in the benefits that accrue from exercising. Yikes.

Research shows that inadequate sleep can result in:

* Higher stress & lower motivation levels
* Slower reflexes & higher incidence of accidents
* Poorer coping skills & reduced productivity

Sleep deprivation is serious: not only does it affect your health, it significantly impairs your overall quality of life.

How does it work?

During the valuable hours of sleep, your body goes to work: sleep allows your brain to consolidate the day’s learning into memory & improves your ability to learn repetitive skills, and cells are repaired & replenished allowing you to recharge for the next day.

So how do you get a “good night’s sleep”?

For most of us it is simply a matter of making sleep a priority. Set a regular scheduled time to go to sleep. Make sure you calculate a minimum of 7-9 hours between the time you go to sleep and the time you wake up. And if you find yourself unable to drift off to sleep right away, give yourself an allowance of an hour or so of reading and “wind-down” time in addition to your 7-9 hours of sleep.*

The Bottom Line:

Make sleep your priority and you’ll be able to reach your peak faster and more efficiently. And most importantly, you will experience a significant improvement in your quality of life.

* Note: If you find that you are frequently unable to fall asleep, awaken several times in the night or feel tired even after sleeping for 7-9 hours, you should consult your physician or see a sleep specialist

Cord Reisdorf is the principle of Peak Fitness Management

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Cell phones and our health


There is a growing body of evidence of harm from long-term use of cell phones, and although the jury is still out, it may be wise to heed the early warning signs.

Although I have heard the warnings and the reassurances with respect to cell-phone safety and have been meaning to write about this topic for some time, it has taken me this long to broach this topic because I feel a bit like I am walking on foreign territory – something I don’t understand too fully, and am trying to wrap my head around. So I will present what I have found, and you can follow the resource links and make up your own mind. I use my cell phone daily, but am now trying to get into the habit of using the speaker phone option, rather than holding the phone to my head. Once again, I figure better safe than sorry.

The radiation the cell phones emit is between 1 and 3 Watts, in the microwave range, and that radiation DOES get absorbed by the head, or whatever body part is nearest the phone. Initially the concern was that this radiation heated the cells causing damage, but from the resources I’ve looked at, it looks like the body is able to dispel the heat quite easily. Based on that knowledge, claims to cell-phone safety have been made.

However, the radiation emitted from the phone is pulsed, and apparently very similar to the electrical oscillations sent within the brain (alpha and delta brain waves). Our body is a very sensitive electrochemical system, so it seems reasonable that radio waves from external sources at similar frequencies to our internal frequencies may interfere with our bioelectrical systems, in much the same way that cell phones interfere with airplane controls and hospital equipment. One can induce a seizure in photo-sensivitive epileptics by flashing a light at 15hz. The seizure is not caused by a reaction to the heat of the light, but rather by how the brain interprets or recognizes the frequency of the impulses. So it is the similarity to the frequencies commonly used within the body, confusing the body which may be problematic. One of the frequencies used by cell phones seems to be similar to one that induces cell division in the body, perhaps explaining the links between cell-phone use and brain cancer. Other EMF studies have shown links to Alzheimers, leukemia, ALS, breast cancer, blood pressure, heart disease, fertility, miscarriage, joint pain, migraines, fatigue, concentration difficulties, increased reaction time, and sleep disorders.

Children under the age of 16 are particularly vulnerable because their skulls are thinner and much smaller, increasing the radiation absorption. And if they are using cell phones at such a young age, they will have many more years of exposure than if they were starting later, potentially exacerbating the damage, as studies seem to indicate that the longer the exposure, the heavier the use, the more likely a problem. Some people may be far more sensitive to this electromagnetic pollution than others, and Bluetooth handsets actually increase rather than reduce exposure. Since radio frequencies are known to disrupt melatonin production, if you have difficulty sleeping, it may be worth getting a land line, rather than having a cordless or a cell phone, to reduce exposure. If you have a cell phone, carry it in your briefcase, knapsack or purse rather than in a pocket.

To check the the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) (the quantity of radiofrequency energy that is absorbed by your body) of your cell phone,
click here.

Comments and feed-back keep most writers going, so please do comment!

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Online at Cell Phone Radiation Levels

BBC News Mobile phones ‘may trigger Alzheimer’s’ Feb. 5, 2003.

Hardell L et al. Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for > or =10 years. Occup Environ Med. 2007 Sep;64(9):626-32. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

Kan P et al. Cellular phone use and brain tumor: a meta-analysis. J Neurooncol. 2008 Jan;86(1):71-8. Epub 2007 Jul 10.

Hours M et al. Cell Phones and Risk of brain and acoustic nerve tumours: the French INTERPHONE case-control study Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2007 Oct;55(5):321-32. Epub 2007 Sep 11.

Mild KH et al. Pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies on the use of mobile and cordless telephones and the risk of brain tumours diagnosed during 1997-2003. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2007;13(1):63-71.

Kundi M et al. Mobile telephones and cancer–a review of epidemiological evidence J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2004 Sep-Oct;7(5):351-84.

World Health Organization 2003 WHO research agenda for radio frequency fields

Agarwal, Ashok et al.
Effect of Cell Phone Usage on Semen Analysis in Men Attending Infertility Clinic: an Observational Study Fertility and Sterility 89 (2008): 124-128.

Huber, Reto et al. Exposure to Pulsed High-Frequency Electromagnetic Field During Waking Affects Human Sleep EEG NeuroReport 11 (2000): 3321-3325.

Oftedal, G, et al. Symptoms Experienced in Connection with Mobile Phone Use Occupational Medicine 50 (2000): 237-245.

Youbicier-Simo BJ, Bastide M. Pathological effects induced by embryonic and postnatal exposure to EMFs radiation by cellular mobile phones (written evidence to IEGMP). Radiat Protect 1999; 1: 218-23.

Braune S et al. Resting blood pressure increase during exposure to a radio-frequency electromagnetic field. Lancet 1998;351:1857–8.

Borbely AA et al. Pulsed high-frequency electromagnetic field affects human sleep and sleep electroencephalogram. Neurosci Lett 1999; 275: 207-10.

Copyright 2008 Vreni Gurd

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Sleep apnea, snoring and a lack of sleep


Obstructive sleep apnea, often a result of being overweight, is a condition that is linked to heart disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

Dmitriy Kruglyak who hosts the site, asked me in December to listen to a webinar put out by the drug company Cephalon on their sleep apnea / narcolepsy drug, Provigil, and to blog about it. As you can see, I’m a little behind in my commitments! Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects 18 million Americans, and is linked to heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, depression, liver disease, not to mention various cognitive impairments, so beyond the obvious problems of fatigue and inability to function well due to lack of sleep, sleep apnea has far-reaching health consequences. Good sleep is one of the foundational health principles – one simply CANNOT be healthy without adequate sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that is caused by a blockage in the airway during sleep resulting in a stoppage of breathing for short periods of time, several times a night. The blockage is usually caused by the tongue or the tonsils falling back in the throat when the sleeper is on his/her back, resulting in snoring at best, and a complete airway blockage at worst. This leads to lowered levels of blood oxygen, resulting fluctuating heart rates and blood pressure in an effort to deliver the required oxygen to the body. The disruption in sleep in addition to the lowered blood oxygen, increases sympathetic load (chronic body stress) and all that that entails. Obesity is the biggest cause of the problem, with food sensitivity, especially to gluten and dairy being another potential cause. Diagnosis usually involves going to a sleep clinic for a sleep study. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is chronically under-diagnosed – 1 in 5 adults have mild OSA, and 1 in 15 has moderate OSA, and often the bed partners of those with sleep apnea are also sleep deprived due to the noise of the snoring. So, it is quite probable that as many as 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep. The health implications for the population are staggering!

The "symptom relief" treatment for obstructive sleep apnea that works well is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The sleeper wears a mask which delivers oxygen at a pressure that keeps the tongue and tonsils from sliding back and blocking the airway, effectively preventing the stoppages in breathing and allowing for a better sleep. But as soon as the treatment is stopped, sleep apnea returns, so CPAP can only be considered a "sleep apnea management system." It does not deal with the cause. In my opinion, to address the cause of sleep apnea, one can reduce bodyweight by staying away from all processed and fast food, sugar, flour products (baked goods, pasta, crackers etc.) and polyunsaturate vegetable oils, find out what ratios of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are right for one's biochemistry (metabolic typing) and eat accordingly, and exercise regularly. It may be worth going to one's physician to be tested for food sensitivities, and remove those foods from one's diet as well.

I thought it took a lot of guts for a pharmaceutical company to invite bloggers and other media to a webinar about a drug. By doing this, they are not able to control the message that is put out to the public, but by the same token, it is a realization that social media is here to stay, and controlling a message may no longer be possible in today's world, so why not embrace the new technology, and be as transparent as possible. I thought the information the company gave was very balanced – they came right out and said that their drug, Provigil does not address the cause of sleep apnea at all, but rather, provides a way to cope with daytime sleepiness.

As one who deals with a major sleep problem many nights of the week (although not from sleep apnea), I know what it feels like to struggle through a day with that dizzy feeling near the front of the forehead, the lethargy, and the inability at times to think straight. It is not an enjoyable feeling. Would I take a drug like Provigil? I don't think so. The researchers did not seem able to explain very well how the drug works, and so I would be concerned as to the chain reaction that it caused in the body. What does it do to cortisol, for example?? Drugs usually affect one part of our physiology which provides symptom relief, but then the part that is altered by the drug affects other parts and so on and so on. Which is why we get side-effects, and possible disease processes from the alterations in the normal physiology. Even though the journey may be longer, I feel it is safer to resolve the underlying cause of the problem through diet and lifestyle modification, and if deemed necessary through functional medical testing, appropriate supplementation.

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Cephalon Online Media Briefing

Dmitriy Kruglyak Cephalon Reaches Out to Health Bloggers: Join the Webcast on December 13
Fri, 12/07/2007 – 12:41pm

Provigil Patient Info

Provigil Prescribing Info

Kenji Minoguchi et al. Silent Brain Infarction and Platelet Activation in Obstructive Sleep Apnea American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 175. pp. 612-617, (2007)

Sanjay R. Patel et al. Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women American Journal of Epidemiology 2006 164(10):947-954

Tanné F et al. Chronic liver injury during obstructive sleep apnea Hepatology 2005 Jun;41(6):1290-6.

Schäfer H et al. Body fat distribution, serum leptin, and cardiovascular risk factors in men with obstructive sleep apnea. Chest 2002 Sep;122(3):829-39.

McArdle N et al.Metabolic risk factors for vascular disease in obstructive sleep apnea: a matched controlled study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2007 Jan 15;175(2):190-5. Epub 2006 Oct 26.

Ip MS et al. Obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with insulin resistance. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2002 Mar 1;165(5):670-6.

OÄŸretmenoÄŸlu O et al. Body fat composition: a predictive factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Laryngoscope 2005 Aug;115(8):1493-8.

Copyright 2008 Vreni Gurd

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Top 10 health and wellness books


I've been meaning to do a list for some time, but always wondered if I had read enough to put together a complete list. And, I am definitely missing some topics, like books focused on food allergies and detoxification, both of which are the root causes of problems in many individuals, but so far, based on the books I've read, I think that the following reading list is a good place to start to learn how to maintain or improve one’s health. Choosing the books, and then selecting the order in which to rate them was REALLY HARD, as every book has much to offer, and choosing one book over another on a certain topic left many excellent books off the list that are also well worth reading. These books are all geared to the lay person, although many if not all would greatly assist physicians and others in the healing professions in helping their patients.

With no further ado, – drum roll – here is the list, starting from 10 and counting down to number 1!

Number 10:
Fast Food Nation
by Eric Schlosser

A great book about how corporate profit and the systemization of food processing has resulted in a complete degradation in the quality of food being produced. Far more important to these companies than producing healthy food is finding ways to make you buy their product. It is frightening to learn the extent some companies have gone to to prevent regulations that would stop them from selling you contaminated food. Also talks about the social consequences of low-wage fast food and food processing jobs on communities. A book that will put you off fast food, which will definitely improve your health!

Number 9:
Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life
by Marshall B Rosenburg, PhD

Relationship stress is often rooted in a communication style that stimulates an angry or defensive response in the other person. Learning to communicate in a nonviolent way that still allows you to express your feelings and get your point across can do much to reduce stress. Stress is implicated in heart disease, diabetes, depression, digestive issues, osteoporosis, immune disorders, thyroid problems etc., so learning to control stress is vital to improved health.

Number 8:
Loving What Is
by Byron Katie

In situations where one is unhappy about something completely out of one's control, accepting the reality of the situation is the ticket to emotional happiness. What makes us miserable is the stories we tell ourselves about our problem or situation. Just as it makes no sense to get upset about the rain, it makes no sense to tie ourselves in knots about the career choice of one’s child, the relationship problems of a relative or friend, or the inability of our spouse to pick up after themselves. Ultimately the control lies with the other people involved, so although one can lend an empathetic ear, there is no point wasting emotional energy. Far better to devote energy to things within one’s control.

Number 7:
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
by Dr. Weston A. Price

This book was at the top of the list on my first draft. Dr. Weston Price traveled the world in the '30s studying primitive societies that had not yet come in contact with "white man's food", and discovered vibrantly healthy populations with good bone structure and minimal tooth decay. The diets were as varied as the societies he studied, but no society was vegetarian, and many societies actively sought out a particular food (usually a form of saturated fat) to give to their newly married couples, pregnant women and young children to ensure good development. If you are planning to have children, this would be a good book to read before conceiving, as the nutritional status of both parents prior to conception is very important to the lifelong health of the child.

Number 6:
Nutrition and Your Mind
by Dr. George Watson
One of the early researchers in the concept of metabolic typing, Dr. George Watson is believed to be the one who discovered that different individuals oxidize their food at different rates, and that the type of food eaten can either slow down or speed up the rate of oxidation. Slow oxidizers need food that speeds up their oxidation rate, whereas fast oxidizers need food that slows down their oxidation rate. Both slow and fast oxidizers that are eating an inappropriate diet for them may develop similar symptoms of illness, but they require different diets in order to resolve their biochemical imbalances. Dr. Watson spent his career balancing the biochemistry of those with mental illness through food and specific nutrient therapy.

Number 5:
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – An updated guide to stress-related disease and coping
by Robert M. Sapolsky
A comprehensive book on the topic of stress written for the lay person. Quite funny at times, but also quite involved, one learns a great deal about the physiology of stress. Lots of good suggestions here on how to reduce one’s stress levels as well. I put this book in the top 5, because I now believe that chronic stress, whether physical or psychological, results in a deterioration in hormone balance in the body, which eventually leads to disease.

Number 4:
Your Guide to Healthy Hormones
by Daniel Kalish, DC
Particularly in middle-aged women, but also applicable to women and men of all ages, hormone imbalance is frequently the cause of a large variety of health issues including insomnia, overwhelming fatigue, lethargy, PMS, depression, hypo or hyperthyroid, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, decreased libido, to name a few. This book gives a good overview of the hormone, digestive and detoxification systems and how they interact, how problems arise, and how functional testing can lead to appropriate diet and lifestyle recommendations and supplementation if needed, in order to rebalance the systems and get them functioning optimally again. The key is treating the individual’s imbalance rather than the general health problem.

Number 3:
Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer For Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol
by Mary Enig, PhD

This book is in my top three, because the topic of fats are SO misunderstood, resulting in much of the population choosing fats that cause free-radical damage and inflammation in the body, and avoiding healthful fats that are needed to transport nutrition into the cells, good fertility, and good overall health. So here is the truth about fats from a fat researcher that has never been paid by the food industry – what a different story she tells! I wish every doctor would read this book and pass on this vital information to their patients.

Number 2:
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival
by TS Wiley and Bent Formby

Circadian stress is epidemic in our society. Very few of us take enough restorative time, let alone dark time, and the consequences are destroying our health. Many of our hormones have circadian rhythms, some determined by the amount of light or darkness we are exposed to. Inadequate darkness and too much time in the light leads to hormone imbalance, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, depression, and possibly cancer and heart disease. If you can get past the sensational style in which this book is written, the information is interesting, valuable, and definitely well researched, as over a third of the book is references.

Number 1:
How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy
by Paul Chek
This, in my view, is the best book on general health and wellness that I have currently read. It covers everything from nutrition, to exercise, to sleep, to digestion, to chronic stress, and through questionnaires helps you personalize your nutrition as well as your exercise program, which is vital for success. It is easy to read, with lots of photographs and diagrams to help the reader understand the concepts. If you only want to buy one book, this is the one to get.

There you have it. It will be interesting to see how much I revise this list next year, after another year of reading under my belt.

For those of you that celebrate, have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas.

Please feel free to comment on this list or suggest your favourite health books! I have updated my website – do check it out at

Related Tips

Light pollution messes with our hormones

Saturated Fat – the misunderstood nutrient

Allopathic vs. Functional Medicine

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

Customized Nutrition

Food Guide Fallacy

Recognize your reality!

Artificial and natural flavours

Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd

Comments (4)

Melatonin, our rest and repair hormone


Just as many of us need "light therapy" in order to cope with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I would bet that many more of us actually need "dark therapy", and some of us probably could use a combination of both.  In today’s world, we often don’t spend much time outdoors in the day, and we tend to live by artificial light at night.

Every cell of our body is sensitive to light and darkness, and now that we no longer tend to live according to the rising and setting sun, our health is suffering.

Melatonin, synthesized from the neurotransmitter serotonin and secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, is one of the victims of our current modern lifestyle. It has a big job to do – to help us recuperate from our day, and prepare us for tomorrow.

It is activated by darkness and inhibited by light, so before the invention of the light bulb when we actually lived according to the cycles of daylight and darkness, melatonin had adequate time to get its nightly job done. When it gets dark outside, it is supposed to be “melatonin time”.

Turning on the lights at night and staying up late tricks our body into thinking it is day, keeping the day hormone levels (like cortisol) higher. Then, when we finally go to bed and turn out the lights, melatonin may not have enough time to do its job before daybreak.

And if the bedroom is not completely dark – an outdoor street lamp is shining through the window onto our skin for example, melatonin may not be activated at all.

This is why working night-shift is so devastating to health.  Many scientists believe that inadequate melatonin is a primary cause of many diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, because then there is nothing to stop the run-away train that too much stress causes in the body.

The light of yang is no longer balanced by the dark of yin hormonally (cortisol / melatonin), in the CNS (sympathetic / parasympathetic), psychologically (stressed / relaxed) and even on a societal level (work / play). Work and productivity are valued highly in our society, whereas people that live a more balanced life are often considered "slackers" or lazy.

Melatonin is a very powerful antioxidant that works in watery as well as fatty environments, and unlike other antioxidants, melatonin is able to cross the blood brain barrier.  So, at night, melatonin’s job is to sop up those free radicals before they do too much damage to other tissues.

Melatonin helps control the menstrual cycle in females, controls estrogen levels (thereby playing a key roll in preventing hormonal cancers like breast, ovarian, uterine and even prostate cancer), and is important in controlling circadian rhythms.

Melatonin is also synthesized by the immune system for its many roles within that system, including enhancing T cell production. Melatonin even seems to be involved in regenerating injured tissue, as seen in this study on rat degenerated intervertebral disks.

Melatonin, among other things, helps us sleep (or is supposed to!)

As someone who has a real problem sleeping, I completely disagree with the advice frequently given to insomniacs to get up, get out of the bedroom and read or do something if one can’t sleep because that would entail turning on a light, which would then shut down melatonin, resulting in less rest and repair happening.

Getting up certainly won’t help you get to sleep! I know from experience what putting in a full day of work feels like after lying in bed awake from 10pm to 7am, but turning on a light I think will just mess up the hormones more. You certainly don’t want to fire up cortisol at 2 in the morning!

Listening to relaxation CDs may be helpful. What helped me enormously when I wasn’t sleeping four out of seven nights for months on end, was listening to the relaxing Insight CD, which lowered my brain waves to delta, so even though I wasn’t sleeping, I was getting some rest. I honestly think that without that CD I would have had to cancel many a work day.

If you suffer from insomnia, it may be very tempting to rely on melatonin supplements to help you sleep. Personally, I think that apart from very occasional use to aid in jet-lag recovery, this is a bad idea because if you are providing external melatonin, your body will sense it in the blood stream and stop producing it.

Over time your pineal gland will shrink, and you may no longer be able to produce your own melatonin, which would leave you stuck taking the supplement for life. Far better to decrease sympathetic load (reduce your stressors), get lots of light during the day, and then lots of dark time at night.

Frequently addressing cortisol circadian-rhythm problems will also make a big difference, as high cortisol levels at night make it pretty hard to sleep! (Small aside, for those of you are keeping track – cortisol does not suppress melatonin, but melatonin does not suppress cortisol either.

That means you can have high cortisol levels when its dark and you are lying awake stressing, but melatonin is not active when it’s light. Therefore, cortisol is still the kingpin, as it is functional 24/7.)

In the winter time especially, our bodies probably need a good 9.5 hours in complete darkness.  No light, TV sets, computers or night lights at all. Get that TV out of the bedroom! 

That does not mean that we must be in bed sleeping for that length of time – dark time can provide an opportunity for meditation, contemplation or listening to music for example. This way it is easier to quiet the mind before trying to sleep.

If in the night you need to use the bathroom, don’t turn on the bathroom light. Use a red night light (not white, blue or green), or a flashlight with a red bulb.

Black-out drapes can make a huge difference to the darkness of a bedroom, or in a pinch you can put foil on the windows. Many people have said that they didn’t realize they were sleeping poorly until they slept in a completely darkened room.

Related Tips
Breast / prostate cancer prevention
Light pollution messes with your hormones
Is going to bed too late making you fat?
The autonomic nervous system and fat loss
Adrenal fatigue

Formby and Wiley; Lights Out! Sugar, Sleep and Survival Books, New York, NY, 2000

Smolensky and Lamberg; The Body Clock Guide to Better Health  Holt and Company, New York, NY, 2001.

Davis, Scot et al.
Light at Night and Working the Graveyard Shift Linked to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Journal of the National Cancer Institute October 2001

Blask, David, MD, PhD et al.
Melatonin-Depleted Blood from Pre-Menopausal Women Exposed to Light at Night Stimulates Human Breast Cancer Xenografts in Nude Rats
Cancer Research 65, 11174-11184, Dec. 1,  2005.

Verkasalo, P. et al. Sleep Duration and Breast Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study Cancer Research 65, 9595-9600, Oct. 15, 2005.

Harder, Ben. Bright Lights, Big Cancer Science News Online Jan. 7, 2006.

Sainz. RM et al.
Melatonin reduces prostate cancer cell growth leading to neuroendocrine differentiation via a receptor and PKA independent mechanism
Prostate 63(1) 29-43, April 1, 2005.

Moretti RM et al. Antiproliferative action of Melatonin on human prostate cancer LNCaP cells Oncol Rep 2000 7(2):347-351.

Fraschini F. et al. Melatonin involvement in immunity and cancer Biol Signals Recept 1998, 7(1): 61-72.

Spiegel, Karine et al. Sleep Loss: A novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes Journal of Applied Physiology 99: 2008-2019, 2005.

Broadway J, et al.
Bright Light Phase Shifts the Human Melatonin Rhythm during the Antartic Winter
 Neuroscience Letters 79 (1987): 185-189.

McMillen, I.C., et al., "Melatonin and the Development of Circadian and Seasonal Rhythmicity" Journal of Reprod. Fertility Supplement 49 (1995):137-146.

Van Cauter, Eve, et al., "Modulation of Glucose Regulation and Insulin Secretion by Circadian Rhythmicity and SleepJournal of Clinical Investigation 88, (September 1991) 934-942.

Van Cauter, Eve et al. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on neuroendrocrine and metabolic function Horm Res. 2007;67 Suppl 1:2-9. Epub 2007 Feb 15.

Von Treuer, K., et al. Overnight Human Plasma Melatonin, Cortisol, Prolactin, TSH, under Conditions of Normal Sleep, Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Recovery Journal of Pineal Research 20, no. 1 (January 1996): 7-14.

Wehr, Thomas A., et al.
The Duration of Human Melatonin Secretion and Sleep Respond to Changes in Day Length (Photoperiod)
 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 73, no. 6 (1991): 1276-1280.

Wehr, Thomas A., et al.
Suppression of Men’s Responses to Seasonal Changes in Day Length by Modern Artificial Lighting
 American Journal of Physiology 269, no. 38 (1995): R173-R178.

Brown R., et al
Differences in Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion between Melancholic Depressed Patients and Control Subjects
 American Journal of Psychiatry 142. no. 7 (July 1985):811-816

Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd

Comments (3)

Television-watching is a health risk

It may be hard to believe that watching TV can damage our health, but there are many reasons that this is true. The obvious one is that time spent watching TV means less time spent doing physical activity, and inactivity is definitely very damaging to one’s health. Many people watch over four hours of television a day, and that is frequently in addition to sitting at work for eight hours! The more the TV time, the fatter we are. Childhood TV watching is clearly linked to childhood obesity.

Evening television disrupts sleep, as the light emitted from the television is too stimulating to our systems. So get that television out of the bedroom! Our night-time rest and repair hormones like melatonin don’t get activated if there is light flickering from the TV. And if you turn on the TV in the middle of the night, those ever-important-for-health hormones get shut off, unable to complete their overnight tasks of immune-system building and tissue repair. To get adequate repair time, we need 8 to 10 hours of complete darkness each night. Amazingly, the sleep cycles of children, even those under the age of 2, are disturbed by as little as an hour of TV a day. When children’s sleep schedules are disrupted, usually so are the parents. Poor sleep has real health consequences over time.

Television viewing is particularly unhealthy for children for a variety of reasons. Using a television set as a babysitter may seem easy and be extremely tempting, but it is important to remember that television is a form of mind control which can have a huge influence on the attitudes of children as they grow. Research has shown that children are very susceptible to television commercials, making them more materialistic than they otherwise would be, negatively affecting their food choices, making them more likely to smoke as teens and go into debt as adults, and increasing their reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. Watching television also tends to make kids more aggressive by desensitizing them to violence, and surprisingly, makes them more susceptible to injury, probably because they do not realize that an activity is risky after watching TV characters continually surviving incredibly risky behaviours.

Weaning oneself and the kids off TV is tough, but families that have managed don’t regret it. They have much more quality time with each other, improving their family relationships. They are healthier and happier, and the kids are better adjusted socially. So, either go cold turkey and get rid of the television sets in your home, or remove them from the bedrooms first, and then gradually decrease viewing times by planning other activities instead, until the TV is never on. Then get rid of it.

Related Tips:
Light pollution messes with our hormones
The dark of the matter

Thompson, Darcy A. The Association Between Television Viewing and Irregular Sleep Schedules Among Children Less Than 3 Years of Age Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 4 October 2005, pp. 851-856
Lumeng J. et al. Television Exposure and Overweight Risk in Preschoolers Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:417-422.
Taheri S.The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity
Archives of Disease in Childhood 2006;91:881-884;
Gidwani PP et al. Television viewing and initiation of smoking among youth Pediatrics 2002 Sep;110(3):505-8.
Dina L. G. Borzekowski and Thomas N. Robinson, The 30-Second Effect: An Experiment Revealing the Impact of Television Commercials on Food Preferences of Preschoolers Journal of the American Dietetic Association 101 (2001): 42–46.
Howard L. Taras and Miriam Gage, Advertised Foods on Children’s Television Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 149 (1995): 649–52
Committee on Public Education Children, Adolescents, and Television Pediatrics Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 423-426
Flaura Koplin Winston et al. Actions Without Consequences: Injury-Related Messages in Children’s Programs Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:366-369.
Glik D. et al. Unintentional injury depictions in popular children’s television programs Injury Prevention 2005;11:237-241

Comments (7)

An easily controllable risk-factor for breast/prostate cancers that few people know about


Interesting that breast cancer is far more common in industrialized countries than in 3rd world countries, and far more common in cities than in less densely populated regions. Women in certain professions (like nursing) are at greater risk. But this risk factor is easily controllable, if you know about it.

We probably all know someone who has either breast or prostate cancer, as they are the most commonly diagnosed cancers in females and males respectively. Although family history is an uncontrollable risk factor in both cancers, there are many other risk factors that we can control, and may determine whether or not cancer develops.

There is more and more evidence linking artificial evening and night-time light to the growth of cancer cells. The risk of breast cancer is five times higher in industrial nations lit with electric lights than in the underdeveloped countries of the world.

A study done in 2001 by the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Centre in Seattle found that women who worked the graveyard shift had a 60% greater risk of getting breast cancer than those that did not.

Women that regularly sleep nine hours a night have less than a third the cancer rates of those that regularly sleep seven, according to a Finnish study published in Cancer Research in 2005. Interestingly, it does not seem to be the sleep that matters, but rather the hours spent in darkness.

Melatonin is the immune hormone that is secreted in darkness. Melatonin is supposed to be at its peak between 1 and 2am, and if we are still up with the lights on at that time, very little or no melatonin will be secreted.

Melatonin seems to stop cancer cells cold, and puts them to sleep for the night. Breast cancer grows in the presence of light, because of the absence of melatonin.

In a very interesting study published in Dec. of 2005 and funded by the NIH, rats that were implanted with human breast cancer were either given melatonin rich blood from women that had been in complete darkness for 2 hours, or blood from women that were exposed to bright light.

The tumors in the rats that were given blood with the lowest melatonin concentrations (the blood that came from women exposed to light) multiplied the fastest.

Melatonin seems to block the ability of cancer cells to metabolize linoleic acid, the omega 6 fatty acid that is found in vegetable oils, thereby preventing the cancer cells from dividing. Melatonin also seems to have a role in controlling the excess production of estrogen and estradiol, another factor in the growth of breast cancer.

The recent statistics that have come out have indicated a big drop in rates of breast cancer, and it is believed that this drop was due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy in 2002, solidifying the theory that high estrogen levels play a roll in developing breast and also cervical cancer.

Estrogen dominance may also occur as a result of chronically high insulin levels, so decrease your sugar and starchy carbohydrates if there is breast cancer in your family, and get your dark time, as melatonin also seems to have a role in controlling the excess production of estrogen and estradiol.

It is interesting to note that decreased melatonin levels due to too little dark time results in increased levels of cortisol, which in turn translates into higher insulin levels, which leads to problems with type 2 diabetes and heart disease in addition to cancer.

So, the bottom line is that getting enough hours in complete darkness is vital to hormone regulation, which is vital to optimal health.

Although there is less research with regard to the protective effects of melatonin on prostate cancer, the research that is there certainly does support the hypothesis, and more research is ongoing. Melatonin seems to be protective in some other cancers as well, such as skin cancer.

The message for us all? Get to bed early enough that you will get 9 hours of dark time, and use a red night light if you need to use the bathroom in the night. If going to bed early on a regular basis is impossible for you, get black-out drapes and make sure you get you can sleep in long enough in the morning to get your nine hours of dark time.

Another super useful trick is to put on your sun glasses at 10pm – use yellow lenses that cut out all blue light, as it is the blue light that is problematic. This would be a great strategy if you are working night shifts. It may also make it easier to fall asleep when you finally do make it to bed.

Reducing your consumption of omega 6 fatty acids – vegetable oils like soy, canola, sunflower etc, grain-fed beef etc., and increase omega 3 intake from fish oils in order to improve the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio may also assist in reducing your risk of getting cancer.

Related tips:
Light Pollution Messes With Your Hormones
Vegetable Oils – Friend or Foe?
Essential Fats – Omega 3 to Omega 6 Ratio

Proietti S, et al. Molecular mechanisms of melatonin’s inhibitory actions on breast cancers. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Sep 25.

Alvarez-García V et al. Regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor by melatonin in human breast cancer cells. J Pineal Res. 2012 Aug 16. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12007.

Davis S, et al. Night shift work and hormone levels in women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012 Apr;21(4):609-18. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

Davis, Scot et al. Light at Night and Working the Graveyard Shift Linked to Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Journal of the National Cancer Institute October 2001

Blask, David, MD, PhD et al. Melatonin-Depleted Blood from Pre-Menopausal Women Exposed to Light at Night Stimulates Human Breast Cancer Xenografts in Nude Rats Cancer Research 65, 11174-11184, Dec. 1,  2005.

Verkasalo, P. et al. Sleep Duration and Breast Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study Cancer Research 65, 9595-9600, Oct. 15, 2005.

Harder, Ben. Bright Lights, Big Cancer Science News Online Jan. 7, 2006.

Sainz. RM et al. Melatonin reduces prostate cancer cell growth leading to neuroendocrine differentiation via a receptor and PKA independent mechanism Prostate 63(1) 29-43, April 1, 2005.

Moretti RM et al. Antiproliferative action of Melatonin on human prostate cancer LNCaP cells Oncol Rep 2000 7(2):347-351.

Fraschini F. et al. Melatonin involvement in immunity and cancer Biol Signals Recept 1998, 7(1): 61-72.

Comments (8)

Is going to bed too late making you fat?

Many of our hormones are intimately related to circadian rhythms, and their function gets thrown off when we completely ignore the fact that night follows day, and day follows night. During the longer days of summer, mammals are hardwired to find sustenance to store as fat, to help them last the shorter days of winter where they will be either hibernating or eating less due to lack of food availability.

In humans, this hardwiring shows up as a desire for carbohydrates. By choosing to stay up with the lights on, watching TV or doing computer work late at night long after the sun has gone down, our hormonal system is fooled into believing that it is still day, resulting in increased cortisol and insulin levels, which makes you want to snack, and most likely on carbohydrates. In today’s wealthy countries, winter does not mean a lack of food availability, so late night snacking is often the result.

Even if you do not snack, staying up late regularly causes cortisol to release a nightly dose of sugar into the bloodstream for energy, insulin then rises to store that sugar as fat. Constantly high levels of insulin are an important factor in developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. And if you are insulin resistant, smelling a pastry will make you fat! Therefore, fat storage is largely controlled by the amount of light you are exposed to and the insulin resistance it causes. (note: protein types will often sleep better with a small protein snack before bed.)

Going to bed by 10pm lowers your night-time cortisol and insulin levels, and raises your melatonin levels, which prevents this whole cycle from developing. In the summer we can get away with staying up later, but when the sun goes down, bed should soon follow. In the winter most of us need about 9.5 hours of sleep.

Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.

Chek, Paul; Oliver, Clifford, Remsen, Julie; Optimum Health and Fitness Through Practical Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2002.

Formby and Wiley; Lights Out! Sugar, Sleep and Survival Pocket Books, New York, NY, 2000

Smolensky and Lamberg; The Body Clock Guide to Better Health Holt and Company, New York, NY, 2001.

Comments (5)

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