Unhealthy sleep patterns increase the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and depression. They have been linked to traffic accidents, occupational hazards and reduced productivity. Factors contributing to poor sleep hygiene include 24-hour access to media and technology, unconventional work schedules, and medical issues such as chronic pain or obstructive sleep apnea.
Healthy sleep is vital to good health and emotional well-being:
- You fall asleep easily.
- You regularly sleep 7 to 9 hours in a 24 hour period (sometimes including a nap) without long periods of wakefulness.
- Upon waking, you feel refreshed and alert.
During sleep, our brains are active and our bodies replenish themselves. There are five stages of sleep: stage 1 is light sleep; in stage 2 the brain waves are slower; stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep; and stage 5 is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when breathing and heart rate increase, blood pressure rises, and we dream. This cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes and repeats three to five times a night for healthy sleep. Most adults experience occasional insomnia, due to stress or worry or excitement, but if you are frequently unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or if you suspect that your sleep insufficiency is related to a medical issue (e.g., if you snore loudly or stop breathing regularly in your sleep,) your doctor may order a sleep study or other tests to determine a course of treatment. If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious and you just can’t quiet your thinking, here are some things you can do to promote relaxation and restful sleep.
- Diet: Refrain from heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine two to three hours before bedtime.
- Environment and Light: Turn off TVs, computers and other electronic devices that give off light. An exception may be made for atmospheric sound machines or soft, soothing background music that can mask environmental noise and promote relaxation.
- Adult coloring books, journaling and creative writing provide opportunities to relax and engage in satisfying and creative activities.
- Tai chi, also called movement meditation, has been found to be effective in achieving a relaxed state prior to sleep. See http://www.examiner.com/article/what-physical-meditation-is-and-how-to-do-it and http://www.ezsleepsolutions.com/articles/tai-chi-qigong-for-insomnia-by-matthew-rochford/
- The “8 Minute Yoga Workout for Sleep” that can be done on your bed! See http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/yoga/poses/yoga-routine-before-sleep/
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation can relieve tension. See http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/progressive-muscle-relaxation-topic-overview
- “The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise” may not put you to sleep in 60 seconds, but it really does promote relaxation and a calm feeling.
- See: http://www.medicaldaily.com/life-hack-sleep-4-7-8-breathing-exercise-will-supposedly-put-you-sleep-just-60-332122
What are your favorite tips for improving the quality of your sleep? Leave us a comment or share a link to some online resources, and help everyone train healthy sleeping habits for improved wellness.
Summertime offers us a wealth of choices for fresh produce, and buying foods in season provides optimal flavor and lower prices. Visit farmers markets and roadside stands or even your local supermarket for healthy fruits and vegetables that are perfect for summertime meals and snacks. Some of the best at this time of year are summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, apples, pears, plums, grapes, strawberries and melons.
Have you ever tried frozen grapes on a hot summer day? They’re sweet and refreshing, and so good for you! Here are some more summer treats that offer health benefits along with great taste.
- Sweet summer corn contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.
- Watermelon is about 90% water and helps to keep you hydrated while satisfying hunger with minimal calories.
- Tangy and refreshing, raspberries are a great source of dietary fiber and they contain pectin, which helps lower cholesterol.
- Tropical fruits contain vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. Oranges are a good source of potassium, which can lower the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
- Cauliflower is the new superstar in healthy foods. You’ll find it in everything from cauliflower fried “rice” to cauliflower pizza dough, and pureed, it’s a wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes.
- Iced coffee. Yes, really. While caffeinated beverages act as diuretics and in quantity can lead to dehydration, a single cup of coffee each day may reduce the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by about 10%. And a frosty glass of iced coffee on a hot day is heavenly.
- When grilling burgers, try using lean ground meat and whole wheat buns; add unexpected toppings such as guacamole, pineapple slices and feta cheese. These substitutions can reduce fats which require more energy to digest and lead to increased body temperature.
- Instead of meats, there are other wonderful sources for proteins such as nuts, seeds, sprouts, beans, soy products, yogurt and cottage cheese.
- Adult beverages seem to go hand in hand with summer parties, but alcohol is a powerful diuretic. Alternating drinks with water or fruit juice can prevent dehydration.
Here’s to summer fun and great seasonal foods. Bon appetit!
But it’s important to remember that a sedentary lifestyle invites numerous health problems including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, bone and muscle weakness, and metabolic disturbances. Inactivity can also impair balance and affect mental health and mood. Good health requires a balance between relaxation and regular physical activity.
How do people know if they are really fit? One way would be to visit the President’s Fitness Program web site at (https://www.presidentschallenge.org/challenge/adult.shtml). These guidelines were originally established in 1956 by President Eisenhower, and they now have challenges for adults as well as for children. There is an online evaluation addressing four vital areas:
- Aerobic fitness
- Muscular strength and endurance
- Body composition
Whether you choose to engage in moderate exercises such as walking and swimming, or more strenuous activities like playing a game of tennis or beach volleyball, being active outdoors in hot weather puts extra stress on your body and can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses.
When you exercise in hot weather, your core body temperature rises, triggering dilation of the blood vessels in the skin; your body radiates more heat, you sweat, and your temperature goes down. But this takes blood from your muscles and increases your heart rate. High humidity inhibits evaporation of perspiration and body temperature goes even higher. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff at (www.mayoclinic.org), heat-related illnesses occur when
natural cooling systems fail:
- when you are exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long
- if you sweat heavily
- when you don’t drink enough fluids
Common heat-related illnesses include heat cramps (painful muscle contractions), heat syncope (lightheadedness or fainting) and heat exhaustion (body temperature as high as 104° [40 C], headache, queasy stomach, weakness, cold clammy skin). If left untreated, this can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life threatening emergency condition that can develop when your body temperature rises above 104° (40 C). Other symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and visual disturbances. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop exercising immediately and drink fluids. Find a shady spot or wet yourself down in a cool shower or with a hose. If the symptoms persist or get worse, emergency medical attention is warranted. Remember, heat-related illnesses can be prevented by planning ahead and following these simple suggestions:
- Check the weather forecast for heat-index warnings.
- Avoid strenuous activities between noon and 3 PM, when the sun is strongest.
- Dress for the heat with light-weight, light-colored breathable fabrics. Wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Use sunscreen and re-apply every two hours.
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water and/or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Bad breath
- Muscle cramps
- Fever and chills
- Food cravings (for salt and high carbohydrate foods)
Drinking too much water can also have a compounding negative health effect for your body. Over hydration may seem less of a health concern, but it can be a problem for individuals who are dieting, and using water as an alternative to healthy snacks and meals. The general rule is to not drink more than one liter per hour of water (or other hydrating beverages) to avoid placing additional stress on kidneys and other vital organs.
Symptoms of over hydration include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or disorientation
An important fact to remember is that, while hydration does aid as an appetite suppressant, over hydration can lead to a dangerous drop in normal electrolytes (sodium level) called hyponatremia in the body, which if left untreated, can cause seizures, muscle weakness, unconsciousness and coma.
How much is enough?
In an average climate (non arid) and for normal, daily activities, the average male requires 13 cups of plain water for health and wellness, or approximately three liters per day. The average healthy adult woman requires nine cups of plain water, or roughly 2.2 liters per day for adequate intake (AI), according to the Institute of Medicine.
Tips to Make Daily Hydration Easy
Consider purchasing new, non-plastic reusable water containers (glass or medical grade aluminum) for work, at home and for the gym. Having an ample supply of safe water containers is not only better for the environment, it is convenient for people with busy schedules. Hydrate on-the-go while driving to work, watching television and especially when exerting yourself, as your body displaces fluid volume faster when engaged in aerobic exercise.
There are several free apps that you can download to your smart phone to help you train healthy hydration into your day. Improve your personal health and wellness by starting a healthy new habit of routine hydration. Individuals with health concerns should also consult regularly with their family physician to monitor unique hydration needs.
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There is something magical that happens when kids and bikes connect. Does the wind in your hair, and the feeling of adventure bring back found memories? Why don’t you pack up the bikes and head to a bike path or city park and explore! Not only will you be headed for an exciting day of outdoor exploration and learning, but you will also be improving your muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance and balance.
Prefer to keep two feet on the ground? Why not have a nature themed scavenger-hunt at your local or national park? Explore and reconnect with nature in a fun and interactive way. Get the kids involved in making scavenger list of what they expect to find at your preferred locale. At the end of the day, compare lists and talk about everything you saw. Maybe pick one thing and research it as a family project? Inspire the next generation of conservationists, while reinforcing the value of outdoor fun.
Volunteer Dog Walking
Give back to the community, and show children that being active can also involve helping out as a volunteer! Explore opportunities with your local animal shelter as a dog walker. The dogs win, families people win, and children can learn a lot about the value of volunteering and becoming responsible pet owners. And it doesn’t feel quite like exercise when you are playing or walking four-legged friends.
You don’t have to leave home to get out and enjoy the fresh air, all you really need is a length of string and a beach ball for some affordable, outdoor and old school fun. Set up your own volleyball court, and invite friends and other families over for a tournament. A fun way to get everyone moving, enjoying fresh air and the benefit of healthy exercise (and competition).
Teaching children to balance screen time and healthy, physical activity is an important part to modeling a healthy lifestyle. For more inspiration, surf for outdoor fitness ideas on Pinterest.