Listening To Your Body Clock Can Make You More Productive And Improve Your Well-Being

Chronobiology research suggests nothing less than a complete overturning of the notion that we should all be working from 9 to 5. Some people are just not built for that.

From an early age, we’re taught that getting up early is good for us. Sayings like The early bird catches the worm and Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise are part of the culture and have a certain moralizing force. People who go to bed early and get up early are upstanding and productive. People who go to bed later and wake up later are degenerate and lazy.

Nowadays, however, there’s a growing body of thought to say this is not only wrong, but also counterproductive. Research into our internal body clocks—what’s called chronobiology—shows that people have naturally different sleep patterns and therefore work best at different times of the day. So, while some of us are indeed most productive in the morning, many of us only snap into our highest gear later in the day.

Chronobiologists have identified two polar-opposite sorts of people: type As who wake up early in morning, even on weekends; and type Bs, who accumulate “social jet lag” during the week—the difference between their personal clock and the socially-directed one—that they need to work off by sleeping longer at weekends. (The term “social jet lag” was popularized by the German chronobiologist Till Roenneberg in his book Internal Time. See a good review here; a charming video made by Roenneberg’s daughter is below).

The implications of internal clock research are profound. For starters, research suggests the standard 9 to 5 working day is antiquated, reflecting an agrarian economy (where everyone needs to be up with the lark) not a globalized knowledge one. Second, it implies that making everyone start the day at the same time is fundamentally unfair to people who aren’t at their best in the morning. And three—more positively—it says we might engineer a rise in productivity if we organized things differently.

The start-early norm may be most damaging to kids because the incidence of B-types is highest in younger years (see chart). A recent study by the University of Kentucky, comparing the performance of elementary students with different school start times, found that early starters clearly did worse than later starters. Similarly, studies by Christoph Randler at the University of Heidelberg report that students tend to do better in exams later in the day.

Schools in Denmark, which have experimented with different start times, have also seen positive results. For example, the Vorbasse School introduced flexible hours for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. For certain classes, students could choose between an 8-10 a.m. time slot and a 2-4 p.m. one, according to their chronotype. After a year, grades rose from an average of 6.1 to 6.7 (on a 12 point scale). Similarly, the Ungdomshoejskole secondary school moved from a start-time of 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Teachers had to develop extra lesson materials because the students were so much more alert and willing to learn.

Camilla Kring, a Danish work-life consultant, argues that the benefits don’t only extend to students. Kring, who has a PhD in work-life issues, interviewed parents of kids at Frederiksberg Ny Skole (New School), which offers a choice between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. or 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. (The first group gets its most intensive teaching between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., the second group between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.) Many said their kids were easier to handle.

“It’s terrible for the parents to wake up a child every morning so they can go to school at 8 o’clock. They have conflict with the child every morning and it results in a lot of guilt,” she says. “Just by moving school by one hour, it results in less conflict because the child can wake up by themselves at 8 and go to school by 9.”

Kring argues that staggering school times also takes pressure off transit and makes for a safer commute (most kids in Denmark get to school by bike, so road safety is a special concern).

More broadly, Kring says we could improve well-being and raise economic output if we listened more to circadian rhythms and adjusted working hours as a result. “We could have a lot of productivity if we could design working times for A persons and for B persons,” she says. “You have to make a more individual work and life design and then have a social acceptance of different ways of working if you want to unleash it in your company.”

Kring is working with companies like AbbVie, a big pharmaceutical brand, to identify chronotypes among its staff. She says it may make sense to match people to different time-zones. So, for example, a European company could use A types for Asian business (which happens earlier in the day) and B types for American business (later in the day).

“There is a lot of well-being and life quality in humans being in rhythm. Instead what we do right now is to teach people not to listen to their own body,” she says.

3D-Printed Pathway Helps Nerve Growth

September 18, 2015 | by Kristy Hamilton

A 3D-printed nerve pathway

photo credit: A 3D-printed nerve regeneration pathway in a test subject. University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering

3D printing has some amazing possibilities for architecture and design, not the least of which is engineering personalized tissue – in this case, printing a personalized nerve scaffold for your post-injury healing.

This innovation is not necessarily new; others have also attempted to 3D-print nerve guides. However, it is the culmination of these efforts that may eventually see its way to a hospital near you. If so, the treatment has the potential to aid more than 200,000 people a year who experience some sort of nerve injury or disease.

The process may be aptly suited for this field of medicine because nerves do not regenerate much after injury – if growth happens at all, it is usually slow and limited. Current treatment options include surgical procedures such as grafts or nerve guidance conduits, which are essentially tiny tubes that direct nerve endings toward each other.

This printing technology takes a slightly different approach: After 3D scanning a rat’s sciatic nerve, the researchers used a custom-built 3D printer to make silicone guides for nerve regeneration. These 3D-printed nerve pathways were embedded with biochemical cues to promote growth.

The final 3D-printed product was then implanted into rats with severed nerves. In about 10 to 12 weeks’ time, the rats experienced improved walking ability. The advantage of this technology is that precise shapes can be printed to suit the patient, rather than a one-tube-fits-all approach. The study is published in Advanced Functional Materials.

What sets this experiment apart, according to the researchers, is that it shows regrowth for a non-linear, complex nerve. The sciatic nerve is Y-shaped with both sensory and motor branches.

“This represents an important proof of concept of the 3D printing of custom nerve guides for the regeneration of complex nerve injuries,” said lead author Michael McAlpine, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota, in a statement.

One day in the future, he said, it may even be possible to make a “library” of scanned nerves from volunteers or cadavers to create close matches in situations where a nerve can’t be scanned.

McAlpine adds, “Someday we hope that we could have a 3D scanner and printer right at the hospital to create custom nerve guides right on site to restore nerve function.”

3 to 5 Cups of Coffee a Day May Lower Risk of Heart Attacks

10 Healthy Reasons to Drink Coffee

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Your daily cup of coffee may be doing more for you than providing that early-morning pick-me-up. The health impact of coffee has long been a controversial topic, with advocates touting its antioxidant activity and brain-boosting ability, and detractors detailing downsides such as insomnia,indigestion and an increased heart rate and blood pressure. But the latest wave of scientific evidence brings a wealth of good news for coffee lovers. Here are ten reasons drinking coffee may be healthier for you than you thought.

1. Coffee is a potent source of healthful antioxidants.

In fact, coffee shows more antioxidant activity than green tea and cocoa, two antioxidant superstars. Scientists have identified approximately 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and hundreds more develop during the roasting process. Numerous studies have cited coffee as a major–and in some cases, the primary–dietary source of antioxidants for its subjects.

How it works: Antioxidants fight inflammation, an underlying cause of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, atherosclerosis and many types of cancer. They also neutralize free radicals, which occur naturally as a part of everyday metabolic functions, but which can cause oxidative stress that leads to chronic disease. In other words, antioxidants help keep us healthy at the micro-level by protecting our cells from damage. Finally, chlorogenic acid, an important antioxidant found almost exclusively in coffee, is also thought to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

2. Caffeine provides a short-term memory boost.

When a group of volunteers received a dose of 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, about as much contained in a single cup of coffee, Austrian researchers found a surge in the volunteers’ brain activity, measured by functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI), as they performed a memory task. The researchers noted that the memory skills and reaction times of the caffeinated volunteers were also improved when compared to the control group who received a placebo and showed no increase in brain activity.

How it works:  Caffeine appears to affect the particular areas of the brain responsible for memory and concentration, providing a boost to short-term memory, although it’s not clear how long the effect lasts or how it may vary from person to person.

3. Coffee may help protect against cognitive decline.

In addition to providing a temporary boost in brain activity and memory, regular coffee consumption may help prevent cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. In one promising Finnish study, researchers found that drinking three to five cups of coffee daily at midlife was associated with a 65 percent decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia in later life. Interestingly, the study authors also measured the effect of tea drinking on cognitive decline, but found no association.

How it works: There are several theories about how coffee may help prevent or protect against cognitive decline. One working theory: caffeine prevents the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque that may contribute to the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Researchers also theorize that because coffee drinking may be associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for dementia, it also lowers the risk for developing dementia.

4. Coffee is healthy for your heart.

A landmark Dutch study, which analyzed data from more than 37,000 people over a period of 13 years, found that moderate coffee drinkers (who consumed between two to four cups daily) had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease as compared to heavy or light coffee drinkers, and nondrinkers.

How it works: There is some evidence that coffee may support heart health by protecting against arterial damage caused by inflammation.

5. Coffee may help curb certain cancers.

Men who drink coffee may be at a lower risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. In addition, new research from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that drinking four or more cups of coffee daily decreased the risk of endometrial cancer in women by 25 percent as compared to women who drank less than one cup a day. Researchers have also found ties between regular coffee drinking and lower rates of liver, colon, breast, and rectal cancers.

How it works: Polyphenols, antioxidant phytochemicals found in coffee, have demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties in several studies and are thought to help reduce the inflammation that could be responsible for some tumors.

6. Coffee may lessen your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A growing body of research suggests an association between coffee drinking and a reduced risk of diabetes. A 2009 study found that the risk of developing diabetes dropped by 7 percent for each daily cup of coffee. Previous epidemiological studies reported that heavy coffee drinkers (those who regularly drink four or more cups daily) had a 50 percent lower risk of developing diabetes than light drinkers or nondrinkers.

How it works: Scientists believe that coffee may be beneficial in keeping diabetes at bay in several ways:  (1) by helping the body use insulin and protecting insulin-producing cells, enabling effective regulation of blood sugar; (2) preventing tissue damage; and (3) and battling inflammation, a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  One component of coffee known as caffeic acid has been found to be particularly significant in reducing the toxic accumulation of abnormal protein deposits (amyloid fibrils) found in people with type 2 diabetes. Decaffeinated coffee is thought to be as beneficial, or more so, than regular.

Note: There is some evidence that coffee decreases the sensitivity of muscle cells to the effects of insulin, which might impair the metabolism of sugar and raise blood sugar levels.  The significance of this finding, however, is still unclear.

7. Your liver loves coffee.

It’s true: In addition to lowering the risk of liver cancer, coffee consumption has been linked to a lower incidence of cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated an inverse correlation between increased coffee consumption and a decreased risk of cirrhosis–a 20 percent reduction for each cup consumed (up to four cups).

How it works: Scientists found an inverse relationship between coffee drinking and blood levels of liver enzymes. Elevated levels of liver enzymes typically reflect inflammation and damage to the liver. The more coffee subjects drank, the lower their levels of enzymes.

8. Coffee can enhance exercise performance.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that caffeine is dehydrating, one of the primary reasons why fitness experts recommend nixing coffee pre- and post-workout. However, recent research suggests that moderate caffeine consumption–up to about 500 mg, or about 5 cups per day–doesn’t dehydrate exercisers enough to interfere with their workout. In addition, coffee helps battle fatigue, enabling you to exercise longer.

How it works: Caffeine is a performance and endurance enhancer; not only does it fight fatigue, but it also strengthens muscle contraction, reduces the exerciser’s perception of pain, and increases fatty acids in the blood, which supports endurance.

9. Coffee curbs depression.

Multiple studies have linked coffee drinking to lower rates of depression in both men and women.  In several studies, the data suggested an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and depression: in other words, heavy coffee drinkers seemed to have the lowest risk (up to 20 percent) of depression.

Read: Coffee: Will a cup a day help keep the doctor away?

How it works: Researchers aren’t yet sure how coffee seems to stave off depression, but it is known that caffeine activates neurotransmitters that control mood, including dopamine and serotonin.

10. Coffee guards against gout.

Independent studies on the coffee consumption patterns of men and women suggest that drinking coffee regularly reduces the risk of developing gout. Researchers in the Nurses’ Health Study analyzed the health habits of nearly 90,000 female nurses over a period of 26 years and found a positive correlation between long-term coffee consumption and a decreased risk for gout. The benefit was associated with both regular and decaf consumption: women who drank more than four cups of regular coffee daily had a 57 percent decreased risk of gout; gout risk decreased 22 percent in women who drank between one and three cups daily; and one cup of decaf per day was associated with a 23 percent reduced risk of gout when compared to the women who didn’t drink coffee at all. Similar findings have been documented for men: another large-scale study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, found that men who drank four to five cups of coffee per day decreased their risk of gout by 40 percent, and that those who consumed six cups or more lowered gout risk by 60 percent.

How it works: According to the Nurses’ Health Study, coffee’s antioxidant properties may decrease the risk of gout by decreasing insulin, which in turn lowers uric acid levels (high concentrations of uric acid can cause gout).

The Cons of Coffee Drinking

The potential health benefits of drinking coffee are exciting news, but that doesn’t mean more is better. For some people, coffee can cause irritability, nervousness or anxiety in high doses, and it can also impact sleep quality and cause insomnia. In people with hypertension, coffee consumption does transiently raise their blood pressure–although for no more than several hours–but no correlation has been found between coffee drinking and long-term increases in blood pressure or the incidence of cardiovascular disease in patients with pre-existing hypertension.

Caffeine affects every person differently, so if you experience any negative side effects, consider cutting your coffee consumption accordingly. It takes about six hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off, so limit coffee drinking to early in the day, or switch to decaf, which only contains about 2 to 12 mg of caffeine per eight ounces. Always taper your coffee consumption gradually. Avoid quitting coffee cold turkey; doing so can lead to caffeine withdrawal symptoms that may include severe headache, muscle aches and fatigue which can last for days.

How to Keep It Healthy

So how much coffee is healthy, and how much is too much? Two to three eight-ounce cups per day is considered moderate; heavy coffee drinkers consume four cups or more daily. Remember, the amount of caffeine per coffee beverage varies depending upon the preparation and style of beverage. Eight ounces of brewed coffee may contain as little as 80 to as much as 200 mg of caffeine per cup (an “average” cup probably contains about 100 mg).

Your best bet: Skip the fat-filled, sugar-laden coffeehouse beverages and order a basic black coffee. Alternatively, switch to skim milk or unsweetened soy or nut milk.

Editor’s Note: As much as we all love coffee, it’s important to recognize that even the most rigorous scientific studies are subject to bias–especially ones that examine something as beloved and economically important as coffee–so, by all means, enjoy your morning habit, but interpret these findings with caution.

References

Whole Wheat Ravioli – Healthy Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen whole wheat cheese ravioli.
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced.
  • 1/2 TSP kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 3 TBSP red-wine vinegar
  • 1 TSP Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Preparation

  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil Cook ravioli until tender, 7-9 minutes or according to package.
  2. Meanwhile, mash garlic and salt into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife or back of spoon. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic paste and shallots and cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in vinegar, mustard and pepper; remove from the heat.
  3. Drain the ravioli well. Place in a large bowl and toss with the arugula and the dressing. Serve sprinkled with the cheese.

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Nutrition

Per serving: 413 calories; 24g fat (8g sat, 11g mono);  57mg cholesterol; 34g carbohydrates; 16g protein; 2g fiber; 585mg sodium; 156mg potassium.

Bonus: Calcium (25% daily value), Vitamin A (19% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 2

Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 medium-fat meat, 3 fat

Provided by Kendall Taylor of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) in their November 2015 Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

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7 Simple Rules For How To Take A Nap

Sleeping lab image via Shutterstock

Birds do it, bees do it (we think), even educated monkeys do it. So let’s do it, people. Let’s fall asleep. (The musical portion of this blog is over; thanks for indulging.) But seriously: we’ve talked about the whys of taking naps before — they improve mood, creativity, memory function, heart health, and so much else — but never, to my knowledge, have we discussedhow to take a nap. In fact, whenever we write about naps, we always get a few comments from people claiming they’re unable to nap during the day; they just can’t fall asleep, or when they do nap they wake up groggy and unable to work. In that case, read on, my sleepy friends.

1.

The first thing you should know is, feeling sleepy in the afternoon is normal. It doesn’t mean you had a big lunch, or that you’re depressed, or you’re not getting enough exercise. That’s just how animals’ cycles work — every 24 hours, we have two periods of intense sleepiness. One is typically in the wee hours of the night, from about 2am to 4am, and the other is around 10 hours later, between 1pm and 3pm. If you’re a night owl and wake up later in the morning, that afternoon sleepiness may come later; if you’re an early bird, it may come earlier. But it happens to everyone; we’re physiologically hardwired to nap.

2.

Naps provide different benefits depending on how long they are. A short nap of even 20 minutes will enhance alertness and concentration, mood and coordination. A nap of 90 minutes will get you into slow wave and REM sleep, which enhances creativity. If you sleep deeply and uninterruptedly the whole time, you’ll go through a full 90-minute sleep cycle, and recoup sleep you might not have gotten the night before (we’ve all heard it a million times, but most of us don’t get enough sleep at night).

3.

Try not to sleep longer than 45 minutes but less than 90 minutes; then you’ll wake up in the middle of a slow-wave cycle, and be groggy. I used to hate taking naps during the day for just this reason — I would always wake up in a fog. My problem was I hadn’t yet perfected the art of the 20-minute catnap.

4.

Find a nice dark place where you can lie down. It takes about 50% longer to fall asleep sitting up (this is why red eye flights usually live up to their name), and be armed with a blanket; you don’t want to be chilly. You also don’t want to be too warm, which can lead to oversleeping. (There was a kind of urban legend circulating when I was a kid: don’t fall asleep in the sun, or you’ll never wake up. Not true — but you might wake up three hours later with a ripe sunburn.)

5.

White noise can help you fall asleep, especially during the day when construction crews, garbage trucks, barking dogs and other noisy awake-world things can conspire to destroy your nap. Keep a fan on, or turn on a nearby faucet for a pleasing rushing-river sound. (Just kidding about that last one.)

6.

Don’t nap too close to bedtime, or you might not be able to fall asleep later. Remember, your inbuilt sleepy window is sometime in the early to mid-afternoon — try to nap then.

7.

Quit that silly job where they don’t let you take naps during the day.

Great American Smokeout

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The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. This date is used to encourage smokers to create a quit plan or quit smoking. Tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet over 40 million Americans continue to smoke.

Benefits of Quitting Over Time:

20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop

12 hours after quitting: your circulation improves and your lung function increases

2-3 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decreases.

1 year: The risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half compared to that of a smoker.

5 years: Risk of cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus, and bladder are all cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker and stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

10 years: The risk of dying from lunch cancer is cut in half and the risk of pancreas and larynx cancer decreases.

15 years: Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

To learn more visit the websites below to find guides to quit smoking, support tools, and additional resources to help you or a loved one when they are ready to quit.

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www.cancer.org

www.ashline.org

www.quit.com

www.smokefree.gov

www.quitnet.com

Provided by Kendall Taylor of the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) in their November 2015 Wellstyles Monthly Newsletter.

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