sleep

Is technology making us fat?

There was a time when TV was blamed for the obesity epidemic. Then focus switched to sugar containing foods. Now that we have reduced the amount of TV watching and are more aware of the effects of high sugar foods, we as a nation continue to struggle with weight gain.

In reality, its not just about being a couch potato or making poor food choices. We have badly neglected another major change in how we spend our lives and how it affects us: We are exposed every day to multiple artificial sources of light close to our faces. There is in addition an excitement and "buzz" generated by the interactive nature of social media that draws us in and keeps us glued to these sources of light.

Let me explain:

The human body has two timing devices built in. One is a timer that counts the duration of wakefulness. The longer you have been awake the sleepier you will get. The other is a 25 hour clock that needs to be adjusted every day in order to stay on time. It allows for adjustments with shortening and lengthening of days.

The clock's proper adjustment relies on various signals, the most important of which is the presence or absence of light. The presence of light as it passes through the eyes, via a nerve circuit to the brain tells the mind to be awake and alert. The absence of light leads to the production of melatonin in the brain which reminds the body and mind that it is time to rest.

With all the light sources that we expose ourselves to, we hardly give our brains the opportunity to perceive the absence of light. It is like living in Alsaka or Norway in the summer, for all of us. This leads to a shortening of the sleep cycle and development of the effects of chronic lack of sufficient sleep.

Choose the best answer:

Chronic lack of sleep is a major cause of:

1. Food cravings.

2. Slowing of the metabolism.

3. Increased need to consume calories to stay awake and alert during the day.

4. Feeling exhausted, leading to decreased level of activity.

5. None of the above.

6. All of the above.

Yes you guessed it right. All of the above.

What if a whole nation of 300 million people sleeps on average an hour less than it did 20 years ago and 2 hours less than at the turn of the 20th century?

Sleep well. Sleep enough. Be rested and perform at your best!

 

 

Sehatu Sleep Granite Bay CADeep Relaxation Training at Sehatu Sleep, designed with sleep medicine and psychology principles, empowers people by giving them skills to turn the mind switch on and off on command and to relax when needed. Classes can be attended via Skype.

 

Sehatu Sleep and Yoga Studio, located in Granite Bay, CA,  also provides a variety of Yoga classes, including Yin, Gentle and Restorative Yoga, as well as Meditation classes, for individuals who are interested in practicing a healthy lifestyle at any age, starting at any time in their life at any skill level. 

 

Is Retirement A Ticket to Freedom From The Rules of Life?

"I am retired. I earned it. I have no worries. I can do what I want, right?"

If you are fortunate enough to be financially, physically and emotionally secure in retirement, does it truly mean freedom?

I have had a number of patients lately, retired, relatively healthy individuals, complaining of being tired all the time, with no energy to participate in activities by themselves or with their partners in life. They feel sick, unhealthy, as if their bodies are all of a sudden falling apart. Their relationships are badly affected. All other factors being equal, the common characteristic among them has been the sense of being free from the rules the body was designed to follow.

Of course, my area of interest being sleep, that is the issue I am concerned with here. Once retired, these individuals having undergone a dramatic shift in their daily routine and lose track of what they need to do to stay healthy, energized and functioning.

They have variable bed times, wake up when they want, go to sleep when they want, take naps during the day when they want or even uncontrollably fall asleep for being sleep deprived. Caffeine, alcohol, Benadryl, antidepressants and sleeping pills are frequently being used. They often have planned well financially to live in retirement but in the process of making enough money to retire, they failed to plan for activites that would give them the motivation to keep on living a healthy life. They have either no hobbies and no planned activites, or have interests that are sedentary.

In contrast, I mistakenly believed for a long time that the only major age group susceptible to this problem was young adults and adolescents. In fact retirees seem to be suffering even more. Aging bodies, even if otherwise healthy, require better upkeep, maintenance and care. Younger bodies can take a lot of beating and still keep ticking.

If you are retired or close to retirement, know that if you retire in your 60's, you may have another forty or more years to live if you take care of yourself. You want those years to be healthy, happy and functional. To achieve that goal, you need a daily routine of activities. Scheduled exercise, yoga, meditation and participation in social activities are all included.

If you are young and retirement seems like a distant future, plan ahead; not only financially for those forty years after retirement, but to stay alive, healthy, happy and able to care for yourself. Cultivate some active interests. Learn some skills and develop hobbies and interests that are unrelated to your area of work. Keeping active and on a daily routine during retirement keeps you young. You owe it to yourself.

(Sehatu Sleep and Yoga Studio provides Gentle, Restorative and Yin Yoga classes, as well as Meditation classes for individuals who are interested in practicing a healthy lifestyle at any age, starting at any time in their life with any skill level.

Deep Relaxation Training at Sehatu Sleep, designed with sleep medicine and psychology principles in mind, empowers people by giving them skills to turn the mind switch on and off on command and to relax when needed.)  

 

Bring it on, Life, But Only If I am Rested and Relaxed!

I have had some interesting experiences this summer. It has been a busy, exciting, disturbing, hectic, troubling and inspiring summer. I went skydiving (for the third time) with my wife and son. Exciting. Our son was in a car accident, totaling the long time family vehicle. Scary. Our long time dearly loved family dog of ten years died abruptly. Disturbing. You probably get an idea of the wide variety of these experiences. You may identify with some of them too.

Rather than going into the minor details, my goal is to point out how experiences shape our lives. What life throws our way is not in our control. How hot the weather will be today or how bad the traffic will be on the way home from work are things beyond our individual control.

How we deal with what is thrown our way is critical. It also depends on what frame of mind we are in. Well rested, emotionally secure people will be able to deal with a lot of stressful events and deal with them differently than others. Suffering already from over work and stress, leading to lack of good quality sleep, many of us are left with little emotional capacity to take any more trouble and deal with it adequately.

There are people in this world who have to walk long distances for drinking water and wonder each morning if they will find the one meal for that day. There are people who have been through genocides, massacres, famines, floods, epidemics and all kinds of mass miseries inflicted on them by other people and by nature. Are they all emotionally exhausted, mentally paralyzed, unable to function, survive, move forward and build their lives? May be some, but not all.

On the other hand, there are people with every imaginable luxury of life, who would give anything to be able to take a nap, like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston who gave their lives trying to obtain a few moments of forced, chemically induced rest for their minds.

What is the difference? The difference is in genetics, brain wiring, cultures, environment and upbringing. Given all else being equal, those of us who find themselves unable to feel emotionally secure, able to let go, calm their minds, rest and recharge to face the inflictions of everyday life, need to learn these skills. If it does not come naturally, it has to be learnt. Like a child learns to walk naturally, but has to be taught how to ride a bicycle.

It is the job of those who are in the position of helping others, to assist them in this journey. It is also the job of those who are looking for help, grasping for straws, to seek out this help. It is available. It is here. We do it every day at Sehatu Sleep and Yoga Studio.

Go, get it, wherever you can. It will make life better, easier and more fun for all.

 

 

On Life, Death, Health and Sleep

I have had a few enlightening encounters with my patients in the last few weeks. Recently, one of my patient's wife made an intense comment: "He gasps and chokes in sleep. I can't let him die like this! Two of my family members passed away in the last few years and I could not save them. I can't let it happen again!!" This led to a discussion. Another young patient in his 70's said to me today he probably has five to ten more years to live considering how sickly he is. This led to another discussion. A third patient said: "I know I have neglected myself and my family for the last several years. I have been spending all my time at work. I now want to switch my life around."

I just want to share a few of my thoughts from these encounters.

We all know we did not choose whether, when, and where to arrive in this world and won't choose the time of our death either. This fact however gets lost on us while we struggle in our lives to go to school, learn, have jobs and families, in the process developing a false sense of control over ours and our loved ones' lives.

Its not about how long we live. Its how we live. A healthy, useful, long life. A productive, loving life. The duration does count, but the quality does lots more.

While death is certain for every living organism, a realization of this absolute fact makes the job of making the best of every second, minute, hour and day of life even more significant.

Given good health care and a balanced lifestyle, people should be able to live happily way past 100 years. To have a fatalistic attitude towards life as one gets older prevents the person from enjoying every day of life that they still do have.

Its not about choosing between work and family. Its about finding a balance.

We can not hang on to those we love. We have to let go of them in order to love them.

The need to control.... a quality shared by many smart, intellectually gifted people is most often a major factor in them feeling unable to relax, let go, fall and stay asleep. This is a sign of loss of that delicate balance in life that is necessary for health, wellness and happiness.

This is exactly why we need to work hard towards restoring that balance, learning to control and let go, learning to live and die, by retraining our minds.

We need to learn to Relax, Sleep better and Perform at our best, for a healthy, longer, happier, more fulfilling life.

 

 

 

Teen Texting Trouble

Being able to text a short message to someone is a blessing of the times. It works when you can't pick the phone up and call, when you are in an environment where speaking is not appropriate and in a lot of situations. Like any other useful technological feature, young people find uses for it to suit their life style. In my medical practice I started seeing teens who were texting 5 to 6000 times per month when texting plans had not even been invented by the phone companies. Now, those appear to have been ancient times. With unlimited texting plans, and parents losing control of their children's phone usage, texting continues to reach new highs. The Pew Research Center published a study earlier this year about increasing texting use in teens. Click here to read: Pew Research Center Study on Teens and Texting

One of my teen patients recently told me there were some very important people texting her at 2 in the morning and she HAD to respond. Come to find out it was her suspicious controlling boyfriend checking on her. One sleep problem solved.

Anecdotes aside, my concern as a sleep doctor is that the frequency of use and obsessive use, particularly during sleeping hours, interferes with a teen's ability to sleep restfully, keeping them on the edge, waiting for the phone to buzz, then alerting themselves to read and respond. Adrenaline levels, blood pressure, anxiety levels, moodiness, complaints of being tired all the time and many physical symptoms worsen with these habits, and are frequently overlooked. Often the adults in the household are not even aware of this behavior.

As I have written before, there is solid science supporting the observation that lack of sufficient good quality sleep leads to weight gain, behavior issues and accelerated aging; It triggers headaches, dizziness and even fainting besides making all kinds of existing physical problems worse.

I spoke to the local Sacramento radio channel KFBK today on this subject. Click here to listen: Teens and Texting on KFBK Radio 06-13-2012

Why am I tired all the time?

This question is most commonly asked by teens and middle aged people. It has motivated people to invent, create, produce, sell and consume on a mass scale many of the common products many of us use frequently. What you say are those? Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Starbucks, Peet's, 5-hour Energy, Rockstar, Red Bull, Chai Tea, the list goes on for dozens of products.

Why ARE you tired every day?

Reason #1: Your batteries aren't charged and you are trying to squeeze every bit of energy from them. My teenage patients often say all their friends live fine on 4 hours of sleep so what can't they? My answer is that every person has a different outlet for the built up steam. Some people are just blessed with rapid charging batteries. Most however, are struggling in one form or another. They may not realize how tired they feel but have physical symptoms including headaches, dizziness, stomach aches, and various other forms of physical symptoms. Some may have behavioral symptoms such as depression, increased anxiety, anger outbursts, trouble paying attention or concentrating on their work.

In fact, Reason #2 and 3 are also the same as above.

All the rest come down later on the list including anemia, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, diabetes, heart or liver problems and many other physical ailments.

So, you say, what do I mean by charging your batteries?

Sleep charges our batteries. Its job is to do the housekeeping work for the body and mind. It processes and organizes memories, manages body functions including blood pressure, blood sugar, fat content, energy and metabolism.

Problems with the duration or restfulness of sleep prevent the batteries from being fully charged. Not enough sleep, sleep apnea, insomnia and many sleep problems are included.

When will we start recognizing this fact as vital to our lives?

I feel we all need gentle reminders. So, be reminded dear reader!

On The Subject of The Active Mind Syndrome - Do You Have It Too?

To be very frank there is no such condition identified in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual that mental health providers use, at least not so far. Could it be that the prevalence of this problem is so high it is considered kind of normal to suffer with it?

Society has been hard at work to train our children and adults alike, to work hard, be responsible, worry about the consequences of our actions and be held accountable. Nothing wrong with any of that but there are ramifications to this training that we never see coming.

In going through the process of developing these necessary traits in our personalities, we de-train ourselves from how were were as young children, happy go lucky, taking a day at a time, relaxed and unhurried. Some of us can cope with the change simply because they have been blessed with a calm demeanor implanted genetically into their minds. The rest of us suffer. We worry about getting to places on time, paying bills, caring for loved ones, making money, spending money, socializing, networking, entertaining, being entertained, even sleeping. We take our busy minds to bed with us and rise with these busy multi tasking, active minds. Our minds keep busy problem solving, thinking, recalling what happened and planning ahead for what might happen, even when we are supposed to be resting.

Rest doesn't come easy, sleep doesn't come, and if it comes it is not restful. We keep tossing and turning in bed trying to fall asleep. We wake up within 2-3 hours of falling asleep often staring in the dark, counting sheep, checking text messages and emails, turning the TV on and off and finally giving in to the temptation to take some sort of sleeping pill. Some will keep going to the bathroom or get up and eat. Then comes the dreaded morning and back to the race to finish tasks, be on time, finish the work, on and on and on.

I see these people every day in my sleep medicine practice. Nice, responsible, good people. Suffering people. Distressed people. "Doctor, the more I try to sleep the harder it is to fall asleep. My mind just races and doesn't stop, even when there is nothing stressful happening. What should I do? Can you help me?" And I find myself thinking, here is another patient with the undiagnosed and so far unnamed Active Mind Syndrome.

There are many ways to treat it should you be one of those people who have experienced the ill effects of this condition. Its important to know two facts first though. Firstly, there is no use asking the doctor since most doctors don't know what it is (and likely they have it too) and they wouldn't know how to treat it. Secondly, the answer is not in a pill.

What is your motivation? How strong is it? How bad is your suffering?

We at Sehatu Sleep think we have the answer. We call it Deep Relaxation Training (www.sehatusleep.com). We feel it requires re-training the mind to make the best of both worlds. People can learn to be productive, efficient, high achieving, and at the same time able to let go, relax, and loosen up on demand; able to sleep like a baby. It does require hard work, commitment and consistency but is very do-able. It is very powerful and gives you the capability to deal with life as it happens.

It is certainly not the only answer. Many paths can lead you to the same goal. We think ours is the most comprehensive. If not us, there are many wise people around you wherever you are. It just takes recognizing the problem and then seeking help. Its around the corner. Waiting for you. Wherever you are.

Happy dreams!

The Magic of Melatonin! (Requires a Magic Wand)

People looking for over the counter sleep aids often find melatonin along side other supplements. Since it is easily available, considered a supplement and not a medicine, there is plenty of incentive to at least try it. There are dozens of melatonin products on the market, freely available at supermarkets, pharmacies, health food stores and online. People take it in increasing doses (I have known people to take as much as 15 mg in one night), combine it with Benadryl products or alcohol, with various vitamins and in combination with various herbal preparations. It may make you briefly drowsy. It may seem to help you fall asleep for a few days. Unfortunately, that's about it. So what about the magic?

The magic wand you need to unleash the powerful magic of melatonin is to know the science behind what the substance is and how it works, and most importantly what it works for. Melatonin works fantastically well for people with "delayed sleep phase syndrome", a medical term describing the inability to fall asleep at a socially acceptable time and wake up at a socially acceptable time in order to be productive. It is a very common sleep problem often misdiagnosed as insomnia. It is more common in adolescents, and in creative people, musicians and artists; and often runs in families.

These people are fully capable of getting sufficient sleep but end up not getting enough because they don't get sleepy until later in the night and have to wake up early to go to school or work. If they could sleep in every day and work started later in the day they would be fine.

If melatonin is taken in the smallest amount available, it works best. Take more and you will likely be groggy when you wake up. It should be taken no earlier than 8 hours after naturally waking up, and about an hour before intended bed time. The product has to come from a reliable manufacturer since no one is effectively regulating the quality of the product.

Most of all, if you expose yourself to bright sources of light after taking melatonin you will cancel out its effects. These bright sources include all kinds of handheld and electronic device screens that emit light. Its effect will also be reduced if you activate your mind, get busy thinking, worrying or performing mental tasks.

Lots of caveats, true. But the potion's magic has the potential to change countless lives, provided it is used properly, with wisdom and knowledge. It is typically inexpensive and works much better than sleeping pills, for the person with "delayed sleep phase". For everyone else, unless your sleep physician specifically recommended it, you are probably wasting your money.

 

Which one works best for insomnia: Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata ..... or a golf club?

 

 

"There is no difference between taking a sleeping pill or asking someone to club you on the head"

The inability to fall or stay asleep, or waking up too early and then feeling the effects of sleep deprivation is commonly termed insomnia. The cost of insomnia to the US economy is estimated at over $35 billion each year. There are many types and many causes of insomnia. The commonest problem by far, is a state of mind called "hyper arousal" in which the person feels their mind continues to work and be active, even if they are not worried about anything. The problem tends to run in families, affects millions of people and affects smart people more, should that be consolation to some.

Since doctors have few tools to work with besides medicine, they tend to offer their patients the least addictive of the sleeping pills they know of, but end up in a wild goose chase of changing doses, managing side effects and development of tolerance to the sleep inducing effects. The pharmaceutical industry has also found insomnia therapy to be a major money maker. Ambien, also known by its generic name Zolpidem is one of the most commonly prescribed sleeping pills. The ever present Lunesta commercial on TV has inspired many comedy show spoofs. Trazodone has been used for many years. Ativan, Valium, Seroquel, Risperdal, Restoril; there are so many . Never mind the dozens of so called "natural" remedies, supplements (a chemical is a chemical, call it natural or pharmaceutical), gadgets, even iphone apps. None of these however address the issue of hyper arousal of the mind or do so ineffectively over the long term.

Research has shown over and over that sleeping pills i.e. "clubbing your head", works for short periods of time only. Cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, stress management techniques including yoga and meditation work better, and work long term. The problem so far has been that trained therapists are hard to find and even harder to make health insurance companies pay for it.

Uniquely, Sehatu Sleep, a small start up company in Northern California, has taken up this challenge. They offer on site and online, "Deep Relaxation Training" to empower insomniacs, to calm their minds and get restful sleep. No chemicals, no gadgets, no gimmicks. This, is what we need, not clubs on our heads!

Sleep, Weight Gain and Obesity

sehatu photos

Apple sold millions of iPads as soon as the new product came out. We buy the newest gadgets. We tend to see and hear what excites us, and gravitate towards it. What is often not as sexy and difficult to market but critical for human well being gets lost in the news.

We buy supplements to lose weight. We buy treadmills to exercise. I know many people who spent much to undergo major surgery to reduce weight or improve their bulky appearance. How many of us though have heard the terms Leptin and Ghrelin? Ask your doctor. The physician has probably not heard the terms either. The research is now over ten years old: Leptin and Ghrelin are two chemicals that control our weight, our appetite and the amount of fat produced by our body. The delicate balance between them is held in check by one critical function of our body: Sleep.

Lack of sleep, either in duration or quality upsets this balance, increasing stress on the body, increasing fat production and deposition, reducing satisfaction from what we eat and leading to weight gain and obesity.

Inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, wake up too early, snoring and trouble breathing in sleep, all lead to this disaster.

One of many articles from the scientific literature is here for you to read.

Click here: The Link between Sleep and Obesity

Enjoy every moment, sleep well, live longer and healthier.

The Price of Being Smart & Sleep...

  A state of the mind called hyper-arousal is very common, particularly among smarter people. Smartness comes at a tradeoff. There is increased sensitivity to noise, smells, textures, emotions, and often an inability to loosen up, relax and let go. The last one is what often makes people miserable keeping them from getting adequate restful sleep. Sleep, which is required to do the body's housekeeping work. Imagine a house that has not been adequately cleaned, dishes not washed and laundry not done, week after week, month after month, and year after year. The treatment is in training your mind to do what does not come naturally to it.

 

Dr. Amer Khan-"Good Day Sacramento" Ch. 31: Caffeine, "Aero Shots" and Sleep...

Melissa Cabral at the local Sacramento CBS affiliate Channel 31 asked me this morning on the live morning show “Good Day Sacramento” about the new powdered form of caffeine called “Aero Shots”. As a society we are increasingly busy using our bodies and minds to their maximum efficiency and productivity, in the race to do better.

Recently we have learned to pay more attention to physical exercise and nutrition. However, we have not made the connection with the real key to emotional and physical health: Sleep. This has led to the energy drink culture. All kinds of shots, sprays, supplements and powders have flooded the market to provide us with much needed energy to keep working.

Why is it that we don’t have enough energy to be maximally productive? Are these products filled with some sort of nuclear or solar energy? Of course not. Caffeine, sugar and a variety of vitamins and some exotic chemicals are added together to relieve the effects of what is in reality a lack of adequate rest. Adequate rest is required, not optional, for the working of the human body. Rejuvenation, cleaning up, organizing and reorganizing, which is essentially housekeeping work for the body and mind, is performed during sleep. The science has been there for years.

Sehatu Sleep can help you sleep better.  Ask us how!

Sehatu Sleep Opens its doors to the public on June 1, 2012

Sehatu Sleep Granite Bay CA We will open our doors to the public on June 1, 2012.

Registration is now open for introductory sessions for Deep Relaxation Training. Timings and days are listed on our calendar and classes pages. Pre payment of $25 for the 2 hour session is required, valued at $50. Please contact us at info@sehatusleep.com, call us at 916-742-7718 or schedule online by going to our classes page.

Registration is now open for Yoga classes. Timings, types of yoga and instructors are listed in our calendar and classes pages. Please contact us at info@sehatusleep.com, call us at 916-742-7718 or schedule online by going to our classes page.