Time

Time is a funny thing…

clocks

We spend time and waste time, time stops, drags, flies, and stands still. We have all the time in the world, and no time at all.

We often wonder…where does the time go???  Life seems to move so quickly, yet days can seem to drag on for an eternity.

Time has moved fairly quickly for me this year.  I opened a fitness studio in February (with an awesome partner), and I will say a LOT of my time goes to the studio.  Whether it’s teaching classes, planning events, going over the books, scheduling, talking with staff, networking, or simply cleaning, the majority of my energy goes to Alt Fit Jax.

At first it felt overwhelming, but as demands change, we adapt.  It’s just what we do. I was reminded this year that in adapting we have to be willing to learn.  I had to decide what was most important and make sure that remained a priority.

My pup is super important to me…beach time is super important to me… So every morning my pup and I take a beach walk. Some mornings I huff and puff a bit, but the moment we’re on the beach everything just seems better.  My mind is clearer, my body has more energy, and my soul is a bit lighter. These walks are not a luxury to me – they are a necessity.

My family has always come first. This year my husband has been pretty patient as he’s had to come second (or last) – a lot. So we’re making the most of our evenings together and taking advantage of little bits of time we have together. We both love to travel, so we found time to go over seas for 2 weeks to unwind and explore. Those 2 weeks felt like 2 days of vacation and 2 months away from work. Like I said, time is a funny thing!

Simply Healthy remains very important to me! So while I have been pretty quiet online, I certainly continue to make herbal preparations for my clients and always have time to talk about an ailment or offer a hand when someone isn’t feeling well. I make time because it matters.

Just like I make time for friends…because they matter.  I wouldn’t have nearly as much joy in my life without my friends, so we find time to be together.

My niece turned 15 this week.  I remember cutting her umbilical cord like it was last week, and it reminds me how valuable time is.  How it’s gone in the blink of an eye. So what do you do with this precious resource of yours? Are you taking time to enjoy little moments each day? Making time for the things and people that matter most? Because I’ll tell ya, I don’t remember anything about what I did or didn’t get done for work that day 15 years ago. What I didn’t get done that next week because I was helping my sister. What I do remember is feeling grateful for the time I got to spend with my family and our new little human.

So go…make some time for the things that matter…take some time for you.  Make the most of your time on this beautiful planet.

 

 

Holiday Gift Bags

Give the gift of health for the holidays!  All items, including the bags, are handmade with love and care.

Revitalize: When you need a pick-me-up…a little extra boost…

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Comes with 8oz fire cider tonic, 2oz revitalizing tincture, 1oz all purpose calendula salve, 1 balancing and energizing essential oil inhaler, and 2oz restorative loose tea (tea can be bagged on request for a small fee). $35

Restore: When you need to unwind…de-stress…relax…

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Comes with 12oz soothing herbal bath salt blend with muslin bag (to keep those petals from lining the tub and heading down the drain), 2oz lavender room spray, 2oz restorative tincture, 1 calming essential oil inhaler, and 2oz of stress relief loose tea (tea can be bagged on request for a small fee). $40

Immunity Plus: When you need to stay strong…healthy…invincible!

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Comes with 16oz fire cider in reusable grolsch bottle, 16oz preventative elderberry-astragalus syrup, 4oz tin of immune boosting pastilles, 2oz antibiotic salve (think natural Neosporin), 2oz hand sanitizer enriched with aloe and a germ fighting blend of essential oils, and an essential oil inhaler blended for headaches. $50

See some things you’d like from each bag and want to create your own? No problem!  Just let me know what you’d like to put together and we’ll make it happen 🙂

Happy, Healthy Holidays!

Lorien

SimplyHealthyOne@gmail.com

904-955-5594

Room for Both: Traditional (Herbal) and Modern (Allopathic) Medicine

I am happy to report that my mom is now officially part pig.  No, really!  She has a brand new mitral valve in her heart courtesy of our little snorting friends. We joke about it (mostly because she’s always snorted when she laughs), but it’s truly amazing what doctors are able to do these days! See, my mom had severe mitral valve regurgitation, which means that the valve didn’t close properly and too much of the blood her heart needed to function was being lost.  This leads to fatigue, shortness or breath, enlargement of the heart, and ultimately, death.

However, thanks to modern medicine and a wonderful surgeon, she has a new valve that’s working like it should, and her heart is getting enough blood.  In her condition, all the Hawthorn in the world wouldn’t have helped.  No, this was a life threatening issue that demanded a quick response. Thank you modern medicine.

But you know what? There are also a myriad of herbs that are wonderful for strengthening and improving overall heart function. Used regularly, some may even prevent you from a future hospital stay.

The first that comes to mind is Hawthorn, a member of the rose family.  It’s a heart tonic and antioxidant that strengthens the heart muscle and helps to regulate blood pressure. Hawthorn has a vasodilating effect that helps improve circulation and regulate heart rhythm.  Hawthorn helps comfort a nervous heart and is useful for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and arrhythmias. It is a strong, yet gentle herb, so while long-term use is certainly recommended, scheduled breaks are as well.

In general, herbs that are good for circulation are good for the heart. The first that comes to mind is gingko biloba. Gingko is thought to be the oldest tree on the planet, and chances are you’ve seen their distinct leaves more than you realize. Gingko is generally thought of for memory and circulation in the central nervous system, for which it is excellent. It is also useful for preventing clots, reducing inflammation, and improving overall circulation in the body: all wonderful for a healthy heart.

ashwagandha

Adaptogen, or tonic, herbs such as ashwagandha (withania) nourish the body and help it adapt to and deal with stress.  This is important since chronic stress leads to all sorts of health problems such as fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, and insomnia (see Stress blog for more information).   Ashwagandha is prized for restoring vitality, strengthening the nerves, and protecting the body from chronic inflammatory diseases.

And, of course, we have some very gentle herbs such as rose and linden that help soothe and comfort the heart. Linden is excellent for stress and anxiety and is often taken to lower high blood pressure. Rose is known for nourishing the skin, and for its lovely, intoxicating smell. I highly recommend taking a bath with Epsom salts and rose petals…just soak and let the stress of the day melt away.

In addition to herbs, a healthy lifestyle is crucial.  Exercising, eating whole foods, getting enough sleep, and stress management are all equally important.  We certainly can’t burn the candle at both ends and expect our bodies to have time to repair and regenerate every night. Nor can we skimp on good nutrition and expect our bodies to be nourished. It’s important to remember that if we’re not taking good care of our bodies in general there’s no herb, essential oil, remedy or medication that will keep us healthy.

I know it takes a bit more effort, but I’d much rather spend my days preventing illness than recovering from it!  Wouldn’t you?

 

 

Statements made in this blog are not meant to diagnose, treat, nor cure illness. This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. Consult your medical professional before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.

 

Exercising in the Heat of Summer

While some of my favorite summer activities include water – swimming & paddle boarding – that doesn’t mean I stop running, biking, or playing tennis. Longer days and steamy temperatures just mean I need to be smarter about it. Our bodies need time to adapt to the increased physiological demands of training in the heat, and even if you’re an avid exerciser, avoiding heat-related illnesses takes preparation and planning.

What are heat-related illnesses?  As you’ll see in the handy chart below, they include heat cramp, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

I honestly feel like we went from 70 degrees to 90 overnight. So it may take a few weeks for the body to fully acclimate. Be OK with doing a little less for a bit. Maybe you take shorter runs or bike rides, breaks along the way, or just get outside at a cooler part of the day. Early mornings are my favorite because they’re often less sticky than evenings. It’s important to note that heat-related illnesses generally have a greater affect on those with lower levels of fitness. So if you are starting a new fitness routine, go slowly and build up intensity gradually.

Staying hydrated is one of the keys to preventing heat related illness, as inadequate hydration decreases the body’s sweat rate. Your body needs to be able to sweat in order to cool itself off!  If you plan on training outdoors for extended periods of time, be sure to have access to water and/or a high quality sports drink. Some signs that you are dehydrated include headache, dry mouth, dizziness, and decreased energy. And it’s not just during exercise that you need to hydrate – remember to replace the water you lost while you were exercising after you’re finished. If you’re urine is a medium to dark yellow, or you’re down a few pounds immediately after exercising, chances are you need to hydrate.

Bonus – most fruits and veggies are high in water content and make a delicious way to help keep the body hydrated! Side note – carbonated beverages may ‘quench’ your thirst, but they are not as hydrating as non-carbonated beverages.

Did you know that evaporation of sweat is the body’s key mechanism for staying cool? And that humidity decreases the rate of sweat evaporation, as can wearing too many clothes? Wearing loose fitting, weather appropriate gear will help prevent your body from overheating, and moisture wicking fabrics will increase the rate of sweat evaporation over less permeable materials. I know some people like to wear sweat pants and sweat shirts while exercising in order to ‘sweat off the pounds’.  What they are really doing is sweating off water weight and creating an unsafe level of heat for their bodies. I do not recommend this at all.

Heat can also affect children differently since their thermoregulatory systems are not completely developed, and they have a delayed response and limited ability to sweat. It is important to give them more rest breaks, extended warm-ups and cool-downs when they are playing sports, and frequent reminders to hydrate.

Heat-related illnesses are preventable, but can become life threatening in just a matter of minutes. Review the signs, symptoms and care of heat illnesses so that you can quickly identify and appropriately respond to these potential medical emergencies. Happy exercising!

Heat Illness Signs and Symptoms* Immediate Action
Heat Cramp Muscle spasming and cramping that occurs during or after exercise, especially common in the calf. Stop activity, hydrate, apply pressure or begin gentle stretching, massage of muscle.
Heat Syncope Headache, nausea, dizziness, tunnel vision, fainting Move to shaded area, hydrate, elevate legs, and monitor vital signs.
Heat Exhaustion Collapse, possible loss of consciousness, heavy sweating, dizziness, fainting, slightly elevated body temperature, shallow breathing, headache, weakness, thirst, nausea, vomiting, cool, wet skin Move out of sun and heat, force to hydrate, elevate legs, remove excess clothing and equipment to cool with fans, wet towels, ice packs. Refer to a physician.
Heat Stroke Skin is dry, hot or flushed, body temperature is elevated (104+), behavior change, confusion, headache, labored breathing, unresponsiveness, seizures, coma. Treat as a medical emergency and transport to hospital immediately (activate emergency medical system). Remove excess clothing and equipment, begin cooling immediately starting at the head and moving down the body, using ice packs, fans, cold water focusing on major vessels (armpit, neck, groin).
*Not all individuals will have all the signs and symptoms.
Adapted from Powers and Howley, 2012, Exercise Physiology 4th ed. and NATA’s Position Statement: Exertional Heat Illnesses.

 

Adapted from National Academy of Sports Medicine Blog: https://blog.nasm.org/fitness

 

Herbs for Fitness

I work out a lot.  Not because I want to be a professional athlete, but because there are so many things I love to do!  From tennis to kickboxing to pole dancing, I find myself pushing my body pretty hard.  I know there are a lot of us out there who like to push ourselves, so wanted to share some of the many helpful herbs, spices, and nutrients that I use to help my body adapt and heal.

My favorite herbs to use internally for muscle and tissue repair are Comfrey and Horsetail. I don’t use either herb on an everyday basis, just when I’ve strained a muscle and am looking for some extra healing support.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)– also called ‘knitbone’, contains allantoin,which helps repair damaged tissue, bruises, sprains and fractures.  It also contains phenolic acids, which are anti-inflammatory.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)– contains large amounts of silica, which supports regeneration of connective tissue. It is also an excellent clotting agent. It shouldn’t be taken long-term without a B vitamin supplement, as it breaks down B1 (thiamine).

For internal pain relief and inflammation, along with ginger and turmeric, White Willow and Devil’s Claw are fantastic! I especially appreciate these herbs because they are useful for arthritis…my nemesis.  Generally, I take both of these in capsule form, although I do also use white willow in teas and tinctures for headaches.

White Willow(Salix alba)– contains high levels of salicylic acid, which relieves pain and inflammation. It is especially beneficial for joint pain.  Be mindful that taken in large doses it can cause an upset stomach.

Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)– an anti-inflammatory that reduces joint pain associated with arthritis. Its bitter properties also help tone the digestive system.

For topical pain relief and wound healing I use a number of herbs, essential oils, and spices depending on the need. My top two herbs of choice to infuse into EVOO are Arnica and Calendula.

Arnica (Arnica montana)– is used topically only, with the exception of homeopathic preparation. It’s useful in speeding up the healing of bruises, sprains, and muscular pain. Please note that it should not be used on broken skin or open wounds.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)– used externally, it reduces inflammation and is incredibly soothing to the skin. It is suitable for sensitive skin, great for everything from eczema to bruises, and I use it in everything from baby balm to antibiotic salve.

Adaptogens are wonderful tonic herbs that help our body adapt to new demands and stresses. It’s important to remember that our body longs for homeostasis.  Adaptogens help our bodies find that balance. Some of my favorites are:

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)– is a restorative herb that is useful in countering the exhaustion that accompanies chronic stress or illness.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)– is used to combat fatigue and increase attention span. Newer research suggests it also helps ease depression.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) – stimulates the nervous system, acts as an overall tonic, helps improve concentration and lessens irritability.

Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)– improves vitality, helps stabilize blood sugar, and reduces stress. It also smells divine.

Lest we neglect nutrition…

Vitamin E– is a powerful antioxidant that aids in reducing inflammation and soreness related to intense exercise = faster recovery!

Phytonutrients– are anti-inflammatory and prevent disease and premature aging. They are found in richly pigmented fruits and vegetables such as:

  • beets, cherries, red cabbage, mangoes, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, eggplant, pineapple, strawberries, avocado, Brussels sprouts

Antioxidants– inhibit free radicals from damaging cells in the body. They include:

  • Beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamins A, C, & E
  • Burdock, ginkgo, green tea, milk thistle, turmeric, cloves, oregano, cayenne
  • Garlic, all berries, dark chocolate, pecans & brazil nuts, artichokes, red beans, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, grapes, citrus fruit
Omega 3s– help reduce inflammation, strengthen immune function, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Found in:
  • Coldwater fish (salmon is one of the best) and freshwater white fish. Opt for wild caught when possible
  • dark-green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, hemp hearts

Spice! Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, fennel, cumin, and mustard seed to your food as much as possible. Spices are incredibly healing and make food so much more interesting 🙂

So go…push yourself to do your best!  Then reward your body with the nutrients it needs and the rest & recovery it desires so that your best can keep getting better!

 

 

 

90 Day Health & Fitness Challenge

 

 

As part of the 90 day challenge put on by Aura Aerial and Yoga, I will be offering a series of classes in support of a healthy, fit, balanced start to 2018.

Saturday, January 27, 3-4pm:  A Balanced Diet: making healthy choices and herbal support for weight loss

Saturday, February 10, 3-4pm:  Herbs and Nutrients for Fitness: how to help your body adapt and heal

Saturday, February 24, 3-4pm:  Gut-Brain Connection: eating (and fasting) your way to a healthy, balanced mind

Wednesday, March 21, 6-7pm:  Releasing Stress and Anxiety: healing foods and herbal support for letting go

Classes are $10 each in order to cover the cost of materials, and will be held at my Atlantic Beach location. Maximum class size is 10, so sign up in advance using the link below or text/call me at 904-955-5594.

 

Reiki

I recently completed my level 1 Reiki certification. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the training. I always thought you had to have some special gift to perform Reiki, and I wasn’t sure I had it. Turns out it’s a lot simpler than I thought…most of it was just opening myself up to the possibilities and allowing a Reiki Master to attune me to the energy that swirls around us all.

If you’re not familiar with Reiki, it’s a Japanese technique that uses energy for stress reduction, relaxation, and to promote healing. It centers on the idea that we all posses a life force, or energy, within us. Reiki literally means ‘universal’ (rei) ‘life force energy’ (ki). You might be more familiar with the term ‘Qi’ from Tai chi or Qigong. Same idea. Reiki helps release blockages of energy and restore balance to the flow of Ki within the body so that the body is better able to heal itself and remain balanced.

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It’s important here to note that it’s not MY energy as a practitioner that is flowing into the recipient; rather it is universal energy that is flowing through me for the good of the recipient.

And the five Reiki principles, as explained to me, bring peace into the mind, healing into the body, joy into the spirit, abundance into the soul, and love into the will. They are:

 

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Honestly, just repeating these statements makes me feel better.

While Reiki is certainly healing, it cannot cure ailments. Again, the idea is to get the energy within you moving more effectively so that your body can heal itself more efficiently. In my own, albeit short, experience I’ve noticed that more than anything Reiki is able to bring about intense feelings of calm and peace that can otherwise be difficult to achieve. At a time when stress-related ailments are at an all time high, I’d say that’s a pretty amazing benefit!

As I said, this is all new for me so I’ve been practicing regularly on my husband and myself. He generally tells me he feels great afterwards; relaxed, peaceful, happy…and he always remarks on the heat that he feels wherever my hands hover. Well, after a really crappy day that left him feeling down in the dumps I asked if he would let me practice Reiki on him. At first he said no because he didn’t want me to be stuck with his negative energy. I explained that Reiki can do no harm to either of us, and that only good can come from it. He grumbled a bit, but agreed.

That evening was when I became a true believer in its efficacy. The transformation in his attitude and outlook, not just immediately afterwards, but in the days that followed was astounding to me (and to him). I felt a lot of heat in his solar plexus chakra, so I stayed there a bit longer. While the energy will find its way to where it is needed, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it some extra attention. I couldn’t remember what emotions were tied to this chakra, but when I looked it up later I sat there stunned. All the negative emotions he’d been feeling during the day mirrored the emotions that this chakra controls. Once all that stale, negative energy was cleared he was able to see things in a new light and move on. It just amazed me. It still does.

There are so many useful modalities out there for healing; finding the ones that speak to us is such a fabulous feeling! I am very much looking forward to exploring this new piece of the healing puzzle. I have a couple more levels of certification to go, so if you’re interested in being one of my guinea pigs, or have guidance to offer, let me know 🙂

May you have peace, health, joy, abundance, and love.

 

Aerial Yoga

What’s all the fuss about??

Besides being downright awesome?  Let’s start with the basics. Aerial yoga incorporates traditional yoga poses and aerial adaptations of traditional poses using a swath of soft parachute fabric called a hammock for support. Some, but not all, systems also have handles. The hammock is suspended from the ceiling, supports you in the poses, and allows you to get deeper into stretches without feeling forced.

It also means you can do many supported inversions without having to be skilled in headstands and handstands. Being upside down, supported by the hammock, can help lengthen your ligaments, relax your muscles, and decompress your spine. Quite frankly, it feels sublime. Recently, we did shoulder stand using the hammock…we looked like little bats and it felt so amazing on my neck!

What makes it so special?

One of the things I love most about aerial yoga is the cocooning. Imagine spending shavasana floating above the ground, wrapped in your hammock, feeling completely weightless and cozy. *sigh*

And it’s just so much fun! Fly in superman, swing in pigeon, feel supported in partner tricks, or flip in and out of poses for some extra strength building and excitement. This summer my studio started offering a strength building class using the aerial yoga system…holy smokes! It’s amazing what you can do with these hammocks!

It also makes many poses more accessible. I’m not super flexy, so this is really important to me. Standing splits, for example, is one that I love in the hammock, but not on the mat. Being able to hook my back leg on the hammock both supports me and allows my body to ease into the pose. Backbends are supported, inversions are safe and proper alignment in them is easier to find. I’ve been working with supported handstands while I build up my wrist strength and ability to hold the pose. And I can do it without the fear of falling, which is fantastic!

Aerial yoga increases your spatial awareness and proprioception – “an awareness of the position of one’s body”. It may sound simple, but go upside down and see if you intuitively know which way to take your leg to bring it “forward” or “towards your head”. Training ourselves to be more proprioceptive helps not only with balance, but also with making movements more precise. Additionally, our bodies use proprioceptive information to protect muscles and joints through unconscious stabilization and proper positioning to prevent overstretching and injury.  This is a functional life skill that improves with practice and will serve you well in the long run.

And the health benefits?

Aerial yoga has many of the same benefits as traditional yoga including improved circulation and digestion, increased balance, strength and flexibility, as well as back and stress relief.

Additionally, aerial yoga removes much of the stress of gravity, and allows yogis of all levels to try out a multitude of poses, including inverted poses, without the risk of over-stressing joints.  Longer inversion time means greater spinal decompression and improved back health and flexibility. Suspension in the air also releases tension on the bones and muscles, increasing overall flexibility.

Aerial yoga is also a great core workout because you have to engage your core muscles to balance and stabilize yourself during the majority of class. A great way to gently build strength.

Exercise in general boosts your brain’s production of endorphins and dopamine, but some physiologists think that being suspended above the floor, especially upside down, during an aerial yoga class may help your brain release even more serotonin than usual, leaving you feeling fantastic. Without question, I feel fabulous at the end of each aerial yoga session. If you think about it, your stretching, strengthening, lengthening, and lightening the load on your body…how could you NOT feel amazing after all that!?

So what are you waiting for?

Go give it a try!  You don’t have to be an experienced yogi or an acrobat to enjoy aerial yoga. And really, what do you have to lose besides loads of tension and stress? If you live in the Jacksonville area you can find me hanging upside down at Aura Aerial and Yoga in Atlantic Beach 🙂 See you there!

 

Resources:

  • Athletes Care: The Benefits of Balance and Proprioception
  • Wellness Today: 5 Reasons to Fly with Aerial Yoga
  • Huffington Post: Why You Should Try Aerial Yoga
  • Health Fitness Revolution: Here are the Top 10 Health Benefits of Aerial Yoga
  • Shape: 7 Ways Aerial Yoga Will Take Your Workout to the Next Level

40 years a student

I turn 40 at the end of this month. So I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of the more important things I’ve learned so far. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to do the same in another 40 years, and I sure do hope that many of the things that matter most to me now still matter then. So here we go…

Be kind to others – simply because it’s the right thing to do.

My parents are much wiser than I used to give them credit for. Some of the things they taught me include:

  • Fruits and vegetables are good for you
  • Save your money
  • Study hard and never stop learning
  • Always do your best
  • Respect your elders
  • Be honest – your word should mean something
  • Give back and be generous
  • Treat others as you’d like them to treat you

Don’t ever wait to tell someone how you feel. I’ve hurt people by not being honest sooner, and I’ve lost people who never knew how much I loved them.

It’s OK to have feelings that aren’t “happy”. Sometimes we need to be sad, angry, frustrated…we just can’t let those consume us.

Love is by far the most important part of life. Love for people, the planet, what you do, who you are. And it starts inside each and every one of us. Let it radiate!

I can disagree with someone and still be her friend. I can hold completely different beliefs from someone and still love and respect him.

I am not always right. In fact, I am always learning. I will know more tomorrow than I do today, but I will never know everything. And that’s OK.

Success is not measured by how much money I have, or how many things I have, but how much love surrounds me and how useful I am to others.

Smiling and laughter are absolutely infectious, and amazingly healing.

Some things are beyond my control, but this does not make me powerless.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Humility takes strength of character.

No kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

It’s important to push myself to be better than I thought I could be. It’s scary sometimes, but it’s worth it.

No one is perfect. It’s not fair to expect perfection from myself or anyone else.

I am beautiful just the way I am – with every imperfection, every wrinkle, every gray hair.

Gratitude cannot be overrated. I am thankful every single day for more than I can possibly put into words.

True friends are treasures worth treating as such.

Little moments matter – take time for them.

What I put into my body matters. How I treat my body matters. In time, we reap what we have sown.

We are all responsible for this beautiful planet. Even small actions can make a big difference.

Above all – I am loved, and I am worthy of that love.

I’m sure there are things that I’ve forgotten to mention…but hey, I’m not perfect 😉

Sleep Better – Feel Better

 

From birth, we spend nearly 1/3 of our lives asleep. Why? Because sleeping is restorative. Instead of thinking of this time as ‘missing out’ on life, or ‘wasted time’ let’s take a minute to look at why we NEED sleep and why getting enough good sleep is so important for our health and our lives.

Some benefits of good sleep:

  • Enhanced memory, learning, and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to pay attention and make decisions more effectively
  • Better control of emotions and behavior
  • Lower risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity
  • A stronger immune system
  • Better control of appetite (sleep deprived people have higher levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, which suppresses appetite)
  • Better athletic performance
  • Less inflammation, especially in the digestive tract
  • A better attitude

Now that you’ve been reminded how important sleep is, are you getting enough? As a society we are over-caffeinated, over-stimulated, over-stressed, and under-nourished; a recipe for sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, 50-70 million Americans suffer from insomnia and even more live with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome (RLS). I have RLS, so you’ll see some extra recommendations in here based on my experiences.

How much sleep is enough? It changes throughout life, and varies by person, but in general teenagers should be getting between 8-10 hours a night, and most adults need about 7-8 hours. That said; if you’re an adult who likes to sleep a bit longer, go for it! Or if you only sleep 6 hours a night and wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy, don’t worry about having to add in additional hours. The important questions are: “do you feel rested?” and “do you feel like you have sufficient energy throughout the day?” If not, you may not be getting enough sleep. Let’s look at some things we can do to help give our bodies the sleep it deserves.

Healthy practices for a better night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a schedule – this helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. In time you’ll be waking up 5 or 10 minutes before your alarm clock goes off. If you nap, be consistent in your napping habits and aim for less than one hour – 30 minutes is ideal.
  • Avoid stimulants – especially in the evening. If you like coffee, tea, or soda in the afternoon, try decaffeinated or caffeine-free.
  • Quit smoking – smoking is a stimulant that can cause sleep disruption. If you’re a heavy smoker, your body may also experience ‘nightly withdraw’
  • Limit alcohol intake – while alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, too much can result in disrupted sleep (also triggers RLS)
  • Exercise – exercise daily, just not vigorously within 3 hours of bedtime (regular exercise is particularly important for people who experience RLS).
  • Manage stress – practice relaxation techniques and learn how to let go of the day and all the stress that came with it.
  • Unwind before bed – read a book, take a bath, listen to relaxing music. If you watch TV, make sure it’s in another room. Watching TV in bed can interfere with restfulness, especially if you fall asleep with it on due to the bright strobe light like effect of the changing picture.
  • White noise – machines that produce white noise are often used for babies, but can be very beneficial for adults who are ‘light sleepers’ or have noisy neighbors
  • Unplug – fear of missing out on a text, tweet, or post can cause anxiety and restlessness. Remember, it’ll be there in the morning. It can wait! When you can, put your phone on do not disturb, and use the ‘night shift’ setting on your phone at night – it’s more gentle on your eyes and helps your mind relax
  • Stay cool – keep your room comfortably cool and dark. Specific temperature will vary widely. Many sites recommend 70’, but our thermostat only goes down to 77’ in the summer. With a ceiling fan on low, it’s perfect for us. You may also want to consider using lighter bedding in the summer than in the winter.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow – not only will you sleep more soundly, you’ll wake up feeling less achy too. I know buying a new mattress can seem daunting, so if you’re looking for some good online mattress options and reviews, check out Reviews.com.  And remember, your dominant sleeping position will determine what kind of pillow you need. For example, side sleepers need thicker pillows, while stomach sleepers need thinner ones. Since I’m a side/stomach sleeper, I use a down pillow that I can scrunch and flatten as needed. I’ve heard memory foam is great for back sleepers!
  • If you can’t sleep, get up – go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. If you have RLS symptoms, get up, walk around and stretch your legs before returning to bed.
  • Teach yourself to relax – let your mind slow down, remind yourself that it does you no good to worry, and let go. Practice meditation/mindfulness, write in a journal; whatever helps.

Herbs, oils, and supplements that can help:

  • Calcium-Magnesium blend – has a calming effect, helps relax your muscles
  • Magnesium Oil – can be rubbed directly on legs for RLS
  • Melatonin – a natural hormone that promotes deep sleep. For occasional use only, and not for children
  • Zinc – aids in recovery of bodily tissues while sleeping
  • Passionflower, Valerian Root, and Kava Kava – natural sedatives
  • Lemon balm and Skullcap – help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation
  • Chamomile and Catnip – help calm the nervous system
  • Lavender Essential Oil – in a diffuser, room spray, or roll-on…lavender is very relaxing and calming
  • Sweet Orange Essential Oil – mix with lavender if you’re feeling stressed or anxious to help calm the nerves
  • Atlas Cedarwood Essential Oil – mix it with lavender and a carrier oil and rub it on your legs to help calm RLS

 

Resources:

National Institutes of Health, Why is Sleep Important? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Authority Nutrition, 10 reasons why good sleep is important https://authoritynutrition.com/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important/

American Sleep Association, How to Fall Asleep https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep/how-to-fall-asleep/

Phyllis Balch, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, fifth edition