Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paying with Our Health: Money Stress

Our new book, Healing the Brain: Stress & Money, looks at the price Americans pay with their health due to money worries. The creator of Hamilton, the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda, talks about why money and financial literacy are important, reflecting on his life and that of his hero, the man who set up our financial system, Alexander Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Power of Financial Knowledge

(Excerpted from, March 15, 2017)

When it comes to career-defining Broadway moments, it’s difficult to top the last few years for Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not only did the Hamilton creator and star give birth to the biggest hit in recent memory, he did it by redefining what Broadway could be for the next generation. Both in themes and in music, Hamilton speaks in particular to the Millennial generation—and reminds us the importance of "not throwing away my shot."
        Morgan Stanley, Inc.   
“To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals.”

With the incredible success of Hamilton, what has your journey as a writer, actor and artist taught you about the importance of financial literacy?

This experience taught me first-hand how important it is to educate yourself about the basic principles of financial planning. When you are focused on doing what you love, it can be easy to brush aside the need to understand the monetary implications of upcoming milestones. However, regardless of who you are and what you are most passionate about, everyone should master the fundamentals in order to find and fulfill your own greater purpose. For me, that means dedicating the resources I have available to me—whether it is time, effort, money, or relationships—to important organizations, causes, and passion projects.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the basics, it is equally important to know when to ask for help.

To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals.

What is something about money you wish you had known when first starting out your career?
There is so much I wish I knew about money when I was first starting out my adult life, but in particular, the importance of building good credit. Growing up, I was always cautious about spending.  In fact, I was so nervous about incurring debt that I didn’t open my first credit card until age 28, after my first show had opened on Broadway. As a result, even though I had enough money in the bank, I didn’t have sufficient credit history to purchase my first apartment. My father had to help me buy it by co-signing the mortgage.

Who do you look to for financial advice?
As I faced various opportunities and challenges throughout my career, I was very fortunate to have the guidance of my father. Because in addition to familiarizing yourself with the basics, it is equally as important to know when to ask for help. Trusted, professional support can be invaluable when you’re navigating the complex decisions and tradeoffs associated with big life milestones.

Why is building a financial foundation critical for pursuing your passions?
To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals: whether it be owning your own home, starting a business, making a living off of your passions, providing for a family, having a healthy relationship with money, or paying it forward.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned about money?
In writing about Alexander Hamilton, I had to learn a great deal about the birth of our financial system. He intuitively understood that if the states are tied together financially, we begin to transcend our colonial mindset and thinking of ourselves as one nation. I'd never thought of money as a unifying or stabilizing force prior to telling his story.

What are you saving for today?
My family, my children, and supporting causes dear to my heart.

Get your copy by clicking here!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daylight Savings and Your Sleep

More and more people are coming to dislike the adjustment to our body clocks necessitated by Daylight Savings Time. In this excerpt from Healing the Brain, we look at sleep and its importance to our health.

Many people view sleep as merely a “down time” when their brains shut off and their bodies rest. People may cut back on sleep, thinking it won’t be a problem, because other responsibilities seem much more important. But research shows that a number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help people stay healthy and function at their best. While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming the pathways necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights. Without enough sleep, you can’t focus and pay attention or respond quickly. A lack of sleep may even cause mood problems. Also, growing evidence shows that a chronic lack of sleep increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

Public Domain Pictures
Researchers acknowledge that regular, consistent sleep plays a major role in brain and body health

Despite growing support for the idea that adequate sleep, like adequate nutrition and physical activity, is vital to our well-being, people are sleeping less. The nonstop “24/7” nature of the world today encourages longer or nighttime work hours and offers continual access to entertainment and other activities. To keep up, people cut back on sleep. A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep (such as less than 6 hours a night) with no adverse effects. Research suggests, however, that adults need at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested. Indeed, in 1910, most people slept 9 hours a night. But recent surveys show the average adult now sleeps fewer than 7 hours a night.

Chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders may affect as many as 70 million Americans.

More than one-third of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work, driving, and social functioning at least a few days each month. Evidence also shows that children’s and adolescents’ sleep is shorter than recommended. These trends have been linked to increased exposure to electronic media. Lack of sleep may have a direct effect on children’s health, behavior, and development. Chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders may affect as many as 70 million Americans. This may result in an annual cost of $16 billion in health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.

What Makes You Sleep?
Although you may put off going to sleep in order to squeeze more activities into your day, eventually your need for sleep becomes overwhelming. This need appears to be due, in part, to two substances your body produces. One substance, called adenosine, builds up in your blood while you’re awake. Then, while you sleep, your body breaks down the adenosine. Levels of this substance in your body may help trigger sleep when needed.

A buildup of adenosine and many other complex factors might explain why, after several nights of less than optimal amounts of sleep, you build up a sleep debt. This may cause you to sleep longer than normal or at unplanned times during the day. Because of your body’s internal processes, you can’t adapt to getting less sleep than your body needs. Eventually, a lack of sleep catches up with you. The other substance that helps make you sleep is a hormone called melatonin. This hormone makes you naturally feel sleepy at night. It is part of your internal “biological clock,” which controls when you feel sleepy and your sleep patterns. Your biological clock is a small bundle of cells in your brain that works throughout the day and night. Internal and external environmental cues, such as light signals received through your eyes, control these cells. Your biological clock triggers your body to produce melatonin, which helps prepare your brain and body for sleep. As melatonin is released, you’ll feel increasingly drowsy.

Sleeping, Bible, Love
Because their work schedules are at odds with powerful sleep-regulating cues like sunlight, night shift workers often find themselves drowsy at work.

Because of your biological clock, you naturally feel the most tired between midnight and 7 a.m. You also may feel mildly sleepy in the afternoon between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. when another increase in melatonin occurs in your body. Your biological clock makes you the most alert during daylight hours and the least alert during the early morning hours. Consequently, most people do their best work during the day.

Our 24/7 society, however, demands that some people work at night. Nearly one-quarter of all workers work shifts that are not during the daytime, and more than two-thirds of these workers have problem sleepiness and/or difficulty sleeping. Because their work schedules are at odds with powerful sleep-regulating cues like sunlight, night shift workers often find themselves drowsy at work, and they have difficulty falling or staying asleep during the daylight hours when their work schedules require them to sleep.

Top 10 Sleep Myths

Myth 1: Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation. No evidence shows that any major organ (including the brain) or regulatory system in the body shuts down during sleep. Some physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep. For example, secretion of certain hormones is boosted, and activity of the pathways in the brain linked to learning and memory increases.

Myth 2: Getting just 1 hour less sleep per night than needed will not have any effect on your daytime functioning. This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day. But even slightly less sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can impair your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections, particularly if lack of sleep continues. If you consistently do not get enough sleep, a sleep debt builds up that you can never repay. This sleep debt affects your health and quality of life and makes you feel tired during the day.

Myth 3: Your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules. Your biological clock makes you most alert during the daytime and least alert at night. Thus, even if you work the night shift, you will naturally feel sleepy when nighttime comes. Most people can reset their biological clock, but only by appropriately timed cues—and even then, by 1–2 hours per day at best. Consequently, it can take more than a week to adjust to a substantial change in your sleep–wake cycle—for example, when traveling across several time zones or switching from working the day shift to the night shift.

Myth 4: People need less sleep as they get older. Older people don’t need less sleep, but they may get less sleep or find their sleep less refreshing. That’s because as people age, the quality of their sleep changes. Older people are also more likely to have insomnia or other medical conditions that disrupt their sleep. 23

Myth 5: Extra sleep for one night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue. Not only is the quantity of sleep important, but also the quality of sleep. Some people sleep 8 or 9 hours a night but don’t feel well rested when they wake up because the quality of their sleep is poor. A number of sleep disorders and other medical conditions affect the quality of sleep. Sleeping more won’t lessen the daytime sleepiness these disorders or conditions cause. However, many of these disorders or conditions can be treated effectively with changes in behavior or with medical therapies. Additionally, one night of increased sleep may not correct multiple nights of inadequate sleep.

Myth 6: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends. Although this sleeping pattern will help you feel more rested, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep or correct your sleep debt. This pattern also will not necessarily make up for impaired performance during the week or the physical problems that can result from not sleeping enough. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your biological clock, making it much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up early on Monday mornings.

Myth 7: Naps are a waste of time. Although naps are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, they can be restorative and help counter some of the effects of not getting enough sleep at night. Naps can actually help you learn how to do certain tasks quicker. But avoid taking naps later than 3 p.m., particularly if you have trouble falling asleep at night, as late naps can make it harder for you to fall asleep when you go to bed. Also, limit your naps to no longer than 20 minutes, because longer naps will make it harder to wake up and get back in the swing of things. If you take more than one or two planned or unplanned naps during the day, you may have a sleep disorder that should be treated.

Myth 8: Snoring is a normal part of sleep. Snoring during sleep is common, particularly as a person gets older. Evidence is growing that snoring on a regular basis can make you sleepy during the day and increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease. In addition, some studies link frequent snoring to problem behavior and poorer school achievement in children. Loud, frequent snoring also can be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that should be evaluated and treated. (See “Is Snoring a Problem?” on page 30.)

Myth 9: Children who don’t get enough sleep at night will show signs of sleepiness during the day. Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night typically become hyperactive, irritable, and inattentive during the day. They also have increased risk of injury and more behavior problems, and their growth rate may be impaired. Sleep debt appears to be quite common during childhood and may be misdiagnosed as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Myth 10: The main cause of insomnia is worry. Although worry or stress can cause a short bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night can be caused by a number of other factors. Certain medications and sleep disorders can keep you up at night. Other common causes of insomnia are depression, anxiety disorders, and asthma, arthritis, or other medical conditions with symptoms that tend to be troublesome at night. Some people who have chronic insomnia also appear to be more “revved up” than normal, so it is harder for them to fall asleep. 


Friday, March 10, 2017

Stress & Money: Paying With our Health

family dollar money hedged ...
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Money fears and worries rank high as America’s stressors.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. Just try living without it, though.

We use money every day. It runs our daily lives--pays for food, clothing, and shelter; educates our children; supports us in retirement; and everything in between.

Americans are extremely concerned over their finances. Surveys show money and personal finances to be the number one cause of stress in America.

In this book about the brain, we look at stress and trauma and how they affect the brain and subsequently our health. Insomnia, migraines, ulcers, and more are triggered by money stress, according to Corporate Wellness Magazine--and any doctor who sees patients every day.

The treatment and cure for money worries doesn’t come in a pill or physical therapy. Only basic knowledge about money and how it works can ease our fears and help build a sound financial house.

Think about it: We go to school. We get courses in English, Science, Math, History...what course don’t we get? Has anybody taken a course called My Money, Money 101, or Building Personal Wealth?

So do we learn about money at work? At home?

The answers are almost always no.

This information deficit has become more critical because over the past decade, culminating in the Great Recession, the economic world of middle-class Americans shifted under our feet.

In these pages you will find information on topics that have proven important in talking to people about their finances. Folks working two and three jobs to make ends meet. People working in what they call “their retirement job.” Those trying adjust to the “new economy.”

Healing the Brain: Stress & Money gives readers a view of the remarkable human brain, its capabilities, and its vulnerabilities. A brain compromised by stress and trauma diminishes our health and yet the brain is slowly yielding its secrets to science and medicine.