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 Dr. Michelle Durkin, ND
I see so many moms in the clinic who have specific health complaints that they attribute to “since having kids”. Whether it’s fatigue, weight
gain, back pain or insomnia, many patients feel like their body hasn’t been the same since before pregnancy.
The other common pattern that I see is the compounding effect that multiple pregnancies have on the body. This can be especially problematic if the pregnancies are closer together and the body hasn’t been given a chance to return to homeostasis in between.
This is why the fourth trimester, aka postpartum care and recovery, is so important. As a society, we need to start adopting the mindset of “it’s easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble” when it comes to mommy’s health.
Chinese medicine believes the loss of blood and dramatic transformation of a woman’s body during the gestational and birthing process results in a state of deficiency that requires replenishment. If left untreated, it may potentially give rise to a number of long-term health problems. During the fourth trimester, a woman’s condition is very vulnerable and much emphasis is placed on rest, recovery and ensuring the diet is rich and nutritious to help strengthen the qi and blood that are deficient at this time.
So, if you plan on having your first baby, or whether you are planning to have your last, here are some simple recommendations from ancient Chinese medicine to help you have a healthy fourth trimester that will pay dividends for your health in the future:
1. The fourth trimester begins immediately following childbirth, not on your schedule. It starts with a month of postnatal confinement or “sitting the month”. This basically means spending the month mostly in bed with your baby.
2. Cold and drafts are to be avoided. The body must be kept warm. This involves avoiding contact with anything cold, for example, cold environments, cold food, air conditioning, sponge bathing instead of showering, wrapping/ binding the abdomen to keep it warm, keeping your head covered, and wearing socks and clothes at all times.
3. Foods consumed should be nutritious, warm, and assist recovery of qi and blood. This includes things like soups, animal meats especially lamb (very warm), eggs, warm veggies, and whole grains like wild rice and quinoa. Avoid junk food, greasy food, raw food, sweets and salt. Warming herbs like turmeric, ginger, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and basil are encouraged. An ancient Chinese saying is to “eat a chicken a day.” The idea behind it is to eat the nutritional equivalent of a chicken a day.
4. Activity in general should be minimized if not avoided completely. The body must be well rested with as little energy as possible exerted. This means no visitors (too stimulating for mommy and baby), no work (that means housework too), no television or digital devices, stay in bed, no sex, and no exercise for at least the first month. You should focus only on sleeping, eating and feeding your baby. When feeling stronger, mom can make time for moderate activity such a walking, in order to help restore the circulation of qi and blood. Heavy lifting and physical strain should be avoided for the first four months in order to allow the pelvic tissues to completely heal and renew.
Originally Published: August 11, 2017
Written by Sharon Harrison
Most of us are not musicians by trade and we are not musically inclined or trained. We do not possess the talent to master an instrument, nor do we have the perfect vocal cords to call ourselves professional singers. Many of us do enjoy listening to music, whether it’s at a live concert for a favourite band, enjoying Mozart`s Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, or listening to the local radio station blasting out hits from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
What does music mean to us? Woven through our everyday lives, it plays a central role in our mental health and is very much a part of us and is often taken for granted. What effect does it have on us and what role does it really play? Music in its many forms is part of what makes us human, but could we survive without it and how difficult would it be to function without the dulcet tones of a familiar tune to soothe or entertain us? Why do we need music in our lives? Does the type of music on our playlist tell us much about our personality or our mood for example? Can we determine someone’s character just because they prefer hard rock over jazz or rap?
How do we connect to music, or put another way, what is the role of music and its interconnectedness to us? Understood by many no matter the country of origin, music is the ultimate universal language. Music brings people together. While it is most often associated with pleasure or happy situations, it can be linked with difficult, sad or melancholic times. Music can be many things to many people and can make us feel and express different things, triggering different emotions, stimulating varying responses, especially on a deeply personal level. Music can be whatever you want it to be. Music can also be a distraction. It can make us feel good or feel better, sending messages of positivity, uplifting our spirits. Music can heal us in ways we may not immediately realize or appreciate. It can get you motivated, change your mood or even help you concentrate.
Music is known to relax us; it can bring joy, trigger a memory or it may comfort or calm us. It can make our hearts soar, get our toes tapping or reduce us to tears. Music can be unpredictable. It can even give us goose bumps. Hearing a familiar tune can make us spontaneously burst into song, sometimes at the top of our lungs. Others may hum along a little more discretely. But music can also be repetitious, irritating or unpleasant and not always to our liking.
Music can be unsettling. It can also drive us a little crazy sometimes: remember how a tune gets into your head and no matter what you do, it stays there for days running over and over in your mind? Some people aren’t affected by earworms, others are plagued by them. But how does a tune find its way into our mind refusing to leave?
Some people connect with the words of a song where the lyrics can send a profound message. Others are attracted to the tempo or the rhythm. It is one of the reasons many companies use catchy tunes when making commercials. The tune grabs for our attention long before the product does, reeling us in, and before we know it, we are paying attention to what is being offered. People listen to music while they are driving, exercising or showering; others need it to be able to fall asleep, many wake-up to it. We sing hymns at church, play pop music at parties, and sing the national anthem at hockey games. For some, it is more about the instrument than the voice where the strings of a guitar are preferred over the sound of piano keys or the twang of a harp. Some may enjoy the pure singing voice of a soprano while others will appreciate the skill of a talented drummer. Musical tastes vary enormously and are as individual and unique as each of us which explains why some prefer Bieber over Beethoven or Vivaldi over the Village People.
But imagine a world without music. Imagine not hearing a favourite rock song again, or not being able to smooch to a romantic tune or listen to a soft ballad from a cherished music box. Imagine not be able to whistle along to a catchy tune as you wash the dishes. If music was eliminated from our lives, what impact would it have and would we notice its absence? Is the existence of music really so important?
We do know music is good for us and studies have found music has many health benefits. It makes you smarter, happier and more productive. A tune will get your heart pumping and it stimulates the brain in extraordinary ways. Listening to music activates many different areas of the brain, changing our brain chemistry, and if it’s a tune we really like, the brain will release dopamine, the feel good chemical. Next time you find yourself in need of some easy listening, think about its whole effect on the mind, body and soul.
Originally Published: June 27, 2017