Friday, 16 October 2015

Natural Sleep and Its Seasonal Variations

Some interesting research picked up by the BBC and presented in Current Biology on sleep.  Biphasic sleep may not my innate nor optimal (although there is conflicting evidence).  The highlights are:
  • Preindustrial societies in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia show similar sleep parameters
  • They do not sleep more than “modern” humans, with average durations of 5.7–7.1 hr
  • They go to sleep several hours after sunset and typically awaken before sunrise
  • Temperature appears to be a major regulator of human sleep duration and timing
Clearly season, light and temperature themselves are all linked by sunlight and day-length.  Sleep quality moves up a gear and the basics of sleep hygiene remain the same.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hidden Brain

Here is a new podcast many of you might appreciate called Hidden Brain,
  • The Hidden Brain project helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.

    Our audience takes uncommon pleasure in the world of ideas. Why do mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears? Does the way you park your car say something vital about you? Can hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? Hidden Brain has the answers to those questions.

    Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam brings NPR listeners a wealth of knowledge from social science research. The Hidden Brain podcast will extend and amplify Shankar's radio stories, and link psychology and neurobiology with insights from art, music and literature. The goal of Hidden Brain isn't merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

Worth downloading a few of the podcasts/episodes for your next walk.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Shark Jumping

The Spectator has pissed away all credibility in its Health section by suggesting that exercise could be replaced by a pill.  The research looked at the metabolic effects of intense exercise noting over 1000 molecular changes in the muscle, and one of the researchers (Dr Nolan Hoffman), articulated the following:

  • ‘Exercise produces an extremely complex, cascading set of responses within human muscle. It plays an essential role in controlling energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity. While scientists have long suspected that exercise causes a complicated series of changes to human muscle, this is the first time we have been able to map exactly what happens.

    ‘This is a major breakthrough, as it allows scientists to use this information to design a drug that mimics the true beneficial changes caused by exercise.’
The hormonal and metabolic cascade from exercise is what exercise should be all about.  To view it as some kind of penance for eating pie/cake or as a means to exclusively burn calories misses the rich outcome of activity.

There are other neurological benefits of exercise that also seem to be ignored here.  Exercising in a 'green' environment and the social benefits of engaging in a collaborative team pursuit all go to build the value of the 'energy out' side of the equation.

The idea that you can simulate (some) of the beneficial changes caused by exercise in a pill really does diminish what exercise should be about; that the spending of calories should be a largely pleasurable and enriching endeavour.

I do however look forward to the first pharmacological fruits of this research - and their unwanted side effects.