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Afternoon Naps Found to Improve Mental Acuity

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Remember those days as a child when afternoon nap time would roll around and you fought tooth and nail to avoid this downtime?

I mean, come on, who wanted to take a nap? We were kids! We had forts to build, Barbies that needed to be put on fashion shows, bikes to ride, trees to climb, and hey, those tea parties weren’t going to happen all on their own, right?!

Ah, but now, as an adult…

Raise your hand if you miss afternoon nap time. Look at that, it’s like the whole world just did ‘the wave.’ Hands raised for miles! 😉

And, why do most of us miss nap time? I’d say it’s because not many of us are immune to these sentiments that arrive roughly mid-afternoon:

  • My brain is fried.
  • I need a pick-me-up.
  • I just need some coffee (for energy and mental clarity).
  • Is it 5:00 yet, I just can’t think any longer! 

Well, not only are you not alone in those feelings, but science actually confirms the benefit of a mental recharge come midafternoon in the form of…you guessed it…a NAP! (Maybe Mom was right, or maybe she just needed a break, but I digress.) 

So, while you may feel like your afternoon coffee break is the only thing that will free your mind so your work will productively follow, the childhood practice of an afternoon nap may actually be what the doctor ordered! 

Nap Stats

Sleep is said to be just as crucial to your health and wellness as eating, drinking, and even breathing! 

Sleep can help manage inflammatory responses within the body in regards to both disease and cell damage. 

While you sleep, your body repairs itself and processes information. 

But, you don’t need an entire night of sleep to reap some of these benefits! 

Afternoon naps have been linked to:

  • Boosted memory
  • Improvement in job performance
  • Increased levels of alertness
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved consistency (task-related)
  • Boosted creativity
  • Greater problem-solving capabilities

Some companies have realized the brain-boosting (and thus profit-boosting) power of an afternoon nap and have implemented time for employees to do so as the practice has proven to save money and result in a happier and more productive workforce. 

A 15-20 minute nap, also known as a power nap, is most associated with an increase in both alertness and cognitive function. 

Extending your nap to 30 minutes (and up to an hour) has been shown to increase problem-solving skills and creativity. 

And, a longer nap (roughly 90 minutes) is recognized as a full sleep cycle. 

Most research suggests this length of napping time also boosts brain function, alertness, and creativity. However some say in elderly people, a 90-minute nap may be too much, potentially having the opposite effect on cognitive function. 

Nap Studies

Recent research conducted in China involved the study of 2,214 people (each over the age of 60 in this particular study). 

The participants were studied in regards to their napping habits and were given a series of tests measuring various types of cognitive ability (in particular here: focus and problem solving). 

The results? Those individuals who claimed to regularly take afternoon naps received much higher scores in their cognitive performance abilities than those who did not nap. 

The areas where such afternoon napping seemed to provide the most benefit in this study were locational awareness, verbal fluency, and working memory.  

And, while there have been a few studies yielding results opposite to this one, the findings in the above-listed study are consistent with many others, showing improved cognitive performance to be a result of midday napping. 

Sleep aids in your body’s ability to store memories, making your afternoon nap helpful in remembering tasks you performed earlier in the day. Some studies show that a nap can aid in this type of memory functioning as much as a full night of sleep. 

One study found that napping helped the brain to “draw connections,” (referring to brain connections) which is what makes it easier for a person to piece together information they’ve been given at earlier moments in the day. 

And, in other studies, nappers saw a great benefit in “associative memory” and even experienced boosts in their overall capacity for learning. 

But, what if you’re not sleepy?

According to a review in the Journal of Sleep Research, naps even benefit the well-rested, improving reaction time, logical reasoning, and symbol recognition. 

Nap Specifics

So, how long should you nap? 

  • Even though there are brain-boosting benefits to be had with naps lasting upwards to 90 minutes, the experts advise keeping naps at 30 minutes or less, ideally between 10 and 20 minutes. 
  • Even a 10-minute nap can prove beneficial when it comes to improving mental sharpness. 
  • Frequent naps lasting longer than 60 minutes can potentially cause nighttime insomnia. 

When should you nap? 

  • Try to get in your short afternoon snooze prior to 3 pm. Napping after this time could possibly interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule. 

Where/how should you nap? 

  • A dark, quiet room is best for your afternoon nap, complete with comfortable temps and no distractions. 
  • Some recommend ear plugs, an eye mask, and a blanket to aid in comfort and help the body quickly fall asleep (as some may struggle to fall asleep in the middle of the day). 

Anything else? 

  • Getting some fresh air after a nap is advised to avoid feelings of grogginess. 

Sleeping in THIS position is linked to Alzheimers

Though bizarre, Harvard researchers have discovered a shocking link between your sleep and the onset of Alzheimer’s.

The big question is — do you sleep on your side or on your back?

Because further research shows, ONE of these positions is linked to the first signs of dementia.

Sleeping In THIS Position Is Linked To Alzheimer’s >>

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HEALTH

Low Carb Diet May Induce Remission Of Type 2 Diabetes

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Low-carb diets have been popular for some time now due to their proven substantial benefit to weight and/or fat loss. 

But, recent findings have shown that the benefits may be even greater than once believed…even inducing remission in people with type 2 diabetes. 

That’s right, aside from weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, potential boosts in brain health, and benefits to the health of your heart, low carb diets are now proving effective for diabetes patients as well. 

So, what is it about restricting carbs that brings such great benefits to those with type 2 diabetes? And, can these results be sustained long term? 

As low carb diets are often said to be difficult to maintain over long lengths of time, what can you do to ensure you don’t get burnt out?

Let’s take a look…

The Effects Of Carb Restriction On Type 2 Diabetes

The findings of a recent study have the diabetic world buzzing, and rightfully so!

Earlier this year, researchers at Texas A&M studied results from randomized trials assessing the effectiveness of low carb diets amongst those individuals with type 2 diabetes.

These studies found that participants who followed a low carb diet raised the likelihood of their diabetes going into remission by 32%.

Concerning 1,357 participants (spanning several studies), most of whom were between the ages of 47-67 and overweight or obese, those who saw such results followed a strict low carb eating regimen for 12 weeks. 

Researchers checked in on participants at both 6 and 12 months, and the greatest benefits were seen at 6 months. 

At 12 months, while some participants were still in remission, those rates were lower than the 6 month mark. 

The hypothesis is that those individuals who remained diligent in their adherence to a low carb diet saw continued benefit, while those who were less consistent lost the benefits related to their type 2 diabetes over time. 

So then, how exactly does restricting carbs benefit patients with type 2 diabetes?

Essentially, you can think of carbs to type 2 diabetes in a similar way that we think of milk to those with lactose intolerance. 

With lactose intolerance, a person’s body can not accurately process lactose. 

In the case of type 2 diabetes, a person’s body can not accurately process carbohydrates. 

So, someone who can not process carbohydrates accurately or efficiently, when consuming foods rich in carbs will experience high levels of blood sugar (consistently) and even weight gain. 

Normally, when we consume carbohydrates they get broken down into sugar. This sugar then enters our bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise. 

This spike then tells your pancreas to produce insulin to help your cells to absorb that blood sugar for energy (both for storage and immediate usage). 

In cases of type 2 diabetes, over time the body stops responding to that insulin which causes blood sugar levels to remain too high for too long. And, eventually that insulin production can stop altogether. 

So, for type 2 diabetes patients, eating a low carb diet decreases the strain on the body and lessens the body’s propensity to produce too much insulin. 

As eating fewer carbs helps the body to maintain healthy blood sugar (or blood glucose) levels, carb intolerance and insulin resistance improves as well.

Obviously then, maintaining a low carb lifestyle would be a crucial component in continuing to reap those rewards in one’s fight against diabetes, but many would argue this to be a difficult task. 

So, how can you successfully restrict carbs long term? 

Tips For Success While Cutting Down On Carbs

One of the biggest hurdles to successfully reaping the rewards of a low carb diet long term is the (often deemed) lack of sustainability of such diets. 

Even registered dieticians and nutrition experts agree that cutting carbs long term can be difficult…but certainly not impossible! 

So, what tips do the experts give regarding low carb success? 

1- Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Low carb diets can be highly restrictive. And, one mistake that many make is to dive headfirst into the deep end…no looking back. 

While such ambition is admirable, dietary restrictions of any kind that are fast and furious often fizzle out before they finish. 

Therefore, the experts recommend an approach with a slow beginning. 

Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City advises her patients to “start with one meal at a time.” 

Dr. Sood recommends beginning with dinner as the meal to tackle first: “Aim to lower carb intake (at this meal) by about 50% by swapping out unhealthy, starch-packed carbohydrates for healthier sources such as healthy grains or lentils.”

From there, you can then begin to make similar healthy swaps at lunch, then breakfast, and snacks. 

2- Stay On Track Through Tracking

Keeping a food diary or journal to keep track of not only what you eat, but how those foods affect your body is a proven method to help you stay on track. 

I know that many people don’t like the idea of tracking food long term, but consider doing so as you begin your low carb eating regimen to see how your body reacts to various foods, track your gains in energy, and keep you motivated. 

In time, you may find that you don’t need to track as often. And, you can always drop or pick up this healthy habit as needed. But, in the beginning, keeping track is a great way to foster success. 

3- Talk To Your Doc

Keeping your physician in the loop when dealing with type 2 diabetes is very important. 

Your doctor or specialist knows your situation and can recommend a plan best suited to your needs. 

As different carbs affect different people in different ways, your doctor or a nutritionist can guide you to the best choices for your specific needs. 

4- The Buddy System

As with any diet or healthy eating plan, there’s often help in numbers. 

In fact, studies have shown people are more successful at adhering to dietary changes (and losing weight) when they have the support of a friend or buddy. 

Sticking to any diet long term is difficult, but having a support system along the way can increase your chances of long term success. 

5- Variety Is The Spice Of Low Carb Life

While there are plenty of delicious low carb food options available for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, not experiencing a variety of those options can hinder your ability to stay low carb long term, thereby missing the benefits to be had (especially regarding type 2 diabetes). 

Many cultures have eaten low carb diets for centuries, so…we can do it…we’ve just got to stay out of boring ruts when it comes to our food choices. 

Conclusion

Studies have proven that low carb diets can cause type 2 diabetes to go into remission. 

The only problem is, these results aren’t sustained long-term (post 12 months) if patients do not remain on a low-carb diet. In other words, at this point, research suggests that low-carb eating needs to become a lifestyle to reap long-term healthy rewards. 

So, if you have type 2 diabetes, consider talking to your doctor (first and foremost) about how a low-carb diet may benefit your condition. 

Then, once you get the green light and some direction from your physician or specialist, don’t forget to ease into this style of eating, keep track of your food intake and progress, incorporate a variety of foods, and enlist the support of a friend for long-term success. 

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HEALTH

Muscle Strengthening Found To Lower Risk Of Death From All Causes

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Do you incorporate practices into your daily or weekly routine for the benefit those things bring to your health and well-being? 

Take coffee, for instance. Many folks enjoy their daily cup of joe knowing it can improve cognitive functioning and decrease the risk of certain diseases, even lowering the risk of mortality from all causes. 

Or, what about your sleep habits? Do you aim to get a specific number of hours of restful sleep each night for the purpose of improving cardiovascular health, even adding length to your life? 

Those are only a few examples of both foods and practices that, when incorporated into our lives, can improve our health and may even allow us to live longer. 

And, according to the experts, upon analyzing research spanning more than three decades, muscle strengthening can be added to the list of things we can easily incorporate into our lives to add length to our days!

Spoiler alert: adding just 30 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity per week can help you reap this reward!

So, let’s take a look at the benefits of muscle training (strengthening), and then we’ll look at the science and discover some simple, practical ways you can boost your health and lower your overall risk of death.

Benefits Of Muscle Training

Muscle training, or strengthening, exercises offer a wide variety of benefits to your health, so before we dive into the research, let’s quickly explore just a few of those benefits…

1- Improves Bone Density

Studies show strength training to be capable of significantly increasing bone mineral density. 

This is explained by a few things that occur as you increase the strength of your muscles:

  • Weight-bearing exercises done while standing cause gravity to pull downward on the body, slightly stressing bones and muscles, thereby causing them to strengthen. 
  • Each time a muscle contracts throughout exercise, it pulls on the bone where it is attached. This pulling essentially mimics a trauma, causing the cells in the bone to stimulate the production of structural proteins which work to build up and strengthen the bone. 

2- Improves Mental Health

Strength training has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety. 

Some believe, as in the case of high-intensity aerobic exercise, that these improvements are linked to a release of endorphins or increased endocannabinoid levels. 

And, according to research findings from the Harvard School of Medicine, “strength training provides an opportunity to overcome obstacles in a controlled predictable environment, increasing mental resilience.” 

3- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate

When you do strength or resistance training, your body requires specific amounts of energy based on how hard you are working. 

Then, your body continues to burn calories at that rate as it returns to a state of rest even after you’ve finished exercising, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. 

In the case of strength training, after you’ve put in a particularly intense amount of work, this amount is essentially amplified as you then continue to burn calories at this high metabolic rate through recovery. 

Then, as you build lean muscle mass through your efforts, the physical activity that you engage in will require your muscles to burn even more calories as each kilogram of lean muscle mass increases your metabolic rate by upwards to 100 calories per day. 

Mathematically stated: 

  • great efforts put into strength training equal great caloric burn post-workout session
  • lean muscle mass building through strength training equals greater calorie burn in your workouts 

4- Helps Maintain A Healthy Weight

Now this may seem obvious after the last point, but those gains in muscle and potential extra calorie burn kick in to aid you as you seek to maintain a healthy body weight.

Not only can you shed pounds with those calorie burn gains, but studies have shown resistance training (one type of muscle strengthening exercise) works to help dieters keep those pounds off, with a weekly commitment to muscle training activity preventing weight gain as well as keeping visceral belly fat at bay. 

5- Controls Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that as you build muscle this also improves the uptake and use of glucose within the muscle. 

Transporters within the cells of the muscle travel to the bloodstream to get glucose and then bring it back to the muscle. When you strengthen the muscle, this makes that process more efficient, bringing more glucose into the muscle thereby lowering blood sugar levels. 

For this reason, people with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises into their weekly routine. 

Research, Muscle Strengthening, And A Lowered Risk Of Death

As we just saw above, and as we’ve known for some time, the benefits of exercise are great, but did you know (aside from the title and intro of this article) that this benefit list includes the ability to reduce the risk of death from all causes? 

However, those benefits can seem vague. After all, how much exercise brings these benefits? 

What type of exercise benefits you the most? And, how much benefit are we talking about here? 

Well, a group of scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recently analyzed multiple international studies, spanning over three decades, to bring us those answers. 

The studies reviewed included research conducted over the course of 2-25 years on adults who were healthy (lacking any major health concerns), with a centralized focus on 16 particular studies from the United States, England, Scotland, Australia, and Japan. 

These studies involved a large number of participants, both men and women, from samples with as few as 4,000 to as many as nearly 480,000 people, including ages ranging from 18-97.

Participants in each study did a variety of physical activities, including aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. 

And, as the team analyzed the data, one thing stood out: you don’t have to exercise for hours and hours each week to improve your health and reduce your risk of death!

Incorporating just 30-60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening exercises proved to lower the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, by 10-20%. 

Even better, when strength training activities were combined each week with aerobic exercise, the risk of death decreased by 40%, the threat of cardiovascular disease dropped by 46%, and the risk of death by cancer reduced by 28%. 

Another bonus? The types of muscle-strengthening exercises that will allow you to reap these rewards aren’t only those typically done in a gym setting. 

Muscle strengthening activities are beneficial due to their (positive) impact on your musculoskeletal health. 

And, while those types of activities certainly include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, they also include practical work such as heavy gardening and shoveling.

Furthermore, according to the physical health guidelines in the UK, even yoga, pilates, and tai chi, as well as wheeling a wheelchair, lifting and carrying children, and carrying heavy shopping bags are considered to be worthy muscle strengthening exercises as they work to benefit the musculoskeletal system. 

While there were limitations to the analysis done here, such as limited data, a lack of diversity in the population of participants, and data collected through observation as opposed to clinical trials, there is still much to be gleaned from the information reviewed. 

But, this new analysis of data can serve to add to what we’ve already known concerning a reduced risk of death with muscle strengthening exercise, now giving us precise “doses” or prescriptions for how much time we should spend engaging in such activities to reap optimal rewards. 

And, as we mentioned above, that prescription reads 30-60 minutes spent weekly doing muscle strengthening exercises to lower the risk of all causes of death (by 10-20%), with added benefits to being reaped when including aerobic exercise alongside your muscle strengthening routine. 

References: 

https://lifeboostcoffee.com/blogs/lifeboost/how-many-cups-of-coffee-should-you-be-drinking-each-day

https://www.verywellhealth.com/sleep-duration-and-longevity-2224291

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/less-than-an-hour-of-strength-training-a-week-can-lower-your-risk-of-death

https://www.sciencealert.com/study-links-muscle-strengthening-activities-to-a-lower-risk-of-dying

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-02-mins-weekly-muscle-linked.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/28/muscle-strengthening-lowers-risk-of-death-from-all-causes-study-shows

https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/add-strength-training-to-your-workout.aspx

https://egym.com/us/blog/boost-metabolism#:~:text=Muscles%20are%20lean%20body%20mass,four%20days%20(afterburn%20effect).

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/fitness/articles/benefits-of-strength-training-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-muscle-size

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/five-benefits-of-strength-training.html#

https://www.eatingwell.com/article/290619/trying-to-lose-weight-heres-why-strength-training-is-as-important-as-cardio

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HEALTH

Healthy and Delicious: Creative Ways to Add Flavor to Your Meals with Nutrient-Rich Options

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When it comes to healthy eating, many people often think of bland and tasteless meals. However, eating nutritious food does not have to be boring or flavorless. In fact, there are plenty of ways to add flavor to your meals while still keeping them healthy and nutrient-rich.

There are a number of nutrient-rich options that can help enhance the flavor of your meals without adding excess calories or unhealthy ingredients. Here are some creative ways to add flavor to your meals with these healthy options:

1. Fresh Herbs and Spices: Fresh herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to your meals without adding extra calories or unhealthy fats. Basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint are all great options for adding freshness and flavor to your dishes. Spices like turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon can also add depth and complexity to your meals.

2. Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange can add a burst of flavor to your dishes. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over grilled chicken or fish, or add some lime zest to your guacamole for a bright and tangy kick.

3. Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are not only packed with nutrients like protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but they also add a delicious crunch to your meals. Sprinkle some chopped almonds or walnuts over a salad, or toss some pumpkin seeds into your oatmeal for added texture and flavor.

4. Fermented Foods: Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are not only good for your gut health, but they can also add a unique and tangy flavor to your meals. Add kimchi to your stir-fry or top your avocado toast with sauerkraut for a tasty and probiotic-rich boost.

5. Nutritional Yeast: Nutritional yeast is a great way to add a cheesy and savory flavor to your meals without the added calories and saturated fats of real cheese. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast over your popcorn, pasta, or roasted vegetables for a delicious and dairy-free alternative.

By incorporating these nutrient-rich options into your meals, you can add flavor and excitement to your dishes while still maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Experiment with different herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, and seeds to discover new and innovative ways to enhance the taste of your meals. With a little creativity and some healthy ingredients, you can create delicious and nutritious meals that will satisfy your taste buds and nourish your body.

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