We all know water intake is important … after all it is August in Charleston. But even though it can feel like 100 degrees outside this time of year, as we age our sense of thirst is not as sharp, so it’s easy to become dehydrated and not even know it.
As the mercury rises, is it necessary to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to stay hydrated? Although there is little science behind this precise advice, there are plenty of good reasons to drink a lot of water. Doing so either plain or in the form of other liquids or foods is essential to your health. Most of your body is made up of water, and you lose it daily when using the bathroom, exposing your skin to the sun, when you sweat and even when you breathe.
Here are six reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
—Drinking water helps maintain balan
ce. Your body is composed of about 60 percent water, which is necessary for digestion, absorption, circulation, saliva transportation of nutrients and maintenance of body temperature. When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. Listen to thirst cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk or d
ecaf coffee — but not alcohol.
—Water has no calories. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While it doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for high caloric beverages certainly helps if you are trying to lose weight. Food with high water content looks larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal and beans.
—Water helps energize muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which causes muscle fatigue. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink 17 ounces of fluids two hours before exercise and continue at regular intervals to replace what’s lost by sweating.
—Water helps keep skin supple. Your skin contains plenty of water and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration dries and wrinkles skin. But more is not necessarily better here. If you adequately hydrate, your kidneys will pass any excess as urine. You can also help “lock” moisture into your skin with moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep water in.
—Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood-urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that passes through the kidneys and is excreted. When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color and odor increase because the kidneys trap extra fluid needed for normal bodily functions. If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones.
—Water helps maintain bowel function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along in your gastrointestinal tract. When you don’t get eno
ugh fluid, your colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation. Adequate fluid and fiber is a perfect combination to keep your bowels functioning properly.
Here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1. Have a beverage (alcohol excluded) with every snack and meal.
2. Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high-water content adds to your hydration. About 20 percent of fluid intake comes from such foods.
4. Keep a bottle of water with you and drink whenever and wherever possible.
5. Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, water is your best choice because it has none.
So this summer and always, make water your beverage of choice.
I am obsessed with sleep, or in my case quality of sleep. As a result, I read everything I can about how to get a good night’s sleep, both for myself and my clients, who often after the age of 50 suffer from the same malady, not necessarily lack of sleep, but quality.
According to a sleep and brain health survey done in 2016 by AARP, they found that only 41 percent of people 40 and over say their sleep is excellent or very good. So, with so many people suffering and wanting nothing more than a good night’s sleep, what can we do?
Sleeping pills are often the first line of action for many. According to the same study, nearly a third of people age 40+ take prescription sleep medications and another third take over-the-counter meds. Many people take both. But like anything in life, if it’s too easy, beware. In fact, many of the over-the-counter options, if taken in high dosage combined with other medications and/or taking them too long can have serious repercussions. And with over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills, new studies show long-term use of these sleep aids can increase a person’s risk of dementia.
These over-the-counter options can affect short term memory in the short run, and long-term use, 60 days or more, can significantly increase your risk for developing dementia, according to professor emeritus, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine and a study conducted in 2013 of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Researchers are finding that it is no longer the amount of sleep, the 7-9 hours that is often cited, but rather the quality of the sleep. But why? It appears your brain flushes out toxins during sleep and one of these toxins is beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. If you are not sleeping well, even though you are asleep, your brain and body are not clearing out these proteins.
So even those the prescription medications provide you with quality sleep, the side effects of increasing your risks for Alzheimer’s might negate the benefit as delivered in the British Medical Journal in 2014. Another study warns health-care providers to avoid prescribing prescription sleep aids for people 65 years or older.
How can you improve the quality of your sleep without relying on pills? Many of us over 50 who wake up one or more times during the night to go to the bathroom or wake knowing we are not sleeping deeply. What can we do? The Global Council on Brain Health, an independent group of scientists, health professional, scholars and policy experts make the following recommendations:
1. Only go to bed when you feel drowsy. Don’t stay in bed if you feel awake.
2. Exercise daily if you can because physical activity promotes good sleep
3. Avoid caffeine after lunch and alcohol several hours before bedtime.
4. Limit your eating and drinking, even water, three hours before going to bed.
5. Talk with your doctor about sleep issues, and instead of pills get a referral to a sleep therapist.
One method that has proven to be effective is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. With CBT you keep a sleep diary and then work with a sleep therapist. In a 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who underwent CBT for insomnia fell asleep about 20 minutes faster and were awake nearly 30 fewer minutes at night than those who didn’t undergo therapy. And that’s comparable or even better than test results for people taking Ambien or Lunesta, according to Julie Corliss at Harvard Health. With handling your sleepless nights this way, you may remember in a few more years that you have been getting a good night’s sleep.
We are social beings by nature, but nowadays there is less time to do all the things we need to get done and still have time to connect with families and friends on a serious level. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs. It’s easy to get on social media for a “quick fix” of updates, entertainment and “likes,” and receive a quick dopamine rush that tricks us into thinking we’re connected to people and events that really matter.
I am over 50 years old now. When I was at the College of Charleston I did not take the only computer course offered to business majors. The computer on campus was as big as a small classroom, and student seating was at a premium. It was an elective course, not a requirement to graduate. I enjoyed working, studying and socializing with my classmates and not necessarily in that order. To me the computer course was isolating and boring. Nor was it the cool thing to do…. communicate with a big, odd looking machine.
I didn’t get my first mobile phone until I was in my 30s, and it was the kind that was mounted on the floorboard of my little foreign car. Back then the only ways to seriously communicate with people was in person, by U.S. mail and telephone — all of which were pleasingly social.
Of course, things have changed a great deal since the early-1980s, but certainly not my desire to be “social.” I am not alone with this. But, as I’m sure many of you would agree, I have developed a worrisome love-hate relationship with today’s ubiquitous social media apps and devices.
Indeed, smart phones, tablets, texting, tweets, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat provide unending opportunity to connect with others, to learn and “to grow.” I’ve quoted the trite phrase “to grow” here because we should all know by now what happens to one’s derriere when one sits around on it day in and day out “socializing” instead of moving.
So, for health reasons if nothing else, it’s best to maintain your more traditional ways of social interaction — those that allow us to truly be with other people, to interact with them using our well-developed physical senses, and to reach out and hug someone if need be.
How do you balance your use of social media and face-to-face interaction with family and friends on a significant level? By “significant” I mean an interaction that brings actual joy, richness and quality to our lives through personal contact. Consider the following:
First, get yourself clear on why you use social media? Is it a work requirement? Is it how you keep up with current events? Do you use social media as your primary way to stay in touch with family and friends?
Now, carefully consider your answers to these questions because, if you don’t have a clear vision of why you’re using it, you will end up wasting hours upon hours of your valuable time day after day on nothing. Fact is, there are not enough hours in the day to be active on the plethora of online social platforms. So be very selective. Choose wisely and use it to suit immediate needs.
Be honest with yourself. How you feel when you look at various posts. Do you feel more informed or less? More joyful or less? Do you feel more socially isolated because you are not actually doing things other people are doing, and comparing your life to someone else you see and hear in a virtual reality realm?
Do yourself a favor. Use social media only at certain times of the day instead of logging in whenever you have a free minute or receive some sort of inane notification. Schedule social media use just as you would any other significant appointment. If you find joy from social media, then relax and treat yourself at the right time. It can be as fulfilling as reading a good book, having your nails done or getting a massage. But don’t allow it to consume you. That leads to stress and we all know what stress does to your health….need I say more?
In an earlier blog, I talked about the MIND diet (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative delay) as it relates to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is one of several healthy “diets,” but the truth is any healthy diet can add years to your life, and life to your years. We all can start now and reap the benefits today of aging well from the food choices that we make. It’s all about quality of life, right?
To become a nationally board certified health coach, (I take my national exam in September) a candidate must have a general understanding of good nutrition and how it plays a part in weight loss, healthy aging and preventing specific chronic diseases.
The basics of understanding a healthy diet includes knowledge of what is unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods, lean protein, adequate fiber, healthy fats and the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. We understand the need for water intake, and the roles hunger and thirst play in maintaining weight balance.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describe what healthy eating is all about for people over 50. These guidelines are flexible enough so you can choose a diet of nutritious foods that you like, are readily available and fit your budget.
They suggest people 50 and older choose these foods every day.
Fruit — 1½ to 2½ cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped fruit? A fresh two-inch-in- diameter peach or 16 grapes.
Vegetable — 2 to 3 1/2 cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetables.
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of grains? A small bagel, a slice of whole grain bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal or a half-cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of meat, poultry or fish? One egg, one-quarter cup of cooked beans or tofu, a half-ounce of nuts or seeds or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Dairy — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk. What is the same as one cup of milk? One cup of plain yogurt or 1½ to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same a half-cup of milk.
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons. What is the same as oil added to cooking? Foods like olives, nuts and avocados have a lot of oil in them.
Keep fats solid at room temperature and added sugars and sodium small. If you eat too many foods containing these ingredients you will not have enough calories left in you daily allotment to get in the more nutritious foods you need.
So how much should you eat? It depends on how active you are. It’s calories in, calories out as determined by how active you are each day. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight.
But don’t get obsessed with counting calories. Try to use your daily calories wisely and choose foods that have a lot of different nutrients but not a lot of calories. That way you can eat more food, and if you are like me, you love to eat.
Consider these foods as an example, which can be eaten together or separately: A medium banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a glass of milk. The milk gives you more calcium than the peanut butter but the peanut butter gives you more protein. The banana gives you potassium. That’s why it is so important to eat a variety of healthy foods.
How many calories do people over 50 need each day?
A woman who is not physically active needs about 1,600 calories a day. One who is somewhat active needs about 1,800 calories. A woman with an active lifestyle needs 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.
A man who is not physically active needs about 2,000 calories. One who is somewhat active needs 2,200 to 2,400. And a man with an active lifestyle needs 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day.
And one last tip: Aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity each week.
I am a health coach, not a business coach, but in the process of working with people to help them achieve whole-person wellbeing, I’ve learned the importance of knowing clients’ personal and professional goals — especially at times of transition in their lives. Looking at work-life balance, financial goals and personal growth is an important part in helping people succeed in improving their health.
Most of them want success more than anything else in their life. And will work very hard to get it. However, once they achieve the goal, sustaining it usually is even more challenging. Why is this?
Oftentimes, once someone succeeds or has great privileges, their focus shifts. Rather than continuing to work on the goal, one indulges in the benefits. This, unfortunately, hinders further growth and continued happiness.
Take exercise for instance with a client. She typically can achieve an exercise program five times a week for few months, but then life gets busy and she quits. She can no longer find the time. That certainly is not the way to go about losing weight. And she is discouraged that brisk walking for 30 minutes burns only 100 calories. She decides the effort is not worth the gain on a long-term basis even though it initially increased her energy and helped make her feel better about herself. Or she may decide that the pressure she puts on herself to maintain success is too stressful. The effort seems to be more like punishment than enjoyment.
Lasting success comes from consistency. When you are consistently aware of your “why,” you will continue to be motivated to maintain then further your success. You will say “no” to all temptations and distractions no matter how enticing they may be. Your “life vision” becomes far more important than a short-lived gratification. It’s like eating ice cream even though you know it’s not good for you. Yet you eat it anyway because you think it will ease your stress or help you get over a tiring day at work. It’s a sad irony.
Success versus Achievement
There is a subtle difference between success and achievement. Success is a feeling you have about how you are doing at something and why you are doing it. Achievement is a positive, objective measure about what you have accomplished.
Success is more important than achievement. You can win an award and yet still not “feel” successful. I was a top producer as a real estate agent. I received all the trimmings for my success. But inwardly I did not feel successful. I lost the “why” regarding my life vision. Now I’m fulfilled in my work. And you can be too!
Another example: Your doctor says you must lose 15-25 pounds for your health. (Note: Obesity is the second largest contributor behind tobacco use to developing chronic diseases so prevalent today, including diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune deficiency). Your health-care provider might say it’s important to lose weight, but it really doesn’t sink in if you don’t understand why. So find your “why,” and allow it to help you work towards success. Once there, remember what it took to reach the goal and never back away.
Learning how to focus on what’s right for success in your health and well-being is easier than you think. Would you like to have a wellness breakthrough session with me? There you will learn the five things that may be getting in your way of achieving lasting success in your life, business and health.
It doesn’t take long for something new and exciting to capture people’s interest, and the Fidget Spinner is no exception. Almost instantly, this gadget has created a “buzz” that is turning heads of all ages. But why?
The Fidget Spinner was originally intended to hold the attention of distracted children. Now adults, especially those in high-stress environments, use them to alleviate stress and to help them stay focused.
You can find these plastic, three-pronged toys almost anywhere including convenience stores, tourist shops and even local pharmacies. Why is there such an intrigue in this toy? The Fidget Spinner is designed to reduce stress and increase focus, especially for those who have trouble concentrating and are fidgety. Hence the name. Its effect is similar to an old-fashioned stress ball although more intriguing. The user holds the middle of the toy, spins one of its three ends and watches it rotate.
Its inventor, Catherine Hettinger, originally intended for the device to calm children’s nerves and help reduce their stress and anxiety in a creative way. But soon the device caught on with people of all ages, so much so it is now No. 3 on Amazon’s Top-20 list of best-selling toys in 2017.
Although the Fidget Spinner has become such a sensation, many predict, like most fads, it will soon lose its popularity. However, if the toy has similar effects on people as does an old-fashion stress ball, comes in a variety of colors and are around the same price, it’s hard to say what its future holds.
What do you think? Will you try this stress-reducing fad, or do you think it is just another passing fancy?
Author Bio: Jacqueline Dorman is a Business Administration major at the College of Charleston and an Intern with Wellness Beyond Fifty.
Strolling down the vitamin isle of your favorite drug store is like taking a long walk off a short dock. If you aren’t careful, you might be all wet when it comes to having good health. This is especially true of so-called heart-healthy supplements.
Consumer Reports says in its July 2017 issue of “On Health, the Truth About What’s Good for You,” that most of those shelves loaded down with expensive dietary supplements touted to help you heart are a waste of money. These include omega-3 fish-oil pills, Q10 (or CoQ10) and red yeast rice.
Consuming foods — like sardines, tuna and mackerel — do contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for maintaining a healthy heart. But taking a pill as a substitute is extremely “iffy” based on numerous studies endorsed by the American Heart Association. People who have already had heart attacks or been diagnosed with heart failure might benefit from taking heavy doses of fish-oil supplement, but only reduce their chance of dying of heart disease by a mere 10 percent.
Coq10 is another supplement that is not all that it is hyped up to be. Supplements of this compound, produced by the body as well as some healthy foods, are touted as been good management tools in the prevention of heart failure and alleviating muscle aches associated with cholesterol-lowering statins. But here again, there is a significant lack of conclusive evidence that this supplement does what it is supposed to do.
Red yeast rice pills are the latest unproved heart-healthy supplement making the vitamin shelf rounds. Red yeast rice is said to lower LDL (or “bad’) cholesterol in the human body. However, Consumer Reports lists red yeast rice as one of 15 supplement ingredients to avoid.
Remember, with over-the-counter supplements, the user seldom knows what she is getting because there is little or no government regulation by the federal government. Although there are some high-quality supplements available, it is best to get them through your trusted health-care provider. Otherwise you might be wasting not only your money but also your health because some over-the-counter supplements interact badly with certain prescribed medications.
So what is important to you in your life? Are you living in a way that fulfills your purpose? And what does this have to do with being happier and healthier? The answer may be as simple as understanding your spirituality and how it benefits your health.
For many people spirituality — which does not necessarily mean religious belief — is at the core of their being. It is the lens through which they experience life and see the world. Understanding spirituality in the context of optimal health is extremely important.
For many people spirituality gets at the heart of what is important to them. Some may want to be healthy for health’s sake or to feel more alive and happy. But for many people, achieving optimal health is important because it ties in to their deepest values and beliefs and it brings them overriding joy and happiness in the present moment and throughout their lives. Understanding this and refocusing on it daily often leads to sustaining healthy behaviors for a lifetime.
For others, spirituality provides a sense of strength and healing during times of adversity, illness or death. Through the healing process people often draw on their spirituality to make more sense of the adversity.
There has been a great deal of interest in recent decades in understanding the impact spiritualty has on one’s health. Research has shown the positive relationship between health and religious practice as well as meditation, an understanding of humanism and living according to tenets of a well-defined morality.
It is unquestionable now that when people live their lives with a sense of meaning and higher purpose, their health improves. They have lower inflammation and increased immunity and therefore less heart disease, strokes and other complications from chronic diseases. Which by the way, has now been determined to be the No. 1 killer in society today.
Having a good sense of purpose makes you more resilient and better able to deal with the stress and demands of life. Living with a sense of purpose and meaning doesn’t merely help you get through an adverse time, but also improves your health.
So how does one determine what his or her purpose in life is? It can come from knowing you are helping others, serving a greater purpose or excelling at a skill or craft that is meaningful to you. So regularly ask yourself these questions to explore the role of spiritually in your vision of obtaining optimal health.
- What does it look like when I am spirituality centered and devoting my time and energy to the things that reflect my deepest values?
- What would need to happen for me to feel “successful”?
- Am I cultivating a daily practice of present awareness so I live my life in a more spiritually focused way?
- Once you define your sense of purpose and have cultivated an awareness of that purpose on a regular basis, you need to sustain that awareness so it further impacts your life and health. Do you believe and trust in yourself to be able to reach these goals over the long haul?
Of course you can with the proper attitude and accountability. You can bring yourself joy, live longer and be happier in the process.
We are in an exciting time in life. Just as we had the beginning of the digital revolution at the end of the last century, we are now experiencing a personal transformation revolution. It’s about becoming healthier, happier and living your own life with purpose. But better health and positive change won’t come unless you know what you’re doing.
Here are five steps to help you begin your own journey on the road to personal development:
- Set goals: The first step to living the way you want is to set goals for each part of your life. Those would be your health, career, finances, spirituality and family, but not necessary in that order. Setting separate goals in each area of your life allows you to prioritize what you want to achieve so you can increase your chances of doing so.
However, if you are like most people, you set goals but fail to achieve them because they are too vague. When I work with my health coaching clients, one of the things we work on is setting SMART goals. So what is a SMART goal?
S — Specific: If you want to lose weight, for example, you need to specify how much.
M — Measurable: The easier it is to track your progress, the better your chance of attaining it. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” said Lord Kelvin. Tracking your food intake is one way to do this and makes it less difficult to determine if extra efforts are in order in case you experience a setback or come up short on the progress you desire.
A — Achievable: Although you should aim high, make sure your goals are still achievable and action-oriented.
R — Realistic: While some goals are achievable, they might not be realistic for this moment in time. An example might be you have decided to do a marathon but you have not even run a mile yet. Running is realistic, but you might want to start by building up to running a marathon by completing a 5k (3.1 miles) or a 10k (6.2 miles) race first.
T — Time-based: Setting a deadline will help you remain focused and ensure you stay on track. Using the same example above, you might say, “starting June 1 I will begin jogging and complete a 5k race by Sept. 1, 2017.”
- Create an action plan: Once you’ve set your goals and have written them down, create an action plan on how to achieve them. What activities do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you have a long-term goal, break it down into small steps to make it manageable. Don’t forget to track your progress so you can look back and pat yourself on the back every time you move one step closer to your goal.
- Make time for growth activities: Even though life is very busy, it’s vital that you make time for yourself and your own personal growth. Take 15 minutes to read, learn, or listen to a podcast. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to read or write in your journal. If mornings are tough for you, block out 15 minutes during the day or before you go to bed at night. Whenever you chose is up to you but make sure to try and do it daily.
- Adopt a positive mindset: Optimists are more likely to enjoy and succeed in life than people who always see the negative in a situation. Fill your head with positive information and people. Before long you too will have a sunnier disposition and all the health benefits that come with it.
- Keep a journal: Journaling allows you to keep a record of your progress. It helps you learn from the challenges you face and your triumphs and everything in between. I personally like to have two journals going at all times, a gratitude and goal journal. Writing everything down gives me a chance to reflect on my journey, embrace the challenges and savor the joyful moments along the way to the destination.
If you have already set your goals and accomplished them you are in good shape. Give yourself a pat on the back. Even though there is no special prize, if you have managed to do it by yourself, you’ve learned it takes longer and with more mistakes.
However, have you tried to succeed alone and failed? Health coaching can help you dive a little deeper. I know the reason that people lose weight but never seem to keep it off. People THINK that the reason they give up exercise is that they’re lazy but there’s a surprising reason they don’t stick with it. Meditation is something one can use to relieve stress; I know what it takes to cultivate a daily practice with little effort. People feel they should be restricting calories and avoiding certain foods to eat a healthy diet and are shocked when that’s not the case. Would you like to have a wellness breakthrough session with me? You’ll discover the top 5 things that can get in the way of your health goals, and the #1 thing you need to move forward.
Lately I have not been getting enough sleep, which is worrisome because sleep deprivation leaves your body in a state of unhealthy stress. So I re-visited those things that promote quality sleep and soon got back into a proper routine. Quality sleep is critical to maintaining good health and performing optimally in our daily activities
A lack of sleep is associated with impaired learning, driving and work performance, faster aging of the brain and body, overeating, obesity, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased risk of diabetes and hypertension.
There is also evidence that poor sleep can impair your immune system and increase inflammation in your body. When you get enough sleep you can shorten the duration of a cold or other such illnesses and increase the number of cells that naturally kill mutant or deviant ones. Darkness, which is one of the things needed to get good sleep, produces the hormone melatonin, and melatonin is an antioxidant and inhibitor of cancer cell growth.
Let’s face it, a lack of sleep affects our physical appearance and emotional state. Our brain works best when well rested. It keeps us more alert and energized, and sleep improves our memory too.
But how much sleep is needed varies from person to person. The rule of thumb is 7-9 hours. The best way to tell if you have gotten enough sleep is determined by your alarm clock. If you need one to wake up daily, you probably are not getting enough sleep.
What are the strategies to getting a better night’s sleep?
- Minimize your use of a television, smart phone, tablet or laptop at night, and by all means do not go to sleep while using such devices. All of them emit light, typically blue in color, which suppresses melatonin production, so using them at or close to bedtime is disruptive. This is what caused my recent problem. I love to research things, read blogs and return less urgent emails at night after dinner. Now, instead of using such devices, I’ve gone back to reading a book at night. NOTE: I’ve heard you can get various apps that turn the blue light to yellow, but that hasn’t worked for me.
- Cut off lights. The natural rhythm of light and dark keep us alert during the day and promotes sleep at night by shifting how much melatonin our bodies produce. Clocks, phones, night and outside lights can disrupt this natural rhythm. And did you know that light exposure before bed can increase your risk of cancer? Any exposure to light before bed or during your sleep reduces the depth and quality of sleep. Even a low-level light through closed eyelids can reduce melatonin production. A sleep mask makes a lot of sense if you are bothered by excess light, although I’ve yet to use mine.
- Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up. Once you get into a good routine, you’ll no longer need an alarm clock. By waking naturally, you allow your body to go through its final sleep cycle, where the hormones shift, melatonin decreases and cortisol increases so you become alert.
- Your body temperature should drop naturally at night so make sure you keep your bedroom cool. Ideal sleep temperature is 68 degrees. By lowering the thermostat, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and minimizing noise, you give your body the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
- No surprise here but eating right and exercising are also important for sleep. One of the many benefits of exercise is it helps to physically tire your body so you are ready to get a good night’s sleep. Also, remember to eat your vegetables daily. Otherwise, your sleep may suffer.
I continue to read more and more about the side effects of the various prescription sleep aids on the market today. Relying on a sleep medication generally isn’t the best long-term solution for insomnia. Medications can mask an underlying problem that needs treatment, and they have side effects.
For example, some people who take Zolpidem (Ambien) or similar medications, such as Eszopiclone (Lunesta), do things while asleep that they don’t remember — such as driving, sleepwalking and preparing and eating food. Because you’re not awake, these obviously are dangerous behaviors.
Also, after taking sleep drugs, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you avoid driving or doing activities that require full mental alertness the next day. This is especially important if you take extended-release varieties.
Sleep medications can be useful in the short term but don’t make them a habit. The best approach is to address whatever is causing your sleep problems in the first place. Remedies include many of the things I have talked about in this blog. In addition, counseling for anxiety or using stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, can be helpful.