The Overlooked Role of Sleep and the Mediterranean Diet's Path to Health

The Overlooked Role of Sleep and the Mediterranean Diet's Path to Health

Live Longer!


When we talk about longevity and improving our lifespan, most often we hear about diet and exercise. What is often forgotten about or ignored is our sleep. According to sleep expert and neuroscientist, Matt Walker, author of Why We Sleep, most healthy adults should sleep between 7-9 hours a night. Since the 1940s we have lost 20% of our sleep time and the health consequences can be devastating.

Sleep deprivation, which is common in modern society, has serious consequences for our physical and mental health, such as impairing cognition, judgment, attention,
reaction time, mood, motivation, and increasing the risk of various diseases, such as
diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.


The annual global experiment of daylight savings time reveals how sleep deprivation
can affect your cardiovascular system. Losing one hour of sleep in the spring yields a 24% increase in heart attacks. Gaining one additional hour of sleep in the fall shows a 21% reduction in heart attacks.


People with 5 hours of sleep per night are 4X more likely to catch a cold than people
that have slept a full 8 hours.


After just one night on 4 hours of sleep, healthy volunteers reveal a 70% drop in cancer fighting immune cells called natural killer cells. Sleep restocks your immune army. Lack of sleep depletes it.


When we have infections, our body signals us to be tired, as if it is trying to sleep us well.


“Sleep is the Swiss Army Knife of Health. Whatever ailment that you are facing it is more than likely that sleep has a tool in the box to help fight it.” Matt Walker, PhD


To increase our lifespan, we should aim to get a full night’s sleep every day.

5 things to improve your sleep according to Professor Walker:

  1. Regularity. Stay on the same schedule all week. Avoid the weekend “Social
    Jet Lag”, staying out later than usual.
  2. Temperature. Keep it cool, around 65 degrees.
  3. Darkness. Turn off lights and darken your surroundings within an hour of
    bedtime. This will release melatonin and help get you to sleep.
  4. “Walk it Out”. If you cannot fall asleep for over 25 minutes. Get out of bed and
    go to another room to read or whatever until tired then return to bed. The mind should associate your bed with sleeping. 
  5. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol. Caffeine has a 7 hour half-life. If you stop drinking caffeinated beverages by noon, some will remain in your system by midnight. Alcohol fragments your sleep with many awakenings at night, which we may not recall, and it also blocks REM sleep. 

For more from Prof Walker and sleep check out this Podcast.


The (Nonsensical) Business of Healthcare

There was a great article this last week in Kaiser Health News’ BILL OF THE MONTH: The Colonoscopies Were Free. But the ‘Surgical Trays’ Came With $600 Price Tags. Which details how a GI doctor group, owned by Private Equity, had negotiated a separate additional charge to an insurer (who agreed with the fee) and passed this on to an unsuspecting couple.


“The insurance company is supposed to pay the full claim, but there is no requirement on the provider to code the claim correctly,” Really? This would be called fraud in any other industry. 


As Marshall Allen implores us to do in his book Never Pay the First Bill, always ask for the detailed bill before you write the check for your copays or deductibles. 


Pushback on this nonsense. 


Take Action..


The Mediterranean diet is consistently celebrated as one of the healthiest and most
sustainable diets to support longevity. It is a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. It also limits red meat, processed foods, and added sugars. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, and support weight loss.


A simple way to follow the Mediterranean diet is to:

  • Start your day with a breakfast that includes fruits, vegetables, or both. For
    example, you could have oatmeal with fresh berries, Greek yogurt with nuts and honey, or eggs with spinach and tomatoes. Watch the sugar content in yogurt!
  • Choose two or three easy lunches and dinners that you can rotate throughout the week. For example, you could have tuna and olive salad with whole-wheat pita bread, white chicken chili with beans and corn, or roasted salmon with green bean pilaf.
  • Snack on fresh fruits, nuts, or hummus with whole-grain crackers. Avoid sugary or salty snacks like cookies, chips, or candy.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit your intake of alcohol, soda, and juice. You can
    also enjoy a cup of coffee or tea but avoid adding cream or sugar.
  • Enjoy your meals without distractions and savor the flavors and textures of your food. Eating mindfully can help you feel more satisfied and eat less.

Following these simple steps can help you adopt the Mediterranean diet as a lifestyle and lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.


Have a great weekend friends.


Matt McCord, MD


Disclaimer: I am not your doctor. We don’t have that kind of a relationship. The information shared here should not be viewed as medical advice. For that matter, no newsletter should ever be viewed as medical advice! 

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