How much sleep are you getting? You may think that staying up late makes you more productive – but it does not. It is counterproductive, slowing you down mentally and physically and also making your body more prone to illness.
As far as the body is concerned, sleeping is so much more than a passive activity. Getting some shuteye allows the neurons to recharge and clean themselves from the by-products of normal cellular activities. Sleep also activates important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity. Do you wonder why well-rested people look better in the morning? It’s because during deep sleep, cells have increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins necessary for cell growth and damage repair. Other than having the desired effects of “beauty sleep”, they are also less cranky and more sociable because deep sleep help maintain optimal emotional and social functioning. 
Here’s a standard chart of sleep needed:
Newborns (1 to 2 months) – 14 to 18 hours
Infants (3 to 11 months) – 13 to 16 hours
Toddlers (1-3 years) – 12 to 14 hours
Children 3-5 years – 11 to 13 hours
Children 5-12 years – 10 to 11 hours
Teens (13 to 17 years) – 9 to 10 hours
Adults (18 and over) – 7 to 9 hours
Building up on “sleep debt” is literally suicide as you put your body at risk. It doesn’t take more than a week of sleep deprivation for it to alter the activity of over 700 human genes. If prolonged further, the number of affected genes will climb seven times higher. These genes are involved in controlling inflammation, immunity, metabolism, and the response to stress. 
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
1. Impairs cognitive abilities: Neuroimaging evidence suggests that sleep deprivation may particularly affect certain parts of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep cause deficits in concentration, abstracting ability, problem solving ability, attention, alertness, and vigilance. Creative and innovative performance are also degraded by lack of sleep. 
These effects on cognition not only reduce academic or job performance but also cause accidents and injuries. Slow reaction time caused by drowsiness is a big public safety hazard on the road. Skimping on a night’s sleep robs the neurons of the opportunity to recharge for optimal performance, leaving you drowsy and lousy the next day.
It is interesting to note that both too much and too little sleep are found to affect cognition. A Harvard-based study on women reports that undersleepers and oversleepers were estimated to be mentally two years more aged than those who got sufficient hours of sleep. 
2. Leads to Serious Medical Conditions: Lacking sleep on a regular basis is associated with long-term serious health problems such as diabetes, high-blood pressure, and heart disease. Studies have revealed that sleep deprivation is linked with certain physiological changes including increased blood pressure, impaired control of blood glucose, and increased inflammation.
Adults over the age of 45 who slept fewer than 6 hours per night, was found to be twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack compared to people who slept 6 to 8 hours per night. 
Its adverse impact on insulin sensitivity and appetite regulation may also increase the risk of obesity and diabetes in both children and adults. 
The immune system is also at risk as sleep deprivation inhibits immune functions. Sleep and the circadian rhythm were found to have a strong regulatory influence on the immune system. Resulting from the lack of sleep and abnormal sleep patterns, the defense mechanism becomes less responsive due to decrease in the count of white blood cells. 
3. Lowers Sex Drive: Research shows that decrease in sex drive due to sleep deprivation affects both genders. Due to low energy, fatigue, and sleepiness, sleep deprived couples would rather catch some Z’s than do the act. 
Reduced vigor could also be the result of low testosterone caused by sleep loss, according to a study.  The study found that the testosterone levels of men who slept less than five hours a night for one week had significantly lowered than when they had sufficient sleep.
4. Ages Your Skin: There is such thing as beauty sleep. In a study participated in by women, the results show that lack of sleep affects facial appearance especially the features related to the mouth, eyes, and skin. 
In another study, it was discovered that sleep quality affects skin function and aging. Sleep deprived individuals showed increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from the environmental stressors that affect the skin. Poor sleepers also had worse assessment of their general facial appearance. 
5. Lowers Your Ability to Manage Stress: A well-rested person is just better at everything, including stress management. The more stressors you have to deal with, the earlier you need to hit the sack.
A study has found a link between sleep deprivation and lower scores on total EQ, intrapersonal functioning, interpersonal functioning, stress management skills, and behavioural coping. The study suggests that sleep loss produces temporary changes not only on the analytical functions of the prefrontal lobe but also on the behavioural and emotional. 
6. Causes Decreased Hopefulness and Sociability: Diminished positive mood and increase in negative mood states has been linked with sleep deprivation. Serious changes to emotion, mood states, and their regulation are influenced by the brain’s serotonergic system or the system responsible for the production of serotonin. Serotonin plays a key role in emotional stability and sleep patterns, which explains why an imbalance in serotonin due to sleep deprivation could also cause mood changes. Accordingly, sleep deprived individuals are more likely to display inappropriate behaviour and act impulsively. 
7. Increased Risk of Death: A study revealed that sleeping less than 6 hours a night can make a person 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone with good sleeping habits. But sleep too much and your risk for early death will increase up to 30%. The conducted research suggests that the hours of sleep should be neither too less nor too much. 
Sleep deprivation interferes with the biological processes vital for overall health. Consequently, researchers have identified a relationship between sleep deprivation and serious illnesses including some of the top cancers in the U.S., namely breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. 
Other than health risks, sleep deprivation could also make you more prone to injury and even death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported an estimate of 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries caused by sleep-related accidents. 
Our bodies are like machines that need constant maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, the benefits of a good night’s sleep are frequently overlooked. A well-rested individual is so much more capable of facing the pressures and living long enough to enjoy his/her success.
 Bianchi, Matt T. Sleep Deprivation and Disease: Effects on the Body, Brain and Behavior. New York: Springer, 2014.
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The #1 Muscle That Eliminates Joint And Back Pain, Anxiety And Looking Fat
By Mike Westerdal CPT
Can you guess which muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pain, anxiety and looking fat?
This is especially important if you spend a significant amount of time sitting every day (I do, and this really affects me in a big way!)
Working this “hidden survival muscle” that most people are simply not training because no-one ever taught them how will boost your body shape, energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
If this “hidden” most powerful primal muscle is healthy, we are healthy.
d) Hip Flexors
Take the quiz above and see if you got the correct answer!
P.S. Make sure you check out this page to get to know the 10 simple moves that will bring vitality back into your life:
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Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
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What Are Parabens?: In the beauty community, there is a word that has become feared over the past several years – Parabens. These chemical compounds are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. They can be found in many shampoos, moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solutions, makeup and toothpaste  – and are typically added to prolong shelf life. They work very similarly to food preservatives which help prevent food from spoiling too soon; parabens help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold on your cosmetic products. There are many products that contain parabens but skincare, roll-on antiperspirants and makeup are the most common objects that increase our paraben exposure. 
Parabens And Breast Cancer: There have been different studies on the effect of paraben exposure to the body — and some of the results are very worrying. A 2013 study published by Charles and Darbre focused on the estrogenic effect of parabens and their effect on human breast cancer cells. The study found that parabens in any form or concentration caused stimulation of breast cells, leading to cancerous growths. Darbre published another study in 2014 and found that parabens increased energy metabolism in breast tissue, which can account for the sudden growth and spread of the cancerous cells. Khanna, et. al. in 2014 found that exposure to parabens increased the metastatic ability of breast cancer cells, or the ability to spread and invade healthy tissues. 
Controversy: Despite these studies, the ACS and FDA have stated that parabens are not dangerous at the levels found in typical consumer products. Astonishingly, the ACS has turned a 100% blind eye to the studies mentioned and stated that the concern over parabens is the result of an “email rumor”!  Can it really be that they are unaware of these studies? Are they selectively ignoring them? Or is there some other reason why they consider the research unworthy of consideration? They have stated plainly that there is “very little scientific evidence” – to which we can only answer that we have presented 3 published scientific studies here and you can check the links for yourself.
How Are We Exposed To Parabens? The most common route we are exposed to parabens (and which is regarded by some as the route that causes increased breast cancer risk) is increased is through deodorants or antiperspirants. Whenever you swipe a deo stick on your armpit, you are willingly introducing parabens (as well as numerous other chemicals, some of which have also been implicated) to your body and – according to the studies referenced, increasing your risk for cancer. However parabens are in all manner of products. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, parabens can be found in “nearly all urine samples” taken from adults residing in the US, regardless of their background and socioeconomic status. It has been proposed that parabens’ “estrogenic effect” is the reason why it can cause cancer. By mimicking the effects of the hormone estrogen, paraben causes the sudden growth of cells in the breast, which may become uncontrolled and cancerous. 
What You Can Do: The first thing to realize is that you are not required to use these consumer products. You do have a choice – though it will take some self-discipline and diligence. The next time you head to the supermarket, think twice before you reach for deodorant or antiperspirant. Instead of wasting money on something that can potentially give you cancer, seek the natural route instead. First you can look for products with “paraben free” labeling. The next step is to check the ingredients. Look for methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216),butylparaben and heptylparaben (E209). Less common parabens include isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben and benzylparaben. 
Alternatively – you can make your own! See our post How to Make Your Own Natural Deodorants Without Toxic Chemical Ingredients for instructions and ingredient lists.
 US Food and Drug Administration. Parabens in Cosmetics. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128042.htm
 Charles, A. & Darbre, P. (2013). Combinations of parabens at concentrations measured in human breast tissue can increase proliferation of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364952
 Darbre, P. & Harvey, P. (2014). Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25047802
 Khanna, S., Dash, P. & Darbre, P. (2014). Exposure to parabens at the concentration of maximal proliferative response increases migratory and invasive activity of human breast cancer cells in vitro. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24652746
 “Parabens In Cosmetics” – FDA. http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128042.htm
 “Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk” – American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk?sitearea=MED
 Breast Cancer Fund. Parabens. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/radiation-chemicals-and-breast-cancer/parabens.html
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Going the natural way to manage a variety of health-related problems is growing in popularity as modern day medicine starts to catch up with herbal folk remedies. There are plenty of studies that focus on the benefits of natural methods of treatment, compared to the notorious side effects of taking prescription drugs. However, there is an underlying truth that science has taken long to realize – that viruses are inherently part of the Earth – they have been around for billions of years, maybe even predating the arrival of humans. They have mutated over time, changing forms, yet modern medicine has come up against a stumbling block, with viruses rapidly developing immunity to new drugs and medical treatment. It’s clear that a completely new strategy is required…. or could it be an old strategy revisited? Plants could be the answer medicine has been waiting for. This is the focus of Stephen Buhner’s recent book – Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections. 1]
There is one word that strikes fear into the heart of many a medical professional, and that word is “drug resistant”. Infections that are resistant to multiple drugs are very hard to treat and often end in mortality. The CDC defines antiviral resistance as the way a virus has changed so that “antiviral drugs are less effective or not effective at all”. You would think that by this time modern medicine would have been able to make a drug against the common cold, but that is far, far off.
Similarly, the influenza virus constantly mutates – and as a result there is a yearly change to flu vaccines brought out into the market. Lin, Hsu, and Lin called viral infections a “critical issue” in public health, linking viral infections to chronic conditions like diabetes, liver cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. 
However, there are plenty of antiviral herbs that work well in fighting viral infections – and resistance is not developed by virii – presumably due to the plants’ broad array of active molecular components, as opposed to single-moleculed drugs. It’s been speculated that a single mutation could render a microorganism immune to a molecule – but that it is less likely for such an organism to be able to develop immunity to multiple active components at once.
Here are 5 of the best herbs considered antiviral – and some reference studies that have supported these benefits:
This plant is not only popular because of its fragrant addition to a variety of dishes; it also has potent antiviral properties from a compound called carvacrol. According to Pilau, et. al. in 2011, carvacrol, a major compound found in Oregano essential oil, was able to inhibit viral activity of drug-resistant viruses, from herpes simplex to respiratory syncytial virus in humans. 
Garlic is known for its strong antibacterial properties but how does it fare against viruses? Very well, as it happens. There are older studies published in the 1980s and 1990s that show garlic’s potential influenza-fighting properties. Tsai, et. al. in 1985 studied garlic extract and found that it was able to fight against influenza B. Similar results were seen in Weber’s study in 1992, where fresh garlic extract was virucidal against a variety of viruses, including the herpes simplex virus. Recently, Kang, et. al. in 2001 found that garlic was able to boost the body’s immune system which can help fight against viral infections. 
For centuries, Elderberry or elder has been used to manage the flu as well as treat open wounds. A 2012 study by Kinoshita, et. al. found that elderberry juice was able to boost the body’s immune response to the human influenza virus (a.k.a. the flu virus), able to defend the body against viral infection. 
Echinacea is a Native American plant used for hundreds of years on wounds and infections, dubbed a general “cure-all”. A recent publication by Ross concluded that Echinacea extract was able to reduce cold episodes and their length, reducing the need to take additional prescription drugs. He concluded that Echinacea could be an effective agent in managing and preventing the common cold. 
According to the NIH, the flower of the Calendula (aka. Marigold) is typically used to manage muscle spasms, fever, and pain and swelling. There have been only a few studies that focus on the anti-viral activity of Calendula but a prominent one was published by Kalvatchev, Walder, and Garzaro, concluding that organic extract of Calendula officinalis could potentially have anti-HIV properties. The extract was able to significantly reduce HIV-activity and slow its progress. 
More Antiviral Herbs (Full Study):
For a highly detailed, top quality report on antiviral herbs, see Stephen Buhner’s Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections (Amazon link).
 Buhner, S. (2013). Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections. https://www.amazon.com/Herbal-Antivirals-Remedies-Resistant-Infections/dp/1612121608
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza Antiviral Drug Resistance. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/antiviralresistance.htm
 Lin, L., Hsu, W. & Lin, C. (2014). Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032839/
 University of Maryland Medical Center. Elderberry. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry
 Kinoshita, E., et. al. (2012). Anti-influenza virus effects of elderberry juice and its fractions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22972323
 University of Maryland Medical Center. Echinacea. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/echinacea
 Ross, S. (2016). Echinacea purpurea: A Proprietary Extract of Echinacea purpurea Is Shown to be Safe and Effective in the Prevention of the Common Cold. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26633727
 US National Library of Medicine. Calendula. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/235.html
 Kalvatchev, Z., Walder, R. & Garzaro, D. (1997). Anti-HIV activity of extracts from Calendula officinalis flowers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9207986
 Tsai, Y., et. al. (1985). Antiviral Properties of Garlic: In vitro Effects of Influenza B, Herpes Simplex, and Coxsackie Viruses. https://www.thieme-connect.com/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-2007-969553
 Weber, N., et. al. (1992). In vitro virucidal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract and compounds. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1470664
 Kang, N., et. al. (2001). Immunomodulating effect of garlic component, allicin, on murine peritoneal macrophages. http://www.nrjournal.com/article/S0271-5317(01)00269-X/abstract?cc=y=
 Pilau, M., et. al. (2011). Antiviral activity of the Lippia graveolens (Mexican oregano) essential oil and its main compound carvacrol against human and animal viruses. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24031796
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