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Connectivity: The Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Brains — PsyBlog


Connectivity: The Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Brains — PsyBlog.

A fascinating new study on the brains of 949 young people finds striking gender differences in the brain’s connectivity between males and females (Ingalhalikar et al., 2013).

From the 428 males in the study, the researchers found that the connections in men’s minds ran more between the front and the back, within the same half of the brain.

This may help to explain men’s advantage with motor and spatial skills over women since front-to-back connections help link perception with action.

This may help explain women’s improved memory and social skills, since communication between the halves of the brain helps link intuition with analysis.

To read more, click the link above.

Sleep Doc’s 6 Tips for Sound Sleep during Menopause


It is possible to sleep well even with hot flashes!

The following tips will help you sleep better even during menopause.

  1. Avoid foods that are spicy or acidic because these may trigger hot flashes. Try foods rich in soy because they might minimize hot flashes.
  2. Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, especially before bedtime. These will make your hot flashes worse.
  3. Dress in lightweight clothes to improve sleep efficiency. Avoid heavy, insulating blankets, and consider using a fan or air-conditioner to cool the air and increase circulation. If your spouse is shivering, have a small, portable heater next to his side of the bed.
  4. Reduce stress and worry as much as possible. Try relaxation techniques, massage, and exercise. Talk to a behavioral health professional if you are depressed, anxious, or having problems.
  5. It is vital that you follow sleep hygiene and insomnia instructions discussed in an earlier blog.
  6. Try consolidating your sleep by going to bed thirty minutes later than your usual bedtime. As we age, we spend more time in bed, but we sleep less.

During the transition phase leading to menopause, over several years, a woman’s ovaries gradually decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. One year after menstrual periods have stopped, a woman reaches menopause, usually around the age of fifty. Menopause is a time of major hormonal, physical, and psychological change. Natural changes in sleep also occur, characterized by longer time to sleep onset, frequent awakenings, decreased amount of deep sleep, and poor sleep architecture. From perimenopause to post menopause, women report hot flashes, mood disorders, insomnia, and sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep problems are often accompanied by depression and anxiety, which make insomnia worse. This is the reason post-menopausal women are not satisfied with their sleep. As many as 61 percent report insomnia symptoms. Snoring and sleep apnea have also been found to be more common and more severe in post-menopausal women as their upper airway dilator muscles become flabby with aging.

Changing and decreasing levels of estrogen cause many menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, which are unexpected feelings of heat all over the body accompanied by sweating. They usually begin around the face and spread to the chest, affecting 75 to 85 percent of women around menopause. On average, hot flashes last three minutes and lead to reduced sleep efficiency. Most women experience these for one year, but about 25 percent have hot flashes for five years. Hot flashes interrupt sleep and reduce the amount of deep sleep, leading to suboptimal alertness and suboptimal leadership the following day.

Talk to your doctor about estrogen (estrogen replacement therapy or ERT) or estrogen and progesterone (hormone replacement therapy or HRT), nutritional products, and medications such as calcium supplements, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones). Also, talk about estrogen creams and rings for vaginal dryness. Also, discuss alternative treatment for menopausal symptoms such as soy products (tofu, soybeans, and soy milk). They contain phytoestrogen, a plant hormone similar to estrogen. Soy products may lessen hot flashes. Phytoestrogens is also available in over-the-counter nutritional supplements (ginseng, extract of red clover, or black cohosh). The FDA does not regulate these supplements. Their proper doses, safety, and long-term effects and risks are not yet known.

Typically, a leader’s career spans five to six decades. And toward the later part of your career, because of your vast experience, lifelong network of experts, and wisdom that comes only with age, you are worth more than you ever were. This makes it imperative that you take good care of your sleep so that you can continue to contribute to the welfare of the human race.

Share this freely with your friends and family.

Sleep Well, Lead Well.

Love Coffee? 8 Tips from Your Sleep Doc!


Caffeine has a 24 hour duration of action. It robs you of your deep sleep.

I was seeing a middle-aged patient, husband of my kids’ elementary school teacher,  in the clinic for snoring,  daytime fatigue, and tiredness. He already had a sleep study done which was negative for sleep apnea but did show increased arousal index ( number of times brain waves show wakefulness activity lasting for 5-10 secs.) Increased arousal index can be seen with arthritis, sedentary life,  fibromyalgia, alcohol usage, and leg movements of sleep. I went over sleep hygiene instructions, reassured him that he did not have sleep apnea, and as I was leaving the exam room asked him what he did for fun. “I grind coffee beans,” he replied with a wide smile on his face! His fatigue and tiredness disappeared soon after he eliminated bedtime coffee and switched to decaf coffee in the morning!

Here are a few more tips from your sleep doc:

1. Avoid caffeine after 1 PM.

2. Smell, sip, and  enjoy decaf coffee same way you enjoy a glass of good wine.

3. If you are a morning person, you do not need coffee in the morning. Go with a glass of orange juice.

4. If you are not a morning person, enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning to kick start your day. My personal favorite though is “bed to bike” routine. Jump on the stationary bike as soon as the alarm goes off. Do not let your mind talk you out of it. You can read on the bike, watch news, or check emails (you can get a very nice laptop stand which can work with bike or even with your treadmill. I bought one from http://www.airdesks.com and I love it.)

5. The surest indication for a strong cup of coffee is drowsy driving. Coffee here can be life saving. Go ahead. Enjoy it. You have my full support. Power nap can also provide similar benefit without robbing you of your deep sleep (REM sleep and stage 3 NREM sleep.)

6. Never drink just to drink. You will not take medication just to take medication. Caffeine is no different. It has to be taken for a reason; to maximize alertness while driving or attending an important meeting.

7. After dinner coffee is suicidal for sleep. I feel like getting up and yelling a loud NO when the waiter offers coffee after the dinner.  Please help me stop that life-robbing tradition.

8. Avoid caffeine before and during menstruation as it worsens both the PMS and also the insomnia associated with menstruation.
What is your routine? How do you feel about decaf coffee? Does after-dinner coffee disrupt your sleep?
 
This is post is dedicated to my daughter Priyata (a Starbucks’ enthusiast) and my medical assistant Barb Reinhardt and other caffeine lovers around the world in the hope that they will consume caffeine judiciously and selectively.

Tired? Sleepy? Exhausted? Take a PREM Nap!


A fifteen minute PREM nap can rejuvenate your afternoons and evenings.

 

Technique of a Conventional Power Nap

Following tips will you help you rejuvenate your day with a 15 minute power nap.
• Proudly let your staff know that you will be taking a fifteen-minute nap. “Doctor’s orders,” you may add.
• Set your Smartphone alarm, preferably on vibrate, to go off in fifteen minutes. A study from Australia has shown that napping for less than ten minutes is suboptimal. More than twenty minutes can be counterproductive because of post-nap grogginess.
• Turn on relaxing music. You can try noise-canceling headphones. Bose are the best.
• Put on eye shades. I find my Notre Dame cap very useful, especially when taking a nap in the public place. I just pull it down over my eyes, and I am off to the land of dreams.
• Stretch on the couch or recline in the chair. Turn the chair away from people and toward the window or wall. A study from China showed greater benefit with stretching on the couch as opposed to sitting.
• Close your eyes, shut off your mind, and relax.
• Wake up with a smile and vigor when the alarm goes off.

A REM nap improves creative problem solving by a whopping 40 percent. A very interesting study done by Dr. Sara Mednik and her team at University of California, San Diego, looked at creative problem solving before and after a nap. Participants were given three words and asked to find a word that can link all of the three words, for example, sixteen, candy, and heart. The answer is sweet: sweet sixteen, sweet candy, and sweet heart. There was an amazing 40 percent improvement after a nap containing REM sleep.

Remember that REM sleep has an active brain in a paralyzed body. Mother Nature made it so we do not act out our dreams. Also, studies have shown that REM sleep has a tremendous amount of random, bizarre, and seemingly unrelated activity going on, which our brain is trying to connect together to make some sense of it. Some researchers believe this is why REM nap is able to boost creative problem solving by linking these random and totally unrelated activities together. This is the wildest and craziest form of thinking outside the box. Studies have shown that REM sleep plays a pivotal role in memory consolidation, too.

Can we do better than just lie down and relax for fifteen minutes? Can we modify our technique to make our nap more restorative, more recuperative, and more energizing? I think we can by adding just a few steps to our conventional nap. I should clarify that these recommendations are not based on any specific scientific studies, but my experience as a practicing sleep specialist and lifelong nap-taker.

Let us learn to take PREM (Patel’s Relaxed Eye Muscles) nap.

Read a couple of lines from the Bible, Gita or any other religious book before the nap. You can store them on your Smartphone and read them before setting up the fifteen-minute alarm. REM sleep, the sleep stage with vivid dreams, unfortunately, has predominantly negative emotions like fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger. Here, we are trying to replace them with joy, optimism, love, and faith. Matthew 18:23–26, says, “Have faith in God. I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Luke 6:27–36 says, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also.”

• Begin your nap with five to ten slow, deep, and regular breaths. Control of breathing is control of life. Breathing, unlike heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and gastrointestinal motility/secretions, is the only vital function that we can easily control. And it is a time-tested tool used for centuries to achieve relaxation.

• Progressive muscle relaxation is incompatible with somatic anxiety. So, by focusing on respiration and relaxation, we are getting rid of anxiety, both from our conscious and our subconscious. As you breathe in and out, relax the muscles of your eyeballs and then continue to relax all the other muscles from head to toe and drift down into a state of pleasant relaxation. And when the alarm goes off, wake up with tremendous positive energy.

I call this my PREM nap! This revolutionary power nap taps into REM sleep’s restorative power and limitless creativity.

Please watch this seven minute instructional video and start regaining your afternoons and evenings.

Happy Napping!

Seven tips for Joe Biden on how not to fall asleep in public


Staying maximally alert despite insufficient sleep will take practice, patience, perseverance, and faith.

Joe Biden joined the ranks of President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, and others who were caught napping at the wrong time and wrong place.  How can we prevent this from happening again? Well, the surest and most natural cure for abnormal sleepiness is sleep, but what do you do when you cannot get sufficient sleep because of hectic schedule and unavoidable demands? Going against the might of Mother Nature, you can summon the help of these seven friends.

Seven Friends and a Foe

  1. physical exertion
  2. PREM nap
  3. light
  4. caffeine
  5. smart snacking
  6. massage
  7. faith (my all-time favorite)

And beware of a formidable foe in alcohol when faced with insufficient sleep and long days. Let us discuss them one by one.

Exertion Enhances Alertness

Regular exercise improves REM sleep and hence alertness and the executive function. Here we discuss the role of physical activity in improving alertness when sleep deprived.

Learn How to Deskercise

On average, executives spend seven and a half hours per day sitting in meetings, sitting at their desks, sitting in an automobile, or sitting in boardrooms. Our bodies do not like staying still for long periods. That much sitting causes tension to build. Muscles become tight, and joints become stiff. Alertness starts declining the longer you stay still.

One way to prevent these otherwise inevitable results of physical inactivity is to “deskercise” every hour. Deskercising will help you to reduce muscle tension and stress while helping you preserve the flexibility, strength, and muscle tone you already have. The following are some simple deskercising techniques to try:

The Wrist Muscle Stretch

Most executives spend a good deal of time in front of computer screens. Computers have become essential tools in the management of business. However, with this increased use of computers, executives are becoming more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, an ailment that used to be the exclusive domain of secretaries and other office workers who used typewriters and word processors most of the working day. Carpel tunnel is a painful wrist difficulty produced by repetitive motion.

When working at the computer, stop occasionally and deskercize using the wrist muscle stretch. Not only will this give you a well-deserved break, it will go a long way in preventing carpel tunnel. Slowly stretch your wrist muscles by using a full range of motion. Joints that have become sore and stiff because of repetitive motion activity will respond to slow stretches. Don’t risk pulling a muscle by attempting the stretch rapidly. Get the full benefit of the stretch by doing it slowly.

The Pectoral Stretch

The following is an easy stretch you can do at your desk. Simply clasp your hands behind you head, and slowly move your shoulders and elbows back. Repeat this a few times. It is a great way to stretch your pectoral and chest muscles.

Wrist Flexion

Using your left palm, gently apply force to the right hand, causing the right wrist to stretch toward the underside of the right arm. Hold it there for five seconds and then release and repeat on the left hand. Repeat the exercise five times.

Wrist Hyperextension

Using the left palm, slowly apply force to bend the right hand backward. Hold it there for five seconds and then release and repeat to the left hand. Repeat the exercise five times.

Sitting Bend

In a sitting position, with your feet flat on the floor, your knees about ten inches apart, and hands at your sides, bend over as far comfortable with your hands reaching toward the floor. Hold the position for five seconds and then slowly pull yourself back into a sitting position while tightening your abdominal muscles. Repeat four times. This exercise stretches your lower back muscles and hamstrings.

Vertical Stretches

Vertical stretches provide an excellent way to reduce tension and activate all of your major muscle groups. With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift yourself upward on your toes and extend your arms over your head. Reach each hand as high as possible for about seven seconds and then relax. Repeat four times.

Get Up and Walk Around

Sitting too long can have several negative effects. It puts stress on the lower back and can lead to muscle atrophy and diminished flexibility. It’s important to get up and walk around at least once each hour. A ten-minute walk around the office would be excellent. But, when that’s not possible, shorter walks to the water cooler, filing cabinet, or restroom are better than nothing.

Even when you’re involved in meetings, seminars, or workshops, get up at least once every twenty minutes and move around. You’ll feel better, you’ll be healthier, and you’ll sleep better.

  • A PREM (Patel’s REM) nap can improve alertness for three hours. Studies have shown that a fifteen-minute nap can improve alertness and last for almost three hours. 
  • Massage especially when combined with a PREM nap can improve alertness because it relieves muscle aches, back pain, headaches, burning in the eyes, and other distracting physical symptoms precipitated by sleep deprivation. Untreated, these symptoms can drag your energy level and your alertness down.
  • Caffeine has alerting property, but it has the duration of action of twenty-four hours, so a cup of coffee consumed at one o’clock is still in your bloodstream at midnight when your brain is trying to get into REM sleep. Because of this reason, caffeine should not be used indiscriminately. It should be used as a medicine, at the right dosage, at the right time, and for the right reason. The surest indication for caffeine is driving when sleep deprived. This can be lifesaving.
  • Bright light has tremendous alerting influence. Use this to your advantage. Sit facing the window. During long meetings in the boardroom, look up at light often. Especially on cloudy days, put a bright light lamp behind your desktop while working on it. Every fifteen minutes, turn off the PowerPoint presentation and turn on the lights.
  • Small protein snacks every two to three hours will maintain your energy and alertness while eating a large starchy meal will degrade your alertness. Grilled fish or chicken is fine. Avoid rice, pasta, and dessert.
  • Spiritual support has helped me the most during my post-call days in the clinic. Going from one exam room to next, I would look up and ask for divine help. “Give me energy, my Lord, to serve my patients well.”
  • Even the legal limit of alcohol will impair your leadership when sleep deprived. Avoid even a small glass of wine or a beer when sleep deprived. Resist that temptation.

LAMP will improve your alertness and hence your life significantly. It will help you avoid disastrous decisions too.

Here is the summary of what we just discussed.

Leader’s Alertness Maximization Plan (LAMP)

  • Keep moving.
  • Face the light.
  • Take a PREM nap.
  • Get a relaxing massage.
  • Snack smartly.
  • Consume caffeine judiciously.
  • Seek spiritual support.
  • Avoid alcohol.

This blog post is dedicated to my good friend Mahesh Patel MD who has devoted his life to saving premature babies in Bismarck, ND, and millions like him who have spent nights after nights serving others. God Bless You All.

Adopted from the book “Sleep Well, Lead Well” now available on Amazon Kindle and at http://sleepwellleadwell.com

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