Woman can't sleep

Don't Let Stress Disrupt Your Sleep

Sleep and stress, they may just cancel each other out. How can we expect our nervous systems to shut down when we’re a bundle of nerves? We need sleep. It keeps us healthy, it keeps us sane, it keeps us focused, it keeps our weight down. By that logic, lack of sleep is going to turn us into sick, obese, insane people with attention deficits. That certainly is not going to relax you. So what do you do to keep stress from disrupting your sleep? Read on for a few ideas.

Stress and Sleep
Not only does stress prevent sleep, it decreases its quality. In fact, according to a “Stress in America” survey, 42 % of adults report a low or fair quality sleep when affected by stress. To make matters worth, stress may not only deprive you of a good night’s sleep, it may have a more lasting effect. Recent research published in the SLEEP journal reveals that individuals who suffer from chronic stress are more susceptible to insomnia, with each stressor increasing the risk of insomnia by 19 percent.

Woman clutching head

Stress and Your Brain
Not only does stress interfere with the quality of sleep and increase the risk of insomnia, it also places the nervous system in a physical state inconsistent with sleep. When you sleep, your body switches from the active sympathetic nervous system to the more relaxed parasympathetic nervous system. When the body experiences high stress levels, the parasympathetic nervous system fails to kick in, keeping your brain in a state of hyperactivity, according to David Spiegel MD.

As if it isn’t enough that stress causes lack of sleep, it turns out lack of sleep can cause more stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that nearly three quarters of adults credit sleep problems with a general increase of anxiety in their daily lives.

What Can You Do?
Wondering how you can prevent high stress from robbing you of precious sleep? Here are a few ideas:

Lavender
Studies show that lavender can be a very relaxing component of insomnia relief.

Woman doing yoga

Relaxation Techniques
There are a number of techniques that may be helpful in decreasing stress. Yoga poses, mediation, and progressive relaxation are all examples of methods of relaxation that may make sleep come more readily.

Stop Distracting Thoughts
Research shows that you can clear your mind of distressing thoughts by writing them down on a piece of paper and literally throwing the paper away. Skeptical? Worth a try!

Deep Breaths
The rhythm of inhalation and exhalation activates the body’s natural parasympathetic system. Try taking a few deep breaths in and out before hitting the sack.

See A Specialist
If all else fails, consider seeing a professional. He or she may be able to provide insights or recommend techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy to address sleeplessness.

How do you prevent stress from disrupting your nightly sleep? Let us know.

Woman with insomnia

Foods That Fight Insomnia

If you suffer from insomnia, you may look back nostalgically on Thanksgiving nights falling asleep in front of the TV with the taste of sweet potato casserole still lingering on your tongue. While it’s easy to understand how the concept of self-induced food coma may seem tempting to the sleep deprived, it may not be the best health option, and there is only so much leftover turkey one can take.

However, that is not to say there is not a link between eating and sleeping. There is scientific proof that certain foods are more conducive to sleep than others. But before you establish running credit at the deli counter, you may want to know your options.

Walnuts
No only do walnuts contain heart-healthy fats, they also have been found to contain melatonin, a bodily hormone that plays a role in regulating sleep cycle. Dr. Erin Palinski Wade, RD, CDE says, “Try snacking on a small handful about 20 minutes before bed to help you relax and reach a deeper state of restful sleep.”

Walnuts

Bananas
In addition to having high levels of serotonin and melatonin, bananas are also packed with magnesium. Magnesium promotes sleep by decreasing levels of cortisol in the body, a hormone know to interrupt sleep patterns. Although eating the fruit itself has its calming benefits, most of the sleep-inducing power is in the peel. The daring may consider sprinkling banana peels with cinnamon to make them more palatable.

Tart Cherry Juice
A study published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology tracked the effectiveness of tart cherry juice, which contains melatonin, on older adult insomniacs. The participants who were given 8 oz of tart cherry juice twice a day slept an average of 87 minutes longer each night than those who received a placebo. Nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD, explains, “Other study data has shown a significant elevation in melatonin in groups consuming cherry juice.”

Basil
Palinski Wade says, ” The plant contains sedative properties, which can help you fall and stay asleep. And as a bonus, it not only helps promote sleep, but is great for reducing indigestion,” a further sleep interrupter. She continues, “Research on this shows the sedative properties come mostly form the hydroalcoholic extract and essential oil of O. basilicum.” She points out that liquid basil extracts are available at the market and can “be used to flavor food, as a supplement, or as an essential oil.

Basil

Milk
It seems the common beliefs about the sleep-promoting abilities of milk are not without merit. “Milk may control melatonin production since it is a great source of calcium, ” Palinski-Wade explains. “Milk is also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect on the body.”

Vitamin B6
According to Mary Hartley, RD, ” When we fall asleep, levels of serotonin rise and adrenaline levels fall. Serotonin, the relaxing hormone, is partly made from the amino acid, tryptophan, which is activated by Vitamin B6.” Fortunately, B6 can be found in a wide variety of foods, such as potatoes, fortified breakfast cereal, chicken, fish, peanut butter, fish, bananas, and several vegetables, so deficiencies are uncommon.

Do you go to the fridge when insomnia strikes? Tell us about it. And let us know how the cinnamon banana peels turned out!

Woman sleeping on desk

Causes of Daytime Fatigue

“Work hard – nap hard.” That’s Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty’s tag line, referring to the frequent naps he takes while he’s supposed to be working in the Duck Commander Warehouse, The condition, which he charmingly refers to as “redneckolepsy” or “the tendency to fall asleep while working” has often been a trope for television comedy. “MASH’s” Sgt. Rizzo was often seen under the carriage of a jeep, more likely sleeping than working and “Seinfeld’s.” George Costanza even had his desk tailored to provide ideal work time napping conditions.

However, for some of us daytime fatigue is not so easily solvable and even detrimental to our daily activities. If you’re plagued by daytime fatigue, here are some probable causes and possible solutions.

Hypersomnia
According to the National Sleep foundation, up to 40 % of the population have suffered symptoms of hypersomnia in their lives. Hypersomnia can be characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day or unusually long amounts of time spent sleeping. The condition often results in difficulty staying awake, and can lead to instances of falling asleep at work or while driving, Other symptoms include lack of energy and the inability to think clearly.

Causes of Daytime Sleepiness
Hypersomnia can be attributed to sleep disorders including narcolepsy, or daytime sleepiness, and sleep apnea, which is the interruption of breathing during periods of sleep. Other causes include sleep deprivation and obesity. Overweight individuals tend to suffer from the condition, as do those with head injuries and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Use of prescription drugs, such as antihistamines and tranquilizers can induce daytime sleepiness and abuse of drugs and alcohol can also lead to hypersomnia. The condition can also be a result of genetics or depression.

Woman rubbing eyes

Diagnosis
If drowsiness is interfering with your daily activities, talk to a doctor. Expect to be asked about how much sleep you get per night, whether or not you wake up at night, whether you fall asleep during the day, and your personal sleeping habits. You may also be questioned about drug intake and emotional problems.

Medical testing for hypersomnia may include, blood test, CT scans, and sleep tests called polysomnolgraphies. EEGs may also be ordered to measure the electrical activity of your brain.

Treatment
The most common treatment for hypersomnia is prescription drugs. Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, or other medications. If sleep apnea is determined, your doctor may suggest a CPAP, which is a machine that delivers air flow to the nostrils while sleeping to keep airways open and involves wearing a mask over the nose during sleep. Doctors will also recommend avoiding medication that may cause drowsiness and may suggest the elimination of alcohol and caffeine.

If daytime sleepiness is affecting your ability to function, consult a doctor. There may be relief in sight. And, as always, keep us in the loop. We love to hear from you!

women working out

Exercise Can Make You Happy

If you have ever watched “Legally Blonde,” you will definitely appreciate the wisdom of Elle Woods. You may remember this little gem from the trial scene, “I just don’t think Brooke could have done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” Can’t doubt the wisdom of that.

Anyway, if you need another reason to exercise, keeping happy is a proven result and, if the life of your significant other is at risk, maybe you should seriously consider starting an exercise routine. And, if you need more convincing, here are some ways exercise really does keep you happy.

1. Happy Chemicals
Never doubt a character played by Reese Witherspoon! Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in your brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. Studies show that as we age, our stores of dopamine decrease and, as a result, we tend to seek out dopamine releasing experiences. And what’s the best way to do that? Exercise. Dance, run, whatever it is that gets your dopamine buzz going, get moving!

2. It Relieves Stress
Regular exercise actually subjects your body to low level stress by increasing your heart rate setting off a series of hormonal changes. In response, your body becomes more adept at handling stress in general, leading to better mental and physical health and quality of life.

3. It Give You Energy
Of course there are days when working out seems like the least appealing option in the world, However, if you are a regular exerciser, you will attest to the fact that you will feel better after some invigorating physical activity. Try and make that extra effort to get yourself moving by focusing on how the results.

4. It Gives Your Confidence A Boost
Let’s face it; looking great equals feeling great and feeling great equals looking great. If you don’t like how you look, it can effect your career, your relationships and you self esteem. Transforming your body through exercise makes you feel more powerful and look beautiful; not only will you lose weight, but your posture will improve and your skin will glow.

5. It Helps Fight Insomnia
Sleeping pills have their benefits, but they can lose effectiveness over time and can hamper your a.m. activity. Exercise can help relieve insomnia and provide relief for people with sleeping disorders, while giving you the energy boost to leave your bed in the morning.

6. It Reduces Anxiety
Studies show that exercises offers relief from anxiety similar to the effects of therapy and meditation. Maybe old Elle was on to something!

We would love to hear your comments on how happy exercise has made you. Feel free to weigh in (pun intended).