Monday, October 29, 2012

Tranquilizers Can Affect Sleep, Part 2

Baekeland also proved that the students who exercised daily were able to enjoy more of the beneficial deep delta sleep than the students who did not exercise.  Students following their regular fitness program tended to awaken refreshed.  They did not develop any of the psychological difficulties experienced by those students deprived of activity.

The study shows that if we don’t exercise properly, we’re just too wound up to benefit from a night’s sleep.  We drag ourselves from bed every morning, our nerves jangled, eyes baggy.  Yet, by combining a program of intermittent relaxation with a sensible daily exercise routine, each of us would soon find ourselves taking steps to dreamland.

An excellent approach to relaxation is described by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in his book, You Can Sleep Well (McGraw-Hill). Jacobson points out that relaxing requires release of tension not only in the arms and legs, but in the breathing apparatus, forehead and brow, eyes and speech muscles.  These are his instructions:

Lie comfortably in bed, have no part of your body bearing on another, nor even an arm or hand under your head.  Concentrate.  You’ll find that your eyes and mouth, your forehead, cheeks, and your general muscular structure are tense.  Let go, putting your entire weight on the bed.  Don’t let any of your weight be supported by your muscles.

Next, brake your thoughts by thinking positively and exclusively about your breathing.  Concentrating on your breathing will take all of your attention and drive out all other mental activity.  By practicing total relaxation of body and mind, you’ll soon experience a pleasant, floating sensation, well on your way to that first stage of sleep.

But what about exercise?  The most elementary principle of exercise is that almost any form of gentle and slow movement will rest muscles that are tired from being in one position too long.  You can exercise anywhere, even at work – whether your job be reading, writing, typing, cooking, or any number of “sitting-down” jobs.  Stop frequently and turn your head from side to side, slowly and gently.  Or stand up and bend over from the waist without straining.  Let your whole upper body hung limp as possible; let your arms dangle as though they belong to a rag doll.  When you straighten, you will be surprised at the relaxed feeling in those tired muscles.

Dr. Gary S. Sy, a Filipino gerontologist, suggests a simple exercise to unwind and relax anytime: Put your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back.  Then return your arms to your sides.  Now put your hands behind your back and slide your thumbs up as high as you can.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tranquilizers Can Affect Sleep, Part 1

A number of researchers, among them psychiatrists Raymond Greenberg and Chester Pearlman of the Veterans Hospital in Jamaica Plains, Massachusettes, says tranquilizers do interfere with sleep.

And this is how Greenberg and Pearlman explain their findings:

People who take tranquilizers or barbiturates to get sleep are dangerously altering their sleep patterns, and drugs taken on a regular basis make it impossible for the body to get the most beneficial stage of sleep – Stage 1, or the REM (rapid eye movement) phase.  According to them, during REM time, we act out our frustrations or sift through the day’s experience or indulge in wish fulfillment.  So important are dreams as a safety valve that when we are deprived of REM time one night, we will spend twice as much time dreaming the next night. If we deprive ourselves of dream time over a period of nights by taking drugs, we may show signs of disturbed, often neurotic daytime behavior.

Mentally disturbed persons, by taking tranquilizers or barbiturates often prescribed by their physicians to induce sleep, may be lowering their REM time to such a degree that their irrepressible need to dream expresses itself during waking hours and produces bizarre behavior.

There are ways of getting rest you need without resorting to sleeping pills.  One of the best is a combination exercise / relaxation routine.  Frederick Baekland, M.D., D.M.Sc., of the State University of New York, Brooklyn, reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry of April 1970 that people who follow a regular exercise program experience more healthful invigorating sleep than those who don’t exercise.

Baekland used it on student volunteers, recording their brain wave patterns during sleep for one month.  During this time, students, all physically active, were not permitted to exercise.

Near the end of the month of exercise deprivation, the students were asked to fill out questionnaires concerning their experiences and feelings during the test period.

In studying the EEG charts and completed questionnaires, Baekland found that the most striking change was that the REM density (period of light sleep with much dreaming) increased remarkably in the students deprived of exercise.  These students also reported more frequent awakenings during the night, a decrease in appetite, increase in sexual tension and need to be with others.  The EEG also recorded a higher number of body movements in the students deprived of exercise, perhaps their subconscious attempt to make up for the exercise they had lost.

(Part 2 will be posted on Monday, 29 Oct 2012 – J.P.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hazards of High-Sodium Diet

The average person consumes dangerously large quantities of sodium chloride, the common table salt, and medical experts warn that as many as 20 out of 100 of us eventually will develop potentially fatal high blood pressure as a result.

Sodium is the culprit, and the amounts we consume come not only from the 15 pounds of table salt the average person eats in the course of the year, but from the sodium-laden processed foods that have become such a large part of our diet.

One of the reasons people are afflicted with hypertension is that most of them don’t know how little sodium they need or how dangerous too much of it can be. 

Studies have shown that throughout most of human history, people survived quite well on what would today be considered a low-sodium or even sodium-free diet.

Sodium and potassium are essential for the regulation of the body’s internal water supply, and after millions of years of a high-potassium (from fruits and vegetable), low-sodium diet, the body has developed a system for conserving sodium and getting rid of excess potassium.

Today’s high-salt diet throws this system out of control, causing a build-up of fluid in the tissues which often results in hypertension that can lead to kidney damage, stroke and heart disease.

Another hazard of the high-salt diet is extreme pre-menstrual moodiness and physical discomfort for some women.  Symptoms include bloating, headaches, spontaneous weeping and uncontrollable anger.

Following a low-salt regimen for 10 days before the onset of menstruation has been shown to lessen the severity of these symptoms or even eliminate them, according to studies made by the U.S. Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs.  The committee further recommended that Americans cut their average salt intake from about 18 grams a day to 5 grams at maximum.  The body requires only 220 milligrams of sodium daily, and the 2,000 milligrams supplied by 5 grams of salt is more than sufficient without being dangerous for most people.

Tidbits.  Result of studies by Dr. W. Donner Denckla at Harvard University indicates that the human pituitary gland secretes a “death hormone” which interferes with the body’s ability to utilize thyroxin, a hormone produced by the thyroid which controls the rate of cellular metabolism (Metabolism is the body’s chemical transformation of food into energy).

The second discovery involves the reproduction of human cells.  At one time it was believed that human cells could divide indefinitely.  Now it is known that adult cells divide only about 50 times and then mysteriously die.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exercise The Easy Way, Part 2

Here are some ways you can deal with your posture and lack of activity.  For example, while sitting on your chair, you can:

  • Circle your ankles, wrists and head.
  • Flex and point your feet.
  • Rotate your shoulders to eliminate stiffness.
  • Clench your fists, then relax them.

Tense muscles cause aches and pains.  To relax them, try this simple experiment: Hold your hand in front of you and tense your fingers as hard as you can.  Now try and move your fingers back and forth.  See how difficult it is?  Shake your hand and relax your fingers making them as loose as possible.  Move them back and forth again.  A lot easier, right?

The muscles in the rest of your body work in the same way.  Tensed muscles are a lot harder to move than when they are relaxed.  When your body is tense all the time, it can become stiff and sore.  So, it’s important to keep moving.  Whenever possible, get up and stretch your legs.  Even scratching your head gets your blood moving.

Here are some more timely tips from Shelley Liebman:  If you sit all day, try the following while working:

  • Lift your heels off the floor and lower them back down again.  Repeat – again and again and again.
  • While reading, place your hands so that your palms are touching the underside of your desk.  Press up as hard as you can.  Hold for five seconds and release.  Repeat as many times as you like.
  • Acquire a small foam or rubber ball and keep it in a desk drawer. Whenever possible, hold the ball in one hand and squeeze it and release it, working the muscles of your hand.  This is particularly good if you have been typing.
  • Remove your shoes, place the small rubber ball (or tennis ball) on the floor and gently roll your foot around the ball – a great foot massage.

Tidbits.  Royal Jelly is 1,076 times richer than honey, according to Organic Consumer Report.  Germs that die in honey in two days expire in a minute in Royal Jelly.

Sharks, research says, never get fat – they are immune to cancer and store their fat in the liver.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Exercise The Easy Way, Part 1

The most elementary principle of exercise is that almost any form of gentle and slow movement will rest muscles that are tired from being in one position too long.

You can exercise anywhere – even at work – whether your job be reading, writing, typing, cooking, or any number of “sitting-down” jobs.  Stop frequently and turn your head from side to side, slowly and gently.  Or stand up and bend over from the waist without straining.  Let your whole upper body hang limp as possible.  Let your arms dangle as though they belong to a rag doll.  When you straighten up, you will be surprised at the relaxed feelings in those tired muscles.  Remember, when you exercise, take slow deep breaths to recharge your body.

“Exercise can help you only if you make it part of your daily routine,” says Shelley Liebman, author of an informative book, Do It At Your Desk: An Office Worker’s Guide to Fitness and Health.

Liebman suggests that you set realistic goals for yourself.  And how do you do it? Just this: If you can’t find an hour, don’t forget the whole thing – take half an hour; if you can’t find an hour, 15 minutes will do.  What if you still can’t find the time? Five minutes will do – better than nothing. The idea is to fit exercise into your schedule.

Most of you will agree that one of the biggest excuses for not exercising is “I don’t have the time.”  But keeping fit doesn’t require hours every day, as Liebman emphasizes.  Neither are you going to commit yourself to running two kilometers or more a day.  In fact, those unrealistic goals usually end up discouraging most of you from exercising at all.  Only the most determined will really stick to running a kilometer or two a day.

Teach yourself to integrate physical activity into your everyday routine.  As Liebman puts it:  “If you don’t have time to swim laps, concentrate on rotating your ankles and wrists while talking on the phone.  If you don’t have time to jog around the track, take a brisk walk on your lunch hour.  Avoid the elevator.  Give your body a chance to stretch.  Try pressing your lower back into your chair as you type.  Press and release – it’s a good, realistic beginning.”

Sitting at a desk all day can cause a variety of problems such as varicose veins, lower back problems and stiff necks, resulting from a combination of insufficient blood circulation, poor posture and bad chairs.  A touch of anxiety or tension can make those problems even worse.  You may not be able to do anything about the bad chair but you can deal with your posture and lack of activity.  How? We will discuss the ways on how best to maintain good posture and lessen muscle aches and pains in nest week’s posting.