How often do you pull an “all-nighter” for exams and assignments? Do you find yourself exhausted the next day and reaching for the first item of fattening food that you see? Sleep deprivation not only affects your ability to function throughout the day, but it can also pack on the extra pounds. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans every year, and the health effects of these issues are staggering.
Most adults need a recommended 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and these hours spent sleeping improve your energy levels, concentration, and mood for the next day. In terms of health, a lack of regular sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, and heart disease. Hormones released during sleep help control the body’s use of energy during the day, so the less sleep you get at night, the more likely you are to be overweight from eating high-caloric foods in order to boost your energy levels. Another reason for this overeating is due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which rises with sleep deprivation and thus causes hunger. Essentially, a person will compensate for the energy they did not receive from sleep by eating more…and it usually won’t be anything healthy!
Fortunately, there are many ways to sustain (and improve) your sleep health:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends.
- Avoid caffeine for 8-12 hours before bedtime in order for it to fully leave your system. The same goes for alcohol, which might assist you in falling asleep, but it won’t help you to stay asleep as its sedative effects wear off.
- Don’t exercise 2-3 hours before your bedtime. You need time to “cool down” and relax your body in order to sleep.
- Avoid naps after 3:00pm and keep them under an hour. Late and long naptimes will only keep you up at night.
- Take time to relax before bedtime – read a good book, listen to calm music, or soak in a hot bath.
- Make sure you have a sleep-friendly environment – this includes a dark room, cool temperatures, little noise, and a comfortable bed.
- Maintain your usual healthy eating and exercise routine, and don’t forget to start your day with a balanced breakfast to keep the hunger away!
- Avoid big meals before sleeping to decrease stomach discomfort and acid reflux.
- If you feel your sleep troubles are not alleviated by the above suggestions, contact your doctor right away. You might have a sleep disorder.
Sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and it is closely tied with nutrition, emotional well-being, and productivity. To learn more about this topic, go to the National Sleep Foundation website at http://www.sleepfoundation.org/ . Sweet dreams!
- Bell, Vaughan. Don’t Neglect the Obvious: Sleep, Nutrition, and Exercise. (2006). Accessed at http://mindfull.spc.org/vaughan/Vaughan_MPH_SleepNutritionExercise.pdf on March 25, 2012.
- Berkowitz, Myra. The Sleep and Nutrition Connection. (2008). Accessed at http://www.gannett.cornell.edu/cms/pdf/sleep/upload/sleep_nutrition_connection.pdf on March 25, 2012.
- Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Sleep and Health. (2008). Accessed at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health on March 25, 2012.
- NHLBI Health Information Center. In Brief: Your Guild to Healthy Sleep. (2011). Accessed at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf on March 25, 2012.
By: Julia Canfield
Editor: Kate Sweeney
April 23rd, 2012
It has come to the end of the semester again. Group meetings for projects, reviews for exams, as well as endless papers are all starting to take up more and more of your time. Sometimes you may feel like you have to sacrifice your sleep, your exercise, you regular meal time, and thus, your health to make a final boost of your GPA. But, sacrificing these things can actually be a detriment to your academics.
The following tips for finals month will not only help you find a balance between working hard and being healthy, but remind you that often times, they go hand in hand as well.
- Relax and Release Stress. One thing you feel at the end of every semester may be stress. Both physical and psychological stress can cause chronic inflammation in your body, with an immediate effect of dampening your brain and body function, as well as a long term effect of increasing your risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Your overall performance and wellness could be determined by how well you manage your stress. Getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and participating in regular physical activity are all effective ways of reducing stress, and have all been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Keep a Regular Schedule. An irregular schedule can create metabolic stress in your body and affect your health and academic performance. Thus, staying on a schedule that is similar to your typical day is best. When you change things up- like staying awake later or eating late-night- your body is stressed by this and has to adjust, which requires you to use energy that isn’t directed toward your studies. Regardless of whether you are a “morning person” or a “night person”, if you eat, sleep, workout etc at similar times day to day, you are minimizing the stress you put on your body.
- Stop Skipping Meals. Regular meal time is also a part of your schedule, and an important one. We all know that it’s bad to skip breakfast, and it’s actually bad to skip lunch and dinner too. Skipping meals can slow down your metabolism and cause your body to store the food you eat as fat since your body won’t know when it will get fed again. Therefore, try to have an apple, banana, cup of yogurt, or granola bar on hand so that you have something healthy to snack on if you get hungry and you’re in the middle of doing work.
- Stay Hydrated. During periods of intensive brain activity, water serves as the primary media and reactant in the massive metabolic reactions going on in your body and brain. To maintain health and a high level of functionality, you need to watch out for dehydration. Oftentimes, thirst is a sign that you’re past the point of dehydration. Headaches and fatigue may come first. Water is the healthiest and most hydrating choice to replenish lost fluid stores. Sugary drink like soda and sports drinks do not provide as much water and can actually be dehydrating. Other healthy options include iced or hot tea.
Nielsen, Forrest. March 15, 2010.Inflammation- Bad or Good. United States Department of Agriculture. Available online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=19563.
Shacter, E. and Weitzman, SA. 2002. Chronic Inflammation and cancer. Oncology. 16(2):217-229.
By: Xuan Qin
Editor: Kate Sweeney
April 7th, 2012
It’s almost April! While this means that National Nutrition Month (March) is winding down, it doesn’t mean that you should stop focusing on ways to eat better. At Tufts, the “I heart Veggies” campaign took place, putting focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Most of you know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. And many of you know that you don’t eat enough of them. But how do you get enough? And what is enough?
If you feel overwhelmed by trying to eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, don’t fret – you’re not alone. Here is a simple explanation of what a serving of fruits and vegetables is, as well as 10 simple ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet without extra time, effort, or cost. Whether you’re eating in the dining hall, cooking your own meal, or going out to eat, you can still get what you need by incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine.
5 or more servings
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day for overall health. The simplest technique for determining serving size is by remembering that one serving of fruits and vegetables is approximately the size of your fist. Half a banana, a small apple, a handful of grapes or carrots, a tennis-ball-sized spoonful of peas or corn – these are all about a serving. Don’t stress about exact size – just remember the fist rule and approximate.
1. Throw some fruit on your cereal
Banana slices, strawberries and blueberries all make for an easy and delicious addition to your morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Bananas are generally the least expensive, but supermarkets often have 2-for-1 sales on berries that make them an affordable option
2. Try fruit with yogurt for a quick breakfast or snack
Anything you can add to cereal is also delicious with yogurt. Fresh fruit sweetens up plain yogurt, but without added sugar. Adding frozen fruit (go for the ones without added sugar) makes for a cool treat, and it lasts in your freezer for a long time. Chopped melon, which is often available in the dining hall, is also great with yogurt.
3. Add veggies to your eggs
Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, and artichoke hearts all add great flavor to scrambled eggs or an omelet.
4. Grab a piece of fruit as you run out the door
Fruit makes a great snack in class, on the subway, or at work. It’s easy to throw in your pack and it fills you up.
5. Add veggies and fruits to your sandwich
Love your daily sandwich? Add some cucumber slices for a crunch, tomato slices for taste, sprouts for texture, and lettuce or spinach for some color. Pepperoncinis and hot peppers add a delicious kick if you’re in an adventurous mood. Fruit is also great in sandwiches – try apple slices with cheese and honey mustard or pear slices with turkey and pesto.
6. Pack veggies as a snack
Carrots and snap peas are two great options to satisfy a hunger urge in the middle of the day. Cucumber and zucchini slices and cherry tomatoes are also good. Pack a little fat-free ranch dressing or hummus for dipping if that makes raw veggies more appealing.
7. Add vegetables to pasta
If you use red sauce, you’re off to a good start. You can boost your veggie count and the flavor by adding fresh tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, eggplant, or anything else you can think of. If you’re in the dining hall, microwave veggies from the salad bar for a minute and stir them in with pasta. Edamame adds some color as well, and is a great source of protein. If you’re a mac and cheese lover, try adding green peas or a can of diced tomatoes with chilies. You can’t go wrong!
8. Top pizza with vegetables or fruit
Anything you add to pasta, you can also put on top of pizza. Even if you’re just pulling a store-bought pizza out of the freezer, you can spruce it up by adding any type of vegetable. In addition to veggies, you can also add pineapple if you’re having ham on pizza, or try pear slices with goat cheese. Sweet potato is also surprisingly good on pizza. Be creative!
9. Try a stir-fry for dinner
The best thing about stir-fry is that it tastes delicious no matter what’s in it. Carrots, bok choy, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini or squash slices, snap peas, and baby corn are common options to throw in the frying pan with a little stir-fry sauce and serve over rice. Or try some different veggies like kale, sweet potato, turnip, beets, or edamame.
10. Have fruit for dessert
Before you stop reading, hear me out – fruit doesn’t have to spoil the fun of dessert! Add fresh or frozen berries to mousse or ice cream. Sear bananas in a splash of canola oil and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and add a dollop of whipped cream. Try poached or baked apples or pears with some cinnamon sugar and lemon. A wedge of ripe melon, half a grapefruit, or apple slices drizzled with honey are all great lighter options for a sweet after-dinner treat that add to your 5-a-day and don’t leave you feeling stuffed.
Hopefully now you’re feeling empowered to eat your fruits and veggies! The key is to think about adding color anywhere you can. Challenge yourself to see how many different colors or different fruits and vegetables you can eat in one meal. And remember to start with small changes that fit your college lifestyle, habits, and personal preferences. There are hundreds of fruits and vegetables out there – be creative, be brave, try some new things, and figure out what you like.
By: Ashley Carter
Editor: Kate Sweeney
March 31st, 2012
“TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love — let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.”
Mindful eating, as written about in a recent NY Times article, is a a way of meditation and focus that helps to decrease overeating and decrease stress. By putting down your fork between bites of food and concentrating on the flavor, textures, and complexities of your meal, you’ll enjoy it more. And, you’ll probably eat less. It takes about 20 minutes for your satiety signals to kick in, so by eating slower you’ll feel that hunger abide and stop when you’re full.
The mediation aspect of mindful eating can be powerful. Instead of multi-tasking, which we tend to do even when eating, you’ll put a stop to your daily activities and concentrate on one thing. The clarity this can bring you will carry over into your hectic lives as a college student- give your brain a rest so it can concentrate better on the tasks to come.
Check out the NYT article for more!
Source: Gordinier, Jeff. “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought”. New York Times Online. Accessed on 2/8/12 at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/mindful-eating-as-food-for-thought.html?ref=dining.
February 10th, 2012
As promised, here are five tips from BYL on how to keep your New Years Resolutions going beyond the months of January and February!
- One at a Time: The part of the brain that is responsible for self-control has limited resources. If you set more than one resolution, you’ll overwhelm those resources. By just setting one, you’ll pool your cognitive efforts. Your chance of success will increase.
- Go Public: Share your resolution with friends and family. Getting support from others can help you keep apositive attitude, especially when you hit a rough spot or two. And, who knows? Perhaps others will join you in your resolution, making you more accountable to others.
- Be S.M.A.R.T.: That is, be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. For instance, instead of increasing your workout schedule from twice to five times a week right away, set mini-goals, like increasing the number of days you workout by one every two weeks. Eventually, working out five times a week will be the norm.
- List the Benefits: How is your life going to improve if you meet your resolution? Try writing these benefits down. This will keep your “eyes on the prize”, help you form positive memories of working towards your resolution, and remind you of the benefits you’re going to get.
- Give the Gift of Time: Setting mini-goals over time is the best way to achieve your main goal. Expecting yourself to just change something you’ve been doing (or not doing) for weeks, months, or years is not easy to do quickly. Allow yourself to work towards achieving your resolution over time.
Now you’re ready to keep your New Year’s resolutions! Be on the lookout for future entries addressing specific resolutions of Tufts students, like eating well and getting active.
Parker-Pope, Tara. December 6, 2007. “How to Boost Your Willpower”. New York Times. New York, NY. Accessed 1/9/11 at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/how-to-boost-your-willpower/.
Gailliot, M. T., & Baumeister, R. F. (2007). The physiology of willpower: Linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 303-327.
National Health Service. New Year’s Resolutions. Accessed on 1/9/11 athttp://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Newyear/Pages/NewYearresolutions.aspx.
The Independent. January 6, 2011. New Year’s Resolutions: If there’s a will, is there a way? Accessed on 1/9/2011 at http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/new-years-resolutions-if-therersquos-a-will-is-there-a-way-2176591.html.
February 14th, 2011