Night Owls Have Greater Health Risks, but Solutions Do Exist

Life isn’t always easy for night owls (one who often stays up late at night). They’re not the ones to hop out of bed early in the morning and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee. Unfortunately, being a night owl comes with some other harsh realities, too, including a greater risk of health problems not necessarily faced by morning people.

Recently, a group of scientists from a number of institutions carried out the most extensive review of research to date on the health risks associated with being a night owl. Staying up late does put you at higher risk for certain health problems, but there are ways to mitigate some of those risks.

The scientists involved in the review wanted to get a deeper understanding of chrono-nutrition – the relationship between circadian rhythms and eating patterns – and overall cardiometabolic health.

There are a lot of things that can disturb your circadian rhythm and your eating habits, including artificial light. These things can disrupt cyclical metabolic processes, including glucose control, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure. And just as a disrupted circadian rhythm can disrupt your eating patterns, your eating patterns can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

Scientists are working to figure out if these changes can lead to long-term health problems.

Early Light, Healthier Life

The study found that night owls tend to have less healthful eating patterns, which appears to be the main problematic factor.

Studies show that food intake can affect the body’s internal clock. In fact, shift workers have a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and metabolic syndrome because they are unable to follow the body’s natural patterns. And eating at irregular intervals can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

In the study, those who preferred the nighttime also consumed more alcohol, sugar, and caffeine than morning people. They also tended to skip breakfast, though current research indicates that skipping breakfast isn’t as bad as we previously thought (not bad at all, actually).

The night owls in the study were less likely to eat a healthy amount of vegetables and grains. As well, they ate less often but consumed bigger meals.

Read: Your Brain Has Two “Time-Keeping Devices” for Sleep

It’s not surprising, then, that night owls had an increased risk of heart disease and metabolic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. In fact, night owls were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes than early risers.

Study leader Suzana Almoosawi, Ph.D., a research fellow at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, explained:

“In adulthood, being an evening chronotype is associated with greater risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and this may be potentially due to the poorer eating behavior and diet of people with evening chronotype.

Our review also found that people who have a poorer control of their diabetes are more likely to be evening types.”

Glucose levels decline throughout the day and are at their lowest by the evening. But because night owls tend to eat later in the day, their glucose levels spike right before bedtime. This is thought to run contrarily to the way the body’s internal clock is set up.

Additionally, the study suggests that your chronotype can change as you age. Younger people tend to be morning chronotypes, but their schedule often flips as they age. [2]

Teenagers are more likely to be night owls, a preference often carrying into adulthood. But over the years, a person’s chronotype can switch.

The authors of the study write:

“While over 90% of 2-year-olds have a morning preference, this declines to 58% by the age of 6, and shifts further towards an evening preference during puberty.”

But as a person reaches, say, their early 50’s, they tend to prefer mornings. So if you’re usually turning out the lights just as other people are waking up, you might not always stay that way.

The question is, by the time you reach that point, have you done irreversible damage to your body?

Co-author Leonidas G. Karagounis said: [1]

“Further research on the best methods to assess an individual’s chronotype and how this may affect their long-term cardiometabolic health can potentially guide the development of health promotion strategies aimed at preventing and treating chronic diseases based on an individual’s chronotype.”

In the meantime, if you’re in a situation where you have no choice but to stay up late due to work or school, eating more healthfully and drinking less alcohol may reduce some of these health risks, the researchers said.

Sources:

[1] Medical News Today

[2] Bustle

Survey: 42% of People Replaced Pharmaceuticals with Marijuana Compounds

In the largest survey to date on cannabidiol (CBD) usage, researchers found that nearly half of people using the products were able to quit using pharmaceutical drugs – something the pharmaceutical industry has long feared would happen.

The Brightfield Group and HelloMD – an online community that brings together doctors and cannabis patients – surveyed 2,400 people from HelloMD’s community of 150,000 members about their usage of CBD products and their effectiveness. [1]

Bethany Gomez, Director of Research for Brightfield Group, said:

“This study is exciting because it shows there is potentially a huge barely-tapped market for CBD products that could improve the lives of many people. With further research and public education, CBD could be an effective alternative treatment for many people, particularly at a time when our nation is in the midst of an opioid crisis.” [2]

Though the federal government has expressed wishes to crack down on medical marijuana, the facts show that CBD and other cannabis products are already helping people prevent and overcome opioid addiction. States with medical marijuana laws see decreased opioid use. A 2014 study found that cannabinoids may make it easier for the body and brain to detox from cocaine, amphetamines, and other hard-to-kick drugs.

Survey Findings

Before we go into the results of the survey, let’s have a crash course (or a refresher course) on cannabinoids and what they do.

 

Of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana, there are 2 primary ones taking the spotlight – CBD and THC. Both have medicinal qualities. THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that gives users a feeling of being “high,” is an analgesic. By comparison, CBD does not have psychoactive qualities, but has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and anti-convulsive properties.

Of the community members who participated in the survey, vaping was the preferred method of CBD consumption. The majority of CBD-only users were women (58%), and women accounted for 55% of CBD users, overall. It was the men who favored THC-dominant products. [3]

The conditions most commonly treated with CBD were depression, insomnia, anxiety, and joint pain. Participants also listed muscle tension or strain, migraines or tension headaches, severe or chronic pain, arthritis, and nausea as conditions they eased with CBD.

CBD worked so well for these conditions, in fact, that 42% said they were able to quit using traditional medications. Participants were able to kick to the curb prescription drugs like Vicodin and Ambien, as well as over-the-counter (OTC) meds including Tylenol (70%), Bengay, and even certain herbal and other natural remedies.

Unsurprisingly, 90% of respondents said they would purchase cannabis products again.

Moreoever, slightly more than 40% of those surveyed said the CBD product they used was “much more effective” than OTC products, and about 30% said the same of CBD’s efficacy compared with prescription products.

Dr. Perry Solomon, Chief Medical Officer of HelloMD, said:

“We are seeing an exponential rise in the interest of CBD products from our patient community—particularly among women. While we still have much to learn about CBD, we cannot ignore this one fact; the majority of those using CBD product today receive great benefit. This has the potential for far-reaching consequences.” [2]

Supporting Past and Other Current Findings

Earlier this year, a survey showed that 63% of respondents said they had replaced their pharmaceuticals with cannabis. This poses a clear and present danger to drug companies, which is why so many are helping to fund anti-legalization efforts.

One such company is Insys Therapeutics. The company fought medical marijuana in Arizona, and the drug maker received DEA approval early in 2017 for a synthetic marijuana drug.

Help me figure this one out, readers: Marijuana is a Schedule I substance, but Insys’ synthetic THC drug, Syndros is only a Schedule II – the federal government’s way of deeming Syndros less dangerous than the actual plant you grow, pick, dry, and smoke. [4]

I think we need to re-evaluate our collective stance on this much vilified plant.

Sources:

[1] Forbes

[2] The Fresh Toast

[3] Understanding Cannabidiol

[4] The Washington Post


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Tai Chi Helps Breast Cancer Survivors Beat Insomnia, Depression

There are few things worse than lying awake in bed, staring at the clock, knowing your alarm is going to go off in a few hours, and you’re still wide awake. Insomnia can be a never-ending cycle of constantly worrying yourself awake, night after night. A lack of sleep can make anyone feel terrible, emotionally and physically, but it’s especially troublesome for breast cancer survivors. Tai chi, a noncompetitive martial art known for its health and relaxation benefits, may help those warriors get more rest, a study finds.

About 30% of breast cancer survivors who have insomnia also wrestle with depression, fatigue, and a greater risk of illness. Researchers from UCLA say tai chi promotes significant improvements in sleep health in breast cancer survivors struggling to get enough shut-eye. It’s so effective, the researchers write in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, that it rivals cognitive behavioral therapy – the “gold standard” of treatment – in that the benefits endure longer than a year. [1]

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the go-to insomnia treatment by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Much like it sounds, CBT involves learning how to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. It works, but it can get pricey; and it can sometimes be difficult to find professionals who are trained in the therapy method.

Tai chi is much more widely available, with libraries, churches, community centers, and other public venues offering free or low-cost classes. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can always look up instructional videos on YouTube.

Of course, there are also some pretty potent sleep aids on the market, but there are good reasons to avoid them: Some of them, including the popular drug Ambien, have been called “as risky as cigarettes,” because they increase the risk of cancer and sudden death so significantly.

Testing Tai Chi’s Impact on Sleeplessness

For the study, researchers recruited 90 breast cancer survivors, ranging in age from 42 to 83, who had insomnia three or more times a week, and who also suffered with depression and drowsiness in the daytime. Each volunteer was randomly assigned to weekly CBT or weekly tai chi instruction, for three months. [2]

The participants were evaluated at intervals for the next year to track their insomnia symptoms, as well as their symptoms of fatigue and depression, and to determine whether there was any improvement.

Fifteen months into the study, 46.7% of those in the tai chi group, and 43.7% of those in the CBT group continued to show robust, clinically significant improvement in their insomnia symptoms. [1]

Dr. Michael Irwin, the study’s lead author, said:

“Breast cancer survivors often don’t just come to physicians with insomnia. They have insomnia, fatigue and depression. And this intervention, tai chi, impacted all those outcomes in a similar way, with benefits that were as robust as the gold standard treatment for insomnia.” [1]

Many of the participants continued to practice tai chi after the study concluded – a reflection of the motivation Irwin says he’s observed in breast cancer survivors.

“They often are seeking health-promoting activities because they recognize that the mindfulness approach, or health-based lifestyle interventions, may actually protect them.” [2]

Read: Green Tea and Tai Chi Reduce Inflammation, Enhance Bone Health

In previous research, Irwin and his fellow researchers found that tai chi could help reduce inflammation in breast cancer survivors, and may even reduce the likelihood of the disease recurring. [2]

Sources:

[1] UCLA Health Services

[2] Newsmax


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Study: Treating Insomnia Could Reduce Heart Attack and Stroke

A study suggests that treating insomnia can subsequently reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Surprising? Here is what the researchers found.[1]

Qiao He, a researcher at China Medical University, says in a news release:

“Sleep is important for biological recovery and takes around a third of our lifetime, but in modern society more and more people complain of insomnia. For example, it is reported that approximately one-third of the general population in Germany has suffered from insomnia symptoms.

Researchers have found associations between insomnia and poor health outcomes. But the links between insomnia and heart disease or stroke has [sic] been inconsistent.” [1]

For the study, researchers analyzed 15 cohort studies of 160,867 people who were followed for an average of 3 to nearly 20 years to see whether there was a link between insomnia and incidence of or death from cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease was defined in the research as:

  • Heart attack
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • A combination of events

Insomnia was defined as trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and non-restorative sleep. These conditions were respectively associated with a 27%, an 11%, and an 18% higher risk of cardiovascular and stroke events. [1]

Read: Can’t Sleep? Here Are 5 Tips for Beating Insomnia

He says:

“The underlying mechanisms for these links are not completely understood. Previous studies have shown that insomnia may change metabolism and endocrine function, increase sympathetic activation, raise blood pressure, and elevate levels of proinflammatory and inflammatory cytokines — all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke.” [1]

The study also found that women with insomnia were slightly more at risk than men for developing cardiovascular disease and stroke, but the difference was not statistically significant.

He explains that due to a lack of meta-analysis and the lack of statistically significant differences, the team couldn’t conclude that women with insomnia symptoms are in more danger of heart disease and stroke than men. But, she says:

“However, we do know that women are more prone to insomnia because of differences in genetics, sex hormones, stress, and reaction to stress. It may therefore be prudent to pay more attention to women’s sleep health.” [2]

Read: 8 Foods to Naturally Increase Melatonin for Better Sleep

According to the study, sleep helps repair and heal the heart and blood vessels, and gives the cardiovascular system a chance to rest. This in turn allows other organs to be restored.

She adds:

“Previous studies have shown that insomnia may change metabolism and endocrine function, increase sympathetic activation, raise blood pressure, and elevate levels of pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke.” [2]

Past studies have indeed shown that not enough sleep – as well as too much of it – can damage your heart, possibly because it raises the calcium in your coronary arteries, leading to arterial stiffness.

A September 2015 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that people with insomnia have a greater risk of both fatal heart attack and stroke.

In a report from November of 2016, researchers at the not-for-profit research organization RAND Europe wrote that lack of sleep results in higher mortality risk and costs the U.S. economy $411 billion a year. [3]

Many people shrug off sleep problems and consider it a normal consequence of modern life, but getting good sleep is essential for good health.

Sources:

[1] UPI

[2] The Sun

[3] USA Today


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