Posts Tagged Sleep
This is going to be a mish/mash of topics because not only is this whole month National Nutrition Month, but National Sleep Awareness Week is also going on (March 11th – 17th). What I hope to accomplish here is show how sleep and nutrition work together to impact your wellbeing in a positive or negative way depending on your habits and to provide resources to help improve your sleeping and eating habits. First up, nutrition.
Nutrition, back to basics
Its common knowledge that nutrition plays a key role in your wellbeing. So why is it that good nutrition habits seem to be so hard to maintain? The answer is mostly about cost and convenience. Good, healthy, nutritious food can be pricey, can take time to prepare, and is rarely found when dining out unless you go to places where healthy food is “their thing” and even then, the results can be sketchy. That said there are some basic food principals that you can keep in mind that can help guide you and assist in building healthy, and most importantly, sustainable eating habits. I use the term “habits” intentionally because just like with exercise, breaking bad habits and creating and nurturing good habits is key. Simply put, short-term diets accomplish short-term goals. For life-long wellbeing, you need to create good eating habits that you do all the time while also working to get rid of bad habits like eating a donut with your coffee every morning or drinking energy drinks in lieu of getting enough sleep. Here are some goals to strive for.
Calories. While I am not telling you to start counting every calorie you intake during a day it is important to understand that every day you need a certain amount of calories for your body to function. Variables such as age, gender, activity level, and weight goals, will affect how many calories you should aim to consume in a 24-hour period. There are various calculators online and other tools out there that can help you come up with a rough number. However, it may be best to talk with a doctor or nutritionist to develop a plan that truly fits your body and your goals. Once you know how many calories to shoot for you can begin to approach meal time in a more objective way.
Eat more fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are very nutritious and are often the best, and sometimes only, source for certain vitamins and minerals. Supplements exist but data suggests that when we take things like daily multi-vitamins our bodies may not actually be able to absorb a lot of it. This is why it is important to make sure you are eating a balanced intake of plant-based foods to ensure you don’t become deficient in any vitamins or minerals which can cause mild to severe health issues down the line. Plus, studies show that a diet high in nutrient-rich vegetables can help prevent certain types of diseases such as certain cancers and diabetes. Here are some tips for increasing your intake:
- Have a daily fruit snack.
- Try to eat at least 5 ½ cups a day of fruits and vegetables, especially those with the most color, which is an indication of high nutrient content.
- Tuck a banana, apple, orange, some raisins or other dried fruit in your bag for a mid-afternoon snack.
- Use sliced fresh fruit as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and fresh yogurt.
- Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the meat in your recipes. For example: Add carrots, celery, and green and red peppers to meatloaf; mushrooms and spinach to lasagna; and celery, zucchini and yellow squash to spaghetti sauce.
- Drink a glass of 100 percent fruit juice with your meals. Make sure it is 100% juice as many juice brands contain added sugar and other fillers.
- Top hot or cold cereal with sliced bananas, fresh berries, raisins, or other fruit.
- Top lettuce-leaf salads with generous amounts of tomato, cucumber, celery, mushroom slices, onions, beets, radishes, green peppers, broccoli, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, or fresh fruit.
- Add chopped green, yellow, or red peppers, broccoli, celery, onions, and cherry tomatoes to rice and pasta salads.
Eat a variety of foods. It’s easy to find yourself eating the same stuff every week or even every day sometimes. But if you’re not shaking things up you could be limiting the variety of nutrients you’re getting and could find yourself becoming deficient in many important micro (vitamins/minerals) and macro (fat/protein/carbs) nutrients. This is why it’s important to be mindful about eating a good variety of food.
- Mix up the types of protein you eat. While it’s important to limit the amount of red or processed meat you consume for all sorts of reasons, try to make sure you are balancing your lean protein between all types of meat including chicken, fish, turkey, and plant-based proteins like tofu and beans.
- Add color to your diet. Even if you’re getting a lot of fruits and veggies, make sure there is plenty of variety in those as well. Strive to eat veggies of different colors as a simplistic guide. Get plenty of green, red, yellow, orange, brown, purple, etc. into your diet. The colors of fruits and veggies represent the chemical content in them meaning different color, different nutrients. The more color on your plate the better!
- Try recipes from new cookbooks or search the internet for sites with healthful recipes you can download. Check out a new restaurant or recipe each week or pick one night a week to create a meal you’ve never tried.
Limit the “bad” types of carbs you eat and eat more of the “good” carbohydrates. Eighty percent of your total carbohydrate intake should come from nutrient-dense carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain products (breads, cereals, pasta), barley, couscous, oatmeal, and potatoes. Stay away from the processed sugars in soda, candy, white rice, white bread, white pasta, in fact, as a friend and colleague of mine says, “if it’s white, don’t bite!”
Sleep, it does the body (and mind) good
I think it’s fair to say that we all have nights when we don’t sleep very well. While it’s fine to be a little tired every now and then, chronic sleeplessness can have drastic effects on your wellbeing far beyond simply being a little tired in the morning and can increase your risk of many physical and mental health issues that no can of energy drink is going to be able to fix. Sleep is when our body carries out important tasks such as resting, repair of the body, processing of short- and long-term memories, and hormonal regulation to name a few. To give ourselves time to carry out these tasks when we sleep, adults need to get 7-10 hours of sleep per night consistently. Being tired can even be dangerous. Driving, operating machinery, dosing out medication, and other tasks we may encounter on the job or in daily life can be risky or even deadly. In fact, the data shows that driving while tired can be just as dangerous or more so than driving under the influence of alcohol.
Unfortunately, our busy lives can prevent us from having the time to get enough sleep, too much anxiety to sleep at all, or secretly sabotage our quality sleep without our awareness through things like blue light from our mobile phone, TV, and computer screens which can impact our sleeping patterns drastically. But don’t despair, there are lots of actions we can take to help support our sleep and remove distractions and disruptors from our sleepy time.
Tips for sleep
Getting good sleep is all about setting up a good routine, being mindful of when and what you eat, and avoiding distractions around bedtime. Here are some tips to help you set yourself up for a good night’s rest:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. I know this one is hard for me too, especially on the weekends, but strive to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Don’t exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime. The activity combined with the chemicals released during exercise can wake you up when you should be winding down.
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine. Both chemicals are stimulants and can cause sleep issues.
- Avoid late night snacks or beverages before sleep. Indigestion can cause sleep issues as can frequent trips to the bathroom.
- If possible, take medications that can disrupt sleep in the morning. Of course, if you have a strict medication schedule this may not be possible. Ask your doctor about this one if you have any medication caused sleep issues.
- Limit napping to early in the day. A 5 o’clock nap may sound good, but it may make it hard to relax come bedtime.
- Relax before bed. Read, listen to calm music, meditate, take a hot bath, or do whatever relaxes you and gets you ready for sleep. Stay away from screens though, the light coming from them can disrupt our body’s sleep cycles.
- Maintain a good sleep environment. Make your bedroom dark, comfortable, and distraction free. Keep daytime activities out, this means no TV or computers. Train your brain that the bedroom is only for sleep and other bedroom exclusive activities.
- Get out during the day. Getting exposure to the sun at least 30-minutes a day can help calibrate our internal clocks.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. Get up and do something relaxing to help keep the anxiety of not being able to sleep at bay.
To further tie nutrition and sleep together here are a few more ways the two interact in both positive and negative ways:
- Sleep and food are our primary sources of energy/fuel. They both support our ability to function in different and important ways. One cannot substitute for the other, however.
- Sleep regulates how your body uses energy and poor sleep can lead to higher risk of obesity and diabetes.
- Energy drinks are not sleep in a can!
- While some food and drinks can hurt your sleep quality, some things like decaf tea and other foods can help relax the body and mind for sleep.
For more information or helpful resources check out:
MINES Can Help
Hopefully, you can use this information help make National Nutrition Month (and National Sleep Week) a new milestone in your healthy habit goals for 2019. And remember if MINES is your EAP, you have access to a ton more resources through your online benefit PersonalAdvantage. If you don’t know your company’s login information, please contact MINES or your Human Resources department. MINES also has an extensive training selection for sleep, nutrition, and many more wellbeing, employee, and development topics.
To your wellbeing,
The MINES Team
Happy National Sleep Awareness Week, we certainly hope you slept great last night. Setting up good sleeping habits and getting a solid 7-10 hours of sleep per night is critical to lasting wellbeing but it can be tough to do. To help we called in an expert. This week’s blog has been graciously written by our friend and wellness partner Michelle Zellner, owner and founder of Better Beings. Michelle has been a trainer, coach, and facilitator for over 20 years. Seeking to inform, influence, and inspire, Michelle’s experience allows her to deliver on a wide variety of topics, including exercise, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, sleep, preventing and managing chronic disease, and work-life balance just to name a few.
Sleep – The Luxury You Can’t Live Without
How did you sleep last night? No, really, HOW did you sleep? I’ve spent years asking this question to those around me who always seem to get a good night’s sleep. What’s the secret? People who have no trouble sleeping don’t give it a second thought, but there are so many things needing to go right to get that good night of sleep, I think it’s amazing anyone does! I have come to believe sleep is like most other things—some people are naturally better at it than others.
As a kid, I was the one at the slumber parties who was up, ready to go, at 6am. Let me tell you, parents were not so thrilled! Growing up, I remember lying awake, unable to fall asleep, for what seemed like forever. I was certain I was missing out on some kind of fun! I always wondered how my sister could sleep sooooo late, even on Christmas morning. She would tell me—”just wait until you get older and you’ll be sleeping in too.” Nope, never happened. By the time I moved away for college, things were getting especially interesting. Sleep talking and sleepwalking became regular occurrences. Japanese was my foreign language of choice and my roommate would tell me I’d sit straight up in the middle of the night and start speaking Japanese (more fluently than when I was awake). I would often find my way to the stairwell at the opposite end of our dorm hall and have conversations with friends as they were coming home from a fun night out. On several occasions, I woke up to find myself sleeping on the floor outside my friend’s door. I had no recollection of any of these events, but it turns out I was a pretty social, conversational person, while completely asleep.
At the time, I thought this was funny, odd, weird. It made for great stories but was definitely a bit scary. I wish I had been more interested in figuring out WHY this was happening, but eventually it became less frequent and then ceased altogether. I now know that change, stress, irregular sleep patterns, and chronic sleep deprivation are triggers for this type of nighttime activity.
These are just a few of the challenges I’ve had with sleep. For a period of time, I battled severe insomnia. It would take hours for me to fall asleep and then would wake at 1:00 or 2:00am, unable to fall back to sleep. This would happen several nights in a row and led to anxiety about going to bed. My journey on the quest for the magic answer to blissful sleep has led me to discover I am far from alone in this struggle. While your challenges may be different, the root causes of sleep issues, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, are the same. When we are young, we can get away with a lot. I did well in school, had energy for gymnastics (as a kid), work and fun. I was a generally pleasant person and any moodiness could be attributed to A) being a teenager or B) being hungry. As with many things, the older we get, the less resilient we become.
Unfortunately, societal norms including schedule patterns (school, work, activities, and dietary habits) and the overuse of technology, are making it increasingly difficult for children, teenagers, and adults to get the quality sleep necessary for optimal human functioning and performance. The side effect of not being tired the next day is just one small piece of why we need anywhere from 7-10 hours of quality sleep per night. This should be the time for rest, repair, and hormonal reset. Parts of the brain and body get to relax, while other parts of the brain and body get busy. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the increased risk for every single physical and mental health issue, because the critical functions designed to take place during various phases of our sleep cycle are either cut short or not happening at all. Sleep is actually a necessity—not a luxury!
There are many reasons why we are sleep deprived, and identifying your obstacles to healthy, quality sleep is the first step. I have come to realize that a good night’s sleep starts in the morning. The behaviors we engage in throughout the day will either promote or obstruct our sleep that night. Let me outline a few of the basics.
Back in the day, we operated on a natural day/night cycle…hunting and gathering during the day and, as darkness approached, we got quiet and hid from all the dangers that lurk. With that darkness, the pineal gland produced and released melatonin—one of our sleep-inducing hormones. Our movement throughout the day allowed the body to produce adenosine triphosphate—a byproduct of the glucose burned as fuel in the body. Adenosine is a brain chemical that also signals it is time for sleep. Upon rising with the sun, the body released adrenaline and cortisol—two hormones that help get us going by releasing glucose and triglycerides into the bloodstream for fuel and circulating that fuel by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
We ate real food (in appropriate amounts), which provided nutrients that enabled the body to produce adequate amounts of melatonin (think Omega-3 fatty acids), we did not eat fake food that the body had to work really hard to get rid of (think excess sugar), and we were not overconsuming stimulants (which trigger a release of cortisol, keeping you alert!).
We had the occasional big stressor (a big beast that wanted to eat you) and we did not have artificial light and physiologically and cognitively stimulating media devices.
For most people today, life looks nothing like that! In fact, it may be quite the opposite. The environment in which we live is not the one the human brain and body were designed for, so we need to do the best we can to simulate or create such an environment. To set ourselves up for quality sleep (and a quality life!) we need to:
- Eat real food more often than not—consuming most calories early and often during the day and fewer as bedtime approaches.
- Minimize caffeine intake (no more than 200mg/day) and make sure you cut off consumption at least 10 hours prior to going to bed. In addition, avoid alcohol at least 4 hours prior to going to bed.
- Move your body as much as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can.
- Manage your stressors during the day (meaning do not allow cortisol to be released unless it is really a threat to your existence).
- Have an evening winding down routine, allowing the house, the body, and the mind to get ready for sleep. The house gets dark, the body gets relaxed, the mind gets quiet. Turn off the devices!
- Listen to your body and brain! If you find yourself snacking at night, it may be because you are ignoring the signals that it is time for bed. When you override the messages from adenosine and melatonin and force yourself to stay awake, you reach for some form of sugar. Instead—GO TO BED.
If you struggle with getting quality sleep, here is my suggestion.
- Identify the obstacle to sleep (check all that apply)
- Busy Mind
- Stress (cortisol released throughout the day)
- Eating too late/types of food/amount of food
- Caffeine consumption
- Interruptions (kids, animals, full bladder, significant other)
- Create a real strategy to modify a behavior that could be impeding quality sleep.
- Recognize that it is the cumulative effect of all the things we do consistently over time that have the largest impact on the outcome. Multiple behaviors may need modification, and they have to become your habits to really reap the benefits.
Through analyzing my own tendencies, and acknowledging which ones were potentially impacting my sleep, I have been able to restructure and modify many of those habits. While I occasionally have a difficult night of sleep, I am happy to say that insomnia is no longer a regular part of my life. I also know, that even though that I am doing all I can right now to set myself up for quality sleep, it is not always in my control. I try to make really healthy choices in every other area—what I put in my body, how much I move my body, and how I manage my stress triggers—to hopefully minimize the damage that inadequate sleep may be causing. The healthy choice is usually the harder choice, but ultimately, I believe those healthy choices will produce a healthy, happy, productive human being. So far, I have found it worth the effort—and I believe you will too!
To your wellbeing,
Michelle Zellner, Owner/Founder of Better Beings
It may be self-evident to many of you reading this blog that alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and obesity can negatively affect performance at work or at home. If this is a correct assumption and you have all three of these areas under control, thank you. On the other hand, after 39 years of working with people and organizations on these issues it is clear to me that our society continues to miss the boat on them.
This week alone, I had client organizations call about each of these concerns. In one case a senior executive was observed to drink one bottle of wine at a company function, plus cocktails before dinner. Her behavior became problematic when she propositioned a male colleague, angrily denied she had drank too much and proceeded to accuse others on her executive team of “being out to get her.” To make this situation even sadder, the executive had done something similar three years earlier at the same company function. This became a performance issue at a number of levels. First, upon investigation, it turned out she had a number of days in the last few months where her secretary reported she left early for lunch and never returned resulting in significant loss of individual productivity. Second, she created liability for her company when she propositioned a colleague. This created a potentially hostile work environment/sexual harassment lawsuit. In addition, there was lost time for human resources, management, and legal to review the situation and interview all parties. Third, when confronted with her behavior and the company’s requirement to go to the employee assistance program for an evaluation and potential referral for treatment if indicated, she refused and resigned. This resulted in additional loss of intellectual capital and the personal long term health costs to her. This reminder for everyone in supervisor, management, or executive functions is that alcohol and other substance use disorders have not diminished despite policies, procedures,’ and education interventions. It is important to stay alert to your employees’ and colleagues’ behavior and act in a timely and compassionate manner similar to the company discussed in this paragraph.
The research on sleep deprivation is well documented. Sleep deprived individuals do not function well cognitively and their reaction times are diminished. This finding was significant enough for one researcher to say that sleep deprived drivers were more dangerous than alcohol impaired drivers. What are the costs to your organization related to sleep deprivation? We know that individuals who are sleep deprived eat more, make poorer food and exercise decisions, are more irritable with others, and make poor decisions. Many companies recognize the dangers of sleep deprivation and provide nap rooms, meditation classes, and other options so that employees can refresh themselves and perform better at work.
Obesity, wellness, and financial impact discussions are ubiquitous on the internet and in the professional literature. Our workforces are getting fatter and fatter. Recent research suggested that obesity not only has downstream health costs for the employer, there is some evidence that cognitive functions can be influenced as well. This research needs to be replicated. Then there is the subgroup of morbidly obese individuals who also have co-morbid depression. Depression affects performance in terms of diminished problem solving skills, concentration problems, social withdrawal, lowered energy which is compounded by the lower energy associated with morbid obesity, as well as other symptoms such as memory impairment. Any of these symptoms will negatively affect performance in most jobs. As an employer it will become an even heavier burden going forward to manage the workforce as the obesity incidence continues to grow. What is becoming more apparent is that the typical wellness program is unsuccessful in helping the morbidly obese. A major component that is missing is the psychological aspects of performance related to weight loss and weight gain. The research in this area has been well established for over 25 years. Coors Brewing in 1988 was one of the first companies to incorporate an intensive outpatient obesity program as part of its wellness program. It was a highly successful program. Unfortunately during that time there were many fasting programs and one of the unintended side effects of these programs was an increase in gall bladder surgeries and the corresponding cost. Due to a variety of factors beyond the scope of this blog, all weight loss programs were discontinued a few years later. There are best practice examples of successful interventions with the morbidly obese employee population which apply the psychological elements needed to lose and sustain weight loss.
Contact us if you would like to learn more:
Have a day filled with loving kindness and compassion,
Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO & Psychologist