Health Notes- What’s the laziest way to health?

What’s worse than going to bed for a full night’s sleep, but being woken up by a screaming baby exactly halfway through?  Actually, a fascinating BBC article says you should ask what could be better?  It turns out humans aren’t designed for an uninterrupted 8-hour block of snooze.  According to historical and scientific examples we’re hardwired with a bifurcated sleep pattern, meaning we sleep for about four hours, naturally wake up and be active for an hour or two, then go back to sleep for another four hours.  Starting around the 17th century, improvements in street and home lighting, industrial (rather than farm) schedules, and even the rise of coffee houses contributed to breaking our natural sleep cycles.  Now, what was once taken for granted as human nature is now almost completely gone.

Well that’s all real interesting, but what does it have to do with the lazy way to health?  Sleep more, sleep better, and you’ll be healthier.  You already know your body needs sleep, but you may not know how badly.  According to Slate Magazine

“…extended bouts of sleeplessness can cause an array of physical symptoms and might eventually kill you.  The effects begin within the first 24 hours of sleep deprivation.  First, the body undergoes subtle hormonal changes—cortisol and TSH levels increase, leading to a rise in blood pressure.  A day or two later, it stops metabolizing glucose properly, creating carbohydrate cravings.   A person’s body temperature will also drop, and immune response becomes somewhat suppressed.  All of these physiological changes are reversible, though—take a nap, and you’ll be on the road back to normal.

It’s possible that given enough time, sleep deprivation can kill you.  While no human being is known to have died from staying awake, animal research strongly suggests it could happen.”

This may not be enough to convince your spouse that weekend naps on the couch should replace your gym trips, so here are several other articles you may want to check out.   Get started on your new sleep-centered workout today because you know the saying… no snooze, you lose.

When your spouse asks why you want to revamp your exercise program, The Daily Beast has the best answer- Waking up early is making us fat.

This Slate.com survey can tell you How your sleep habits compare with other people’s

Scientific American has detaild on how long can humans stay awake if you’re looking to push the envelope

This article from Mother Nature Network and this article from BBC talk about our natural bifurcated sleep patterns

Harvard Medical School has 6 good reasons not to scrimp on sleep

If you’re ready to commit to an exhaustive sleep regimen, the Mayo Clinic has 7 tips to help you sleep better

EMedicineHealth has a great explanation of the basics of just about every aspect of sleep you’d ever want to know about, from stages of sleep to substances that alter sleep to circadian rhythms.

The Washington Post has more details on what scientists are finding out about what sleep loss does to your body

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