Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Are Sleeping Pills Good for You?

17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night

Image from healthline.com

Between a third to a half of Americans report sleep disturbance. Good sleep bolsters immune function and mental health, among other benefits. So, it is no wonder that people often reach for sleeping pills and other supplements. Before reaching for a pill, let’s think twice about the potential benefits and potential harms of sleep medication and what you can watch out for. Some people feel that medications could cause unwanted side effects, or believe that artificially inducing a natural body process could be detrimental. 

 

First, we can address prescription medications. Most prescription medications are sedative hypnotics, helping you go to sleep or stay asleep. These include a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which are anti-anxiety medications like Ativan and Xanax. Doses can range from 0.5 mg to 100 mg 3-4 times a day, depending on the individual and the specific medication that you’re taking. While they may be okay to use in the short term, they may be habit-forming and are associated with problems with memory and attention with prolonged use over time. 

 

Tolerance is a common problem with all prescription medications. After taking pills for a period of time, people need more than the usual dose to help them sleep (tolerance), which could lead to dependence (difficulty sleeping without the substance; symptoms of withdrawal without it). Some sleeping medications, benzodiazepines in particular, are also associated with misuse (non-therapeutic use) addiction (irrational and harmful behavior due to prioritizing the substance). 

 

Combining benzodiazepines and alcohol can cause a person to stop breathing and could result in death. Older people (>65 yrs) should steer clear from all sleep aids because sleep medication can stay longer in your system with age, and could  result in drowsiness and confusion which may contribute to falls and other injuries. Other general side effects include nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

 

Over-the-counter sleep aids are safe for occasional use.  If you find yourself considering them more than once in a while, It is best to consult a healthcare provider for specific advice. Sleep disturbance is associated with feelings of worry or despair.  Attention to your mental health may be in order.  

 

The best approach is to develop good sleep habits. Try sticking to a sleep schedule, limit caffeine intake close to bedtime, reduce stress by winding down the day with your favorite activity, and treating underlying physical or psychological conditions with your trusted provider. 

 

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/understanding-the-side-effects-of-sleeping-pills

https://doctors-hospital.net/blog/entry/4-reasons-to-be-cautious-about-melatonin

https://www.medicinenet.com/are_sleeping_pills_bad_for_you/article.htm

10,000 Steps: Just a Number?

We have all heard 10,000 as the magic number of recommended daily steps. In fact, your FitBit vibrates and fills the screen with streamers when you hit that step goal. But 10,000 steps is roughly equivalent to 5 miles, a distance that many of us don’t have the time to meet daily.  Does this mean that we aren’t reaching our optimal level of health? Research suggests that exercise has benefits with far fewer steps. 

The 10,000 step goal originated in the 1960’s in Japan, when a company was trying to promote fitness after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. This company created pedometers called Manpo-kei, which translates in English as “10,000-steps meter.” This was essentially a marketing tactic, but it took root over time. 

A study from 2019 put this number to the test and found that walking reduced mortality rates until about 7,500 steps a day, and then leveled off.  The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. This corresponds to just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. A brisk walk for 30 minutes is about 4,000 steps and has notable health benefits. 

Walking in any amount is good for your heart health and overall wellbeing. Physical activity can reduce your likelihood for many medical conditions, increase your mood and memory, improve your immunity, reduce stress levels, and much more. So, don’t worry too much about the specific number of steps. Go out and get a brisk 30-minute walk in today!

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/06/well/move/10000-steps-health.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10000-steps-a-day-or-fewer-2019071117305

https://www.wsj.com/articles/10-000-steps-a-day-is-a-myth-the-number-to-stay-healthy-is-far-lower-11591968600

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

Does sugar make kids hyperactive?

Bowl of American Candy

Image from https://www.2foodtrippers.com/best-american-candy/

Neha Prathivadi

The expression “sugar rush” is one that has been in our vocabularies since our early childhood days. Many parents are concerned about their children’s consumption of candy and other sugary foods, because they fear it will lead to overexcitement and hyperactivity. However, is there actually a link between sugar and hyperactivity in children? Researchers seem to disagree.

The concept of the “sugar rush” originated from the theory that since sugar is a source of energy for our bodies, consuming more sugar should lead to higher energy levels. In reality, our bodies don’t break down all the sugar immediately. Rather, we store it and use small amounts when needed, so we shouldn’t actually show signs of hyperactivity after eating large amounts of sugar. 

An analysis of multiple research studies found that sugar does not impact the behavior or mental performance of children. So, if there is no impact, how do we explain children appearing “hyper” after consuming sugar? The answer may be confirmation bias. Most kids tend to eat sugary foods in fun settings, like birthday parties or family holidays. Our minds may falsely link  the excitement surrounding the event to the sugar. 

Another interesting fact is that sugar blocks the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a component of our brain that is associated with stress. Therefore, sugar might lessen stress levels and could actually calm us.

So far, there is no evidence to show a connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children. Nevertheless, it is still important to be aware of what you are consuming in order to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. So have fun and enjoy your occasional ice cream, cookie, or candy, but make sure to snack in moderation!

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