Health, nutrition, wellness

Improving Posture While Working On Your Computer

By | Health, nutrition, wellness

A large portion of the work force sits at a computer all day with their backs hunched, their shoulders caved in, and their head telescoping forward (the unhealthy C-curve). This problem occurs when we don’t have a strategy for stabilizing the body in a neutral position (an S-curve, which is the proper and normal anatomical position for the spine). If not mindfully stabilized, the spine will default into poor posture habits. Your body can remodel itself into a better posture and if you work on it daily, good posture will be more automatic.

One of the first things to do in order to improve sitting posture while at your work desk is to put the pelvis in a neutral position. I like sitting on the edge of a chair or stool. The idea is to lean against the edge, not to sit directly on the top of the stool. My favorite type of stool is one with a semi-round base. Notice in the picture below that I’m sitting with the stool tilted forward. This forward-tilting position automatically puts my pelvis into a more neutral position, which is foundational for keeping the proper S-curve.

I also like the prospect of a varying height, standing work desk, which moves up and down. With this option, you can vary your position often, rather than staying in a stagnant position. The stool pictured can vary its height from low to high, while still tilting forward.

Another important positional consideration is the monitor. Notice in the picture that my eyes are looking straight forward. I don’t have to flex my neck downwards in order to see the monitor. This, again, puts my neck in a neutral position.

Importantly, whether sitting or standing, remember to slightly squeeze your glutes just enough to feel them. Also, slightly stiffen your trunk by tightening your abs, almost like shrink wrap. This will help to keep you in your new anatomically correct postural position.

Tight hip flexors…or WEAK hip flexors?

By | Health, nutrition, wellness

Much more than we used to, our society now spends much more time sitting…sitting at work, sitting while driving, sitting while eating, sitting while watching TV or using the computer. Many people default to doing stretches for the front of the hip in order to get rid of their tight hip flexors, when really, many times, this tightness is because the hip flexors are weak. If you have tried stretching and foam rolling your hips without noticing much of a difference, then these exercises could surprise you by how effective they are.

The first thing you want to do is to test your hip flexor strength. DO THIS ON BOTH SIDES. Stand tall, and pull one of your knees as far as you can to your chest with both hands, then slowly let go of your knee with both hands and try and hold this position for 10 seconds. Does your knee stay in the same exact spot after you let go? Or does it drop down a few inches? Or does it slowly get lower over the 10 seconds? If your knee dropped down at all, this could indicate weakness in your hip flexors.

Not all tight muscles need to be stretched. Quite often, a muscle is tight because it is protecting you against injury because it is weaker than it should be. Try these exercises consistently for a month and see if you notice a difference in how tight your hip flexors feel.

Standing Marches:
Grab a small loop band and place it around both feet. Stand tall and keep your core engaged. Raise one leg up, like you are marching, without letting your torso move, then lower back down. Repeat on the other leg, alternating sides. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Marches in a Bridge:
You can do a similar exercise lying down. Place the band around your feet and place your feet up on a box or bench. Raise your hips off the ground so you are in a glute bridge, then slowly bring one knee towards your chest and back. Alternate legs. Do not leg your hips drop down towards the ground or let your back arch. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Isometric Hip Flexor Marches:
If the marches in a bridge were a little tough, try this isometric exercise for your hip flexors. Lie on the ground with the band around your feet. Lift legs off the ground into a 90 degree angle (90/90 position). While keeping one leg still, kick the other leg out straight, and then slowly come back to starting position. Alternate legs. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Single Leg Glute Bridges:
Similar to regular glute bridges, but with one leg. Try grabbing one knee and pulling to towards your chest with your hands to keep your back flat, then with the bent leg, push through your foot and lift your hips off the ground as high as you can go without arching your back. Make sure to keep hips level. Try 3 sets of 10 reps on each side. These are also great exercise to do as a warm-up before you exercise.

Why Are So Many People Going Gluten-Free?

By | Health, nutrition, wellness

Of all the grains, why is wheat always picked on?  Because wheat is our dominant source of gluten protein. Most people don’t eat a lot of rye, barley, spelt, bulgar, or kamut. Wheat accounts for 20% of all calories consumed in our diets. Wheat is everywhere in our diet, often being hidden.

Glutens are the storage proteins of the wheat plant for the germination to form new wheat plants. Gluten is what makes wheat “doughy” (think of someone tossing a pizza, with it stretching more and more with each toss). Gluten is what makes dough stretchable, rollable, spreadable, and twistable. You can’t do this with rice, corn, or any other grain flour.

The problem is, the wheat we consume today is not the same grain our ancestors ground into their daily bread 100 years ago. Agricultural scientists originally dramatically modified wheat using hybridization and cross-breeding techniques in order to decrease the production costs, expand the large-scale production, and increase the yield per acre of wheat (which has required drastic changes in genetic code). Over the past 50 years, over 25,000 new different varieties of wheat strains have been consumed by humans without any safety testing. With hybridization, variation in gluten structure has made its way to humans without the consideration of these safety concerns (wheat gluten proteins undergo a considerable structural change when they’re hybridized or genetically modified). Changes in gluten proteins are not evident by sight, smell, or taste. For many, however, they are evident in their gut.

Gluten has the unique ability to disrupt the tight junctions of the intestine, making our intestine permeable (intestines aren’t meant to be freely permeable). Normally when you eat, nutrition has to be absorbed in the gut, while the rest is discarded (yes, poop and pee). This “leaky gut” syndrome can cause all kinds of symptoms, such as autoimmunity, inflammation, diarrhea, IBS, cramping, abdominal pain, loose stools alternating with constipation, and acid reflux. Eliminate wheat and IBS, acid reflux, and other disorders improve.

Wheat also yields morphine-like compounds that bind to the brain’s opiate receptors, causing a mild euphoria. Get rid of the wheat and you’ll eat fewer calories because you’ll no longer encourage the repetitive consumption of carbs that generate that addictive good feeling (similar to the feeling alcohol gives).

Aside from some fiber, eating 2 slices of whole wheat bread is worse than drinking a soda. First, the scientific technicalities: wheat is 75% amylopectin A and 25% amylose. Both are broken down into glucose and more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream than nearly any other carbohydrate food! Increased glucose (the “sugar high”) is accompanied by increased insulin, which causes the “sugar low” about 2 hours after consuming a high carb or wheat meal. This sugar low is responsible for your mental fog, fatigue, irritability, and quick increase in hunger after your last meal. Over long periods of time, high blood sugars and insulin cause more fat accumulation, especially in the abdomen. The big belly results from years of consuming foods that trigger insulin, the hormone of fat storage.

Wheat is an appetite stimulant, making you want more cookies, cupcakes, pizza, pretzels, etc. Removing wheat from your diet cuts the biggest problem source of carbs in our modern-day diets and the weight loss can be shocking. Cutting soda and ice cream is obvious for weight loss…it’s the wheat that is counterintuitive. Who knew that wheat was so sneaky?

Personally, I gave up wheat (maybe 98% of it) a few years ago and it’s made a real difference for me. This is the first in a series of articles that, hopefully, you’ll find informative and interesting, allowing you to make better decisions about eating wheat and what it does to your body. The next article will be more specific to diabetes and how wheat affects blood sugar, diabetes, and insulin.

Are We Better Off Because of This Outrageous Spending On Health Care?

By | Health, nutrition, wellness

Our politicians are in full force, debating health care…who should be covered and who should pay the bill (private insurance, Medicare-for-all, or a hybrid)?  This is a hot topic because health care is expensive. The costs continue to rise and many people don’t have health insurance. But with all the focus on how expensive health care is and who is going to pay for it, no one is talking about the core problem: AMERICANS ARE SICK.

Americans have access to the best doctors and hospitals, the newest drugs, and the most cutting-edge technology available in the world. Still, our nation is the 35th healthiest in the world. As the richest and most powerful country in the world, this ranking is a disgrace.

Cuba placed five spots above the U.S., making it the only nation not classified on the list as “high income” by the World Bank. According to the American Bar Association Health Law, one reason for the island nation’s success may be its emphasis on preventative care over the health care model in the U.S., which focuses on diagnosing and treating illness instead.

Health care costs will continue to rise. We’re also in a new period where, for the first time in history, there are more people over 65 years of age than under 5 years of age. That means that ther are more elderly people and, in America, an aging population equates to more chronic disease, more doctor and hospital visits, more medication use, and more disability. About 50% of the U.S. adult population has either pre-diabetes or diabetes. Half of all Americans have cardiovascular disease. Three out of four adults in America are either overweight or obese. This means more Americans are sick than healthy.

Here’s a statistic for you: The total economic cost of obesity is estimated to be $1.72 Trillion per year. Rather than politicians arguing about who should pay for this health care disaster, the obvious (though ignored) question is: WHY ARE WE SO SICK?

A major part of this answer is right in-front of us: what we are eating and other lifestyle choices! Active lifestyles and exercise are very important, but the most important daily decision has to do with what foods we’re going to eat. If we can get better at making healthier decisions (ie: not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight BMI, minimum 30 minutes of daily activity, limiting alcohol, eating well), this whole conundrum regarding health insurance coverage and who’s going to pay for health care won’t go away, but it will get a lot less messy (healthier people need less health care).

Following are some interesting statistics:

1950 – U.S. spent $12.7 billion on health care (4.4% of GDP)

2015 – U.S. spent $3.2 trillion on healch care (17.8% of GDP)

2025 – health care cost estimated to be 20% of GDP

1970 – U.S. ranked 15th in healthy nations

2015 – U.S. ranked 33rd  in healthy nations

2019 – U.S. ranked 35th in healthy nations

1983 – $17 billion spent on prescription drugs in the U.S.

2000 – $76 billion spent on prescription drugs in the U.S.

2015 – $425 billion spent on prescription drugs in the U.S.

Why Should You Lift Heavy Weights In Middle-Age?

By | Exercise, General Health Topics, Health, nutrition, wellness

I had a 40-year-old friend recently ask me, “why do I still need to lift weights?”  He’s more interested in stretching and running. Running and stretching are great, but adding in 2-3 days per week of strength training would be an important and beneficial addition, particularly at his age.

We are metabolically and hormonally designed to be anabolic (building our bodies) until about our mid 20’s. Muscles grow larger and stronger. But at some point in our 30’s, we start to lose muscle mass and function, and our bodies become more catabolic (breaking down). The cause is age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss), hormonal shifts, and weight gain.

Even if you continue to be active, you’ll still have some loss of muscle. The good news is that you can vastly slow and limit the decline if you use heavy, intense resistance training principles.

Inactive, sedentary lifestyles cause about a 5% loss of muscle mass each decade after age 30. Loss of muscle causes a decrease in strength, mobility, balance, and functional capacity (e.g. the capacity to get up and down stairs, do yardwork, get around on vacation trips).

Keeping a heavy resistance training program not only helps you maintain lean muscle mass, it also:

  • increases neurogenesis (forming new brain and nerve cells)
  • increases beneficial hormones that normally decline with age, such as growth hormone, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, DHEA, while lowering the hormones of estrogen, insulin, and cortisol
  • Increases the ability to turn protein into energy
  • Creates a unique metabolic afterburn in the body where your metabolism stays elevated after the workout for 24-48 hours, burning more fat than sugar (carbs). Strength training and interval training create this afterburn much better than aerobic exercise
  • Helps bone become stronger and denser by stressing it
  • Acts as a storage mechanism for important proteins that help you recover from injury or illness

When we have muscle mass, it consumes a lot of calories just in order to maintain the muscle, even while we’re asleep. Fat needs zero calories in order to maintain itself. So, as we get older and we tend to lose muscle and gain fat, the aging body burns fewer calories. In addition, even as our metabolism slows down, most of us continue to take in as many calories or more as we did in our 20’s and 30’s. We have to remember that our appetites don’t naturally decline as we age.

It takes hard work, discipline, and a plan, but it’s never too late to build lean muscle mass. It’s important and totally worth the work. As far as anti-aging goes, it’s one of the most important things you can do.

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science

By | Health, nutrition, wellness

This article is very interesting but long.  I’ve highlighted a synopsis of the article in the red text, so just read that if you want the short abbreviation.

This is an article from by Matthew Walker on his new book, Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Published by Allen Lane


Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer’s – and what you can do about it

Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question “What do you do?” At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. “I’ve begun to lie,” he says. “Seriously. I just tell people I’m a dolphin trainer. It’s better for everyone.”

Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal – possibly unachievable – is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesn’t worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us don’t know the half of it – and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he can’t, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. It’s his conviction that we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.

Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. “First, we electrified the night,” Walker says. “Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. We’re a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.”

But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. “We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting. It’s a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: ‘I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours’ sleep.’ It’s embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. They’re convinced that they’re abnormal, and why wouldn’t they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say ‘What a lazy baby!’ We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” In case you’re wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.

The world of sleep science is still relatively small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both to demand (the multifarious and growing pressures caused by the epidemic) and to new technology (such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators), which enables researchers to have what Walker describes as “VIP access” to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 antd was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more than 20 years, having published his first research paper at the age of just 21. “I would love to tell you that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood,” he says. “But in truth, it was accidental.” He started out studying for a medical degree in Nottingham. But having discovered that doctoring wasn’t for him – he was more enthralled by questions than by answers – he switched to neuroscience, and after graduation, began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.

“I was looking at the brainwave patterns of people with different forms of dementia, but I was failing miserably at finding any difference between them,” he recalls now. One night, however, he read a scientific paper that changed everything. It described which parts of the brain were being attacked by these different types of dementia: “Some were attacking parts of the brain that had to do with controlled sleep, while other types left those sleep centres unaffected. I realised my mistake. I had been measuring the brainwave activity of my patients while they were awake, when I should have been doing so while they were asleep.” Over the next six months, Walker taught himself how to set up a sleep laboratory and, sure enough, the recordings he made in it subsequently spoke loudly of a clear difference between patients. Sleep, it seemed, could be a new early diagnostic litmus test for different subtypes of dementia.

After this, sleep became his obsession. “Only then did I ask: what is this thing called sleep, and what does it do? I was always curious, annoyingly so, but when I started to read about sleep, I would look up and hours would have gone by. No one could answer the simple question: why do we sleep? That seemed to me to be the greatest scientific mystery. I was going to attack it, and I was going to do that in two years. But I was naive. I didn’t realise that some of the greatest scientific minds had been trying to do the same thing for their entire careers. That was two decades ago, and I’m still cracking away.” After gaining his doctorate, he moved to the US. Formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he is now professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California.

Does his obsession extend to the bedroom? Does he take his own advice when it comes to sleep? “Yes. I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, it’s to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what. I take my sleep incredibly seriously because I have seen the evidence. Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours’ sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day – drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?”

There is, however, a sting in the tale. Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch “Woody Allen-neurotic”. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake in his hotel room at two o’clock in the morning. His problem then, as always in these situations, was that he knew too much. His brain began to race. “I thought: my orexin isn’t being turned off, the sensory gate of my thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex won’t shut down, and my melatonin surge won’t happen for another seven hours.” What did he do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep act just like the rest of us when struck by the curse of insomnia. He turned on a light and read for a while.

Will Why We Sleep have the impact its author hopes? I’m not sure: the science bits, it must be said, require some concentration. But what I can tell you is that it had a powerful effect on me. After reading it, I was absolutely determined to go to bed earlier – a regime to which I am sticking determinedly. In a way, I was prepared for this. I first encountered Walker some months ago, when he spoke at an event at Somerset House in London, and he struck me then as both passionate and convincing (our later interview takes place via Skype from the basement of his “sleep centre”, a spot which, with its bedrooms off a long corridor, apparently resembles the ward of a private hospital). But in another way, it was unexpected. I am mostly immune to health advice. Inside my head, there is always a voice that says “just enjoy life while it lasts”.

The evidence Walker presents, however, is enough to send anyone early to bed. It’s no kind of choice at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do with blood pressure: even just one night of modest sleep reduction will speed the rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase their blood pressure).

A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the body’s effective control of blood sugar, the cells of the sleep-deprived appearing, in experiments, to become less responsive to insulin, and thus to cause a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your sleep becomes short, moreover, you are susceptible to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. “I’m not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone,” says Walker. “It’s not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. It’s now clear that sleep is that third ingredient.” Tiredness, of course, also affects motivation.

Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune system, which is why, when we have flu, our first instinct is to go to bed: our body is trying to sleep itself well. Reduce sleep even for a single night, and your resilience is drastically reduced. If you are tired, you are more likely to catch a cold. The well-rested also respond better to the flu vaccine. As Walker has already said, more gravely, studies show that short sleep can affect our cancer-fighting immune cells. A number of epidemiological studies have reported that night-time shift work and the disruption to circadian sleep and rhythms that it causes increase the odds of developing cancers including breast, prostate, endometrium and colon.

Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons for this are difficult to summarise, but in essence it has to do with the amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulate in the brains of those suffering from the disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from the brain. What occurs in an Alzheimer’s patient is a kind of vicious circle. Without sufficient sleep, these plaques build up, especially in the brain’s deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night. More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on. (In his book, Walker notes “unscientifically” that he has always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults need less sleep.) Away from dementia, sleep aids our ability to make new memories, and restores our capacity for learning.

And then there is sleep’s effect on mental health. When your mother told you that everything would look better in the morning, she was wise. Walker’s book includes a long section on dreams (which, says Walker, contrary to Dr Freud, cannot be analysed). Here he details the various ways in which the dream state connects to creativity. He also suggests that dreaming is a soothing balm. If we sleep to remember (see above), then we also sleep to forget. Deep sleep – the part when we begin to dream – is a therapeutic state during which we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences, making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala – a key spot for triggering anger and rage – in those who were sleep-deprived. In children, sleeplessness has been linked to aggression and bullying; in adolescents, to suicidal thoughts. Insufficient sleep is also associated with relapse in addiction disorders. A prevailing view in psychiatry is that mental disorders cause sleep disruption. But Walker believes it is, in fact, a two-way street. Regulated sleep can improve the health of, for instance, those with bipolar disorder.

I’ve mentioned deep sleep in this (too brief) summary several times. What is it, exactly? We sleep in 90-minute cycles, and it’s only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When Walker talks about these cycles, which still have their mysteries, his voice changes. He sounds bewitched, almost dazed.

During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting,” he says. “There’s a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow mantra. Researchers were once fooled that this state was similar to a coma. But nothing could be further from the truth. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your body settles into this lovely low state of energy, the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the brain patterns are identical to when you’re awake. It’s an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and nervous system go through spurts of activity: we’re still not exactly sure why.”

Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called power naps are worthless? “They can take the edge off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get to deep sleep, and one cycle isn’t enough to do all the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the benefit.” Is it possible to have too much sleep? This is unclear. “There is no good evidence at the moment. But I do think 14 hours is too much. Too much water can kill you, and too much food, and I think ultimately the same will prove to be true for sleep.” How is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived? Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. “I see it all the time,” he says. “I get on a flight at 10am when people should be at peak alert, and I look around, and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.”

So what can the individual do? First, they should avoid pulling “all-nighters”, at their desks or on the dancefloor. After being awake for 19 hours, you’re as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk. Second, they should start thinking about sleep as a kind of work, like going to the gym (with the key difference that it is both free and, if you’re me, enjoyable). “People use alarms to wake up,” Walker says. “So why don’t we have a bedtime alarm to tell us we’ve got half an hour, that we should start cycling down?” We should start thinking of midnight more in terms of its original meaning: as the middle of the night. Schools should consider later starts for students; such delajjys correlate with improved IQs. Companies should think about rewarding sleep. Productivity will rise, and motivation, creativity and even levels of honesty will be improved. Sleep can be measured using tracking devices, and some far-sighted companies in the US already give employees time off if they clock enough of it. Sleeping pills, by the way, are to be avoided. Among other things, they can have a deleterious effect on memory.

Those who are focused on so-called “clean” sleep are determined to outlaw mobiles and computers from the bedroom – and quite right, too, given the effect of LED-emitting devices on melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, though, Walker believes that technology will be sleep’s saviour. “There is going to be a revolution in the quantified self in industrial nations,” he says. “We will know everything about our bodies from one day to the next in high fidelity. That will be a seismic shift, and we will then start to develop methods by which we can amplify different components of human sleep, and do that from the bedside. Sleep will come to be seen as a preventive medicine.”

What questions does Walker still most want to answer? For a while, he is quiet. “It’s so difficult,” he says, with a sigh. “There are so many. I would still like to know where we go, psychologically and physiologically, when we dream. Dreaming is the second state of human consciousness, and we have only scratched the surface so far. But I would also like to find out when sleep emerged. I like to posit a ridiculous theory, which is: perhaps sleep did not evolve. Perhaps it was the thing from which wakefulness emerged.” He laughs. “If I could have some kind of medical Tardis and go back in time to look at that, well, I would sleep better at night.”


Sleep in numbers:

■ Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organisation.

■ An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.

■ A 2013 study reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep.

■ If you drive a car when you have had less than five hours’ sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

■ A hot bath aids sleep not because it makes you warm, but because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C.

■ The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%.

■ There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most common.

■ Morning types, who prefer to awake at or around dawn, make up about 40% of the population. Evening types, who prefer to go to bed late and wake up late, account for about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between.

Radial Pulse Therapy: A Deep Tissue Technology Worth Checking Out

By | Health, nutrition, wellness
Personally written by Dr. Milan Lassiter, Chiropractor, 1303 W. Main St., Richmond, VA, Tel #: (804) 254-5765

Radial Pulse Therapy has also been dubbed ShockWave Therapy, but it’s a mis-nomer because there is no “shock” involved.  It uses an instrument to create pulsing waves, similar to throwing a rock into a pond and creating ripples in the water. Think of Radial Pulse Therapy as creating those same type of ripples in the soft tissues (muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments, bursae, connective tissue), penetrating deeply down and spreading out as they go deeper. These “ripples” are actually rhythmic waves that are delivered into scar tissue and adhesive tissue, breaking it up over a 5-10 minute treatment. The German Radial Pulse unit that we use has a “soft” option, which makes it very effective while being very comfortable.

I particularly like shockwave therapy for chronic soft tissue conditions. Treating soft tissue conditions in the acute phase is much easier than treating those conditions once they have become chronic. The challenge with treating long-standing problems is that scar tissue and adhesions, once in the chronic stage, are either becoming permanent or are permanent. This makes most traditional treatment methods less effective and may be the reason why you’ve tried many different therapies, but nothing has worked.

The initial minute of treatment stimulates chemicals that release natural pain-killers in the body.  The reaction from the treatment is usually that the skin will turn red and feel warm, often with mild post-treatment soreness for a day or two.  This type of therapy is so deep that it can only be used once every 4 or 5 days.

Our other soft tissue treatments, such as Active Release Technique (ART) and Graston Technique, are state-of-the-art soft tissue therapies. However, with tough, chronic cases, ART and Graston are even more effective if the problem area has been pre-treated with the deeper, more high intensity mechanical energy from the shockwave therapy. No one else in Richmond has this cutting-edge therapy.

I first became aware of this therapy from my friend of mine in NJ who is one of the chiropractors for the NY Jets. He works very similarly to me, using a lot of manual therapies such as Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, and chiropractic adjustments. He has been using shockwave therapy for over 10 years and has a huge sports practice, working with high level runners, tri-athletes, and other athletes in all types of sports. When he first started working with the NY Jets, he was taking his shockwave unit back and forth to their training camp. After a year of using it with the Jets, their training staff found shockwave therapy to be so effective that they went out and bought a few Radial Pulse Therapy units for treating their athletes.

If you have had other “deep tissue” treatments without getting results (or aren’t getting good enough results) and are looking for someone to help you when no one else has been able to, give us a call at (804) 254-5765.

Dry Needling…No Medications, Only Pain Relief!

By | Dry Needling, Health, nutrition, wellness
Personally written by Milan Lassiter, DC, 1303 W. Main St, Richmond, VA and reached at (804) 254-5765.


People with muscle pain may seek out care with their MD, often ending up with one of 3 different types of medications:  muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, or pain meds.  Sometimes this will give a bit of relief of the symptoms, but they rarely resolve the actual cause of the problem.

Myofascial pain is the pain coming from muslce (myo) and fascia (the surrounding connective tissue around the muscle).  One of the common findings with myofascial pain syndromes is something called a “trigger point.”  A trigger point is a tight band of contracted muscle, often felt as a “knot,” and it’s often responsible for ongoing pain and dysfunction. A trigger point will often cause a pattern of referred pain, which is pain that is noted at a location away from the actual origination site of the problem.

It is desirable to elicit something called the latent twitch response (which feels like a grabbing or cramping around the needle), although a slight ache may be all that is felt.

Trigger point dry needling is one of the most effective treatment options available to resolve myofascial trigger points and dysfunctional or abnormally behaving muscles.

Here is a synopsis of how a trigger point is formed:


1)    Something causes pain.  If the insult occurs repeatedly or if the trauma is severe enough, the pain can form a feedback loop. Technically, the pain signal may return through a part of your nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system, activating pain receptors (called nociceptors) and feeding back to the spinal cord.  This is called a Reflex Arc, which causes the pain to continue instead of fading away.


2)    The nerve that goes out to a muscle (a motor neuron) can become stuck in the Reflex Arc loop, causing a muscle to contract and spasm, sometimes lasting for years or even decades.


3)    Introducing a new stimulus (dry needling) directly into the trigger point causes a disruption of this feedback loop, impedes the Reflex Arc from continuing, and has the effect of relaxing the muscle.


A contracted, spasmed, “knotted” muscle becomes a damaged muscle. Spasm reduces blood flow in the muscle, which means less oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Muscle fibres die off and build up adhesive, fibrous scar tissue. This in turn holds the muscle in a tightened, shortened position and prevents the muscle metabolism by-products from leaving the muscle, which continues the cycle.  What you’re left with is a muscle “knot” or a tight band of muscle that won’t seem to go away, instead restricting your ability to move the area and causing pain.  Putting a needle into a spasmed muscle or trigger point causes the muscle to relax, which can be seen with an EMG (electromyogram), has been corroborated by many randomized research studies, and has been researched extensively by Dr. Karel Lewit, MD.

So there you have it: with regard to a trigger point, it’s not the injection of cortizone or taking some pill that resolves the problem. It’s the actual needle, inserted into the correct spot, by someone who’s trained and certified to do so. I have been trained and certified to do this procedure and have found it to be an indispensable procedure for the physical rehabilitation of many problems that come to my office in Richmond, VA.


For further information or for an appointment please contact Dr. Milan Lassiter, Richmond, VA @ (804) 254-5765.