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5 Strategies for Better Sleep

5 Top Strategies for Better Sleep

When I was in my twenties and thirties I would make silly remarks like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” I was young, single, and enjoying the nightlife. Turns out I was also digging my grave sooner than I would like. By the time I hit my forties, I was overweight, my hormones were out of whack, I had no energy and now I suffer from adrenal fatigue. Getting quality sleep is crucial for so many systems in our bodies. According to the National Science Foundation, over 70 million people suffer from insomnia. Not getting adequate sleep is responsible for infection, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and mood disorders.

It’s time to value our sleep and give it the respect it deserves. Poor sleep impacts our nutrition in ways you may not have thought of too. Staying up too late causes an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which drives our hunger controls. That can lead to poor food choices, hormone imbalance and weight gain.

How much sleep should I get? 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is recommended. The risk of developing obesity rises 23% with just 6 hours of sleep per night, 50% with 5 hours per night, and 73% with 4 hours per night. Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution, shares how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives -- and even our sex lives.


So what can you do to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep to benefit your health?

Here’s my Top 5 Strategies for Better Sleep:

  1. Limit caffeine, alcohol and snacks before bedtime. Eliminate all caffeine after 3pm and keep it under1-2 cups per day at most. Alcohol is a depressant, but it actually disrupts your sleep quality. Eating within 2-3 hours of bedtime raises your body temperature and metabolic rate, disrupting sleep. Your body needs to repair at night, not digest food that you’ve just eaten.
  2. Choose natural sleep remedies over highly-addictive sleep aids. Prescription sleep aids actually alter our sleep architecture and can cause a morning hangover. Try Lemon Balm, Valerian root or phosphotidylserine in supplement form. Magnesium citrate is also a great relaxing mineral that promotes quality sleep. I take magnesium before bed every night.
  3. Set the scene for sleep. Thirty minutes before bed, turn off all electronic devices that emit a blue light, like a TV, tablet, phone, and computer. These devices have what I call the “Vegas-effect” and keep our brains on active mode. Try reading a book, journaling or just chatting with your partner. A warm bath with calming essential oils can help too.
  4. Alter your daytime dietary composition to sleep better. Consider adding in more protein, omega 3 fatty acids, low glycemic foods, and fresh vegetables to promote balanced blood sugar levels.
  5. Movement – All it takes is 30 minutes of movement to boost your metabolism in the morning and then set you up for good quality sleep at night. Find something you like to do and add it to your routine. A pleasant walk in the sunshine can do wonders for your circadian rhythms as well.

If all these efforts don’t result in higher quality sleep, you may have a hormone imbalance or health issue that needs addressing. My consultations are always free and you could be greatly damaging your health by ignoring poor sleep issues.

May is actually Better Sleep Month, so I thought I would take some time to not only chat about this great book, but also share some sleep tips from Casper, their mattress is made with latex foam instead of memory foam that allows you to sleep cool, which is one of the most common sleep problems.  Because let’s be honest, we could all sleep a little better.


Choosing a Safer Sunscreen

Once upon a time, I laid out with my friends in my backyard and slathered baby oil all over myself to get a glowing tan. Say what?!! Yep, that was me in my teens. Of course we all know better now. Or, do we? More than 2 million Americans develop skin cancer each year (NCI, 2013). Surprisingly, there are over 400 sunscreens on the market today, yet only a dozen are actually considered safe and effective.

What is a sunblock or sunscreen?

Sunblocks are mineral-based and provide a physical barrier between you and the sun. They are not absorbed, but rather sit on the skin. Sunscreens, however, are absorbed into the skin and a chemical reaction takes place in order for them to be effective. The ingredients in chemical sunscreens can be downright toxic to your body. For example, one common chemical is oxybenzone, which absorbs ultraviolet light and is believed to cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer. Also found is retinyl palmitate, a synthetic form of vitamin A, in many sunscreens and face lotions. FDA-sponsored studies have linked it to skin cancer.

What do we need to filter out and why?

The Earth is struck with UVA and UVB rays. But UVB rays make up just 3 to 5 percent of the ultraviolet spectrum striking the earth. UVA rays are more numerous and penetrate deeper into the body than UVB. They can cause a different type of DNA damage (Cadet, 2009). Most sunscreens only filter UVB rays. It’s important to read the label and determine if your brand filters both rays.

How do I protect myself?

  1. Use Physical Barrier Sunscreens – We need the sun to provide us with energy and the conversion of Vitamin D, but if you’re going to the beach or pool or will have prolonged exposure, you’ll want to take some steps to protect your skin. Look for a brand that contains physical barriers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both filter out UVB and UVA.
  2. Protective Clothing & Gear – Wear a hat to protect your scalp, eyes and the thin skin on your face; sunglasses with dark or polarized lenses are helpful in preventing glare; long sleeve “rash-guard” swimsuits and those with dark colors and tight weaves can provide a physical block. I don’t advise buying clothes with added chemical sunscreens.
  3. Antioxidants! Fresh, raw fruits and vegetables can provide your body with the necessary nutrients needed to fight the free radicals caused by sun overexposure. Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, can be taken in supplement form for several weeks, which can shield your body from UV damage.

How do I choose an effective brand?

The one major drawback of mineral-based sunscreens is the tell-tale ghostly white look. They can also stain your clothes. There are several brands that the Environmental Working Group has tested for safety and efficacy and some are better than others at blending in and not leaving the white marks behind. Visit their website and see if your brand is safe.

It’s also important to note that choosing a sunscreen based solely on a super high SPF factor can be misleading and give you a false sense of protection. After about 2 hours, the effectiveness of chemical sunscreens wears off and not only stops working but actually interacts with the sunshine to cause free radicals and oxidation in your skin, which cause cancer!

Ultimately, you want to flip your bottle over, read the ingredient label and avoid oxybenzone, parabens, retinyl palmitate (a synthetic form of Vitamin A), and artificial fragrance.  Choose those with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Some of my favorite sunscreens are Dr. Mercola’s, Green Screen, CA Baby and Beauty Counter.

Do you have a favorite natural sunscreen? Let me know!

4 Nutrition Tips You Need to Implement Now

girl shopping

There’s so much health, wellness and nutrition information out today that you can easily get overwhelmed and even confused by the conflicting advice.  One website I was searching had an article that said “drink two liters of water per day,” while another article said, “drink only when you’re thirsty.”

I constantly hear from my clients that they are overwhelmed, stressed and confused and don’t know who to believe anymore. Their inboxes are full of emails from bloggers, doctors, and wellness experts all claiming to have the latest information, studies and tips you need to improve your health.  I understand their frustration, especially when you’re trying to do research on a nutrition topic. I personally like to source from medical journals and scientific research that is evidence-based.  But that can be hard to decipher if you don’t understand medical jargon and it’s a lengthy read!

My advice is to clean up your inbox and follow people you trust and those who give you valuable information that you understand and resonate with. Stop the constant funnel of information, or should I say misinformation.

The main problem with nutrition advice is the study of it is fairly new. We can only get true data after following someone’s health for their lifetime to witness what effects their diet had on their health.  However, it’s extremely difficult to trace a particular food or item in the diet to disease outcomes years later, especially given lifestyle factors and other variables.

I believe that if you can swear off all of those crazy fad diets, juice cleanses and food rules, you can once again have a healthy relationship with food. You need to listen to your body and follow its advice. If you have bloating after eating something or develop a rash, you probably shouldn’t be eating that item. Do you feel tired after a huge plate of pasta? Perhaps cut back and add more veggies and protein to balance your blood sugar. Once you can slow down and really tune in to your body’s rhythm, hunger signals and distress signals, you will learn what to feed yourself.

Tip #1:

Slow down and pay attention to your meal. Many of us are eating on the go, in the car, and at our desks. We aren’t focused on the smells, the appearance or taste – we’re just shoving it in. Take a moment to have a few deep breaths before a meal and relax your parasympathetic nervous system.  Savor each bite and enjoy your meal. It will help you feel fuller and allow you to listen to your body’s fullness cues.  Mindfulness and being present in the moment are the keys.

Tip #2:

Stop the fads and trends. Are you eating egg whites or avoiding eggs because of cholesterol or avoiding fat, because it “makes you fat?” If you enjoy the whole egg, eat it. If you enjoy bacon, eat it. If you want a donut, sit down, smell it, and savor every.single.bite. Depriving yourself of treats only leads to overindulgence down the road.

Tip #3: 

Don’t put yourself in a diet box. There’s no reason on Earth that need you to proclaim to the world that you eat a specific way. Maybe you’re a vegetarian who enjoys a fish taco every now and then or you’re vegan, but eat local raw honey. Or, perhaps you eat a Paleo diet, but can’t give up cheese. Who cares! Eat what you want, enjoy it and don’t feel like you need to put yourself into a specific category. I call my eating style “Flexitarian” – I eat whatever my body tells me it wants.

Tip #4:

Make it sustainable. Whichever way you do eat, make it something simple, tasty and fun so that you can sustain this way of eating for the rest of your life. When I ditched processed foods and switched to whole foods, I took my time. I slowly started integrating healthy salads, smoothies and grass-fed proteins. It didn’t happen overnight and by taking it slow, I’m proud to say that I love my healthy diet of whole, clean and local foods for five years now.  When you diet, it’s usually something short-term and not a “way of eating” that is sustainable forever.  I urge you to source locally, eat fresh, whole foods and cook as much as possible on your own. This alone will improve your health tremendously!

Hopefully these tips will help you release some of your food guilt around eating and you can have a healthy relationship with food and your body again. Spending time making meals with love and eating them with our full attention can help you nurture and nourish your body.