Tuesday, September 20, 2022

How to Get Your Best Sleep When Traveling

 


Travel Sleep Tips for Your Best Rest on the Road

By askthescientists.com 

There’s nothing quite like sinking into your own bed after a long, exhausting day. Unfortunately, this luxury isn’t an option when you’re traveling. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up on quality sleep on the road.

Getting high-quality shut-eye on a flight, during a road trip, or in a new time zone can be challenging. And everybody seems to have a different solution—supplements, prescription sleep meds, a game-changing neck pillow, specific sleep schedules, and the list goes on.

Before jumping to solutions, however, it’s important to understand the problem. Why, exactly, is it so hard to sleep while you travel? The following sections break down the science behind your body’s sleep patterns and offer a variety of travel sleep tips, giving you the tools for sleeping better on the road.

Circadian Rhythms are Key to Understanding Your Body’s Internal Clock

Daily, your body converts food into energy, excretes waste, responds to complex stimuli, fights to keep you healthy, and much more. And fortunately, most of these processes are carried out automatically. You don’t have to think about them, they just happen.

One of these processes is the sleep-wake cycle. Most people naturally get sleepy in the evening, sleep during the nighttime hours, and then wake up some time in the morning. So how does the body know when to start sleeping and when to wake up? The answer is surprisingly simple: circadian rhythms.

You may have heard it called the body’s internal clockwork. And that’s a good description. Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that regulate a variety of bodily functions, from digestion to sleep. These cycles are controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the hypothalamus (a part of the brain tucked right above the brainstem). The SCN is affected by numerous stimuli, one of which is light. Naturally, this is an important factor in your sleep-wake cycle.

As the sun begins to go down in the evening, the SCN starts sending signals to prepare your body for sleep. In response, the body releases melatonin, a hormone that causes drowsiness. When the sun comes up, the SCN does the opposite, sending neurological signals to wake the body up.

At this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with travel. As it turns out, traveling often interrupts your body’s sleep-wake cycle. But more on that in the next section.

Travel and Sleep

There are several factors that may affect your sleep during travel. Identifying the ones that apply to you will help you choose an effective solution. The first factor to consider is comfort. An airplane seat is hardly a bed. And the seats in cars aren’t much better. If you’re flying or driving through the night, your internal clock will tell your body it is time to sleep, but the physical limitations of your space might make quality rest nearly impossible.

The second factor to consider is time zone. If you have jumped into a time zone that is more than a couple of hours different from your home, your body’s sleep-wake cycle will be off by several hours. It may be the middle of the day in your destination, but your body’s internal clock is telling you it’s time for bed.

Finally, there’s the element of familiarity. The human body has come a long way thanks to evolution, but there are still some instincts hardwired into your system from previous stages of human history. And, it turns out, one of these might be responsible for your difficulty sleeping in new or unfamiliar places. The body instinctively stays on high alert when you’re sleeping in a new place—it’s a survival instinct designed to keep you safe from threats. Unfortunately, high alert and quality sleep don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

Each of these factors can influence the quality and duration of your sleep (or lack thereof). These interruptions to your sleep cycle can further throw off your internal clock. So whatever sleep challenges you face while traveling, your goal should be settling your body into a new sleep-wake cycle—and one that matches the time zone you’re in.

Melatonin 101: An Introduction to the Hormone and Sleep Supplement

As mentioned above, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body to cause drowsiness. In dark environments, your brain signals the pineal gland, which releases melatonin to promote sleep. When your body is exposed to light, this production stops, helping you wake up.

Within the body, melatonin is produced by the pea-sized pineal gland in your brain, but it can also be created synthetically. This lab-made melatonin—known as exogenous melatonin—is often put into tablets, capsules, or gummies and sold as a sleep supplement. When consumed this way, it aims to support healthy sleep.

At this point, you hopefully understand the basics of why melatonin supplements work. But you may still have a lot of questions about how it relates to your travel sleep. Luckily, answers await from some common queries:

  • When should I take melatonin? If you take a melatonin supplement, it’ll take between 30 minutes and an hour for the levels of melatonin in your blood to rise. In other words, it’ll take at least 30 minutes for the drowsiness to kick in. So plan accordingly. If you know you’ll be sleeping in a hotel or an unfamiliar bed, you can try to circumvent the restlessness and take melatonin roughly 30 minutes before you go to bed. Taking melatonin in the middle of the night can cause it to stay in your system too long, leading to daytime drowsiness the following morning.
  • How much melatonin should I take? The correct dosage for melatonin will vary from person to person, but typically falls between 1 and 5 milligrams. Naturally, you’ll want to read the packaging on any melatonin product to see the recommended dose. When in doubt, start small and increase the dose until you find a level that works for you.
  • How long do the effects of melatonin last? Everybody’s body is different, and so everybody processes melatonin at a different rate. You can assume melatonin stays in your system for about five hours.
  • Is melatonin safe? Melatonin is naturally produced by the body and safe to use. Obviously, melatonin supplements will cause drowsiness—that is the point, after all—so you should be cautious and avoid driving after taking them. Melatonin can also interact with other medications—such as birth control, immunosuppressants, and antidepressants—so consult your doctor before taking melatonin supplements.
  • Can you develop a dependency to melatonin? With short-term melatonin use, it’s highly unlikely you will develop a dependency. Similarly, you won’t develop a “tolerance” for it—that is, you won’t need to take more to feel the same effects.
  • Are there any side effects to taking melatonin? In addition to drowsiness, you might experience headaches, nausea, or dizziness after taking melatonin. Less common side effects include brief feelings of depression, cramps, anxiety, and low blood pressure. If you experience these side effects, it’s best to consult your doctor before continuing to take a melatonin supplement.

How to Beat Jet Lag

If you’ve ever traveled between time zones, you’ve probably experienced jet lag to some degree. This phenomenon occurs when your body’s internal clock does not match up with your current time zone. Your circadian rhythm might be telling your body one thing, but environmental factors—such as sunlight—telling a completely different story. This can very easily throw off your sleep-wake cycle.

When people talk about beating jet lag, they typically mean adjusting to the new time zone as quickly as possible. This will help you feel energized throughout the day, sleep through the night, and have more time to enjoy your time abroad. Of course, it’s easier said than done.

The best way to overcome jet lag is to force yourself to follow the schedule of your new time zone—even if your body isn’t feeling it. So when 10 p.m. rolls around (or whatever your bedtime usually is in your home time zone), start your bedtime routine: brush your teeth, read a book, and, most importantly, hop in bed.

If you’re having trouble feeling sleepy, use environmental factors to your advantage. Be sure to turn out the lights, shut the blinds, and use an eye mask if necessary. Remember: your internal clock is easily affected by light cues. Additionally, you can take a melatonin supplement 30-60 minutes before bed. The presence of melatonin in your body will help your circadian rhythm adjust to its new schedule.

In the morning, it’s crucial to get up at a reasonable time. Sleeping until the afternoon will only make it harder for your body to adjust. When your alarm rings, open your blinds, and go out into the light. A morning walk in the sun will help tell your body it’s time to wake up.

Technology and Sleep: How Electronic Gadgets Can Help or Hinder Your Rest

In today’s world, technology can be used for almost anything—and aiding your healthy sleep on the road is no exception. When you sleep in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable place, there are a number of gadgets you can use to help you have a restful night.

On long flights, ear plugs and noise-canceling headphones are an absolute game changer. The recommended decibel level for white noise while you’re sleeping is between 40 and 50 decibels. Inside of airplanes, the noise level sits right around 80 decibels in flight—a volume that isn’t conducive to sleep.

Noise canceling headphones can reduce incoming sounds by up to 45 decibels, bringing airplane noise down to a comfortable level. Whether listening to soft classical music, white noise, or simply using the noise-canceling function without sound, these headphones can help you nod off in an otherwise uncomfortable environment.

If you’re sleeping in a new environment, your body is instinctively on edge. This means it is extra tuned in to the sounds in your environment—even while you’re asleep. In this state of heightened sensitivity, it may take less noise than usual to rouse you from your sleep.

To tune out sounds that could interrupt your shut-eye, consider trying a white or pink noise machine. Both machines create constant, ambient noise to block out other sounds in your environment and help you sleep through the night. (White noise has slightly different qualities than pink noise, hence the distinction, but the two machines work very similarly.)

Even though technology can help you achieve a sound sleep while you travel, there are things to watch for. Bright screens—from a TV, tablet, or phone—aren’t a good idea right before sleep, no matter what time zone or bed you occupy. Good sleep hygiene practices suggest you shut down your screens up to two hours before you plan to fall asleep.

Incorporate Travel Sleep Tips on Your Next Trip

Vacation is a time for relaxing, recreating, and recovering from the daily hustle and bustle. Sleeping well away from home is a big part of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated—not to mention energetic enough to have a proper adventure. Use the information about your internal clock and the travel tips—which work at home, as well—to tuck in for the best vacation sleep of your life.

© 2022 Ask The Scientists. All rights reserved.

All information contained on this page is for educational purposes and intended for residents of the United States.

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Gaining Confidence by Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

BY ERIC WORRE

Many of us lack confidence because of the obstacles in our life. I want to give you a formula that will turn obstacles into opportunities. If you can master this idea, it will help you to gain confidence.

In 170 AD, Marcus Aurelius said, “Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions, because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way, becomes the way.” 

Sounds strange, right? We don’t want an obstacle, we want a smooth path. But here are a few things to consider…

  • Bad leaders are destroyed by crisis; good leaders survive crisis; and great leaders are improved by crisis.
  • Leaders spend 5% of the time on the problem and 95% of the time on the solution. Weak leaders do the opposite. 
  • Where one person sees a crisis, another person sees an opportunity.
  • Desperation, despair, fear and powerlessness are reactions to your perceptions. 

So, if obstacles drive action, what can you do to turn our obstacles into opportunities and gain confidence

When faced with an obstacle:

  1. Be objective. Put the obstacle in the proper perspective.
  1. Control your emotions. Don’t let them get out of control.
  1. Choose to see the good. Think about how you can turn things around to your advantage.
  1. Steady your nerves. Don’t get yourself all riled up. 
  1. Ignore what disturbs or limits others. Take a look at what average people do in the face of crisis and don’t do the same.
  1. Put things in the proper perspective. Think about the positive and keep moving forward.
  1. Focus on what can be controlled. Don’t waste energy on what can’t be controlled. 

Now let’s decide what we CAN control.

  1. Your Emotions

You can control how you react to situations, so don’t blame others for your emotions.

  1. Your Judgements

You are in control of your perception of situations and how you judge them.

  1. Your Creativity

You are in control of finding a way to make something happen.

  1. You Attitude

  This one can be difficult, but you are in complete control of your attitude towards situations. 

  1. Your Perspective

You control our view of things. 

  1. You Desires

You decide what’s important to you and what you want.

  1. You Decisions

You are in control of the choices you make when faced with a situation. 

  1. You Determination

You have the power to make things happen.

As you can see, YOU are in control of a lot! What can you NOT control? Everything else! 

So, you need to learn to not worry about the things you can’t control, and focus on the things you can control. If you can master your emotions, judgements, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions and determination, you can turn obstacles into opportunities!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

 

What Exactly is a Healthy Diet?

Whether or not you are actually on a strict diet, you need to eat a mix of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Start with whole fruits and vegetables. Half of what you eat should be made up of these nutritious plants. And vegetables should take up the larger share. Whole grains and lean protein should make up the other half, with grains taking up the larger portion. This is followed by a side of dairy like cheese, milk, or yogurt. If you follow this general outline every day, you should receive a foundation of necessary nutrients.

More important than nailing the ratios of healthy food groups though, is to control your portions and limit your intake of overly processed foods. Chips, cookies, soda, frozen dinners, fast food, and the like can all contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, fat, and salt.

A diet high in fat and rich in sugar is harder for your body to process on many levels. Sugar tastes great, but doesn’t do much to curb hunger. So, it takes an awful lot of sugary, processed foods to make you feel full. Fat and sugar also trigger the pleasure receptors in the brain.

For many of our distant ancestors, it was rare to come across calorie-dense foods. Those they found would provide much needed sustenance, and any calories the body didn’t convert to quick energy was stored as fat for future use. Gorging on sweets and fats whenever they were available gave humans an evolutionary advantage.

Now, this process works against us. Foods high in sugar and fat are everywhere, and, instead of feasting, the challenge now is to limit your intake. That means paying attention to those ingredient labels!

Better yet, try to eat whole and fresh foods as often as possible. You don’t have to search an ingredient label when you buy fresh produce, meat, and fish in the store. That’s because there are no added ingredients. When it comes to grains, try to stick with whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice.

From: https://askthescientists.com/love-eating-healthy/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Foods That Fuel You: Understanding the Glycemic Index

 

You want to eat right and don’t know where to start. So, you find yourself surfing the web for examples of “good” and “bad” foods. A list of healthy options is essential for paving the road to a healthy diet. But lists do little to educate you on why good foods are, in fact, good for you.

You can pick better ingredients for healthier meals if you understand how the food you eat creates usable energy in your body. The glycemic index can be just the tool you need to build a better understanding of how food works in your body.

You already know that the food you eat becomes energy. But learning how to use the glycemic index can illuminate just how much energy you can derive from certain foods. It can also teach you about the quality and dependability of that energy.

Glucose—Derived from Food to Fuel the Body

The energy currency for your body is glucose. This simple sugar is an abundant carbohydrate in your diet. Not all of the carbohydrates you consume are in the form of glucose. But they can be transformed to provide this fuel. Throughout digestion, complex carbs are broken down into single glucose molecules to be used for energy or undigested and used to help remove waste.

Glucose—once it’s in this pure form—travels through the blood stream. It provides cellular energy that can be harnessed immediately. But not all energy is needed right away. Sometimes this energy is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen instead.  The pancreas helps your body make decisions about when to use or store glucose.

These decisions are important. Keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy, normal range makes it easier for your body to manage all the energy it gets from your diet.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) provides a way to help you predict the blood-glucose-raising potential of a food. It’s a way of measuring the rate at which carbohydrates are broken down and appear in blood as simple sugars. In general, the more refined and processed the food, the faster it is broken down and the higher the GI.

Some foods can pump a lot of sugar into the blood stream in a short period of time. Foods that increase blood glucose levels quickly are called high-glycemic foods. Others let go of small amounts of glucose over the course of several hours. These are low-glycemic foods.

Let’s look at how glycemic index is calculated. The standard for comparison is glucose itself. It has a glycemic index of 100. The fact that the GI of glucose is 100 is incredibly significant. It represents how quickly food can be converted to blood glucose.

To find the glycemic index of all other foods, they must be compared to the GI of glucose. A pancake, an orange, and a handful of peanuts have very different GIs. That is because they are digested at different rates and cause different blood sugar responses.

Food Glycemic Index (GI)
Glucose 100
Pancake 67
Orange 42
Peanuts 18

(For a more comprehensive chart, there are a few good options you can turn to: The University of SydneyLinus Pauling Institute, and Research Gate.)

When you eat a pancake, orange, peanuts, or any other food, your blood sugar increases. A medium-sized pancake creates a blood-glucose response that’s 67 percent of the response to pure glucose. An orange, is 42 percent of that glucose response. And peanuts influence blood glucose very little when compared to glucose—only 18 percent.

Basically, when you know the GI of any food, you know how it will generally impact blood-sugar levels relative to glucose. Glycemic index tables list hundreds of foods. Some with high, moderate, and low GIs. Here’s how the categories break down:

  • High GI >= 70. Potatoes, cornflakes, jelly beans, watermelon, and white bread are all high GI foods.
  • Moderate GI 56-69. Rice, banana, honey, and pineapple are moderate GI foods.
  • Low GI < 55. Lentils, carrots, apples, oranges, and pears are all low GI foods.

The glycemic index has a lot of strengths. It highlights the ability of foods to raise blood sugar; and allows blood-glucose response comparison between foods. But the glycemic index doesn’t consider the quantity of the food being consumed.

GI values remain the same for all foods, no matter how much you eat. But that doesn’t mean that eating a lot of a high-glycemic food has the same effect on blood sugar as eating only a little bit. In fact, the opposite is true.

So, how can you use the glycemic index to make smart eating choices? It is hard to judge the difference in quality of foods when pretzels, white bread, and crackers have similar GIs to watermelon and pineapple. Luckily, there’s a solution.

Glycemic Load

Cue glycemic load. A robust, qualitative, and quantitative way to use information from the glycemic index to understand how food affects blood sugar.

Glycemic load (GL) accounts for the quantity of the food in question. GL reflects the blood-glucose-raising potential of how much of a certain food you eat. You can calculate glycemic load for any given food by dividing the GI by 100, then multiplying that number by the amount of available carbohydrates in a serving.

GLfood = (GIfood / 100) x (grams of carbohydrates – grams of fiber)

* Remember, fiber is the material in food that isn’t fully digested by your body. So, when figuring out how many available carbohydrates are in your favorite snack, subtract the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates.

The values associated with glycemic load are much smaller than glycemic index:

  • High GL >= 20.
  • Moderate GL 11-19.
  • Low GL < 10.

GL takes into consideration the amount of digestible carbohydrates in each serving of food. This is important because sometimes foods with similar GIs have dramatically higher carbohydrate counts.

To demonstrate how glycemic load accounts for carbohydrate content, let’s look at an example. A cup of watermelon and a cup of cornflakes have very similar GIs. They are both high-glycemic foods. But cornflakes and watermelon have very different GLs.

The GL for a cup of cornflakes is 20, making it a high-glycemic-load food. The watermelon’s GL is only eight. These numbers tell you that there are a lot more carbohydrates in one serving of cornflakes than there are in watermelon. To be exact, one cup of cornflakes has 26 grams of carbs. The same amount of watermelon has only 11.

Since watermelon has fewer carbs, it also has fewer calories per serving. Watermelon is a better choice than cornflakes when you’re looking for a quick snack. It’s less calorie dense but just as effective at providing the energy you need to make it to your next meal.

What if instead of one cup of watermelon, you ate two cups? GL reflects the size of your portion of food. It can tell you that the amount of food you eat also influences your blood sugar.

Generally, low GL foods have fewer calories than high GL foods. So high calorie foods aren’t the only option when you need a boost of energy. Low-glycemic-load foods are equipped to provide fuel for your body with a lower risk of overeating and weight gain.

Using GI and GL to Shape a Healthy Diet

You already know that high GI foods act rapidly to influence blood sugar, providing quick energy. However, this energy is usually short-lived and hunger soon returns. This could potentially lead to overeating and weight gain.

Low glycemic index foods affect blood sugar more slowly and steadily. These foods provide greater satiety and longer lasting, more consistent energy. That makes eating less (and maintaining weight) easier.

Spotting high GI/GL and low GI/GL foods takes practice. Luckily, there are easy rules to follow that can set you up for success.

  1. Create meals with lots of low and moderate GI/GL foods. Limit high GI/GL foods because they are high in calories and cause blood-sugar highs.
  2. Look for non-starchy veggies and fruits. Apples, berries, pears, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower are low GI/GL foods. They will provide plenty of energy over a sustained period of time due to their high fiber content.
  3. When in doubt, reach for whole grains. Oats, brown rice, barley, and whole wheat are great choices. Again, lots of natural fiber means longer lasting energy.
  4. Avoid packaged and processed foods that are low in protein, fiber and fats. These types of foods are typically high in simple carbohydrates while low in other important macronutrients giving them higher GI/GL values.
  5. Moderation matters. Regardless of GI/GL, eat mindfully. Try your best to listen to your body and its signals. When you feel tired and need some energy, eat a healthy snack. When you are full, end your meal and get up and move.

There are lots of ways to make healthy eating choices. Being aware of how the food you eat could affect your blood sugar is just another way to maintain good nutrition and good health.

About the Author

Sydney Sprouse is a freelance science writer based out of Forest Grove, Oregon. She holds a bachelor of science in human biology from Utah State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher and writing fellow. Sydney is a lifelong student of science and makes it her goal to translate current scientific research as effectively as possible. She writes with particular interest in human biology, health, and nutrition.

© 2022 Ask The Scientists. All rights reserved.

All information contained on this page is for educational purposes and intended for residents of the United States.

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