Monthly Archives: January 2013

Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 3: Sleep

Sleep is crucial to be fully functioning and effective in everyday life.  Too much sleep isn’t good and not sleeping enough isn’t good.  Oversleeping can be just as problematic as insomnia, and it actually has many of the same effects as insomnia.  Sleeping too much can also be a sign that something is wrong either mentally or physically.

A rule of thumb is to figure out what length of time is optimum for you to sleep and aim for that time.  You absolutely must figure out how to be truthful with yourself and accurately estimate the length you need.  Try to think of a time when you’ve had good, uninterrupted sleep at a time when you feel mentally and physically healthy.  What you want to do is figure out, during that time-frame, when you would naturally awake and feel refreshed.

You do yourself a disservice if you over or underestimate the number of hours you need; the vast majority of people will need right around 8 hours.  Don’t try to be eccentric or different and act as though you need much more or less.  More than likely you need 7 — 9 hours.  Many times people let “sleep debt” sway their opinion on how much “basal sleep” they need.  You want to keep aiming for you basal time every night, and eventually your “sleep debt” will disappear.

Many focus on too little sleep, especially those suffering from insomnia.  If at all possible do not take sleep aids, they normally have bad side effects and can actually make your insomnia worse in the long run.  Instead, make a true commitment to change habits that could be leading to your insomnia.  Long term insomnia is not good for your health; physical, mental, or spiritual.

General Sleep Hygiene

  1. Pick a fixed bedtime and awake time, and follow it even if you are off of work
  2. Avoid sleeping/napping during the day. If you have to take a nap, limit it to 30-45 min.
  3. Alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before your set bedtime
  4. Caffeine should also be avoided for 4-6 hours prior, and limit yourself to 2 cups a day. (Things like chocolate also have caffeine and should be avoided)
  5. Avoid heavy foods 4-6 hours prior
  6. Don’t exercise within 2 hours of trying to sleep
  7. Do exercise during the day, with at least some of it being outside
  8. A cool room (not cold) is more conducive to sleep
  9. Use relaxation techniques before bed
  10. Try to designate waking hours to “worrying” and not to carry it with you to bed. Making lists for things to deal with/think about the next day, and then plan to do what needs to be done BEFORE laying down to sleep, esp. a few hours before.
  11. Try to have a pre-sleep ritual. Taking a shower, reading for a bit, etc…
  12. If you can’t sleep for around 20 min, get up, go into another room and do something like reading until you are sleepy again.
  13. Sleep in as dark a room as you can stand. Television isn’t recommended, and if you need something to fall asleep to, try radio instead.
  14. Your bed is for sleeping and sex, try not to use it for anything else like watching TV or reading.

Psychological factors

  1. Loneliness, stress, and depression can add to insomnia.
  2. You also don’t want “rewarded” for insomnia; for example, increased attention.  So, try to avoid posting about it on places like Facebook and/or Twitter just to get a response from others, or to show how late/early you are up.

Milton H. Erickson once said to make sure your alcoholic is sincere in wanting to quit, or else it will do no good to try to help.  The same is true of insomniacs; if you are not sincere in wanting to change your sleep patterns, you will find all manner of excuses and rationalizations to avoid changing bad habits.

Give yourself time to establish an actual new pattern.  It can take up to 30 days, for example, to completely modify your sleep schedule.  As to when you should wake up, there are many advantages to waking early, but the important thing is to be honest about the outcome of your day; meaning if you deal with people on a regular basis through the day, you should probably stick to a schedule to be fully rested with the mainstream.

You may want to stay up late, but if you have to be at work at 8 am, that isn’t going to be a healthy choice.  Make the commitment to follow the healthy sleep hygiene points above and do it consistently.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Health, Psychology

Healthy habits for the New Year; pt. 2: Water

Water; drink it. Seriously.  One of the main factors my psychologist husband and I notice when talking with others and attempting to help them mentally, spiritually, and physically is a lack of water.  It may sound simple, and it is.  You need water to live.  Not pop, tea, beer, coffee, Gatorade, mix-ins, etc… but just plain ol’ water.

Water helps your brain work properly, helps you to lose weight, helps to clear up skin, and obviously helps us function physically.  Your body is composed of around 60% water.  Even if you don’t exercise daily (as we all should) you lose water during the course of the day, even just by breathing.  Your body is also processing toxins constantly, drinking plenty of water helps flush out those toxins, keeping us healthier.

I mentioned weight loss above; if we keep hydrated by drinking enough water we will not confuse our physical feelings of thirst with hunger.  You can drink colder water to aid in weight loss, as your body has to work to maintain your core body temperature by raising your metabolism.  If you aren’t concerned with weight loss, stick with cool or room temperature water, as you can drink more faster, and your body doesn’t have to work to warm itself.

One complaint I’ve heard the most when it comes to water is the taste, “I don’t like water.” Seriously?  That’s your excuse?  As my husband is fond of saying, “Ok, little baby let’s just go by taste and not what is good for you.”  We are not infants.  We can make healthy choices regardless of things like taste.  But, putting that aside, there are many many different tasting waters.  I don’t recommend bottled water, instead, find some way to make your tap water, or well water both safe (if it isn’t already) and palatable.

I personally have a reverse osmosis filter, and tote around a stainless steel bottle.  If you want, add in simple fresh lemon juice to change the flavor of your water.  Make sure it is readily accessible to you when driving, at work, while working out, and at home.

Make smart choices when choosing what else to drink.  Soda is actually the Devil in liquid form (haha), but if you choose to drink pop, drink regular, not diet.  Also, severely limit you soda intake; none is best.  If you need caffeine, drink tea or coffee instead.  Try to not add sweeteners, but if you do, go for the most natural options like honey or raw sugar.  Both tea and coffee are diuretics, which means you need to also drink water to replenish what those drinks make you lose.

Most people don’t realize that store-bought juice is not really a healthy option when it comes to liquids.  If you do drink juice or let your kids drink juice, it should be in moderation.  A better option that is good for everyone is to juice your own fresh juices from veggies and fruit.  These drinks are incredibly healthy and also count for water intake because of high water content of these juices.  My favorite is orange-carrot-apple.  If you have the money and access, organic is always a better option.

That brings me to milk.  Milk can also be drank in moderation, but weigh your options carefully especially for your children.  Oftentimes organic whole milk is actually the best option available (See this article on FoxNews: Why skim milk isn’t necessarily better).  When fat is removed, many companies replace that fat with synthetic additives.  Fat in moderation is good for developing brains.  I say organic, because our dairy products are one of the greatest sources of non-human hormones, and antibiotics.  Going organic on dairy can be expensive, but consider getting your kids organic, even if you can’t afford them for the whole family.  Taste organic milk (I prefer Horizon brand), and you won’t want to go back.

Some forms of alcohol in moderation are fine (esp. some beers and red wine), but remember you also need to replenish your water levels while drinking alcohol, esp. when the night is through and you are getting ready for bed.

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, don’t jump into changing your drinking habits haphazardly; if you are addicted to pop, cut down gradually don’t try cold turkey.  Gradually increase your water intake, and just really begin to notice what your are drinking and how much.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Of Interest, Psychology