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Blog posts tagged with 'Sleep'

Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Dreaming

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Facts You Probably Didn't Know About DreamingEvery night you venture from this world into an entirely different one where the rules of physics, time, and mortality may not apply. It sometimes doesn't help that while you're inhabiting this world, you are unable to exercise any control over your dream land. However, that can be part of the fun. Where does this all occur? In the mind, of course.

Dreams as a Means of Memory Processing

Sleep and dreaming helps your mind process, sort, and store each day's events. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in integrative sleep and dream medicine at the University of Arizona, likens dreaming to being a digestive system for your brain. "At night, the brain metaphorically swallows, digests, and sifts through information, and, just like the gut, eliminates," he says. "What the brain keeps becomes a part of who we are. Dreaming, is like the brain's digestive system."

Dreams are often said to occur only during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles of sleep. But according to Dr. Naiman, dreams actually happen all night long; it's just that you're more tuned in to them during the REM cycles. Interestingly, mammals, reptiles, and birds are the only animals that experience REM sleep.

The process of sleep also helps the brain rid itself of toxic proteins that may potentially affect neurological function. The brain has its own plumbing system—known as the glymphatic system—that carries waste material out of the brain nightly. During sleep, brain cells shrink, allowing fluids to wash out the brain.

Want to Remember Your Dreams?

Trying to remember some dreams can be like catching smoke with a butterfly net. Sometimes the more you chase after it the more elusive it can become. The best way to try and remember your dream is to wake up slowly, lying in bed for a few moments and staying with your grogginess. By contrast, getting jolted awake by your alarm or any sudden sound can cause you to immediately forget what you were just doing in your dream. The shock of going from one state of mind to the next can leave you with only the vague residual memory of your night's adventures.

People who tend to remember their dreams have been found to have more spontaneous brain activity in a part of the brain called the temporo-parietal junction, when compared to those who more easily forget their dreams. These differences in recalling dreams don't just occur during sleep; people who remember dreams also seem to be more sensitive to sounds while they're asleep, too.

The Connection from Dream Land to the Waking World

Your body reacts the same way in your dreams biologically as it does to reality, says Dr. Naiman. "The experience we have in the dream registers in the body and in the brain in almost exactly the same way," he says. "Your blood pressure or heart rate might spike, for example, like in a real-life stressful scenario, helping to cement those emotional experiences of the dream." Contrary to popular belief, dreams also register in real time and can span anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

The realistic feel of dreams can extend to your awake self. A 2014 study found that many bad dreams elicited feelings of worry, confusion, and guilt. However, dreams never feel "weird" no matter how preposterous the situation you're in. "It's only after you wake up and step into the waking world and look at the dream that it seems weird," Dr. Naiman says.

A Good Night's Rest for a Multitude of Benefits

A good night's sleep will take you to imaginative realms but also gives your brain time to digest, sift and sort through information, while leaving you well rested for the morning. Sleep is also connected to other bodily functions such as your immune system, blood pressure, and even weight. Getting the proper amount of sleep, and enjoying the fantastical world of your dreams can keep you living healthy and happy during the day.

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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall Life

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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall LifeFinding love and a partner in life is a story as old as human society itself. While love is often unexplainable, that hasn't stopped scientists from attempting to analyze the deeper meanings behind the laws of attraction by trying to find out what makes us tick and why we choose certain partners. But whether you believe that opposites attract or that people often seek others with similar tastes, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that being in love is good for you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

It's easy for those who have never experienced “love at first sight” to dismiss it as just another fantasy, but the fact is the brain releases love-related chemicals in the brain within a split second of eyeing someone you're attracted to. These chemicals—notably dopamine and norepinephrine—trigger a euphoric feeling and may cause those sometimes hasty decisions people make when they are “in love.” Adrenaline racing through your system can also cause your heart rate to rise and make you jittery when you're around the one you love, which is why so many people equate love to a drug; albeit one with more positive benefits to you overall.

Sealed with a Kiss

Kissing can have a wide range of sociological implications. A recent study took survey answers from 900 different adult men and women who were asked about the importance of kissing in relation to both short and long-term relationships. Results showed that kissing may serve as a subconscious test in compatibility. Through the sense of taste and smell, your mind and body may be taking biological cues for compatibility, genetic fitness, and general health. The study also found that the importance of kissing changed depending on whether people were in a short- or long-term relationship. Women rated kissing as more important in long-term relationships because they viewed it as a way of sustaining affection and attachment throughout a relationship.

The Important Role of Intimacy

Besides the emotional pluses that relationships can bring, physical intimacy with your partner has a wide range of health benefits—some of which may come as a surprise. First and foremost, sexual intimacy can be a form of exercise that burns up to five calories a minute. It increases your heart rate, helps lower blood pressure, and balances testosterone and estrogen levels. One study found that men who were intimate with their partners at least twice a week had better overall heart health. It also strengthens the pelvic muscles in women and supports prostate health in men, which can promote healthy urinary function. Intimacy also helps boost testosterone levels and aids a strong libido, increasing your ability and performance. Sexual activity is also good for immune health. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who were intimate with their partners once or twice a week had higher levels of certain antibodies to boost the immune system than those who didn't. A healthy physical relationship with your partner can also serve as a sleep aid, helping you to relax and fall asleep quicker and easier. And simply snuggling up to your partner can help relieve anxiety and stress because it releases the hormones vasopressin in men and oxytocin in women; “cuddle hormones” that enhance your affection for your partner.

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Opening up your heart to another person is one of the greatest things you can do for your own emotional and physical well-being. The euphoria from being in love can help lift your mood and help you view life with “glass half full” perspective. Intimacy with your partner is crucial to bonding, helping to foster a healthier and happier relationship, which can extend to other areas of your health. Besides being good for your heart emotionally, it's actually good for your heart physically, too, as well as your immune system, muscles, hormone levels, and libido. It can help ease daily stress, and boost your mood and self-esteem, all while keeping anxiety at bay. Valentine's Day is one day out of the year that puts the spotlight on your love life, but a healthy relationship is something you should strive to maintain with your partner every day. Intimacy plays a large role in that, so remember to show the one you love how much you appreciate them because the payoffs to your emotional and physical well-being are worth it.

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Technology-Savvy Seniors a Step Ahead in Understanding Health

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Technology-Savvy Seniors a Step Ahead in Understanding HealthOver the past 20 years, we have seen so many leaps in technology that it would be a common misconception to think that technology is only popular among youth. But according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project nearly 87% of older people are using e-mail and search engines and the number is increasing. Studies show that more and more older Americans are quickly adopting the Internet as an efficient way to engage, inform, and communicate. But did you also know that being tech-smart, as you are right now, also has health benefits?

The Techno-Health Connection

A recent study revealed that older men and women who used the Internet were more likely to be physically active, eat a healthy diet, smoke less, and partake in screenings for preventing major illnesses. Researchers also found that the more time older adults spent using technology, the more likely they were to engage in these healthy behaviors. The study included 6,000 men and women ages 50 and older who completed surveys over the course of nine years. The surveys took into account their Internet usage along with their demographics, physical activity, diet, and health screenings they underwent. Researchers found that both men and women who used the Internet regularly were 50% more likely to exercise and 24% more likely to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Study author Christian von Wagner, a lecturer at University College London, also found that there was a dose-response relationship between Internet usage and health patterns—meaning that the more time people spent online, the more likely they were to practice good health habits in real life.

A Tool for Health and Knowledge

The Internet can be a wondrous tool when it comes to health. Users can use online resources to seek information about managing health conditions; learn about nutrition, healthier eating habits, and exercise; and discover new supplements that may be beneficial to them. Exposure to this type of knowledge and connecting with others can be a great motivator in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. The knowledge is out there—all you have to do is seek it out and put it to practical use!


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“Beauty Sleep” Isn’t Just a Figure of Speech

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“Beauty Sleep” Isn’t Just a Figure of SpeechSleep is a crucial part of our lives; unfortunately it is usually the first thing we compromise when our time is stretched thin. Have you ever noticed the differences in the way people say “you look refreshed” and “you look tired”? In the first instance, it's meant as a compliment and people tend to be friendlier and more cheerful around you. In the latter case, people aren't exactly eager to keep company with you—and there's a reason why. According to a new study, sleep deprivation can affect the way you look and the way others behave towards you.

Your Face Says It All...Literally

A recent study done on the facial effects of sleep deprivation took 10 subjects and photographed them on two separate occasions; first after eight hours of normal sleep and then again after 31 hours of sleep deprivation. The photographs were taken in a laboratory at the same time of day; 2:30 p.m. after both occasions. Forty other participants were then brought in to rate the 20 photographs based on fatigue, sadness, and 10 other facial cues. Unsurprisingly the results showed that sleep deprivation resulted in hanging eyelids, redder eyes, swollen eyes, and darker circles beneath the eyes. It was also associated with paler skin, more fine lines and wrinkles, and more droopy corners around the mouth. In short, lack of sleep made people look sadder, unhealthy, and less attractive compared to when they had normal amounts of sleep. The interesting side-effect of looking sleep deprived was the way it affected the behavior of others towards the person who looked sleep deprived. Facial perception involves a complex neural network and is said to be one of the most developed visual perception skills in humans. Apparently, how tired you look influences the way people interpret traits such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and competence. "Since faces contain a lot of information on which humans base their interactions with each other, how fatigued a person appears may affect how others behave toward them," said Tina Sundelin, lead author of the study and doctoral student. "This is relevant not only for private social interactions, but also official ones such as with health care professionals and in public safety."

Healthy Sleep as a Problem Solver

According to the National Sleep Foundation about two-thirds (63%) of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Healthy adults need an average of 7–8 hours of sleep a night. Instead of watching television or surfing the internet before bedtime try reading, listening to soft music, or drinking a warm decaffeinated beverage to help you relax and fall asleep easier. Healthy sleep is also a creature of habit. Going to bed early, or forming a consistent routine leading up to your bedtime can help the body induce sleep easier. As the study above shows, getting a healthy amount of sleep can have a large positive impact not only on your daily health and energy, but it can also influence your interaction with others. They don't call it beauty sleep for no reason, so support your health and make sure you get plenty of those important z's.


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Community Immunity: Protecting Against Seasonal Germs

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Community Immunity: Protecting Against Seasonal GermsAs summer recedes into the rearview mirror, fall seems just around the corner. For many, the changing of seasons signals a time where children go back to school, the daytime gets shorter, and the weather makes a cooler turn as the winter months approach. This is also a time where protecting your immune system is vital for your health and the health of your community.

Surfaces, Germs, People, and More Germs!

Most people tend to focus on kids spreading germs in school, but the reality is, adults—especially older citizens—need to understand the importance of good sanitation and immune system protection just as much as their younger counterparts.

One of the easiest—yet often overlooked—ways of keeping clean is habitually washing your hands. Have a family of four? That’s eight hands touching the same doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, remote controls, light switches, and more. Frequent hand washing throughout the day defends against spreading germs and bacteria. And while public drinking fountains are traditional staples at many schools, gyms, and parks, they can also harbor germs. Getting in the habit of using a personal water bottle can eliminate the need for community sharing (and the spreading of germs) at places like drinking fountains or faucets. Carrying tissues and hand sanitizers, as well as properly learning how to cover a sneeze (if no tissue is available, use the crook of your elbow) can be crucial steps in teaching children how to stay healthy for their own sake and for the people around them.

The Health of Your Community Starts with You

Seasonal changes can often put added stress on your immune system, so here are some personal tips for protecting your immune health:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet – Research indicates that proper nutrition helps strengthen your immune system.
  • Get plenty of restful sleep – While you sleep your immune system is busy rebuilding and repairing itself.
  • Wash your hands regularly – Proper hand washing with water and soap is the most effective barrier against the spread of germs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends rubbing your hands for an average of 20 seconds.
  • Build up healthy intestinal bacteria – Good bacteria help keep bad bacteria at bay as 70% of the immune system resides in your large intestine.
  • Protect your living area – When cooking, be aware of cross contamination, look out for areas of mold in your house, and keep surface areas (doorknobs, tables, bathroom tiles, and kitchen countertops) clean.

Building up your immune system should be a daily priority. Being aware of personal hygiene can be the difference between a healthy community and a common illness. You can’t always be sure when you are completely protected from microscopic immune system zappers, but you can help defend against their spreading by taking the necessary steps to protect your immune system by practicing better cleanliness habits.


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