The 7 Keys To A Long And Healthy Life: Sleep

Sleep is such an integrated part of our lives that we tend to not give it much thought. Some people get just a few hours of sleep, and some are able to function on even less. What’s the big deal, anyway? We all get at least a bit of sleep, right? Does sleep really matter? If so, what’s considered “enough” sleep and is it possible to get too much?

In a previous article, we discussed the seven keys to longevity found by the Alameda County Health Study. The keys were:

  1. Sleeping seven to eight hours per night
  2. No eating between meals
  3. Eating regular breakfasts
  4. Maintaining a proper weight
  5. Exercising regularly
  6. Moderate or no drinking of alcohol
  7. Not smoking

Let’s start with number one: sleep.

How much sleep do you need?  

Studies have shown that it is possible to get too little and too much sleep, but in general, six to nine hours of sleep tend to be ideal for most people. It was shown that those that got less than six hours of sleep or more than nine hours of sleep had 60-70% increased the risk of dying during the nine-year period of the study. 1

The importance of sleep versus exercise

Can getting proper sleep be as important as exercise? In men, it was found that too much or too little sleep carried the same risk to of dying as not exercising regularly. Within the nine-year period of the study, those that did not exercise regularly were found to have a 50% increased risk of dying compared to those that exercise regularly.1

From this data, it appears that getting proper sleep can be even more important than exercise in order to preserve life and vitality. Obviously, getting both proper rest and exercise would be even better! In fact, they’re connected. Getting an hour of exercise can boost your natural melatonin levels by two or three times!Melatonin has been shown to increase sleep quality and is also linked to increased longevity.3

The link between sleep and stroke risk

Researchers have been increasingly interested in sleep and its effect on health. In a recent study, scientists in Japan followed 100,000 middle-aged men and women for fourteen years. Upon observation, those that got four or fewer hours of sleep and those that got ten or more hours of sleep had a 50% increased risk of dying from stroke.4

In 2014 a similar study was conducted among 150,000 Americans. Individuals that slept for six hours or less or more than nine hours had the highest stroke risk. The lowest risk was found among those that got seven to eight hours of sleep per night.5 Other studies conducted in China, Europe, and elsewhere have confirmed that seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal for health and longevity.

Tips for better sleep 

  • Make sure to get natural light during the day and avoid nighttime light exposure, such as light from television and phone screens. This has been shown to boost melatonin production. 6
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat foods with natural melatonin, like oats, corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, and barley). 7
  • Sleep as early as possible. In general, the closer your bedtime is to sundown, the better for restful sleep. You know what they say, “Early to bed, early to rise.”
  • Eat foods high in tryptophan, such as tofu, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and black walnuts. Tryptophan is one of the eight essential amino acids and is a precursor for melatonin production.

  1. Claustrat B, Brun J, et al. Melatonin and jet lag: confirmatory results using a simplified protocol. Biol Psychiatry. 1992 Oct 15; 32(8):705-711.
  2. Carr DB, Reppert SM, et al. Plasma melatonin increases during exercise in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1981 Jul;53(1):224-225.
  3. Reiter RJ. The ageing pineal gland and its physiological consequences. Bioessays 1992 Mar;14(3):169-175.
  4. Ikehara S, Iso H, Date C, et al. JACC Study Group. Association f sleep duration with mortality from cardiovascular disease and other causes for Japanese men and women: the JACC study. Sleep. 2009;32(3):295-301.
  5. Fang J, Wheaton AG, Ayala C. Sleep duration and history of stroke among adults from the USA. J Sleep Res. 2014;23(5):531-7.
  6. Lewy AJ, Wehr TA, et al. Light suppresses melatonin secretion in humans. Science.1980 Dec12;210(4475):1267-1269.
  7. Dubbels R, Reiter RJ, et al. Melatonin in edible plants identified by radioimmunoassay and by high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Pineal Res. 1995 Jan;18(1):28-31.

Source: https://lifeandhealth.org/lifestyle/healthy-habits/the-7-keys-to-a-long-and-healthy-life-sleep/1714324.html

 

The Reversal on Fish Oil

The Reversal on Fish Oil
Are the purported benefits of fish oil supplementation for the prevention and treatment of heart disease just a “fish tale“? Thanks torecommendations from organizations such as the American Heart Association that individuals at high risk for heart disease ask their physicians about fish oil supplementation, fish oil has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. We now consume over 100,000 tons of fish oil every year.

But what does the science say? A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,highlighted in my video Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil? looked at all the best “randomized clinical trials evaluating the effects of omega-3’s on lifespan, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, and stroke.” The studies told the subjects to either eat more oily fish or to take fish oil capsules. What did the study find? Overall, the researchers found no protective benefit for all-cause mortality, heart disease mortality, sudden cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke.

What about for those who already had a heart attack and are trying to prevent another? Still no benefit. Where did we even get this idea that omega 3’s were good for the heart? If we look at some of the older studies, the results seemed promising. For example, there was the famous DART trial back in the 80s involving 2,000 men. Those advised to eat fatty fish had a 29% reduction in mortality. Pretty impressive—no wonder it got a lot of attention. But people seemed to have forgotten the sequel, the DART-2 trial. The same group of researchers, and an even bigger study (3,000 men). In DART-2 “those advised to eat oily fish and particularly those supplied with fish oil capsules had a higher risk of cardiac death.”

Put all the studies together, and there’s no justification for the use of omega 3s as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or for guidelines supporting more dietary omega-3’s. So what should doctors say when their patients follow the American Heart Association advice to ask them about fish oil supplements? Given this and other negative meta-analyses, “our job as doctors should be to stop highly marketed fish oil supplementation in all of our patients.”

I’ve previously discussed fish oil supplements in the context of risks versus purported cardiovascular benefits:

But if the benefits aren’t there, then all one is left with are concerns over the industrial pollutants that concentrate in the fish fat (even in distilled fish oil, see Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin-Free?).

These same contaminants are found in the fish themselves. This raises concern for adults (Fish Fog), children (Nerves of Mercury), and pregnant moms:

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day ,and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Jo Christian Oterhals / Flickr