Best Sleep Hygiene

If you are having trouble feeling alive and refreshed in the mornings, you may need to make some changes in your lifestyle and in your bedroom to get the illusive z’s you require. Healthy sleep habits are often called sleep hygiene to describe the best practices in your life to get all of the refreshing sleep you need every night. Good sleep hygiene is important for both your metal and physical health. It can improve your productivity and your overall quality of life too.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule

Just as when we were babies and our parents put us on a sleep schedule so they could feed us, diaper us and put us down for a nap or the night, it is best as an adult to continue this type of a schedule.

Your body has a circadian rhythm which is like your body’s clock that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. Most adults require about seven hours of sleep a night to wake refreshed and ready for the day’s events. In order to keep your body’s clock working correctly, it is best to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Try not to sleep in late on your days off or the weekends as this will only give you a sleep hangover on Monday morning from lack of sleep.

Maintain a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual

Try to use a bedtime ritual each night before you get in the bed that helps you become sleepy. Many people take a soothing shower at night before bedtime to relax them and help to wash away the worries of the day. Some people find reading a book, the old-fashioned kind and not on a Kindle, will help them to become very relaxed. Some people find that yoga or stretching will help relax them before bedtime. Just make sure whatever your routine is that is doesn’t include bright lights or strenuous exercise, which can make it harder to sleep.

Get Your Exercise Daily

Physical exercise makes your body want to sleep well at night as the muscles recover when you sleep. You can do a rigorous workout or even a 10 minutes walk or cycling to help you to sleep better. So, no matter your level of fitness, just keep moving, but not close to bedtime.

Outdoor Light Exposure

During the day, get some natural outdoor light exposure. This is also a part that controls your wake and sleep cycles. The sunlight exposure can be for only a few minutes by parking your car farther away from the front door at work, or just soaking in a few rays with a short walk after lunch. It also helps to experience some outdoor darkness so your body’s clock ticks on the idea that daylight hours are for being awake and nighttime hours are for sleeping.

Don’t be a Clock Watcher

We have all been there when we can’t sleep for some unknown reason and we check the clock or phone over and over to see how much longer we have to sleep before the alarm goes off. This is very disruptive to your sleep cycle. Either turn the clock’s face away from you or put your phone on the other side of the room so you are not tempted to keep checking the time. Clock-watcher’s increase their tension and it makes it hard to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, or may make it harder to get to sleep. If you find yourself awake for a while at night, get up and read or listen quietly to some soothing music to relax your body and then go back to bed.

Take a Nap Early

If you absolutely must take a nap in the daytime, then do it as early as possible in the day. Many people require a daily nap, and that is okay, but napping late in the afternoon or for a long time, decreases your sleep drive at night and make it harder to stick to a sleep schedule. Late naps can also make it harder to fall asleep. Limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes for the best results.

Don’t Take your Worries to Bed

Many people lie down to sleep at night and all of the worries of the day start running through their heads, making it impossible to sleep. For an hour before you go to bed you should avoid stressful situations, doing work from home and discussions about emotionally charged subjects. Stress causes your body to secrete cortisol, which increases your alertness. Instead of taking your problems to bed, you can set them aside by writing things down on paper and setting them aside. Other aspects of stress management include getting organized, delegating tasks to others and setting your priorities in order.

Watch What You Eat at Night

Eating a heavy meal at night can give you that overfull feeling of Thanksgiving dinner and make you sleepy at first, but then it will likely prevent good sleep because you can’t get comfortable. Avoid large meals at night and watch out for spicy foods that can give you discomfort from indigestion. Try to eat your nighttime meal two to three hours before bedtime and you can eat a light snack approximately 45 minutes before bed if you are still hungry.

Avoid Stimulants at Night

It is best to avoid any types of stimulants before bed such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Some people find that drinking alcohol in moderation before bedtime can help them to fall asleep, but that will wear off and they will most probably wake several times in the night unable to sleep. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate your body into wakefulness and can prevent you getting to bed on time. You should also balance your liquid intake to drink enough that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, but limit liquids near bedtime so you won’t wake and need a bathroom trip.

Evaluate Your Bedroom

The best conditions for getting to sleep and staying asleep is to have your sleeping environment very comfortable. If your room is quiet, cool and dark, it will help you to get a better night’s rest. Some people find a white noise device or earplugs can reduce outside sounds. The use of blackout or heavy curtains can limit the light and the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check Your Mattress

One of the most important items is to check your mattress and bedding. This is most often the reason you aren’t getting the sleep you need. If your mattress is over eight years old, it may be time to replace it. Signs of a failing mattress include waking up sore and stiff, waking up tired and tossing and turning at night. Visual clues to needing to replace your mattress are sagging, lumps or bumps, body impressions where you sleep, a moaning box spring and you and your partner roll toward each other in the night.

The signs of poor sleep hygiene include daytime sleepiness and frequent sleep disturbances in the night. You can prevent all the tossing and turning and get a restful night’s sleep every night by following some of the tips above.

Don’t Define Healthy Body Image, Live It

People are constantly bombarded with images of a “perfect” body. You’ve no doubt been told to avoid the messages sent to you about what a body should be or should look like, but it can never be said enough! The truth of the matter is that you don’t need to be as thin as a supermodel to be healthy. In fact, being that thin for many people is the opposite of healthy. It’s not about having a perfect body, but about finding what is perfect for your own body. Here are some of the factors you can use to judge just how perfect your body is for you and how to understand the bigger picture of your overall health, regardless of the size of your pants.

Focus on Health

Weight is really not a great way to gauge your individual health. In fact, the number on the scale can be misleading. There are so many factors that can impact your weight – salt intake, dehydration, the scale you’re using – that you need to learn not to let the scale impact your efforts to work toward and maintain better health. The arbitrary number on your scale says nothing about your mental health, your physical fitness, your risk of disease, or other aspects of wellness that are important to your overall health.

The real problem with some people’s obsession with weight is how it makes them view their bodies. You simply cannot tie weight to health and avoid shame associated with the scale. Hyperfocus on numbers makes thinner people less concerned about their health (when they shouldn’t) and heavier people feeling as if they’re failing in some way (also when they shouldn’t).
Let’s try to forget about the scale and discuss what you should truly focus on if you seek to be healthier.

Your Diet

Diet is probably one of the most important factors of individual health because the old adage is true: You are what you eat! A person who eats McDonald’s every day isn’t going to be as healthy as someone who eats fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains each day, no matter their weight – it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.
Pay attention to what you eat, making sure to avoid processed foods and getting enough of each food group every single day. Don’t fall victim to fad diets that cut out a major food group, either. Remember, your body needs carbohydrates to function, so choosing quality, complex carbohydrates is essential to good health and function.
Try not to view eating as an all-or-nothing approach. Eating salads all day every day is no guarantee of good health (have you looked at the fat, sugar, and calorie content of salad dressings lately?). Eat when you’re hungry, stop eating when you’re full and don’t beat yourself up when you have a treat. You’re human, after all, and chocolate is the nectar of the Gods and in some cases (such as with dark chocolate) is actually good for you!

Exercise

You have to get that body moving! It may be true that exercise guidelines are pretty generic, but there are some ways you can tell if you’re getting enough of it. Sure, you can get the 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per day recommended, but can you:

  • Effortlessly touch your toes – Seems simple, right? If you’re flexible and your muscles are loose, then this should be no problem.
  • Sleep well – If you’re getting enough physical activity in your day, then your quality of sleep should be good and falling to sleep at night a breeze.
  • Climb stairs – Most everyone gets a little winded when climbing a flight of stairs, but if you feel as if your lungs are going to explode or your legs are going to give out after doing it, then you may not be in as healthy as you think you are.
  • Do push-ups – Muscular endurance is a great indicator of health, so completing push-ups with proper form is a great indication of how good your upper body strength and endurance are.

To be healthy you must be active, there’s no way around it. Make sure to work even just a little movement, such as an after-dinner walk, into your daily routine. It will make a big difference in your overall health and help you to feel better about your body too!

Good Sleep

Sleep has already been briefly touched upon, but it’s so important that it deserves a second mention! The activities of daily life take a toll on the body and it uses sleep to help revitalize and rebuild. Erratic sleep patterns can impact concentration, weaken your immune system, and cause you to overeat.
Adults should get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You should also strive to create a bedtime routine for yourself where you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day (including weekends!) and turn off electronic devices at least one hour before bed. Try to relax before you tuck yourself in for the night and you may find you have an easier time falling asleep.

Fun!

Let’s not forget that a major component of health is happiness. You could have the best job in the world, an exercise routine that excites you, an eating routine that’s tasty, and feel refreshed when you wake up each morning, but if you’re not happy, then what’s the point?
When you’re happy, a healthy lifestyle will come easily. You’ll also find you’re healthier, as happiness boosts your immune system to help you fight off illness and your digestion is on point — all because you’re happy. Happy people are less likely to suffer from insomnia and better sleep helps you to be a better frame of mind to face the day’s challenges. Find what gives you joy and go after it – reasonably, of course. Losing all your money at the casino probably isn’t a long-term recipe for happiness and health, even if you have some fun while doing it.

A Word about Body Mass Index

When you go to the doctor and face the scale, chances are you’re given a number based on your weight and height called your body mass index or BMI. The BMI is how obesity is diagnosed in the medical community, but people are starting to understand the flaws of the BMI more each day.
For starters, the BMI is too narrow. It takes only two factors into account – height and weight. This tool can be great for tracking weight trends in large populations, but when applied to individual people it begins to fail. Case in point: Olympic athletes often have obese BMIs due to the amount of muscle they have on their frames because muscle weighs more than fat. Does that sound like an accurate assessment of a person who is in such good shape, they’re an Olympian?
You shouldn’t let your BMI number serve as the only indicator of your health. The BMI is limited, as it only looks at one small slice of the overall health pie (mmm…pie) of an individual. Don’t let it shape how you feel about your health and wellness or how you feel about your own body.

Work On Self-Image

It’s important to make peace with your body. You may look at others and be envious of different aspects of their looks, but don’t let that impact how you feel about yourself. Focus on your health and maintaining a healthy, livable body. That’s the secret to success, happiness, and peace!

Don’t be so Hard on Yourself

During stressful times, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Whether it’s big projects at work, trying to loss that stubborn weight, saving money or anything that makes you feel like you’re failing. We can be SO hard on ourselves that it causes depression, anger and self-abusive tendencies. Stop being so hard on yourself today. Know that failure can happen, but putting yourself down doesn’t make getting back on the horse any easier. Take these steps into consideration next time you’re feeling down on yourself.

  1. Life is one big learning experience. Everything you do teaches you a lesson. Stand tall, recover and move on when in the face of failure.
  2. Stop comparing your situation to others. Not one situation is identical, we all handle our problems in different ways. Be at your own pace and don’t try to be like anyone else.
  3. Stand up for yourself, if you feel what you are doing is right, don’t let someone else tear you down, respectively stand up for yourself. The more confidence you express, the easier others can see your side.
  4. Learn from criticism. You can’t ignore or get angry at criticism. Everyone dishes it out, so do you. Let it happen and take it as a positive.
  5. Take pride in your weaknesses. We all have something we don’t like about ourselves or our mannerisms, doesn’t mean we beat ourselves up for them. Take those faults and spin them in a positive way. Be proud of being human.
  6. Dwelling on the past will dig a big hole that you will struggle to get out of. Seriously, dwelling on something you did wrong days, months, years ago will drive you into a deep depression. Instead of saying “why did I do that?” say “ok, that happened, let’s not do that again and instead do this…”
  7. Be smart. Think before you act. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with yourself, step back write it all down and assess the damage and stress. Think smarter not faster.
  8. Remove negative energy from your life. Whether it’s people, objects, situations, if it’s causing you to hate on yourself then maybe you should re-think how and where you spend your time.

Is Your Emotional Eating to Blame for Excessive Weight Gain?

Emotions can Cause Weight Gain?

Woman looking sadly at a table of foodOverweight? Gaining Weight? Not sure what has caused the pounds to pack on? Most people think overeating, poor diet and lack of exercise is the cause but ever think it’s how you are feeling mentally? Have you ever asked yourself “am I happy?” or “where was the last time I was happy?” Emotional eating is a very common cause of weight gain and obesity. Your emotional and mental health are very important to your overall health. Some people don’t make the connection that the reason your gaining weight is your emotional health. 75% of over eating is caused by emotional stress, that is a problem. Emotional eating is when you eat because you need comfort, whether you are sad, stressed, lonely or bored. Eating “comfort food” can help numb the bad feelings and give you something to occupy yourself and give you happiness.

What Causes Emotional Eating?

Fat Man at table with too much food and a laptopDo you find comfort in food because of social situations and anxiety, conflicts or just depression? Are you bored or lonely? When I was a child they only way to get seconds was to eat faster than my brothers, so I grew accustomed to eating fast which can cause you to over eat. By the time my stomach showed signs of feeling full I had already over indulged. Going out to social events with free food, or to restaurants where everyone gets appetizers, entrees and desserts. These events cause you to eat to fit in with the group and also over eat. When everyone at your table is eating unhealthy entrees of course you are influenced to make the same bad choices. Sometimes a daily routine causes us to overeat. Scheduled lunch breaks, busy schedules where you know you won’t be able to eat for hours so you over compensate now. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget to eat and then starve causing us to scarf down as much food as possible. Emotions in general cause us to overeat. If you’re excited and joyous going out to celebrate you are more prone to eating fun foods than a salad or sandwich. We can get upset and emotional that we crave sweets and sugary mixed drinks. I know women will tend to crave chocolate and salty snacks when emotional. If you are stressed you may binge eat to relax your nerves. Sometimes when I am overwhelmed and stressed I like to disengage with a snack because it relaxes my mind and nerves, it’s a reason to chill out. If you are lonely it’s very common to overeat. Make food for two and then eat for two. Portion control is very difficult when alone. If I am with someone I will eat less and have that distraction to not eat more. If I am alone I will get seconds and eat snacks just to feel occupied. It’s even harder to not binge eat when you have health issues like low blood sugar. If my blood sugar is low I feel horrible and very weak. The faster I get sugar in my system, the quicker I will feel better. This is when I scarf down a candy bar and chug a soda. All this sugar can be addictive. The sugar can boost your endorphins making you feel high and happy. When this high is gone you crave even more sugar.

When Emotional Eating Causes Serious Problems

A woman lying in bed staring at a plate with a cherry tomatoFrom a psychological standpoint, emotional eating can cause a lot of problems like eating disorders. Say you are feeling fat and upset for over indulging. So, you starve yourself from all food. Then you feel sick and deprived so you binge eat. This makes you feel great but then you quickly feel regret and anger which causes the cycle to start again. In extreme cases the regret and anger can cause the purging of all the food consumed. This can become a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.

How to Control your Emotional Eating Habits

A happy couple eating healthy plates of foodThe easiest way to control yourself from over indulging is to be mindful of what, when and where you eat. If you eat fast then be aware of each bite, calm yourself and enjoy it, there is no race. If you eat more when alone, then occupy your mind, be active and be busy. If you need to eat or indulge keep only healthy snacks in the house so you’re never packing on the calories and fat. Be aware of portion size when eating in a group. Sometimes we get distracted and eat way more than we should. If you have a small plate then there’s no way you can over eat. If stress is causing you to over eat then go for a walk instead, take a bath, listen to music. There’s many things you can do to not overeat. If you have that strong of a need to consume something, then drink a glass of water. When it comes to low blood sugar, a soda and candy bar doesn’t have to be your only savior, try an apple or a glass of orange juice instead. All in all, the things you need to be aware of when tempted to over indulge is to slow down. Think about what you are feeling and eating. Be patient, don’t jump to food as the first option. If you over eat it’s not the end of the world, you will slip up. Still feeling like your emotions are getting the best of you? Is anxiety the reason behind your eating habits and weight gain? Check out my previous article, it will help you learn to suppress your anxiety.

Why you Should have Avocado in your Diet

Avocado prepared four tasty waysSo, Avocado is one of the tastiest foods, you can eat it plain, spread it on breads and crackers, add it to a salad or a dish, make it a Dip and even drink it in a smoothie. This “Superfood” is loaded with good fats, and vitamins! Now that we know Avocados are tasty and healthy what are the main reasons to add it to your diet? First of all, they are high in monounsaturated fats that help fight heart disease and reduce cholesterol. Avocados have a ton of antioxidants which help protect your cells, and they are loaded with vitamins like K, C, B5, B6 and E and potassium. This is a big selling point, Avocados contain protein! They also contain folate which is helpful for pregnant women. Avocados can also be used as a healthier and less fattening oil or butter. Want to go a step further than eating an Avocado? They can also benefit your hair! It acts as a moisturizing, shine-boosting hair mask. It can help boost hair growth, strengthen and soften hair. Avocados also help maintain healthy, smooth skin from drying out. Other than it being a tasty treat and delicious additive to any meal, Avocados can do a wonder to your body. Add it to your next grocery list!