A good night’s sleep is good for your health

Houston Chronicle - - STAR - Drs. Oz and Roizen Con­tact Drs. Oz and Roizen at share­care.com. DRS. MICHAEL ROIZEN AND MEHMET OZ

A re­cent head­line, “Com­mon sleep­ing pills muf­fle your sleep­ing brain’s ‘in­truder alert,’ ” made us think of the say­ing, “You snooze; you lose.” But while that may be true when you’re be­hind the wheel or sleep­walk­ing from sleep­ing pills, it couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth when it comes to the im­por­tance of good sleep for good health.

This is a se­ri­ous is­sue be­cause 35 per­cent of U.S. adults aren’t get­ting the needed seven hours of shut-eye nightly, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion re­port. South Dakotans were most likely to get enough sleep — fully 72 per­cent do! Hawai­ians get the least; only 56 per­cent re­port seven hours nightly. And 48 per­cent of Amer­i­cans have oc­ca­sional in­som­nia, while 33 per­cent say it’s a nightly or nearnightly tor­ment.

No won­der Amer­i­cans spent $230 mil­lion on over-the-counter sleep meds — ac­count­ing for 85 per­cent of sleep aids used. The other 15 per­cent are pre­scrip­tion meds such as Am­bien and Lunesta. A CDC re­port found that about 4 per­cent of U.S. adults (al­most 10 mil­lion peo­ple) used pre­scrip­tion sleep aids in the past month.

Eyes wide open

A com­bi­na­tion of two fac­tors is mak­ing a good night’s sleep ever more rare — and mak­ing sleep it­self risky busi­ness! For­tu­nately, you can change that — but first, those two …

1. A dys­func­tional stress re­sponse is the No. 1 sleep de­stroyer, mak­ing it hard to fall asleep and trig­ger­ing dis­turb­ing dreams. Then, lack of sleep boosts your lev­els of stress hor­mones, and you’re in a vi­cious cy­cle.

An Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion 2017 sur­vey, called “Stress in Amer­ica,” found that money, work and the fu­ture of the na­tion (in terms of health care, the econ­omy, crime, cli­mate change and ter­ror­ism) rank as the top three stres­sors. A Gallup poll found that 44 per­cent of adults say they fre­quently feel stressed dur­ing the day; 35 per­cent say they some­times do.

2. Chronic pain is a close se­cond. Fifty mil­lion Amer­i­cans deal with per­sis­tent pain and around 20 mil­lion have “pain se­vere enough that it fre­quently lim­its life or work ac­tiv­i­ties.” That’s why so many folks de­pend on OTC and Rx pain meds to con­trol pain and sleep­ing pills to help them snooze.

In fact, the num­ber of Amer­i­cans tak­ing both pain-killing opi­oids (like Per­co­cet or OxyCon­tin) and ben­zo­di­azepines (such as Val­ium or Xanax — com­monly pre­scribed for in­som­nia as well as for pain and anx­i­ety) in­creased by 250 per­cent over a 15-year pe­riod. And there was an 850 per­cent in­crease in pa­tients tak­ing other ben­zo­di­azepines and so-called Z-drugs (Am­bien and Sonata) on the same nights, ac­cord­ing to a new study pub­lished in the jour­nal Sleep. That’s mil­lions of peo­ple, say the re­searchers, who are at se­ri­ous risk for ad­dic­tion/ depen­dency, as well as breath­ing prob­lems and early death.

An­other risk: Ben­zo­di­azepines may help you sleep, but re­searchers from Ja­pan who tested this in mice say they also make it so you’d sleep through an in­truder, fire or earth­quake! No won­der these drugs are called hyp­notics.

For bet­ter z’s

1. Move. No mat­ter what your phys­i­cal abil­i­ties, use your legs for at least 30 min­utes a day. Get up and move around ev­ery 2030 min­utes when sit­ting. Over time, in­crease your phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity to in­clude in­ter­val aer­o­bics (five or more days a week) and strength train­ing (two times a week).

2. Med­i­tate. Set aside 12 min­utes a day to med­i­tate. Be quiet — no cells, no mu­sic, no in­ter­net. Sit in a com­fort­able po­si­tion with good pos­ture. Breathe in through your nose slowly for four sec­onds and ex­hale slowly through an open mouth for as long as you can. Build to eight sec­onds. Re­peat the breath­ing rhythm while you let your mind drift. Rec­og­nize thoughts as they ap­pear, and let them go. Say “Om-m-m,” and you’ll feel clearer and stronger.

3. Make the bed­room sleep-ready: No light (ex­cept night­lights emit­ting red wave­lengths). No TV or phone. Use earplugs and eye­shades to limit light and sounds; main­tain cool temp; use warm blan­kets.

Choco­late pow­ers and choco­late myths

“The great­est tragedies were writ­ten by the Greeks and Shake­speare … nei­ther knew choco­late,” says San­dra Boyn­ton, the au­thor of the beloved birth­day card “Hippo Birdie Two Ewes” and more than 50 chil­dren’s books.

Is that an­other rea­son Amer­i­cans are feel­ing blue? Could be. The kind of choco­late you and your neigh­bors eat is of­ten su­per-pro­cessed milk and white choco­lates, which are stripped of many of the magic bean’s ben­e­fits — that’s about as bad as (or worse than) hav­ing no choco­late at all!

In­stead, en­joy 70 per­cent ca­cao dark choco­late. It’s loaded with co­coa solids that con­tain health-boost­ing com­pounds like flavonoids. En­joy hot choco­late made with wal­nut or al­mond milk (make sure they don’t con­tain the emul­si­fier car­rageenan) and nat­u­ral, unsweet­ened co­coa pow­der. It con­tains more flavonols (a type of flavonoid) than co­coa pow­der that’s Dutch-pro­cessed or al­ka­lized.

Re­search shows that choco­late helps con­trol blood pres­sure, fights cancer and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, and im­proves ath­letic per­for­mance. But what it can­not do — at least not with­out help from other ad­di­tives in a cough syrup — is treat your win­ter hack.

De­spite head­lines declar­ing choco­late is more ef­fec­tive than cough medicine, the re­searcher who pub­lished the study that gave rise to that claim makes it clear in an ar­ti­cle on Health.com that the tested cough syrup, which con­tained the co­coa-based com­pound theo­bromine and an­ti­his­tamine diphen­hy­dramine, isn’t the same as a choco­late candy or drink.

So en­joy a daily ounce of dark choco­late for its health boost and fla­vor, and see your doc for re­li­able treat­ments for a dry or wet cough.

Q: I hear that sun­screens dam­age coral reefs. Are we sup­posed to not go into the ocean if we ap­ply sun­screen at the beach? Or should we just skip sun­screen all to­gether? Karl D., Hous­ton

A: Any­time you go to the beach or spend any time out­side (re­mem­ber you can get a bad burn on the slopes!) you should ap­ply sun­screen that con­tains mi­cronized zinc ox­ide and/or titanium diox­ide. You want to avoid sun­screens with oc­tocry­lene and oxy­ben­zone. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group also ad­vises against 4MBC, butyl­paraben and octi­nox­ate. (Oc­tocry­lene shows up in hair prod­ucts and cos­met­ics, too.)

Hawaii’s ban on those chem­i­cal sun­screens takes ef­fect in 2021 and, most re­cently, Key West in­sti­tuted a ban as well. The small Pa­cific is­land of Palau banned all those chem­i­cals and more in sun­screens un­der their Re­spon­si­ble Tourism Ed­u­ca­tion Act of 2018 and will fine peo­ple $1,000 per vi­o­la­tion start­ing in 2020.

What’s the is­sue? Over time, those chem­i­cals build up on coral (re­mem­ber these are liv­ing an­i­mals) and dis­rupt the mi­to­chon­dria in their cells. Those are the lit­tle en­gines in ev­ery cell that power res­pi­ra­tion and en­ergy pro­duc­tion. Ab­nor­mal fatty acid me­tab­o­lism is an­other type of mi­to­chon­drial dys­func­tion; it’s re­lated specif­i­cally to oc­tocry­lene — and sci­en­tists now be­lieve the ef­fects of oc­tocry­lene on coral have been vastly un­der­es­ti­mated.

Re­mem­ber, zinc ox­ide and titanium diox­ide are not harm­ful to coral, and they’re what we’ve al­ways rec­om­mended. Titanium diox­ide turns gray if you sweat, so we re­ally rec­om­mend mi­cronized zinc ox­ide. They of­fer the most ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion for your skin. When­ever you’re out­side, get in the habit of us­ing an eco-friendly sun­screen (min­i­mum 35 SPF).


Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, 48 per­cent of Amer­i­cans suf­fer oc­ca­sional in­som­nia.

Dreamstime / TNS

Key West and Hawaii are tak­ing steps to ban the types of sun­screens ex­perts say can dam­age coral reefs.

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