Written by Carolyn Coffin
Imagine a drug that could help you burn fat, boost immunity, regulate blood glucose, end sugar cravings, brighten your mood, think clearly, and prevent chronic disease.
That drug exists. It’s called a good night’s sleep.
If sleep were made into pill form and marketed to us, we’d realize that it improves all markers of health, finances, happiness, and relationships ... without side effects. No doubt, it would fly off the shelves regardless of cost. So why aren’t we addicted to this drug?
Over the past two hundred years – first with the industrial revolution and then with the invention of the light bulb – time became money. Some speculate that our quest to become more productive has caused us to become blind to the fact that we can’t work around the clock. When our natural circadian rhythms – which used to be governed by the rising and setting of the sun – are disrupted by artificial light and digital stimulation after dark, it comes at a cost.
The stats don’t lie:
Forty percent of Canadians suffer from some form of sleep disorder, and sleep deprivation is estimated to cost $21.4 billion a year due to decreased productivity in our country alone. When combined with other developed economies like the United States, Japan, and the U.K., the losses skyrocket to a whopping $680 billion per year.
Perhaps the most troubling part is that we don’t believe we are suffering from lack of sleep because we “feel fine,” which is why it’s said to be a silent killer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple steps you can take right now to sleep more soundly tonight.
Five Tips to Engineer a Perfect Night’s Sleep
1. Catch some rays in the days – Get outdoors in the morning sunlight for about 15 minutes (e.g. walk, bike, yard work) to anchor your circadian rhythm and let your body know it’s daytime.
2. Give yourself a tech curfew – Blue light from screens interferes with our body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. This can lead to the familiar “tired but wired” feeling that makes it so difficult to wind down. Consider setting a tech curfew about 2 hrs before bed. If a screen curfew is not an option, consider installing Flux (justgetflux.com) on your computer, a free software program to pull the hormone disrupting blue light out of your screens.
3. Set a bedtime alarm – We usually set an alarm to wake up, so why not use one to get to bed? Program your phone to go off about half an hour before you want to fall asleep to remind you to start the bedtime process. For example, if you normally wake up at 6:30a.m. and you want eight hours of shut-eye, set your bedtime alarm for 10 p.m. for a 10:30 p.m. lights out. It’s also important to have relatively consistent bed and wake times.
4. Mellow out in the evenings – Trade in the screens for reading, socializing, or enjoying an evening stroll. A cup of herbal tea is also a great pre-sleep ritual.
5. Create a sleep sanctuary – Sleep in a quiet, tidy, cool (16 to 20 degrees Celsius), dark room. Remove all electronics, including computers and televisions, as well as work materials and excess clutter. Consider adding a houseplant, which naturally purifies the air by removing toxins.
Bottom line: Do whatever you can do to live in closer alignment with your natural circadian rhythm each day and you will find yourself sleeping like a baby again.
Carolyn can be reached at eatrealfoodacademy.com
Originally Published: August 21, 2017
Written by Carolyn Coffin
Did you know that self-care includes having fun and playing, just like you did when you were a kid? Is there room for play in your schedule or are you booked to the minute?
Be honest, when is the last time you really lost yourself in a joyful activity that had you completely absorbed in the moment with zero attachment to the outcome?
As the challenges and responsibilities of making a living and managing a family accumulate, we seem to have adopted the collective belief that play is for youth.
The truth is that play is for everyone, particularly those engaged in the incredible complexity and breakneck pace of modern life.
Play can be any activity that you find enjoyable, with minimal emphasis on rules, structure, or tangible results. The objective is to get you out of the focused, rational mindset that you exist in for most of the day, unplug from your routine, and have some fun!
It’s easy to be sedentary in the modern world, so ideally your play sessions will involve getting outdoors in fresh air and sunlight while performing moderate amounts of physical exertion. This can be anything from a five-minute break from your work desk to practice juggling in the courtyard to a weekend getaway where you learn how to stand-up paddle, snowshoe, or rock climb. For the majority of us who don’t accumulate enough daily movement, these outdoor play stints produce the best physical and psychological benefits.
Research has shown that play is a sure way to fuel your imagination, creative juices, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being. Play helps us connect with our childlike curiosity, manage stress, and even increase productivity – all with a better sense of humour and a more positive outlook on life.
For those averse to formal workouts, you’ll be relieved to know that play can contribute to the development of strength and speed as effectively as formal workouts do. There are even fitness centres popping up designed to promote play, filled with foam pits for jumping, ropes to climb or swing on, and obstacles to jump over or up onto. The MovNat (MovNat. com) fitness program emphasizes spontaneous interaction with one’s natural surroundings, which can appeal more than a stuffy gym to many.
I recently polled my Facebook community to see what their favourite play activities are, and here’s what they love:
- Dancing to music in the kitchen
- Adult dodge ball
- Pickup basketball / Ultimate Frisbee
- Cannonballing into a lake
- Chasing your children on the jungle gym
- Tobogganing / building snow forts / having a snowball fight
It’s up to us to reconnect with our roots as playful human beings. When it feels as though life is too serious or slipping by too fast, toss aside your to-do list and make room for the activities that really help you recharge. Let the fun shine in, have a blast, and just live a little – or a lot!
Carolyn can be reached at
Originally Published: April 24, 2017