Daily Archives: September 28, 2016

Why do we sleep? How much sleep do we really need?

Nobody appreciates sleep as much as a college student. With that being said, no one sleeps less than a college student … OK, maybe a mom of a newborn baby. Point is, sleep in college is always like chasing someone you really like that plays hard to get. Personally speaking, the only time I am able to sleep the recommended 7-9 hours a night is on the weekends -given I don’t have dance practice that next morning.  I know very little about the human body, but I figure that has to be terrible for my overall physical and mental health. So for this blog post I figured I’ll find out just how important sleep is to human body, just how much sleep do we really need and am I going to die early because for the lack thereof?

What Does Science Say About Sleep? 

The American Sleep Association recommends 8 hours as the optimal amount of rest needed to prevent sleep deprivation. However, recent data received from National Institute of Health, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), and the Sleep Research Society indicate that the old recommendation of a solid 8 hour a night isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. Researchers are starting observe that the amount of sleep that a person requires depends on their circadian rhythm -your body’s internal clock. 

Author of Sleep for SuccessJames Maas, PhD, former professor and chair of psychology at Cornell University says the proper amount of sleep is defined as what is needed for an individual to remain awake, refreshed and focused without the aide of stimulants, such as coffee or energy drinks. He added that if you aren’t able to stay awake, alert and focused from solely the amount of sleep you received the night before then you are suffering from some form of sleep deprivation. So, literally meaning me, everyday in college. 

So How many hours of sleep do you need?

The National institute of health says that the average adult sleeps roughly 6 hours a night. And while this may seem like enough given how fast paced everything is in society today it is proven to be that most healthy adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. In fact researchers at the University of California, Sans Francisco discovered that only 3% of the worlds population has a gene that allows them to be able to do well on only 6 hours of sleep a night. Meaning that the rest of us, 97% of us, need that recommended 7.5-9 hour rest to be fully great.  With that said, the chart below indicates that the younger you are the more sleep you need to meet your full potential awake. 

Average Sleep Needs by Age

Newborn to 2 months old 12 – 18 hrs
3 months to 1 year old 14 – 15 hrs
1 to 3 years old 12 – 14 hrs
3 to 5 years old 11 – 13 hrs
5 to 12 years old 10 – 11 hrs
12 to 18 years old 8.5 – 10 hrs
Adults (18+) 7.5 – 9 hrs

“Sleep Health”

Sleep Health is a modern field of research dedicated to studying the effects sleep has on your body. I’ll share one of it’s four broad categories, “Science,” which serves as the nuts and bolts of what sleep does for parts of your body internally as well as describes what sleep deprivation can do to decrease their levels of efficiency:

  • The BRAIN:
    • Sleeping allows for cerebral spinal fluid to be pumped at a much higher/quicker rate than when you are awake. Your brain makes brain cells, the cerebral spinal fluid being pumped throughout the brain acts as sort of a ‘dishwasher’ ridding your body of the waste products created by these brain cells. Allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and in sense, literally ‘clean’.
    • When sleep deprived your brain isn’t on it’s ‘A game, your mind slows down a lot;  you become forgetful and skills you may normally have when fully rested (good speaking capabilities, writing, etc.) are impaired slightly. Maas says there’s also sort of a reduction in your decision making capabilities due to your lack of focus.
    • Sleep deprivation effects your response time and messes with not only your form but your motor skills. Which explains while driving while sleepy is single handedly one of the hardest things one can do. Nothing works, rolling down the windows, blasting music, nothing but a good nights rest.
  • Your LUNGS
    • While awake breathing patterns tend to vary significantly. For example, physical exercise, fear, excitement speeds up breathing rate. While you are asleep however, your breathing rate is slowed and regulated.
  • Your HEART
    • Your heart works extremely hard during the day and during the Non-REM cycle part of sleep your heart gets a well deserved break. Sleeping allows your heart to be reduced as well as your blood pressure.
  • Your MUSCLES
    • The more you sleep, the more and better equipped your body is to repair itself. Growth hormones, that work to build and strengthen your muscles and joints are released while you sleep.
    • Cumulative sleep deprivation over time can lessen your body’s ability to fight off an infection. Josiane Broussard, PhD, researcher and assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found that sleep deprivation -more specifically one night of no sleep, was just a detrimental to a person as having a high fat diet. Meaning that pulling an all righter can result in insulin sensitivity, a key predictor of type-2 diabetes, just as much as six months on a high-fat diet. Which was SHOCKING for me to learn. 


I can give it to you 6 different ways, but no matter which way I put it, scientifically, psychologically speaking, SLEEP IS IMPORTANT. We all, myself included, are guilty of accumulating a large amount of Sleep Debt, and instead Just shaking it off, going “I’ll catch up on sleep this weekend.” But that is not how your body works; you can not make up for continuous sleep deprivation with one night of full rest. The science shows that there is a direct causation between the amount of sleep on gets and the productivity of their day and mind. I understand we are all in college and have busy, demanding school, work and social schedules, but it is rather imperative that we take care of ourselves if we have any hope of succeeding at any of these endeavors. 

Gender Behind the Wheel

Our most recent pop quiz in SC-200 included a blog post from the past where the author wrote about the differences between male and female study habits and grades. On my long, peaceful stroll back to my dorm from class, I reflected on this. I began to ponder about other proven differences between males and females. I immediately remembered a conversation I had with my parents at the dinner table: I have a twin brother, and we began driving at the same time. However, my car insurance cost less than my brother’s. We were the exact same age with the exact same amount of driving experience. We even shared the same car. Why did his insurance cost more than mine? Why was the risk my twin brother posed as a driver greater than the risk I posed as an eighteen year old female driver?

I have no personal opinion as to whether guys are better drivers than girls. But I’m curious to see what the statistics say.

According to DMV.Org, a website independent of government agencies, there are many statistics that support the increased insurance rate for males. First, over 70% of deaths resulting from car accidents were caused by males in 2012.  Young female passengers were slightly more likely to wear seat belts than young men. Nearly 40% of males who died behind the wheel were driving while intoxicated, and for women it was only 20%. Also, men who died in car accidents were almost twice as likely to have been speeding than women.  The article also interestingly states that men are more likely to buy cars that cost more to insure than the cars women buy.

One confounding variable could be the tendency of each gender to consume alcohol.

According to a study conducted that I found on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, men are simply more likely to drink, and to drink more heavily, than women. Women were more likely to refrain from drinking all together than men.

So, great. Young men are more likely to get in accidents than women in many different ways. But why? Is it something biological? Does it have to do with decision making or attention span?

Based on observing my father and mother drive for my entire life, my hypothesis is that (young) men might have more confidence while driving than (young) women and therefore drive with less caution. My dad seems entirely more sure of himself than my mom does sometimes, and my dad tends to take more risks behind the wheel than my mom.

However, I also think that young women might have more ways to get distracted behind the wheel, so the causes for their crashes are more likely to be distractions than dangerous driving. For example, I often see girls adjusting their hair or fixing their nails or doing their makeup behind the wheel. These distractions could be confounding variables. But these variables would make female crashes more likely than male crashes, right? So why are young men crashing more, and paying more for insurance?

Olga Khazan of The Atlantic wrote about a study conducted and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Car accidents among 16-18 year old drivers who were either driving by themselves or with 14-20 year old passengers were examined. They essentially determined a few categories of causes for the accidents including car-interior distractions like cell phone use, car-exterior distractions, aggressive driving, inability to focus on driving, and reckless driving/illegal actions performed behind the wheel, such as going through stop signs.



Image Found Here!

Surprisingly, aggressive driving was the main cause for male drivers to crash more–when there was a female in the car with them. So basically, male drivers attempt to impress females with aggressive driving, which causes them to crash! To any boys out there who think I would be impressed by dangerous driving–I’ll walk, thanks. Male drivers also experienced more interior-car distractions when there was a female inside the car. They were more distracted when by themselves, however, than when they were driving with other boys. The chart on The Atlantic indicates, though, that they were more likely to do illegal things while driving with other guys in the car.


Image Found Here!

Females weren’t likely to ever drive aggressively according to the study, and were more likely to get distracted by car-interior distractions if a male was present in the car with them.

The article suggests that a confounding variable for the study might be increased texting behind the wheel.

A simple conclusion I was able to draw from all of these stats is that opposite sexes seem to really distract each other in the car. Teenage hormones, I suppose, are to blame. Young males are often more dangerous drivers because they are more likely to attempt to impress others with their driving. For some reason, they tend to think that dangerous driving is impressive. Hm. Boys will be boys!



Indoor Cycling: Treasure or Trend?

Exercise enthusiasts can’t stop talking about indoor cycling. Places such as Soulcycle and Flywheel are offering high end spin classes that they not only claim is an incredible workout, but an overall outstanding self-bettering experience. However, while I am a health-conscious individual, I am skeptical as to whether $25-$30 per class is really worth the trend. Do indoor cycling classes live up to their hype?


In my personal workout experience, I love to attend spin classes. The music is motivating and upbeat, and it’s fun to imagine climbing and sprinting like it’s a real-life bike ride. I always leave a spin class sweating, which leads me to believe that it’s a great workout! Luckily, this American College of Sports Medicine article justifies my assumption. The article explains how the cardiovascular activity generated during indoor cycling is not only advantageous to your heart by reducing the risk of heart conditions and high blood pressure, but also strengthens your muscles, raises your endurance, and protects your joints. In terms of calorie burning, spinning is an incredible medium. As mentioned in the above ACSM article, spinning.com discovered that the average 45 minute spin class has the potential to burn between 400-600 calories. However, I somewhat am doubtful of this statistic, as today I took a 45 minute indoor cycling class at the IM building where I only burned around 300 calories. Maybe I just have to work harder to reap the physical benefits of my exercise!

In addition to physical rewards, indoor cycling also enhancspinningclass_2-300x264es mental health. “The Brain Science of Biking,” an article by Shape, discusses how the act of cycling increases the “white matter,” or the tissue that is responsible for linking the various entities of your brain so that they can better communicate. Furthermore, cycling generates a protein that is tied to memorization and stress levels called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This amplified memorization as a result of spinning was also found in a study done by the University of Illinois, which concludes that regularly cycling increases the hippocampus, or the part of the brain specializing in cognitive recollection, by 2%.
19thneon_originalTherefore, spinning is beneficial from both a physical and mental perspective according to science.
Of course, all of these profits from the act of indoor cycling will vary by individual. For instance, one’s level of fitness, capability to spin with the right form, and their mental status prior to class. This explains why many people that I have questioned about the value of indoor cycling claim that a spin class is only as good as the instructor. This article addresses this downfall of indoor cycling, saying how failure to think and perform in a distinct way while cycling short-sells people of the potential benefits. Furthermore, another skepticism is the fact that spinning is not the only exercise that burns calories or aids memorization, so what makes it so special? This Business Insider article proposes that a potential answer to this question is the luxurious community appeal that places like SoulCycle and Flywheel use to attract their customers. These facilities utilize their high end reputation and strong branding to manipulate the consumer opinion that the workout will reward him or her beyond the capabilities of a traditional gym. They imply that cyclers will be a part of an elite and trendy community, and go through a one of a kind self-betterment process. Therefore, the upscale and fashion forward image of such indoor cycling gyms could be a confounding variable in the question of whether the workout lives up to the trend.


Accumulating all of this information, I have come to believe that spinning is a worthwhile form of exercise if you’re there for the right reasons. It may sound like a line from The Bachelor, but it’s a valid differentiating factor in deciding whether spin classes are worth the trend. There is a line to be crossed where the schtick starts to override the actual exercise. People pay an exorbitant amount to spin because they get caught up in the brand rather than the bike. However, If you get on the bike with the mindset that you’re there for an intense workout and you’re going to give it your all, then you will reap the physical and mental benefits of indoor cycling that will live up to its popularity.

Cookie Dough: The Truth Behind the Batter

While making cookies with my family I was wondering about what the real reason is that we shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough. Most people usually assume that you shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough because you run the risk of getting salmonella from the raw egg. But what if I told you that wasn’t the only reason? Studies show that it is not only is raw egg, but also flour that is making people sick. A recent report says that General Mills flour has sickened 45 people and has made a recall of 45 million pounds of its product. But why? What could be affecting flour in a way that its making people sick? Officials from the Food and Drug Administration analyzed samples of the flour and found that it was contaminated with two separate strands of E-Coli. Investigations have led to the disease being present in other sprout based food sources, but never flour.

So how did the E-Coli get into the flour? Because wheat is not usually treated to kill bacteria, the product is more susceptible to pick up the disease. If livestock defecate in the field, then it increases the likelihood that the grain will pick up the bacteria that’s been causing so much illness. So what is the disease doing? The disease has been causing diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Some symptoms last longer than a week and persist such as Kidney failure. The disease has spread across 21 states. The FDA is aiding GM in the process of eliminating the disease in their products.

When eating raw cookie dough, you should always be cautious. First and foremost, the consumption of raw egg is unhealthy. Furthermore, General Mills recent recall makes the decision even riskier. But what if you’re like me and you enjoy raw cookie dough and kind of don’t care? Just wait a while…..In the not too distant future, GM’s recall should be over and the flour they produce should be E-Coli free once more.

So what can be taken away from all of this? First, if you have any General Mills products containing flour, you best throw them away. Second, avoid consuming any products containing raw flour. And Finally, eating raw egg is never a good idea. So the next time you’re making Chocolate chip cookies, think about what ingredients you used before you take a bite of the raw dough.

Photos: http://www.nature-education.org/water-ecoli.html                                                                               https://www.holdthecarbs.com/community/blog/low-carb-flour-vs-traditional-flour/                   http://www.medclient.com/tag/raw-cookie-dough/        

Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/22/health/eat-raw-cookie-dough/                                                       http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/07/31/flour-recall-prompts-new-warning-dont-eat-dough-or-batter.html                                                                                                                                             http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm508450.htm


Eating in the Dark

I recently watched the movie, You Again and the part where the father eats blindfolded as a part of his diet really stuck with me. Does eating blindfolded actually prevent you from overeating? I mean there have been times where during dinner I would be eating and I would start to feel myself become full, but I still had food left on my plate so I would continue eating rather than stopping. If i had not known that food was there, would I still have wanted to continue eating?

A husband and wife decided to do an experiment of their own. Every once in awhile one of them will blindfold themselves during dinner. Once they become full and feel finished, they take the blindfold off. This experiment resulted in them taking smaller portion sizes, paying attention to their body so they know when they are full,and making them feel less guilty when they do not finish all the food that was left on their plate.

Every time I have dieted or tried to eat healthier I always ended up giving up and forgetting about the diet altogether. This article talks about a study conducted in Germany that shows people who are blindfolded while they eat consume less calories than people who can see their food. Some people also stated that the food tasted differently when they could not see it. Spicy foods taste spicier, sweet foods taste sweeter, bland foods (such as bread or crackers) have more flavor. When you take away one of your senses, the rest become stronger. When you can not see your food, you don’t feel the need to keep eating once you feel full and you can feel yourself become fuller more quickly since you are not focused on the food on your plate. 

According to Science Direct our behavior plays a role in determining how much food we consume. If you’re stressed you eat, if you’re happy you eat, if you’re sad you eat, if you’re bored you eat. Our bodies are used to eating even when we aren’t hungry. This article also talks about an experiment where they used 90 students to study taste perception of ice cream and the amount of ice cream the students estimated they would eat. Some of the students were blind folded and some of them were not. Those that were blind folded ate 9% less than those who were not . The students that were blindfolded also predicted that they would consume 88% more ice cream than they actually did. The students that were not blind folded only predicted that they would consume 35% more ice cream than they actually did. The scientists concluded that they experiment turned out the way it did because for the students that were blind folded, they had no visual input. 

Image result for eating blindfolded restaurant

Next time you’re eating, pay attention to other things besides just the food on your plate. Pay attention to your stomach, your head, even the way the food tastes. Experiment with yourself and blindfold yourself for a meal to see how much you are actually overeating.

(Image 1 Source)

(Image 2 Source)