Sleep paralysis is an unsettling experience, whereby you feel trapped in your apparently motionless body, for what seems like an inordinate amount of time. I have several brushes with the phenomenon each year, which is induced, ironically, by a lack of sleep, and also by lying on your back, which I had always believed was the best sleeping position.
The simple treatment method, called Meditation-Relaxation (or MR) therapy, comes across as a nod to the mind-body connection – the sort of kumbaya “think good thoughts” exercise that might appeal to yogis more than post-docs. But, the simplicity of the treatment belies the immersive case reports and theories about parietal lobe disturbance that give it heft (and probably lab cred). Unlike treatment for nightmares, MR therapy can be performed during an attack to temper or potentially end it altogether.
That’s not only alarming for the nation as a whole, but also the individuals who fall on the wrong side of that ratio. On top of that, these people also stand to miss out on incentives that some health insurance providers are offering to members, who they consider are fit.
Surely a turnaround in obesity numbers is on the cards, if so many people are becoming more active? Unfortunately not, what you see is largely a false positive. Many of those attired in active wear are making a statement about their fashion tastes, rather than any interest in fitness.
It’s part of what Julie Stevanja, founder of online fitness clothing retailer Stylerunner, calls a lifestyle change, rather than a trend. Instead of wearing say a t-shirt and jeans when they want to dress casually, people have taken to dressing in active wear.
That’s not to say adherents are inactive, or uninterested in fitness, many are, just not everyone. Who knows though, perhaps dressing as such might encourage more people to consider becoming more physically active, which may make a dent in the obesity numbers.
For the entrepreneurs among us though, there’s a lesson in picking out trends, or lifestyle changes, before they become established. Stylerunner, whose customers are from both camps, now has a turnover of close to ten million dollars a year. Wouldn’t you rather be dressed in active wear?
In an initial analysis, the Lancet study did find an association between mortality and unhappiness, but that association disappeared once they adjusted for baseline health. “I think the interesting implication is we’ve got very few things that really matter as far as health is concerned,” Peto says. He names smoking and obesity as two things that are very good predictors of mortality. But unhappiness, it seems, is not at all on their level.
Long showers, possibly several times a day, may feel as if they are at the forefront of a healthy, clean, lifestyle, but the reality sounds like another matter all together. Being “too clean” runs the risk of removing too much of the “good bacteria” that helps keep us in good health:
Overall obsessive washing “disrupts the normal flora which keep you healthy by competing with harmful organisms”, says Ruebush. “Operating your immune system in an environment of sterility is like a sensory deprivation for the brain. Eventually, it goes insane, thus the increased amount of allergy and autoimmunity associated with persons who try too hard to avoid all exposure to anything in their environment,” she says. A long shower every day may not be advisable, as it removes the “good bacteria” from our skin. But you should wash around your genitals and anywhere you sweat a lot. And you should change your underwear every day.
If you’re going to, for whatever reason, fake an illness, and then begin posting about it online, again for whatever reason, be sure your deception doesn’t come to the attention of Taryn Wright, a Chicago based Futures trader by day, and hoax hunter the rest of the time:
In the last three years, I’ve chronicled 17 different hoaxes on my blog, often exposing the identities of the people behind them. A few of the hoaxers were scammers trying to make money, but the majority manipulated people online just for the attention that comes when you have a sob story.
Ashleigh Witt, a Melbourne based doctor, talks in frank terms about how emergency rooms at hospitals might go about assessing the best treatment, or care, options for critically ill patients, especially where the prognosis is not so hopeful. It’s thought provoking stuff, particularly when you place yourself in that category.
You see, as doctors, we have the ability to keep a person alive indefinitely. If our lungs fail, we can put a tube down your throat and have a machine breathe for you. If your kidneys fail, we can attach you to a machine that filters the toxins from your blood. We can even mimic the function of the heart. We can fill your veins with tubes and lines and attach you to life support. If the patient in front of me is 21, we usually do all of those things. If the patient in front of me is 101, I probably would do none of those things and focus on their comfort.
Sleep once used to be a simple matter. Conventional wisdom stated that we spent a third of our lives sleeping, which equated to about eight hours a day. That was pretty straightforward, and easy to follow, and left eight hours for work or study, and another eight for play. Or rather commuting, household and family duties, and then play, if you were lucky.
Then people began to think it about it more, because today sleep is all but trending. Was the norm really the norm, or should it be questioned? It was Robert Owen, a Welsh social reformer, who in 1817 devised the slogan “eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”, as part of a drive to bring about the introduction of an eight hour working day.
The politics of sleep, surely not?
Possibly though the notion was a little too socialist for some sensibilities, and required further examination. After all, late conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is said to have managed to get by on just four hours sleep a night, so maybe the rest of us should as well, meaning the work day could be extended to twelve hours duration instead? Then again, no.
It’s to hard to know when earnest evaluation of the eight hour sleep concept began, or thought to how much sleep – full stop – was required, given eight hours has only been the convention for a relatively short span of our history. Or why, for that matter. Sleep is vital for our health and well being, so it’s something people are interested in. Maybe that’s the reason.
Eight hours sleep sure, but not all at once
In his book, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, published in 2005, Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, said that during medieval times, while people used to sleep for eight hours, it was not continuous. Typically sleep was broken into two four hour periods, and in-between, people would be active for up to two hours, before going back to bed.
I wonder how much thought people of the day gave to this segmented pattern of sleep. Was it a case of “eight hours labour, six hours recreation, four hours first rest, two hours recreation, four hours second rest”? I doubt it, but the idea of broken slumber has merit, and after a few hours sleep, people were more energised. A boon for intimacy, perhaps. Or creative pursuits even.
We can thank the light bulb, and the internet, for less sleep
While we once may have slept for eight hours, albeit with an intermission, there has been concern that the arrival of electricity, and the light bulb, began cutting into this time, leading the world to its apparent sleep derived state. Recent research carried out by Jerome Siegel, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, finds this may not quite be the case though.
Siegel studied the sleep habits of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies in Africa and Bolivia, and found that generally these people sleep for six and a half hours, and perhaps an hour more in winter. And nor did they retire at sunset, with some staying awake, by the light of the fire, for three and half hours afterwards. So much for artificial lighting disrupting our “eight hours” sleep.
So who do we look to for guidance in this matter?
There’s a lot to be learned from the people in the world who are going places, or in their time, did. I’m talking about the likes of Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, Richard Branson of Virgin, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo!, US polymath Benjamin Franklin, TV host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, and Barack Obama.
Forget the studies, the headlines, the trending topics on social media, because it seems to me that sleeping patterns are individual to each of us. If medieval segmented sleep works for you, go for it. Likewise eight hours straight. Or four hours. All things remaining equal, do what is right for you, if you can. It’s time to stop to talking about sleep, I think, so we can all get some sleep.
A group of 22 scientists reviewed the evidence linking red meat and processed meat consumption to cancer, and concluded that eating processed meats regularly increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
The announcement certainly caused a stir, and there were early suggestions that the fast food, and farming, industries could be turned on their heads, and that packets of bacon might soon have to bear health warning labels, possibly a little like those seen on cigarette packs.
It’s now apparent that these sentiments may have been somewhat overcooked, and do little more than show that bad news sells. The risks from the consumption of bacon, and other processed meats, are perhaps no where near as dire as some of the early reporting suggested:
The main thing the IARC established was a casual link between eating processed meat and certain types of cancer in humans, chiefly colorectal cancer. But the actual risk is quite modest – and far, far smaller than the cancer risks from smoking. Munching on the occasional bacon strip simply isn’t that dangerous.
So it comes down to moderation, a point Dr Alan Finkel, Australia’s new chief scientist, also makes. Gorge yourself on bacon, or anything for that matter, and problems will strike sooner or later. And now that we’ve cleared up that matter, hopefully, let normal programming resume.
This is incredible. Apparently it is harder to lose weight today, than it was several decades ago, even though diet and exercise regimens, in some cases, remain unchanged. So what gives? As it happens, a number of factors are contributing, some that we have a certain degree of influence over, others not so much, that include:
We’re sleeping less than we used to
We’re more stressed that we used to be
We’re consuming more prescription drugs than we used to
We’re eating more meat than previously
We’re partaking of more artificial sweeteners
These are not the only contributing factors, but it must be possible to exert some control over at least a couple of these items.