11 Jan

Hacking Your Stress to Improve Sleep

Are thoughts keeping you up in the night? Waking up to plan your day? Feeling stressed before bed? It’s time to look at how stress is impacting your sleep!

We all know that it is important for our health yet it is often one of the first things we compromise when we feel busy and overwhelmed. To make matters worse, stress is often the culprit when we find ourselves unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Let’s break down this relationship between your sleep and your stress levels.

To begin, sleep is regulated by a 24 hour sleep-wake cycle or an internal clock known as our circadian rhythm. This cycle is regulated by two major hormones – melatonin & cortisol.

Melatonin is regulated by light. When there is light out, melatonin is blocked and you should be awake. Melatonin should be low during the day and high during the night.

Cortisol has the opposite pattern. It is high during the day and low during the night. Cortisol helps produce energy to keep you going while you are awake. It has no business being there at night time. To make matters worse, if you are highly stressed during the day, you will use up all your energy stores and then later wake up in the middle of the night because your blood sugars are low.

Cortisol also suppresses the release of melatonin.

This leaves many of us with insufficient melatonin in the evening and even worse, way too much cortisol when were are trying to sleep.

Not to worry – Here are some easy and practical tips to hack your stress and improve your sleep:

  1. Get as much sunlight as possible

Your circadian rhythm is regulated by sunlight so getting sun during the day can help improve your wake & sleep cycle. Whether you are getting sun outside or through a window, any amount can help!

  1. Eat more protein and less carbs at dinner

Eating a carb heavy meal in the evening can cause your blood sugar to drop in the middle of the night, waking you up. Instead ensure your meal has a good amount of fat & protein and limit your starch in the evenings to help you sleep through the night

  1. Breath work or meditation

Take a deep breath and audibly sigh it out. Then breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle 10-20 times before bed.

Meditation and breath work reduces your blood levels of cortisol helping you fall asleep. This is because deep breathing stimulates a relaxation nerve at the back of your throat called the vagus nerve. Stimulating this nerve causes full body relaxation – perfect for sleep!

  1. Write it down and let it go

Don’t let planning and worries keep you up at night. Write down your to-do lists and thoughts keeping you up and let them go for the night. They will be there in the morning after a good night sleep.

Another great writing strategy is to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. It can be big things and it can be small things but gratitude also stimulates relaxation centres in your brain, helping you get to sleep better.

  1. Shut down that phone

Turn off your phone at least 1 hour before bed and download an app that decreases your exposure to blue light. Your phone tricks your brain into thinking it’s still day time, preventing your melatonin levels from rising.

Also consider switching your phone to airplane mode at night so you aren’t woken by notifications and other buzzing from your phone.

  1. Calm down that nervous system with GABA and L-theanine

Both of these are parasympathetic neurotransmitters which are a fancy way of saying relaxing signallers. The combination helps you calm your mind and sleep through the night.

Plus they have a relatively short effect in your body and there are endogenous substances so they won’t leave you feeling drowsy in the morning!

  1. Remember your sleep hygiene

The most ideal environment for sleep is cool & dark.

It is also important to keep the bedroom as a place for sleep and sex only! If you aren’t tired, you shouldn’t be going to bed. Start to relax outside of the bedroom and when you feel sleepy head into your room. This teaches your body that when you are in your bedroom, it is time to sleep!

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19 Nov

How to Stay Healthy During the Cold Season

 

It is that time of year when it seems everyone around you is sniffling and sneezing. Remember the importance of washing your hands regularly, especially after being in public areas. However, even if you are exposed to germs, a strong and healthy immune system will prevent you from sick!

Here are some easy tips to help prevent you from getting sick this winter

  1. Introduce vitamin D into your routine.

With less sunlight, our vitamin D levels start to drop. As Canadians, we tend to be deficient in vitamin D especially in winter months. Vitamin D is important for so many things, especially our immune function.

The daily recommended dosage is 1000 IU per day (usually a drop of the liquid forms), but it is worthwhile to have your vitamin D status checked to make sure you are getting the right amount. This is something we can do at the clinic!

  1. Increase your intake of vegetables while being mindful of your sugar intake.

There are tons of tempting treats around as the holidays near but unfortunately sugar tanks your immune system. Be mindful of your munching and increase your intake of green, leafy veggies to give your immune system extra support

  1. Contrast showers

Try this at the end of your showers:

30 seconds under warm/hot water followed by 10 seconds under cold water. Repeat 3-5 times being sure to end on cold. This circulates blood through your body and gives fires up your immune cells.

  1. Get moving!

Adding to the endless benefits of exercise – it also boosts the immune system. It can be hard this time of the year so my advice is to find something that your enjoy doing even if it’s going for a walk or vigorously cleaning house. Just get your body moving and your heart pumping.

  1. Use Echinacea at the first signs of a cold setting in.

This is my favorite herb for immune boosting especially when you feel yourself starting to get sick. It also helps decrease the length of time you are sick. Traditional Medicinal Teas has a great Echinacea blend to sip on when you’re feeling under the weather. Keep in mind that high quality echinacea will leave your tongue feeling tingly. If you are on medications, it is always a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider to ensure that echinacea is safe and effective for you!

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14 Mar

6 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Are you waking up in the mornings feeling re-engernized and ready to hit the day with a spring in your step?
If not…this email is for you– it is time to look at your sleep “hygiene”. Sleep hygiene is a way of saying how your sleep environment is set up. This can include how your room is set up but also what pre bed habits you build to promote a better sleep. We know our sleep environment has a big impact on us, so therefore it’s important to make sure yours is optimized for you.
6 Ways to Improve your Sleep
1) Your body needs dark in order to produce the melatonin (more on that later) that induces sleep, so the darker the environment, the better. Black out blinds, a sleep mask or both could change your life.
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2) If you go to bed with a headful of overwhelming stress, this is a common place to lie and ponder/ worry. One thing you can try that has helped many people is write down all of your thoughts before bed as a way to do a “mind clear”. This will give you a to do list for the next day and allows you to clear your thoughts before bed.
3) The wrong room temperature is disruptive, keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees. Many people keep their homes and bedrooms too warm. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may be the most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body’s natural temperature drop that occurs during sleep.
4) Uncomfortable mattresses, pillows, or bedding can all have an impact. Find what you feel comfortable and don’t be afraid to experiment. Most reputable bedding companies and products are starting to offer money back guarantees if you are not satisfied with their products.
5) Keeping a sleep log for a few weeks an help to identify disruptive sleeping patterns. Caffeine and alcohol are to major culprits to affecting sleep. People believe alcohol may help them get to sleep easier but the quality of sleep will be poor. Limiting caffeine to the AM is another way to ensure you are creating better habits for sleep
6) Put your phone away. Not only does the light affect the ability to sleep but it also stimulates the brain and thought processes during a time we need to be unwinding. Avoid watching TV or using your computer at night– or at least about an hour or so before going to bed– as these technologies can have a significantly detrimental impact on your sleep. TV and computer screens emit blue light; nearly identical to the light you’re exposed to outdoors during the day. This tricks your brain thinking it’s still daytime, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
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Melatonin– An All Natural Sleep Aid
While sleeping pills will likely do more harm than good, you could consider taking a melatonin supplement, which will help boost sleepiness. Melatonin is a completely natural substance, made by your body, and has many health benefits in addition to sleep. In scientific studies, melatonin has been shown to increase sleepiness, help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep, decrease restlessness, and reverse daytime fatigue.
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