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Simple ways you can sleep better - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

Simple ways you can sleep better!

There are so many things going on in our lives these days. We are constantly busy, rushing around, keeping “to do lists” in our heads and racing through life at 100 miles an hour.

Phew.. is it any wonder we have trouble sleeping?

It doesn’t help that other people constantly pressure us, and that we feel guilty if we do take a little time for ourselves. The thing we often lose sight of is that unless we look after ourselves, we cannot be there for everyone else.

So what can we do about it?

Often, we cannot change our lives – kids still have to be taken to hockey games, we have to prepare meals, and workplaces all sorts of demands on us, add to that the need to fit some exercise in somewhere and that makes for a full day every day.

If we want to improve our sleep, we need to allow our minds to slow down, and to be restful. The only way most of us will ever get the time to unwind and relax a little is if we schedule it into our days. Just 20 – 30min can make a world of difference.

Mornings

Try getting up 20minutes early, before anyone else, practice being still and quiet. Enjoy the sound of the silence.

During the day

Allow yourself to take lunch, get out of the office, go for a walk, or to a coffee shop, or, even better, sit outside in a park or by the canal. Breathe, watch the world go by and taste your lunch.

In the evening

Schedule some me time before bed. Turn off the electronic devices, dim the lights, be quiet and still, maybe listen to music or have a bath.

Meditation – try a mindfulness practice – even 10minutes in the morning and at night can bring real improvements in your sleep.

One simple way to be more mindful is to use your breathing. This could be done in bed, when you wake up, sitting in a chair before you go to bed at night.

Focus on your breathing, just watch and notice whether you breath only in your upper chest or lower down, and how long it takes for each breath in and out.

Then slow the breath down, count the breath in and count it out, make sure that the in is as long as the out and that you breathe all the way down into your belly, not just into your ribs. If your mind wanders, simply bring the focus back to the breathing – the more you practice, the easier it gets.

Some therapies that can help:

Massage – regular sessions relax your body, lower blood pressure and provide you with time dedicated just to YOU.

Reiki, Chakra Balancing and Energy Healing will also calm the body, release emotions and stress and bring a deep sense of calm. So often we are stuck in our heads, with our busy minds – be more grounded and connnected to the rest of your body.

Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology all balance the whole body, improving circulation, and lowering

Book yourself for a session every few weeks, or as often as you can afford. Health plans usually cover some of these therapies, but if not its worth investing in yourself!

And finally..

Remember, there is no judgement and no guilt if you cannot commit to a regular time to slow down.. whatever you manage to fit in, however little or irregular, it is all better than nothing!

Disclaimer

This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from sleep problems? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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Insomnia: When Counting Sheep Won’t Help Ewe

Insomnia: When Counting Sheep Won’t Help Ewe

If you have constant trouble sleeping, then chances are you are one of the estimated 3.3 million Canadians struggling with insomnia.

‘Insomnia’ refers to the disruption of time taken to fall asleep, the amount of time asleep (versus time in bed) through the night, waking up too early, and feel unrefreshed on waking.1 Insomnia is incredibly frustrating and can be a fearful prospect knowing that it can lead to impaired memory and concentration.1

As a result, insomnia can predispose you to be more accident-prone at home, on the road, and in the workplace.1

Insomnia exists as its own disorder, but it is also associated with a significant number of physical and mental illnesses. For example, mood disorders like depression and anxiety are both associated with insomnia.1

So what can be done to help you get a better night’s sleep?

First, it is important to identify the underlying cause of your insomnia.

Light and Noise

If you are sensitive to light and sound, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible and remove any electronics that might be distracting you from falling asleep.

Melatonin

The ‘blue light’ emitted from our TVs, laptops, and mobile phones all affect the release of melatonin from our brains.2

A small amount of melatonin, one of the most well known natural sleep aids, is secreted by your pineal during the day. At night, melatonin secretion spikes to help us get to sleep. Exposure to ‘blue light’ before bed suppresses melatonin secretion and tricks our bodies into thinking we should be awake.2

If you are not willing to give up your bedtime electronics, you can reduce ‘blue light’ exposure by turning down the brightness of the device, and download an app (e.g., Twilight).

The long-term use of benzodiazepine medication for anxiety and panic disorders can deplete the brain’s supply of melatonin.3 Over time, a disruption in circadian rhythm reduces regular sleeping habits.

Melatonin supplementation can help with normalising circadian rhythm and alleviating withdrawal symptoms from anti-anxiety meds.3

Insomnia, fatigue, ADHD, IBS, and breast cancer risk, are all associated with melatonin deficiency.3

Symptoms of fibromyalgia, bulimia, neuralgia, certain forms of depression, and certain postmenopausal problems improve with melatonin supplementation.3

Other causes

Other common underlying causes of insomnia include mood disorders, hormone imbalance, sleep apnea, chronic pain, and exercising too close to bedtime.

Cortisol and Adrenal fatigue

The need to be busy has left us overworked and overtired.

When our bodies are in a constant state of stress, our systems shift from ‘rest and digest’ to ‘fight or flight?’.

As a consequence, our adrenal glands secrete more cortisol; a hormone responsible for increasing blood sugar, and the breakdown of fat & muscle, for the energy to get us away from danger. Normally, cortisol spikes in the morning to get us out of bed, and is very low at night to help us fall asleep.

In a chronically stressed state, high cortisol will worsen insomnia and, if left untreated, will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.

We are here to help

Speak to your naturopathic doctor about your health concerns to assist in determining the underlying cause(s) and help tailor a treatment plan specific to your individual needs. Acupuncture, nutritional changes through diet and supplements, counselling, and sleep hygiene advice are all parts of naturopathic treatment that can help get you back to sleep and leave you feeling well rested.

References:

  1. Tjepkema M. “Insomnia”. Statistics Canada Health Reports. 2005 17(1): 9-25.
  2. Schmerler, Jessica. “Q&A Why is Blue Light Before Bed Bad For Sleep?” Scientific American. Nature America, September 2015.
  3. Rohr UD, Herold J. “Melatonin deficiencies in women.” 2002 Apr 15(41): 85-10.
healthy ottawa winter

5 ways to stay healthy during the Ottawa winter

As I am writing this blog I am watching the sleet and snow of the first storm of the Ottawa winter 2106/17. Winter is often associated with a downturn in our health. All our aches and pains seem to be more evident and of course, we are more prone to colds and flu. But does it have to be to his way? Below are 5 ways you can stay healthy and vibrant despite the Ottawa winter:

Sleep don’t hibernate

When the freezing rain is sticking to our bedroom window the tendency is to turn over and hide back under our duvet. Research from the Form Clinic has shown that adequate sleep is essential for our health but too much shut-eye is equally as bad. Scientists have established the optimal amount of sleep for an adult is between seven and eight hours. More than that is too much.

Stay active, stay healthy

For many of my clients, their activity levels tend to drop off during the Ottawa winter months. Exercise, as we all know, is essential for a healthy body and mind. It can prevent you from adding those winter pounds as well as elevating your mood. When I ask my clients whether they do any regular exercise they tend to mention going to the gym. Personally, I hate gyms. For me, they are impersonal and unmotivating places. I like to do my exercise preferably in a group. I find groups more motivating and you get the added health benefit of connecting with other people. My favourites are hot yoga and soccer but there are many others.

Do not forget to drink water

The human body is composed of seventy percent water. It is vital for the optimal functioning of our physiology. So if we fail to drink or consume adequate amounts of water our body and mind are going to slow down. We will get fat and depressed. Making sure we drink enough water, for obvious reasons , is tricky during the winter. We also tend to lose just as much water through perspiration during the winter because of our heated environments. To help my clients remember to drink more water I recommend using water app on their smartphone. The app I use called Waterlogged alerts me every hour to drink a glass of water.

Manage the Winter stress

The shorter days and freezing temperatures add to our overall stress burden. Stress is probably the most common root cause of my client’s health concerns. Just like making sure we drink enough water being extra mindful of managing our stress is important to remaining healthy during the winter months. When your body experiences any type of stress it will release the hormone cortisol into the blood. Long term stress and production of cortisol can have detrimental effects on our health. Ensuring adequate exercise and sleep have been shown to lower cortisol. If you are open to taking supplements both Vitamin C and Fish oil help to lower cortisol.

Be with people

Humans are social animals and being so is vital for a healthy existence. With the advent of social media, we have become much insular and this can be easily amplified during the winter months. Making time to spend time with friends and family is important. If you don’t have many friends or family nearby then try joining a group. There are tonnes of meetup groups you can try in Ottawa. I suggest having a look on meetup.com.

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Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.