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Half of your brain may be staying awake to keep watch when you sleep in someone else’s bed…
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or having a sleepover, you never sleep quite as well on a bed that’s not your own.
That’s an observable fact. When scientists have people sleep in a lab for an experiment, they often toss out the first night of data because people sleep so poorly. But before now, they haven’t known why.
In a small new study published in Current Biology, researchers from Brown University found out what goes on in the brain when a person sleeps in an unfamiliar place. They measured brain activity during the deep sleep of 35 young, healthy people.
The researchers found evidence that something unique indeed goes on in the brain during the first night: one hemisphere of the brain, the left, shows wakefulness while the other shows sleep.
This alertness during sleep in half of the brain has been observed in other animals—including whales, dolphins and birds—and is thought to act as a kind of night watch.
“The environment is so new to us, we might need a surveillance system so we can monitor the surroundings and we can detect anything unusual,”
says Masako Tamaki, one of the authors of the study and research associate at the Laboratory for Cognitive and Perceptual Learning at Brown University.
We’re most vulnerable when we’re asleep, in other words, and by staying partially awake, our brains might be trying to protect us.
Our brain remain active when we sleep. researchers also found that when they outfitted the people in the study with earphones, the left side showed a larger brain response to high-pitched sounds than the right—suggesting more vigilance in that hemisphere.
The study raises a lot of unanswered questions; researchers don’t yet know why they saw this effect in the left hemisphere and not the right. But interestingly, both of these asymmetries only occurred on the first night—something to keep in mind the next time you can’t fall asleep in a strange place.
After we reach 30 we generally get more clarity about ourselves, other people and the world around us. We start leading a fuller life, and have deeper, more stable and enduring feelings… For many people, life assumes a different hue, and experiences are more colourful, and in a sense, more vivid – even more ‘real’. This concentration of the sense of being alive can be equated with a deliciously thick hot-chocolate or, if you prefer, sipping a wine of the finest vintage. Everything enters a new, more advanced stage. Everything, that is, aside from our physical selves.
It has been proven that thirty is the age at which all bodily processes begin to change. Before that time we can easily gain muscle, and be extremely lean without too much effort. After thirty, we gradually become aware of having to buy larger clothes sizes, and our first wrinkles and grey hairs begin to appear. Unfortunately our beach holidays can also become far less fun as a result. As we approach middle age we increasingly become what we ‘eat, do, and read’.
Sarcopenia (skeletal muscle degradation with age) is an inevitable process. Our body become limited in its protein synthesis and utilization abilities as soon as we cross the thirty-year threshold. According to Runners World research, once people reach thirty they lose, on average, about 15% of muscle mass every 10 years. Our metabolism naturally slows as well. Another important point is that the human body never really loses anything without some sort of compensation. Lost muscle tissue is replaced by fat. It is exactly for this reason that we become chubbier with age.
Fat gain and metabolic slowdown are the natural consequences of age, which brings us to a point where we have to run ‘twice as fast as we can’. Don’t panic though. Awareness is the first step toward success. “A healthy and active 60 year old can have the muscle mass of a 30-year old, while a sedentary middle-aged person who eats a primarily processed food diet and struggles with insulin resistance or diabetes may have the muscle quality of a 70-year old”, sais Dr. Mercola, a physician and blog contributor to Fitness Peak.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid age-related muscle degradation, and keep yourself energised, fit and healthy after the age of thirty, and for the rest of your natural life.
Hormones determine harmony
“Other factors, such as age-related changes in circulating levels of muscle anabolic hormones and growth factors, must also be considered as contributing mechanisms underlying the sarcopenic phenotype” – Alex Hatchinson, nutritionist and physician, and contributor to Runners World.
We primarily age as a result of hormonal and biochemical changes. Some endocrinologists believe that production of the human growth hormone (the hormone responsible for cell formation, regeneration, and general recovery) already starts to decline after the age of 25. Muscle loss and excessive fat formation could be the first symptoms of GH (somatotropin) deficiency. Somatotropin is a prescribed drug and available in any pharmacy. However, its use as a supplement requires extensive research, and should only be taken under medical guidance and supervision. But there is some good news. When taken together, widely available amino acids such as l-Arginine, l-Lysine, and l-Ornithine, act as GH’s precursors and theoretically increase natural somatotropin production. The right supplements in the correct dosages, taken with other requisite healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals, could postpone aging and have a tremendously positive effect.
Estrogen and testosterone are two other important youth hormones. As long as the body can produce them in adequate quantities to support the reproductive process, youth and beauty will be maintained. When estrogen and testosterone production is suppressed by certain factors such as incorrect contraceptive methods, stress, overload, lack of sleep or irregular sex, malnutrition, and so on, the body’s aging processes accelerates. I am not going to cover this highly complex topic within this particular article as it worth looking at separately, and in more depth, another time. Perhaps only one tip can be given: be attentive to your wellbeing and private life. Sufficient rest, inner peace, regular physical activities, sex, and balanced nutrition are the key factors to maintain hormonal health and youth. Consult your physician and nutritionist if you have any pressing questions on the subject.
Build the body in advance of ageing
Anabolism (muscular development and maintenance) gets more complicated after thirty, reinforcing aging and resulting in metabolic slowdown and fat gain. However, a recent study by the National Center of Biotechnology Information showed that “(even) mobility-limited subjects between 70 and 85 managed to add an average of 1.3% to their lean mass after six months of high-intensity resistance training and protein supplementation”.
So, don’t miss the opportunity to start building your muscles as early as possible while your hormones are working at their peak and supporting high anabolic muscle response. Remember, the earlier you start the longer you last. Include 3-4 sessions of resistance training such as weights lifting, Pilates, TRX, pole dance, or body pump classes into your fitness routine. Don’t forget about taking supporting supplements to quicken your recovery, and to help create precious muscle tissue to overcompensate for inevitable aging muscle loss.
Magic youth bullets
First and foremost, I would like to say couple of words about whey protein (WP). I’m asked every day by my clients and friends if it is worth taking whey supplements. The answer is an unequivocal YES. I add 1 scoop of high-quality, vanilla-flavoured, whey protein into my morning oats and take two more after my evening workout, mixed with simple carbs such as fruit or maltodextrin and BCAA into my traditional post-workout shake. According to research conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, “whey protein supplementation may augment resistance levels and boost exercise-induced increases in muscle strength and mass”. So don’t miss your shake. It will help you to recover more quickly and to retain your muscle mass.
Now, let me shed some light on whey manufacturing processes, as this question is very sensitive to a majority of health-conscious people. According to research conducted by the Imperial College MBA Group Consulting project for GST Nutrition, certified whey protein available on the US and the UK markets is made of the same best and cleanest MPC-80 (milk protein concentrate) and MPI-80 (milk protein isolate) as various high quality baby formulas (I personally took part in this research at the end of my MBA program). Also, the majority of premium WP’s are suitable for people with lactose intolerance and vegetarians.
Another beneficial substance massively helping to postpone aging muscle degradation is BCAA complex. Branch Chain Amino Acids is a combination of three naturally occurring essential amino acids Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine, that make up over 35% of overall amino acids concentration in muscle tissues. Research shown that under conditions of stress, injuries, intense exercise and after the age of thirty, the human body requires up to a four times higher consumption of BCAA to maintain positive nitrogen balance. For more detail, read: How much protein should be eaten.
The International Sport and Science Association recommends an intake of BCAA of up to 6 grams a day depending on a range of factors including the physical condition, age, body weight and composition, and gender, of the subject. The type and level of their physical activity is also important, as are their general lifestyle choices. It is also recommended that BCAA is taken 30 minutes before and directly after meals, and throughout the day together with meals, to maximize its value for the body.
One more important group of substances helping to postpone aging muscle sarcopenia and related derogative processes, are antioxidants. Vitamin E, Omega3, Selenium and Choline are just at the top of a long ‘must take’ list of antioxidants. Read about antioxidants in another upcoming article How to keep your fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) and consult your nutritionist to calculate best dosages for your needs.
Glucosamine Chondroitine is one more necessary ingredient in the process. Read How to keep the fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) for more details.
Another suggestion in this topic of discussion is, surprisingly, don’t run! Stop crushing your joints and back bone, and torturing your veins. Moreover, long steady state cardio sessions exacerbate muscle degradation turning your body’s green light to sarcopenia even more. Everyday Health noted that “aside from the toll it (running) can take on your knees and joints, recent reports of things such as “runner’s face” and ‘dead butt syndrome’ could send some running devotees sprinting in the other direction”. Great alternatives to running could be light jogging, hiking, spinning, horse riding, skiing, water skiing or sprints (my personal second-favourite year-round activity, after the delights of seasonal skiing). If you are a gym lover, the rowing machine, curve, climbing ladder or lively aerobics/dance/body combat classes are all super solutions.
Do not forget to hydrate the body taking at least a glass of water 30 minutes before, during and after a session. Keep it sweaty, and have as much fun as you can.
The statement “You are what you eat” is even more valid after you hit thirty. If before that your body was able to metabolize almost all the rubbish you consumed, after your thirtieth birthday the picture really changes. Now five minutes of food indulgence can stay permanently lodged in your tummy or thighs. So take care of your body, and do yourself a favour by hiring a competent nutrition advisor.
Flexibility is another area to focus on. Allocate 10-15 minutes for stretching after any fitness activity. It will increase the blood flow to your muscles and will help to reduce joint and ligament load.
Stress, overload and constant tissues hypoxia (lack of fresh air) are few other important factors that quicken the aging process. A good eight hours of sleep, regular holidays, meditation, 15 –minutes of active rest every 2-3 hours during the day, and decent fresh air exposure (at least 1 hour daily) will help tremendously in the tough fight to retain your youth. Read Dream and Walk the youth back.