The Insomnia Fix: The dangers of sleep deprivation

Could you stay awake for 11 days? In 1965, Randy Gardner, a 17-year old high school student stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes or 264.4 hours, to study the effects of sleep deprivation. This is the longest documented case of intentional sleep deprivation without stimulants. After just 2 days, Randy struggled to remain focused and found it difficult to identify objects through touch. On day three, he showed signs of moodiness, incoordination and hallucinations. Things went down hill from there. Randy became paranoid and irritable, with trouble concentrating and forming short-term memories. By the final day, Randy had slurred speech, no facial expressions; very short attention span and diminished mental abilities. In fact, the physical and mental effects of Randy’s sleep deprivation test were so extreme and dangerous, that the Guinness Book of Records has stopped listing voluntary sleep deprivation. (3)

While Randy’s experiment is an extreme example, sleep deprivation, insomnia and other sleep disorders are at epidemic proportions. According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 to 70 million adults in the United States suffer from a sleep disorder. Approximately 35% of adults report less than 7 hours of sleep during a 24 hour period. The effects of sleep deprivation are far reaching, including death. There are 100,000 deaths each year in hospitals, due to medical errors, in which sleep deprivation is a contributing factor. So, exactly what is sleep deprivation? What causes it? What are the symptoms or physical effects? These are the questions that will be addressed in this article. (2)

According to the medical dictionary, sleep deprivation is defined as “a sufficient lack of restorative sleep over a cumulative period, so as to cause physical or psychiatric symptoms and affect routine performances of tasks.” (7)  How much sleep is seen as “sufficient”? This depends on age. According to the American Sleep Association, appropriate sleep totals are as follows: (2)

  • Adult: 7 – 9 hours
  • Teenager: 8 – 10 hours
  • Child 6 – 12 years: 9- 12 hours
  • Child 3 – 5 years:  10 – 13 hours
  • Child 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours
  • Infants 4 -12 months: 12 – 16 hours

Why is it that some people sleep well, getting plenty of rest, while others struggle just to fall asleep, much less get 8 solid hours? As it turns out, there are many causes of sleep deprivation. The causes are not simple to isolate and vary from person to person. It can be as simple voluntary deprivation from people who just don’t like to sleep and see it as a waste of time. Other people are simply sleep deprived, unintentionally, due to work, or family obligations. However, in most cases, it is much more complex, and caused by a variety of physical or psychological factors. Psychological factors include stress and depression. There are also a wide ranging number of physical factors including, sleep apnea, hormone imbalance, chronic illness, environmental factors, medicines, improper sleep hygiene and aging. (4,5)

As our mothers and grandmothers told us, we all need our “beauty sleep”.  While there is actual research showing that overtired people appear less attractive to others, the physical and psychological effects of sleep deprivation are much more serious than just skin deep. (11)  There are some basic symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as yawning, moodiness, fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, increased stress, depression, lack of motivation, low libido and difficulty learning. (4,5)  However, the physical effects are actually far reaching, dribbling into many aspects of our physical body. While entire books can be written about the physical effects of sleep deprivation, this article will touch briefly on the most serious ones:

  • Obesity/overeating – Research indicates a direct link between sleep restriction and the ability to regulate weight. (10) Poor sleep quality has also been showm to increase food intake during waking hours. (12)
  • Heart disease – Individuals who are chronically sleep deprived have an increased risk, 33% to 45%, of developing heart disease. (9)
  • Type 2 diabetes – Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (8)
  • Alzheimer’s disease/memory loss/brain cell death – An increased accumulation of amyloid plaque was seen in the brains of elderly individuals who were sleep deprived for just one night. Amyloid plaque is one of the main signs of Alzheimer’s disease. (6,9)
  • Impaired immune function – One study showed a direct connection between sleep deprivation and impaired immune responses (13)

Closing thoughts.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? There are many researchers who ask this age old question in relation to the physical effects of sleep deprivation. In other words, does sleep deprivation directly cause these serious physical and psychological conditions or do these conditions cause sleep deprivation.? The jury is still out. What is clear is  sleep is a very important part of any health and nutrition regime, and should not be overlooked.

This post was first in a series of monthly articles I am writing, for the Hawthorn University Blog, on insomnia and sleep deprivation. This series will appear, here on my blog, the third Monday each month. Future articles will take an individual look at each one of the physical effects, and delve deeper into the link with sleep deprivation. There will also be articles on the types of insomnia, causes and possible treatments. 

Until next time…Namaste my friends!


  1. Ackermann, K., Revell, V.L., Lao, O., Rombouts, E.J., Skene, D.J., and Kayser, M., (2012). Diurnal rhythms in blood cell populations and the effect of acute sleep deprivation in healthy young men. DOI: 10.5665/sleep.1954. Retrieved from:
  2. American Sleep Association. (2006) Sleep statistics. Retrieved from:
  3. BEC Crew, (2015). Here’s what happened when a teenager stayed awake for 11 days straight. retrieved from:
  4. Davis, K. (2018). What to know about sleep deprivation. Retrieved from:
  5. Dutta, S.S., (2019). Causes of sleep deprivation. Retrieved from:
  6. Krause, A.J., Simon, E.B., Mander, B.A., Greer, S.M., Saletin, J.M., Goldstein-Piekarski, A.N., and Walker, M.P., (2017) The sleep-deprived human brain. DOI: doi:10.1038/nrn.2017.55. Retrieved from:
  7. Medical Dictionary (ND). Sleep deprivation. Retrieved from:
  8. Mohammed, A.A., Deepali, J., Sawsan, A.S., Ali, A.M., Sulayma, A., Khalid, A.R., Riyadh, B., Mohammed, H., Khamis, A.H., (2016) Habitual sleep deprivation is associated with type 2 diabetes: A case-control-study. DOI: DOI.10.5001/omj.2016.81 Retrieved from:
  9. Shokri-Kojaria, E., Wanga, G. J., Wiersa, C. E., Demirala, S.B., Sung Won Kima, M.G., Lindgrena, E., Ramireza, V., Zehraa, A., Freemana, C., Millera, G., Manzaa, P, Srivastavaa, T., De Santib, S., Tomasia, D., Benvenistec, H., and Volkowa, N.D., (2017). β-Amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation. Retrieved from:
  10. St. Onge, M.P., (2017). Sleep–obesity relation: underlying mechanisms and consequences for treatment.
  11. Valley Sleep Center (2013). Common wives tales about sleep. Retrieved from:
  12. Zuraikat, F.M., Makarem, N., Lio, M., St.Onge, M.P., and Aggarwal, B., (2020). Measures of poor sleep quality are associated with higher energy intake and poor diet quality in a diverse sample of women from the go red for women strategically focused research network. DOI:  10.1161/JAHA.119.014587 Retrieved from:


Now, I’m starting by saying this isn’t my headline. It’s a bit of a shock headline designed as clickbait, written by the author of the article below. It’s a bit deceptive, but there is a kernel of truth to it.

This is an interesting article. There is something to this, in that the body needs vitamin D to boost immunity. Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight. So, spending time in the sun, outdoors is the best way to boost vitamin D intake. Have a look at the article below to see why this Doctor makes this claim!

Vitamin D Sun Quotes. QuotesGram

— Read on

Middle-Age Wisdom: Healthy snacking habits while working from home – Fox News

Hello all! Forgive me as I write this on my phone. My better half is telecommuting and has my computer at the moment.

Before I share the article, I wanted to give a quick update on some scheduling changes during this covid-19 crisis. I’ve decided to cut back to blogging to just one day per week, for the foreseeable future, until things get back to normal. This is a significant cut back from my current schedule of 4 days per week.

Each Monday, I’ll post 2 articles, one from this blog and one from my recipe blog, The Purple Almond Wellness Kitchen. Since my better half and youngest son are both home everyday, I find myself in a unique opportunity to spend quality time with my family, thus the reason for the cut back. Once things are back to normal, I’m hoping to go full time on both blogs.

Onto the main article:

Many of you find yourselves in a unique situation of working from home. This poses many different challenges, one of which is access to more food than normal. Trust me, as someone who works from home all the time, I understand this challenge all too well….the penchant to snack, mindlessly, all day. How do you stop this? The following article from Fox News gives a few tips on how to resist snacking and eat healthy when working from home.

Snacks Quotes. QuotesGram

Here are a few tips from the article:

  • plan ahead- make snacks ahead of time and place them in clear containers
  • make unique snacks – like fruit skewers with pineapple cubes, orange slices, strawberries, etc
  • Use low-fat, plain yogurt or cottage cheese for dips or breakfast.
  • change work locations if you’re prone to stress eating
  • take a 15 minute break- get some fresh air, chat with friends or play a game on your computer/phone
  • got cravings? Figure out possible reasons and look for solutions

If you fall off track don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. Just hop back on the healthy eating bandwagon. At the end of the day, it’s overall healthy eating that matters, not one little bad snack.

Until next time, Namaste 🙏 my friends.

For more details, here is the link to the main article: Coronavirus outbreak: How to maintain healthy snacking habits while working from home

Middle-Age Wisdom: 9 Longevity Secrets from the Blue Zones

The life expectancy in the USA is 78.2 years of age. However, there are individuals all over the world that live to be 100+ years. What do they do differently than the rest of us? What are their secrets?

Sea, Horse, Meadow, Sky, Japan, Natural, Okinawa

The people from Blue Zone, together with National Geographic set out to find these answers. They found and studied the world’s longest lived people. Studies have revealed that only 20% of life-span is genetic, which leaves the remaining 80% down to lifestyle and diet. Knowing this, Blue Zone and National Geographic researchers worked with demographers (people who work with statistics) to find places around the world with the highest life expectance, or highest numbers of individuals who reached 100 years old. They found 5 places which met the criteria:

  1. Barbagia region of Sardinia
  2. Ikaria, Greece
  3. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  4. Seventh Day Adventists
  5. Okinawa, Japan

The Power 9

This team consisted of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists. These scientists sifted through the data and found 9 common denominators among all 5 places, which they called “Power 9”. Here are the 9 things most of the world’s centenarians do to live long and healthy lives.

Meditation, Man, Meditate, Rest, Yoga, Moonlight, Moon
  1. Move Naturally– This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym everyday, although you can if that’s what you enjoy. It means find natural ways to be active everyday. It may surprise you, but blue zone centenarians don’t lift weights or run endlessly. According to Blue Zones, all of these 100 year olds had one thing in common-they “moved naturally”. These people grow gardens or walk. They don’t have the modern conveniences that we have here for gardens and yard work.
  2. Have a purpose – What is your reason for waking up every morning?
  3. Down shift – Blue zone centenarians all have a way to deal with stress, something we aren’t good at here in the west. Do daily yoga and meditation – Research from India suggests that daily yoga and meditation have anti-aging properties. In other words, they help “turn back the clock”. Studies show that they help reverse cellular aging. Researchers think this is because it reduces the body’s stress response.
  4. The 80% rule – Here in the west, it’s common for us to “pig out” or eat until we feel like we’ll burst. However Blue Zone centenarians eat until they are 80% full, which could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. Eat smallest meal in the evening. They then don’t eat for the remainder of the day. In a way, this is a form of intermittent fasting, which research has shown to have anti-aging effects on the body.
  5. Plant slant Blue zone centurions eat a plant based diet. Beans, are the main aspect of centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on approximately five times per month.  Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.
  6. Wine at 5 – Almost all blue zone Centenarians drink alcohol in moderation. In fact, it may surprise you to know that those who drink moderately actually outlive those who don’t drink at all. Limiting drinks to 1 or 2 glasses per day, preferably wine, seems key.
  7. Belong – Most of the blue zone centurions interviewed belonged to some kind of “faith-based” community. Denomination was irrelevant. Attending a faith service 4x per month added, on average, 4-14 years of life.
  8. Loved ones first – Blue zone centenarians kept aging parents or grandparents near by, or in their home. They also commit to a life partner and invest heavily in time and love for their children.
  9. The right tribe – Centenarians lived with people who supported healthy behaviors. Research suggests that behavior, good or bad, is contagious. A social network can affect your behavior, so choose wisely.
Agriculture, Asia, China, Farm, Harvest, Cottage, Land

Closing thoughts

We in the west love our modern conveniences and our technology. We like to make things as easy for ourselves as possible. It turns out that may be harming us more than helping us.

We are also beginning to live longer here in the west, However, not because of lifestyle, but due to advances in the medical industry. We aren’t healthier though. In fact, it’s just the opposite. We are heavier than man has ever been in history and plagued with chronic disease. As we age, we are plagued with chronic disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. All of these were rare just 100 years ago. We are living longer in spite of this and in spite of our fast food, and technology laden lives. Medicine cabinets filled with prescription bottles has become the norm for people in the west as we age.

We need to take a long hard look at how we are living and how we want our lives to look as we age. Do we want lives filled with chronic disease and handfuls of pills? Or do we want to live happy, healthy productive lives that are disease free? For me the choice is easy. We need to take a step back and learn from the centenarians in the blue zones.

Until next time, namaste my friends




The Insomnia Fix: Circadian Rhythm ~ Winding Your Internal Clock

Did you know…

  • 50-70 million American adults have a sleep disorder.
  • 4.7% reported falling asleep while driving at least one time in the past 30 days.
  • Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder.
  • Short bouts are reported by about 30% of adults and long term chronic insomnia is reported by 10%.
  • 35.3% adults report less than 7 hours of sleep each day.
  • 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors with sleep deprivation a contributing factor.

Melatonin, also known by most people as “the sleep hormone”, is an important and master hormone in the body. Insomnia is one symptom of melatonin deficiency. The main cause of melatonin deficiency is a faulty circadian clock (CC) or circadian rhythm.

What is the circadian rhythm?

Every organ, cell and gene is part of the CC, but, the cycle itself is run by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This is a collection of 20,000 cells located in the hypothalamus at the center of the base of the brain.

The SCN is indirectly connected to several glands throughout the body, including the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, thyroid gland, the reproductive system and the pineal gland.

The SCN is essential to the health and daily rhythm of the body. ALL cellular activity throughout the body occurs in a circadian rhythm, including energy, metabolism, energy or nutrient sensing, maintenance, repair, division, communication and secretion. In order to have healthy body, and healthy melatonin production, it is necessary to have a healthy circadian clock. As you can see, a healthy SCN is necessary for the healthy functioning of the human body.

The light dark cycle


Light and darkness are at the core of SCN and CC functioning. As daylight penetrates the retina, the SCN signals the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin, speeds breathing, increases the heart rate and raises the body temperature. Upon opening the eyes, the digestive motility increases and the adrenals release cortisol to energize the body and increase alertness.

In the evening, as darkness sets in, the body prepares for sleep by dropping the body temperature and producing and releasing melatonin.

What disrupts the light/dark cycle?

As you can see, the light/dark cycle is essential to a healthy SCN and the proper functioning of the CC. So, what activities disrupt this important cycle?

  • Improper lighting at the wrong time of day will disrupt the circadian clock.
  • Bright screens, electronics, blue light and bright light at night create insomnia by delaying melatonin production.
  • Indoor light during the day is not bright enough, when compared to proper outdoor sunlight. In other words, when we spend our entire days under indoor, artificial light, we are not getting enough light, because outdoor light is much more intense and necessary to proper SCN/CC functioning.

How to wind your internal clock

If you’re suffering from insomnia, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your SCN/CC is functioning properly. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you’re sleepy when you climb in bed.
  • Don’t toss and turn. Give yourself 20 minutes to fall asleep. After that, get up and do something quiet, like reading a book.
  • Stay away from electronics, and bright screens. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Don’t eat, watch television or work on the computer while in your room. Your bedroom is only for sleeping and sex.
  • Your bedroom should be dark and quiet. Keep it at a cool temperature.
  • Avoid bright lights at night.
  • Stay away from electronics 30 to 60 minutes before your scheduled bedtime.
  • Don’t eat right before bed. It’s best to eat at least 2 – 3 hours before bed.
  • Spend time outside, in sunlight everyday, or as often as possible.
  • Exercise regularly improves sleep quality. Individuals of all ages fall asleep faster and sleep better with regular physical activity
  • Only drink caffeine in the morning. Caffeine takes up to 9 hours to dissipate from your system.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
  • The SCN/CC love schedules and regularity. Eat meals at the same time every day. When meals are set on a regular schedule, the CC functions more efficiently.
  • Eat a diet high in foods containing melatonin and tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin.

Closing thoughts

When researching the SCN and Circadian Rhythm for my thesis, I came across a wonderful and user friendly book called the Circadian Code by: Satchin Panda. Dr. Panda, is a professor at the Salk Institute and a founding member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego (Panda, 2018). Dr. Panda’s first breakthrough was as a member of the team that discovered blue light sensors in the retina, which signal the brain when it is morning or night .

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Despite his scientific background, Dr. Satchin does a great job explaining the SCN and CC. His explanations are well presented and easy to understand. If you are having trouble sleeping, with a brief bout of insomnia, or maybe even dealing with chronic insomnia, I highly recommend his book With that said, his book isn’t just for people suffering insomnia. In fact, everyone should read it, knowing how important the SCN/CC is to the very functioning our our entire body.

Until next time…Namaste my friends!


Middle-Age Wisdom: Health Secrets from World’s Oldest Female Body Builder

There are two quotes that keep me going as I age, as my kids get older, and as the days fly by on the calendar:

“You’re never too old for anything.”

~ Betty White 


“You’re daily choices determine how your future will unfold.”

~ Dr. Joe Dispenza

Both these women are 80 years old. Your daily choices determine how your future will unfold.

This photo really hit home with me, the first time I saw it, and the importance of healthy living ALL your life. The comparison of these two women, both 80 years old at the time of the photos, is like night and day. I was floored by the huge difference in their health.

The woman on the left is  83 year old Ernestine Shepherd, the reigning Guinness World Record Holder for the oldest female body builder.

Here is “The Remarkable Story of Ernestine’s Shepherd”:


Like many others, I’m inspired by Ernestine. What really encourages me is the fact that she didn’t start exercising and body building until she was 56 years old. She is a walking example of what can be accomplished, even during the middle-age and elderly years, if determination, dedication and discipline are in the picture.

Ernestine is the reason I decided to focus my wellness education on middle-age individuals, and the motivation behind this new monthly series “Middle-age Wisdom”. The two quotes from the beginning of the article: “You’re never too old for anything” AND “Your daily choices determine how your future will unfold.” are the foundation for this new series, which will focus on making the right choices NOW, so you’ll be healthy to enjoy your golden years.

Ernestine emphasizes the 3 “D’s”. She says if you’re “Determined, Dedicated and Disciplined” you cannot fail. If you’d like to learn more about her life, exercise routine and diet, you can read her book: “DETERMINED, DEDICATED AND DISCIPLINED TO BE FIT” .

Ernestine, like most body builders, has a very strict routine. She wakes up at 2:30 every morning, and prays. Then she eats 10 egg whites, some walnuts, and 16 ounces of water. She runs 80 miles a week. Her diet, which is 1700 calories per day, is high protein, low carb, low fat. It consists  mainly of boiled eggs, chicken whites, vegetables, liquid egg white drink and much more. She also consumes a glass of raw egg whites three times a day. This is what works for her. What does she recommend?

Here are a few health tips from her book:

  • Go for walks
  • Lift weights to build muscle and keep the body “tight”. Her book highlights 20 of her favorite weight lifting exercises
  • Drink water – aids digestion, circulation, and nutrient absorption to name just a few benefits
  • Get rid of junk food and replace it with lean protein, yams and potatoes
  • Watch your bread intake because “Carbs can weigh you down”
  • Keep a food journal – keeps you honest, and helps identify bad habits
  • Pray or meditate everyday. You can’t do it alone
  • Work up to 45 minutes of your favorite cardio. Ernestine does this 6 days a week.
  • Do weekly meal preparation for greater success – her book includes 5 sample meals to give you inspiration

Closing thoughts…

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of Middle-age Wisdom, which will be posted the fourth Tuesday of every month. In this series we will discuss all the maladies and diseases that plague us as we approach the middle-age years and beyond. We’ll discuss the causes and the life style choices that can combat and prevent these diseases.

Ernestine is an inspiration to everyone. She is a reminder that it’s not too late to start your journey to better health. Remember your daily choices will determine your future. The right choices will make you the picture of health. Which picture do you want for your golden years?

Until next time…namaste my friends

Tamara Hoerner

The Insomnia Fix: How I cured my insomnia

Welcome to my new monthly series: The Insomnia Fix. I have quite a bit of experience with insomnia, having dealt with it earlier this year. If you suffer from insomnia or any form of sleep deprivation, I can totally sympathize.

It all started when I was in school. I have always been a night owl. I love nighttime, when the whole house is quiet. It’s so calming and peaceful. Because of this, I often found myself staying up reading or doing assignments late into the night. Occasionally, I would even stay up all night, or until an assignment was complete.

As you might imagine, this had a horrible affect on my sleep habits. Things were getting out of control. Either I would only sleep an hour or two, or I fell asleep at 4 o’clock AM, and slept until noon. My internal clock was completely off, probably from the all-nighters I pulled for my classes. It was similar to jet lag, when your body is set to a different time zone.

So, what did I do? I did what people do when they travel, I stayed up and adjusted to the correct time zone. One Friday night, I stayed up all night and all through the day Saturday, then went to bed at my new bedtime – 11:00 pm. It wasn’t fun for me, (or anyone around me ), but it worked. I’ll adjust this to 10:00 in the future, but for now was a huge improvement.

I also started a new bedtime routine. I turn off all electronics at 10:00, do 30 minutes of evening yin yoga, followed by 30 minute of meditation. For the first few nights, I used the herbal` supplement “valarian root” to promote relaxation, but was eventually able to fall asleep without it.

Closing thoughts

This was my experience with insomnia. It didn’t last too long, but, long enough to be a burden, not only to me, but my family as well. I was quite crabby and snapped at everyone, even my dog. Something had to be done. Though, what I did worked for me, it may not work for everyone.

In fact, this experience had such an impact on my life, that I wrote my graduate thesis on melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. I discovered that it is so much more than a sleep hormone. I’ll be highlighting melatonin in a future Insomnia fix article.

I also decided to start this new series devoted entirely to insomnia, because of my own experiences, and the impact it had on my life. Throughout this series, we’ll delve deep into the types of insomnia, the root causes of insomnia, as well as cures, techniques and recipes designed to help cure this awful problem.

Until next time…Namaste my friends!


How to eat healthy – The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100 |

I’m currently doing a literature review for a school assignment and have been researching calorie restricted diets and aging. I’ll write a blog report on what I’ve found in the near future, but had to share this with you now. At one point, the Okinawans’ were the healthiest and longest living people on the planet. This video highlights just what the traditional Okinawan diet is and why it’s so healthy. Sadly, Okinawa has been infiltrated by fast food and the Western Standard American Diet, leaving the current Okinawan people the heaviest people in Asia. Here’s the video:

What would happen if you centered your diet around vegetables, the most nutrient-dense food group?

Source: The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100 |