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August Is A Good Time For Sunshine But It’s Also A Good Time For Sleep!

“Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” 

 Mesut Barazan



Summer Is The Season of the Heart and the Fire Element:

Engaging with the different seasons and the environment around you is a great way to start noting your moods, cravings and to become more intune with how you feel during the different seasons throughout the year. Summer is a great time to try new things and pursue new holistic health approaches like nutrition and acupuncture. I have been getting acupuncture for years now and it made a world of difference for me. Several cities offer Community Acupuncture a few days a week, which is more affordable (which is what I do).


Summer is also a time when heat and fire patterns can be suffered in a more pointed or aggressive presentation. When the Heart is in balance, it is a kind leader but out of balance, people may experience:

Insomnia

Palpitations

Red complexion

Excessive sweating

Irritability, anxiety, restlessness

Depression (too little joy) or mania (excess joy)

Healthy sleep can have a huge influence on the majority of these problems, let's delve into why sleep is essential for restoring our body and mind.


The Importance of Sleep:

A good night’s sleep is one of the dominant factors surrounding good health. It has an effect on mental health and cognitive function and plays a role in your emotional and physical well being, and you guessed it…..poor sleep can also cause weight gain. 


The toll sleep deprivation may have on you may appear the next day with mood swings, lack of focus, and other unfortunate side effects or it can build up over time and be a key player in chronic health conditions down the road. Have you ever snapped at a co-worker, friend or partner because you were exhausted and found it hard to communicate your thoughts when asked a simple question? Sleep deprivation can impair your judgments, attention span, and behavior. Long term, it can also cause depression and suicidal thoughts.


Who Is At Risk For Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deficiency is a common public health problem in the United States. People in all age groups report not getting enough sleep. Nearly 40 percent of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. Also, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic (ongoing) sleep disorders. So, if you feel like you like you might fll into this category....you are not alone.


Understanding Sleep:

The circadian rhythm is an internal body block that repeats its cycle every 24 hours. Pressure builds slowly over each waking hour and peaks in the evening when it’s time for bed. Environmental cues such as darkness and light can also help determine when you feel sleepy or awake. The hormone melatonin plays an important role in sleep and promotes a drowsy feeling.


Sleep patterns also tend to change throughout life. Infants sleep for about 16 hours a day. Young children tend to sleep earlier in the evening, teens like to sleep more in the morning and older adults seem to adhere to “the early to bed, early to rise” mantra. The chart below might be a helpful visual to see the shifts in sleep patterns as we age.

Age Recommended Amount of Sleep

Infants aged 4-12 months 12-16 hours a day (including naps)


Children aged 1-2 years 11-14 hours a day (including naps)


Children aged 3-5 years 10-13 hours a day (including naps)


Children aged 6-12 years 9-12 hours a day


Teens aged 13-18 years 8-10 hours a day


Adults aged 18 years or older 7–8 hours a day


Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency


Connection Between Poor Sleep And Weight Gain:

Some research suggests that getting 5 hours of sleep a night compared to 8 hours of sleep can increase appetite and cravings for fatty, sugary, energy dense foods and drinks. There is also some balance disruption with the hunger hormones for people who sleep less than 7 hours. If you're awake for longer periods of time it increases your chances of eating more calories and you are often left feeling too tired and fatigued to exercise causing an increase in their waistline. This behavior over time can lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease to name a few. 


Improving Sleep Quality:

Sleep is often the first thing to get cut short when people think about how much they need to get done in a day. Making time for more sleep will often leave you feeling happier, refreshed and can even increase productivity throughout your day. 


I’m sure some of you will look at this and say “That’s all great info but at the end of the day I’m exhausted but I can’t fall asleep.” 


A few things to think about are: 

Do I have a sedentary job where I’m sitting most of my day?

Do I participate in any sort of exercise throughout my day?


I ask this because sometimes we are so busy during the day and our minds are working so hard but our bodies are just staying in one place, so at the end of the day we are mentally exhausted but our bodies haven’t had the chance to move much and are not feeling that relaxed and tired sensation we hoped for. This doesn’t mean you have to start training for a marathon (although that would be great) but try to get about 20-30 minutes of a moderate pace walk in over the course of your day. You will get some blood flowing, be outside in the fresh air and sunshine (which can help with Vitamin D and improve your mood) and will give your body some reason to be tired at night for a restful sleep. 


If you don’t have a quiet place to walk around, 20-30 minutes of yoga on YouTube would be a great substitute (there are several types of yoga but if you are aiming for a more relaxed routine that will stretch your muscles and keep your heart rate low) I recommend Yin Yoga. Some stretches can be intense but it moves air into all areas of your body waking it up a bit so it can relax later. Search for some free videos and find a teacher you connect with. For more details about stress and mediation, please check out my April post for Stress Awareness Month.


To Improve Your Sleep Habits, It May Help To:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. For children, have a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. Don't use the child's bedroom for timeouts or punishment.

  • Try to keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Limit the difference to no more than about an hour. Staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends can disrupt your body clock's sleep–wake rhythm.

  • Use the hour before bed for quiet time. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen. The light may signal the brain that it's time to be awake.

  • Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime. (Having a light snack is okay.) Also, avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.

  • Avoid nicotine (for example, cigarettes) and caffeine (including caffeinated soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate). Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants, and both substances can interfere with sleep. The effects of caffeine can last as long as 8 hours. So, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.

  • Spend time outside every day (when possible) and be physically active.

  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark (a dim night light is fine, if needed).

  • Take a hot bath or use relaxation techniques before bed.

Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency


Some Helpful Hints:

If you have a smartphone, there are several free apps you can download like Headspace and Calm. These apps do offer monthly/yearly subscriptions but they also have free sections for you to try and see how you like. 


This is a great exercise that I found from Sleep Foundation.org.

It takes some time to get used to exercises like these so go easy on yourself if you first have difficulty. Try it out!

Find a comfortable position in bed. Let yourself relax and start to notice your body and any sensations you feel. Feel the connection between your body and the surface you’re lying on. Relax any tension and soften your muscles.


Focus your attention on your body. If your mind starts to wander to thoughts or worries, gently bring it back to your body. It’s very common to become preoccupied while you’re lying in bed—it takes time and practice to learn how to focus your attention on the body only.


Start to notice your breath and where you feel it in your body. You might feel it in your abdomen, your chest, or in your nostrils. Focus your attention on the full breath, from start to finish. If your mind is wandering, just notice that it has wandered and gently redirect it back to your breath.


Take a deep breath into your lower belly (not your chest) and feel your abdomen expand with air. Hold this for a few seconds and then release. Notice your belly rising and falling, and the air coming in and out a few times. Imagine the air filling up your abdomen, and then traveling out your airways, over and over.


Continue to do this for a few minutes, focusing your mind back to your body and the breath coming in and out. Any time a thought crosses your mind, release that thought and refocus on the breath. Feel yourself relaxing even more deeply.


(Practice this silently for a few minutes)


Do a scan of your body while you lay down, noticing anywhere you might feel tension in your body. Review the areas of your body, starting from the top of your head to your toes, relaxing the tension when you encounter it. As you do this, direct your breath into that area of your body to help you release that tension.


After you have scanned your body, return to the simple breathing pattern, continuing to notice your breath and picturing it flowing into and out of your belly.


Have a restful sleep…...goodnight.


Quick Rundown Of A Few Poor Choice Foods To Eat Before Bed:

Fatty / Sugary Foods: Hamburgers and Donuts

Why: The high saturated fat content can delay gastric emptying since it takes longer to digest fat. Your body will concentrate on digestion and send the blood flow to your stomach instead of focusing on sleep.

Sugar is a stimulant and may keep you awake and restless instead of calm and relaxed for bed.


Acidic Foods: Spicy dishes with chili peppers. Acidic fruits and vegetables such as lemon and tomatoes.

Why: Foods that are higher is acidity can trigger acid reflux and leave you with heartburn when you try to lie down.


Quick Rundown Of A Few Better Choice Foods To Eat Before Bed:

Nuts/Nut Butters: Almonds, Walnuts

Why: These are good sources of healthy fats and contain the sleep hormone melatonin.


Low-Fat Dairy & Berries: Cottage Cheese, Yogurt

Why: Cottage cheese has the amino acid tryptophan and may increase serotonin levels in the brain. Yogurt is a good source of calcium and may improve sleep quality for people who are deficient in this mineral. Berries are a good source of antioxidants and contain calcium in addition to melatonin. Try adding raspberries, whole tart cherries (or drinking 8 oz tart cherry juice) and banana as a topping!


Cup Of Hot Herbal Tea: Chamomile, Peppermint, Ginger or any tea blend such as Sleepytime Tea that you enjoy.

Why: Herbal teas do not contain caffeine and can be very soothing at the end of the day. My favorite is a chamomile/lavender blend tea that I drink about 2 hours before bed time. (You don't want to have a full bladder and wake up a few hours later to use the restroom.)


As one of my favorite yoga teachers used to say, “Be sweet to yourself and take care of your body and mind, they are the only ones we ever get.” and remember….Health starts from the inside out!


To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at wellnesswithin.cw@gmail.com


A little about me:

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I am interested in transplant, renal and gastrointestinal issues. All the information presented within this blog is backed by the credible sources cited below.


Sources:

Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency


Sleep Deprivation and Obesity. (2015, July 06). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sleep/


Sleep Topics. (2020, July 28). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics


Staying Healthy in Summer According to Chinese Medicine. (2018, June 21). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.actcm.edu/blog/featured/summer/










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