A good night’s rest is essential for effective thinking and learning. Lack of sleep can hurt these cognitive processes by impairing alertness, attention, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. These are all things we need to get through our day with ease. In addition, not getting enough sleep is a huge safety hazard on our roadways. Being drowsy when behind the wheel can slow your reaction time down to the same levels as drinking and driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.
Here are my top 10 tips to help get your beauty rest:
1. Keep a consistent schedule.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. Consistency is important here. Set a regular bedtime each night. Make it a time when you're normally tired anyway. Then wake up at the same time. If you're getting enough sleep, you should wake up without an alarm. I know most of us have to use an alarm, hit snooze and drag ourselves out of bed each morning. With the proper schedule, this will eliminate the dreaded alarm clock.
2. Take a nap if needed.
If your body needs to make up for lost sleep, naps are perfectly fine. Taking a daytime nap is better than sleeping late, especially on a weekend. Make sure to nap early in the afternoon and try to make it no longer than 30 minutes so it doesn’t disrupt your bedtime routine.
3. Increase your light exposure during the day.
Try to spend more time outside during the daytime. Take a break from work and go outside for a nice walk when the weather permits. Let as much natural light as possible into your home or office during the day.
4. Naturally boost your melatonin at night.
Turn off all electronics before you go to bed. Many people fall asleep to the TV but this is a mistake. The light suppresses your natural melatonin production and the TV can actually stimulate you rather than calm you down. This is the same when you get in bed and search Facebook or Pinterest on your phone. Instead, try listening to soothing music or a meditation CD or app on your phone. Make sure you room is dark and relaxing.
5. Make your bedroom more inviting and calming.
Keep the noise down in your room. If you live in a busy area where there is always noise outside, try using a fan or white noise to drown it out. Keep your room cool as well. Being too hot, or too cold, can affect the quality of sleep you get each night. Also, make sure your bed is comfortable. I know I have to have my sheets tucked in just right before I get in bed. My husband couldn't care less about having the sheets in the proper place but he knows it's essential for me to be comfortable. Find what works best for you, as we're all a bit different.
6. Eat dinner earlier in the evening.
I know some families don’t eat until 9 p.m. or even later. You should be eating about four hours before bedtime to ensure proper digestion before you hit the hay. If you have a fatty dinner, then get in bed, you could get heartburn or a slight stomachache, as a heavy dinner takes a lot of work for your stomach to digest.
7. Cut down on the caffeine.
If you are drinking coffee or soda in the afternoon, it's going to be much harder to get to bed at your chosen time. Try to cut out all caffeine by noon each day and stick with water and herbal decaffeinated tea the rest of the day to ensure a good night’s rest.
8. Get movement into your day.
Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. You don’t have to go to the gym and pump iron to get the effects. You can take a walk with your dog or do yoga poses at home and still get the benefits.
9. Relaxation and deep breathing.
If you find yourself lying in bed but unable to sleep, try taking deep breaths to clear your mind and relax your body. I love to relax my entire body by starting at my feet. You tighten the muscles for a few seconds then release. Do this all the way up to your head and you will be amazed at how relaxed you feel when completed. This is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
10. Don’t stress about sleep.
Focusing on the time and calculating how many hours until the alarm goes off doesn’t help things. I know, because I'm guilty of this, especially when I have an early flight to catch. Try to make relaxation your goal, not sleep. Work to clear your mind, and if you find you're worrying, or having anxiety about the following day, write it down in a notebook next to your bed and allow yourself to put those thoughts at rest. This ritual can greatly reduce the racing thoughts that go through our heads when we finally let our bodies relax.
You owe it to your body to take care of it and sleep is a huge part of self-care. We put gas in our car when it's empty and we charge our cellphones when the battery is low, so it only makes sense that we take care of ourselves and get the proper rest we need to function at our best capacity.
I started drinking coffee in college during all-night study sessions cramming for tests. We would all meet at Denny's where we paid about $2 and could drink as much of this caffeinated goodness that our stomachs could hold. I remember going to class the following morning with major shakes and it's a wonder I ever graduated! The best part of those times was hanging with my friends "studying" and doing way more chatting and coffee drinking than anything. We actually made it fun and looking back, I feel sorry for the waiters that had our table that we would occupy for hours on end with only enough money to pay for the essentials...coffee.
After graduation, I began working at Dell Computers which was my first "real" corporate job. And it wasn't just 9-5, it could sometimes be 7am to 7pm. It was crazy those first few years as the company grew and I was making plenty of money to make up for all the extra hours worked. However, I was tired ALL THE TIME! Then Dell had a fabulous idea...they put a STARBUCKS in our building. It was just a short flight of stairs down to all the coffee, cream and sugar that your heart could desire. And this is when the real habit began.
I would stop at 7-Eleven on the way to work for a huge cup of their coffee and finish it within the first hour of my day. When the mid-morning crash started, I would get a coffee from downstairs at the office. And of course, the afternoon crash was even worse so I would head down again to grab another cup to tide me over until it was time to go home. And I did this every single day. I worked there for ten years and we had our "coffee" groups that would go down and grab our cups together while discussing whatever was happening that day: who's underwear was showing, who came in late, who came back from lunch looking like they got high in the parking lot... and other real important manager stuff. It became a habit. A real habit that was not ever going to break.
I look back to that time in my life and I remember dealing with major stomach issues almost daily, including horrific heart burn and acid reflux, among other icky ailments. It makes sense now: I was eating junky food and fueling myself with caffeinated beverages through each day so I could wake up and do it all over again.
About a year and a half ago I went to a doctor that ran the food sensitivities test on me. I had no idea what to expect when the tests came back, but for some reason, I was shocked at the results. There at the very tippy top of my list of the "foods" I was most sensitive was COFFEE! How was this possible? I loved coffee, it helped me wake up every day. It helped me, not hurt me. I owned two Keurig machines, just in case the unfathomable happened and one didn't work. I was ordering at least $100 a month on those little k-cups. Coffee was my #1 offender and causing many of my issues...I just couldn't grasp this information.
As I drove home and thought more about it, it did start to make sense. I was starting each morning with a hot beverage that didn't work with my system. And it was down-hill from there. I decided it was worth a shot to quit coffee after seeing the results on paper.
That was the last day I drank coffee. Just like that; I quit cold turkey. I felt I had to in order to save my digestive system. and so began my search for alternatives. At the beginning, I would have hot tea instead and I still enjoy hot herbal tea at least once a day. The changes after eliminating coffee were almost immediate...besides that blaring headache that came from the withdrawals. Luckily those went away after a few days.
So for me and my body, coffee wasn't working. I missed it greatly at the beginning but now that I have been coffee-free for over a year, I don't even really think about it anymore.
I tell my clients that are heavy coffee drinkers with any sort of stomach issues to slowly begin weaning off of it. I recommend cutting it down by 1/4 a day. So they will have a cup in the morning and instead of the second, I urge them to have a big glass of water. Many people that drink coffee all day are pretty dehydrated. And for those that don't want to give it up for good (which is fine if your stomach tolerates it), I recommend buying a high quality, organic coffee to enjoy. One of my favorite teas that fill that dark roasted coffee need is Dandy Blend. It is incredible and can be a great way to wean yourself down from any coffee habit. It tastes like coffee but is actually a tea and it is gluten free.
So if you are experiencing any kind of heart burn, acid reflux or other digestive issues, I would recommend cutting out the coffee and see how you feel. You might be shocked, as I was, at how much better I feel without it!
This article originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green Saturday November 2, 2013: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11462/why-im-excited-to-turn-40.html
In a little over a month, I will officially hit the big 4-0! So many people
dread these major birthdays, but I am actually looking forward to what the next decade holds for me. There are so many reasons why I am embracing this new chapter in my life and actually looking forward to my 40’s.
1. I am more confident in myself.
When I was younger, I had confidence in my abilities, but it was lost somewhere around the time I had my daughter at the age of 28. My career path was amazing and I had so much potential to really be successful. Then I had my
daughter and it seemed I could barely stay awake at work and she was sick all the time. I lost my focus and my confidence at that point. Now that I'm turning 40, I feel I have it back and I can tackle the world with my four decades of
2. I am more financially responsible.
I am actually saving for retirement and feel more secure in the money department than I have in the past. I don’t spend frivolously and am working to pay down my credit card debt. As you get older, you actually see the light at the end of the tunnel and I want to make sure I am financially able to retire by the age of 60.
3. I found the right partner that I know will be by my side the rest of my life.
I got married at the early age of 23 and didn’t really know what I wanted out of life, much less a marriage. That lasted only five years and I have held out for Mr. Right and finally found him after nine years of looking. It's so exciting and comforting to know that I get to have my best friend with me through all of life’s ups and downs. With this kind of support and love, I know we can make it through whatever life throws our way.
4. I am finally getting enough sleep.
My daughter is now in 6th grade and sleeps all night long without having to get up for feedings and diaper changes. She is old enough to make her own breakfast and get ready for school by herself and I no longer have to lug around car seats and diaper bags. Now I can enjoy spending time with her and have real conversations. I truly enjoy having her friends over and still feel young enough to hang out with them but old enough to offer advice on how to manage being a pre-teen.
I can still remember my own slumber parties, discovering boys, school dances and everything else that comes with that age. I love getting to guide my daughter through this stage in her life.
5. I am old enough to finally get that tattoo that I never could decide on.
In my earlier years, I wasn’t passionate about anything enough to permanently ink something on my body. I am so glad I waited and didn’t make a bad decision that required months of laser removal. Two weeks ago I finally allowed myself permission to get my first tattoo and I love it! I got the words “Just Breathe” on my right foot so when I am in yoga class it's there as a constant reminder. I know this is something that I won’t regret a few years down the road.
6. I feel healthier than ever before. In college and as a new mom, I ate like crap.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but now, I know I was eating horrible foods that were just making me feel worse. Now I know how to prepare a healthy meal for my family and am learning to eat and experiment with new foods all the time. I am so happy to enter my 40s with the knowledge of what foods make me look and feel the best.
7. I decided last year to go back to school to study nutrition.
Going to college at 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or my career. I would have majored in General Studies because I was so undecided, but alas, they wouldn’t let me. I finally chose to major in Journalism which I am now thankful for. I'll never regret getting a college education, but going back to school at the age of 40 is completely different. I
get excited to learn more each week and don’t stress about the tests. I can finally focus on topics that I am passionate about.
8. I don’t feel the need to go to bars in order to have a social life.
I can spend my time and money on things that are much healthier for me than drinking until 2am. I used to feel like I was missing out if I didn’t go to every happy hour with friends from work. Now, I know I am much more content spending time with my family in healthier ways. I enjoy every day by waking up early instead of sleeping off a hang-over until noon on the weekends.
9. I finally feel like I have my life in order.
I have hopes and dreams and can see a future. I have great things to look forward to. Prior to this stage, I was just making it through one day at a time. Now I'm actually planning a few years down the road, which has never happened before.
10. I am truly blessed to have amazing friends from my childhood that are all entering this new decade along with me.
When we get together, we definitely don’t act 40. We laugh and joke like we did as kids. It’s as though nothing has changed in the past 20 years, and for that, I am entirely grateful.
Anyone else about to hit a major birthday? I recommend looking at the blessings you have, the experience you have gained and moving into the next years with hope and happiness!
I wrote a quick "5 Things" for my daughter's middle school PTA newsletter and thought I would share it here as well. I might add, we are not perfect over here. Now in our 4th week of school we are finally getting the routine down and I have only had to make one trip up to school with a forgotten item. Which technically should have been avoided but I gave in to my daughter's argument that it was "just fine" to wear flip flops to school. No sooner had I dropped her off when my phone rings with her asking me to bring "closed-toe shoes" because it is required in her science class. Don't you wish our kids would just trust us sometimes???
Anyways, now onto the quick 5 things you can do to have healthy, happy kiddos:
Now that school is back in full swing, we have all hopefully settled into our new routines. This abrupt change in schedule from the relaxed weeks of summer can be stressful for the entire family and put kids at risk for getting sick. Starting a fresh year is a great time to implement healthier habits for our kids. Here are 5 things we can do as parents to keep our kids healthy and happy:
1. Plenty of sleep: For kids 12-18 years old, it is recommended they get at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night. Establish a nighttime routine and try to have lights out by 9 or 10pm to ensure they are well rested for the school day.
2. Healthy breakfast: When we sleep too late and rush out the door, it causes our kids to have anxiety and stress before getting into the classroom. Get up a bit earlier to make sure there is time for them to sit down and enjoy a healthy breakfast. Some suggested ideas are: Coconut yogurt with granola and fresh berries, apple slices with nut butter and toast, green smoothie, or even a burrito with black beans, eggs and salsa. Try to keep away from anything packaged as they are filled with preservatives and sugar.
3. Stay active: This is very important for the middle school years as our kids are developing habits they will take into high school and their adult years. Make sure as parents we are encouraging them to be involved in sports that interest them or even taking a family bike ride. If your child shows interest in something, do your best to allow them to explore new things. Team sports are a great way to stay active as well as meet new friends in the community.
4. Lay off the caffeine: Our children should not need caffeine to get through their days. Always make water the easiest and fastest drink for them when thirsty. Many kids are mildly dehydrated every day because they are consuming way more sugary drinks than water. Set the example as a parent and drink your share of water as well. If possible, don’t have
sodas and sugary juices at home. Save these as a treat when you go out or on the weekend.
5. Stay organized: I know this is difficult to do, but it takes the anxiety and stress off of everyone in the busy mornings. Have your student pick out their clothes and pack their backpacks the night before. Establishing this healthy routine will set our children up for success as adults by planning ahead. It will also mean less trips by parents to the school dropping off forgotten items.
Here’s to a great, healthy new school year!
This article I wrote originally appeared on Mind, Body, Green July 27, 2013.
I had an article run on Mind, Body, Green a few weeks ago and had great response from readers. They changed my title to "10 Signs You're Eating Right for Your Body" but I still like mine better: "10 Side Effects of Eating Healthy."
In case you missed it, here is the full article:
Two years ago, I made it my mission to eat a healthy diet filled with whole foods and fresh vegetables. This wasn't just a personal decision, I did it for my family as well. (Back then, my idea of a veggie was fried okra or a red pepper slipping into my chicken fajita). Needless to say, it took me a while and lots of experimenting, but it was the best decision I've ever made (besides marrying my husband, of course)! Now that I know what foods work for me, I wanted to let you know what you can expect when you start to make fresh vegetables a staple of your diet.
1. You poop regularly.
Let's just get this one out of the way. So many people don’t talk about it, but going #2 is vital and you should be doing this every day. I know people for whom “normal” is once a week. That is so far from normal and I cannot even imagine
how uncomfortable that must be. Eating healthy means pooping regularly.
2. You maintain a healthy weight without stressing or obsessing.
Perhaps obvious, this is an amazing side effect! So many people struggle to reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you makeover your diet to real, whole foods, your weight will go down and stay down. No need to count calories, fat grams, weigh your food on a scale, or count points.
3. After dinner, you actually have the energy to go see a movie.
So often, my husband and I would go out for Mexican food planning to see a movie or get a drink afterward. But once we
walked out of the restaurant, we were both so bloated and full that all we wanted to do was go home and get on the couch. If you have a sensible dinner, you'll have all the energy in the world to dance til midnight if you choose.
4. Your clothes fit better.
This is true until they start to fall off. You'll find the first few weeks that your favorite jeans are a little baggy. And then one day you have to go buy a belt. Then you'll have to go buy a new pair of jeans. (I don’t know about you, but going into the Gap and picking out a smaller size was for me, a very good day.)
5. Your sex drive goes up.
Yep, this is true! When people feel and look better, they are more open with their bodies, which leads to you-know-what.
I've read quite a few stories from men who go meat-free for a month and have had amazing results in the bedroom.
6. You sleep better.
When I used to make a habit of eating things that were bad for me, I'd sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a horrible stomach ache. I used to assume I had a stomach virus, because I had no idea it because I was eating the wrong foods for my body. I now lay my head down, turn on my meditation app, and am in dream land in no time.
7. You're happier.
This is a pretty broad and bold statement, but when you feel better, you're generally happier. You will find yourself talking to strangers and maybe even giving advice to people at the grocery store. I find myself holding doors for people, letting a rushed driver cut in front of me and not even minding. Feeling healthy makes you happy, happy, happy.
8. Your friends think you're a little weird.
Expect this side effect at the beginning. When you go out and they order the usual high-calorie, fatty and greasy food, while you order an amazing salad, they're going to think you've lost your mind. Don’t worry, after time, they'll get used to it, but you'll have to listen to their justifications about how crazy you are for a while. Even better is going to a coffee shop and ordering hot tea or making a yummy smoothie in the break room at the office. This will make their head spin.
9. You stop taking over-the-counter meds.
I used to have major allergies that would turn into full blown sinus infections several times a year. I cringe when I think of how many rounds of antibiotics I used to take, or how I'd get ticked off if they didn’t give me a Z-Pak. I have not had any of these infections in well over a year now. Others completely reversed, (yes, reversed!) their Type 2 diabetes by doing
nothing other than changing what they eat. Could food be the miracle drug we're all looking for?
10. You want to tell the world your story.
This will happen as you slowly change your thinking and your habits. Once it's been a few months and you've experienced all the side effects above, you'll want to shout it to the world!
Go ahead, you might just save someone’s life.
My mission as a Certified Health Coach is to make the world a happier, healthier place, one person, one meal at a time, with love and gratitude. I work to inspire others to live a life of prevention and overall wellness!