Wellbody Blog

At Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness, we understand there's only one thing harder than making healthy behavior changes: Sticking to them! We all need a little help from our friends, and that's the purpose of the Wellbody Blog, a friendly online gathering spot--a community well--where you can dip into health news; wellness tips; recipes; latest research about nutrition, exercise, sleep and hygiene; plus, real stories from virtual neighbors who are also trying to change their lives for the better. Start from wherever you are; share ideas, information, inspiration. At Pacific Science Center, we believe each of us can do something everyday to improve our health and well-being.

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Sleep, Social Jet Lag & a German Spa Town

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 Are you a morning person? A night owl?

Your preferred sleep pattern is called your “chronotype,” and if you’re forcing yourself to live outside your natural circadian pattern—a night owl jarred awake early by an alarm clock, for example, or an early bird who stays up late working or partying—it’s not just a matter of feeling tired. You’re at risk for depression, poor memory, obesity and even some kinds of cancer. But the demands of work, school and society—and the convenience of artificial lighting—make it hard for many people to listen to their own body clocks.

Unless, that is, they live in Bad Kissingen, a small spa town on the southern edge of Germany’s Rhön Mountains. (Bad means “bath” in German.)

There, the mayor and town council have teamed with sleep researchers and a business developer to turn Bad Kissingen into “ChronoCity,” the first place in the world to prioritize sleep.

The short term goal is to get every citizen’s chronotype into an online database. Sleep researchers are also investigating starting high school later for teenagers (naturally night owls), and also using light to shift body clocks. An interim step is to schedule physical education class (outdoor exercise) in the morning to maximize exposure to sunlight and to shift academic tests to later in the afternoon.

Efforts are still in early stages, but the hope is to create a town of people who are happier, more alert, better socialized and not plagued with sleep deprivation’s ills.

Social Jet Lag

Meanwhile, many of us are flummoxing our body clocks by waking early on the weekdays and sleeping in on the weekends. German sleep researchers call this “social jet lag” —and say we’re effectively flying back and forth between Paris and New York every week. (Wouldn’t that be great!)

Problem is, we never leave the ground. And, the disruptive sleep pattern is making us overweight and diabetic. Researchers speculate that irregular meal times may also be a factor.

Takeaway: Try to eat and sleep at the same time every day.

How much sleep do you need?

It depends on your age. Check out this sleep chart and risks of cheating sleep.

And visit Wellbody Academy’s Slumbertorium to learn more about sleep cycles and how to maximize healthy rest.

Poke around mentor Hugo Knapp’s desk and flip through the binder of case studies about people with sleep problems. Be sure to check out 16-year-old Jayda’s symptoms and sleep history and learn how she cleared up her colds, skin condition and mood. (Joining her school’s “no texting after ten” pledge was part of the solution.)

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Guest Friday, 21 November 2014