Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why the Sandman Doesn't Visit

Amongst the myriad of complaints you'll hear from the average person on a day to day basis are things like pain, sickness, weather, lack of finances, lack of time, etc. And probably the king of these whiny complaints would be a lack of sleep.

In another entry I may go over the necessity of sleep but for now lets focus on the 'how' part of sleep. Now aside from the obvious somewhat uncontrollable factors like small children waking you up in the middle of the night, noise pollution, sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, etc. There are actually dozens of other factors that influence our ability to get a quality 8hrs sleep each night.

1. Nutrition-You don't have to turn yourself into a health nut; but truth be told if you are eating mostly fast food or packaged and processed foods you likely won't consistently get a good nights sleep. Even if nothing else make sure your last meal/snack of the day is something that is easily digestible and healthy. Even low level indigestion can keep you tossing and turning for hours. Even though I'm not a huge fan of dairy things like yogurt, milk, and cheese often make great bedtime snacks.

2. Stimulants-Obviously most people won't give up their daily coffee(s) and this is fine. the key is to not over consume them-3 cups a day is plenty. Furthermore energy drinks, weightloss pills, teas, colas and all that should not be consumed after 4pm. Depending on how well your body metabolizes caffeine you may even need to stop sooner than this.

3. Consistent sleep patterns- While life is unpredictable and we all enjoy traveling or partying late, it is key to maintain a consistent wake up time and bed time 5-6 days a week. This means not altering either of these times by more than 1hr each day. This way your body habitually knows what it should be doing.

4. Activity-If you are sedentary most of your day or you perform no regular exercise, you likely have difficulty sleeping. In addition to helping regulate your circadian rhythms exercise helps take away that restless feeling you sometimes get. There is a huge value in actually feeling 'physically spent' as you crawl into bed. You need to earn your rest so to speak. As far as the old debate on working out before bed? I would say this is a highly individual thing. Personally I can workout right before bed and fall asleep minutes later. Others will be kept awake all night. So you will just have to experiment for yourself.

5. Productivity-This is closely tied in with number 4. While we all need days where we do much of nothing, all in all, we are made to produce. Each day of our life we should produce something of value, or do something to expend energy. Not being productive or doing nothing usually leads us to be restless at night. Again you must earn your rest. Furthermore if you are shirking responsibility in your life or not living up to your potential you will have many sleepless nights. In essence your subconscious mind is telling the rest of your body; "we can't go to sleep, we haven't done anything of value-we just wasted a whole day."

6. Personal Conflict-There are many possibilities for conflicts within yourself. Number 5 touched on the possibility of not achieving your potential. Other personal conflicts may be; doubting your faith, pressing spiritual questions, did not finish 'to do list', you acted unethically, or immorally at some point today or recently, in congruent lifestyle (what you want, what you are, how you live-don't match up),etc.

7. Interpersonal Conflict-Simply stated this can be left over tension from a fight with a friend, family member, coworker, somebody who treated you rudely in public, etc. First step is you should never go to bed with out resolving a conflict or at least without making plans to resolve a conflict. Otherwise your mind will just keep rehearsing the negative scenario amplifying the feelings each time. Furthermore regardless of whether or not you can reconcile your differences with the other person you have to forgive them within yourself. Anyone who has unforgiveness in them will have more than their fair share of sleepless nights.

8. Naps-If you are truly a healthy person you should not need naps anyways. But if you are not willing to give up your naps then you must at least make them consistent. As in approximately the same time each day and the same duration. Furthermore if you are napping more than an hour on any given day you need to re-evaluate your health and your lifestyle. Also I wouldn't be taking naps within 4hrs of bed time.

9. Things left unsaid,undone- This is similar to several of the above points but do your best to have todays business finished before you close your eyes. If you do lie awake with thoughts of unfinished tasks and they will only take a few minutes to complete then it may be worthwhile to get up and do them so you can sleep with a clear mind. If they are more complicated then have a pad and pen by your bedside to record thoughts and ideas, and tasks for tomorrow. Anything that is not written down will continue to float through your mind until it is dealt with. Even with more abstract thoughts it is worthwhile to journal if you can't sleep and write down anything that comes to mind regardless of how random or insignificant it sounds. Writing is always a great way to clear the mind. And a clear mind is always a mind that can rest well.

10. Alcohol-Aside from too much alcohol making you feel drowsy, any sleep that you get after consuming a significant amount of alcohol(again this depends on the person) will not be nearly as good of quality of sleep as someone who is sober. IF you need to drink yourself to sleep then you should be getting examined by a counselor, psychologist, or medical professional. I don't know the exact exchange but I would guess that 8hrs of drunken slumber is more like 3 hrs of normal rest. If you need booze to relax great, but don't over do it.

11. Sleep environment-Firstly your sleep environment should be consistent. A different place too often usually makes it difficult to rest. Provided it isn't to cold or too noisy outside opening a window is great for sleep as it allows cool fresh air to drift in. A quality mattress and pillow are worthwhile investments. Try to have your room completely pitch black, even small amounts of light can keep you from experiencing deep sleep. Turn off all electrical equipment with the exception of an alarm clock. Also you should not have any electrical stimulation/ or be spending a tonne of time on the computer or TV before bed. The light from these devices tells your body to stay awake. Make every effort to make your house as quiet as possible at night. IF this isn't possibly ear plugs are a decent option. Also do your best to have your bedroom as clutter free as possible. Clutter or any mess on a subconscious level will produce a low level stress or irritation. Whether or not you are aware of this fact this low level stress will prevent you from sleeping well. If you do need to have music on to sleep most modern stereos have a fade option that allows you to program the music to slowly fade out to nothing over the course of an hour or so, so you don't have music playing all night.

12. Massive stress!-Sooner or later we all come across experiences that are so burdensome that regardless of how tired we are we couldn't sleep if we wanted to. This could be a terminally ill loved one, a tragic death, job stress, finances, relationships (on a positive not being madly in love can also cause a lack of sleep), or just about any other major life event. The point here is again to write about it, talk to a friend who you know is typically up all hours of the night, pray, and seek counseling during the day. But all in all, stress as a reason for lack of sleep should only produce a handful of sleepless nights in our lives. Therefore it shouldn't be enough to produce an actual pattern of sleeplessness than spans several weeks or months.

Never underestimate the value of deep breathing for relaxation and producing a 'sleepy' feeling. Learn some good deep breathing patterns and do them before bed. Lastly sleeping aids are always a great last resort. Personally I am opposed to pharmaceutical sleeping pills, but there are hundreds of great natural sleeping aids, and herbs out there. My personal favorite that rarely if ever lets me down is 'Metabowize PM Formula' which can be found at www.xoomaworldwide.com/dynamite . Whatever sleeping aid you choose it shouldn't be habit forming.

With the information contained above it should be a rare night indeed when you don't get a visit from the sandman. Sweet dreams everyone!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What is Intended?

There is an underlying key to success in transforming that is often missed by even some of the world's greatest experts in health. That would be the power of intention in everything you do. This simple, overlooked concept, really strengthens my conviction in the fact that the physical aspects of health directly impact the spiritual aspects of your life and vice versa.

Let's start with exercise. Firstly your motive for exercising. Are you doing it because you want to and you love the way it makes you feel or are you doing it because you feel like you must do it. IF you are not doing it for the pleasure of it not only will you likely not stick with it you won't experience the full benefit of it. Just the feeling of joy and pleasure alone can be tremendous for your health and weight loss. You have to pick an activity or program that you enjoy to reap the full benefits of it.

Let's go to nutrition. Why does home grown produce taste so much better than commercially grown produce? Because of all the love, care, effort and intention that was put into producing that food. Why do home cooked meals always taste better than restaurant meals? Because of the love, effort and intention that went into it. If you are going to stick to healthy eating it is best to find healthy foods that you love to consume. This will not only help you to stick to the program but it will help you reap the full nutritional benefit of what you are consuming. You could be eating the healthiest food in the world but if you are eating it out of fear of disease or guilt you will still feel sick and tired. Similarly even if you eat less than optimally but you enjoy the food to it's fullest you will feel awesome. Now this isn't a licence to eat less that your best but merely to eat with intentionality and to prepare food with love so that it serves you well. To quote David Wolfe: "You are what you eat." has a far deeper meaning than any of us can ever imagine. As it is not just the act of eating the right foods but eating them for the reasons in the right way.

The Ultimate in Time Management

Time management is such a hot topic these days. Everyone looking for a way to find just a few more minutes each day.

What I find amusing as a health and fitness expert is that even though 'lack of time' is one of the primary excuses for not taking care of ones health; neglecting your health is a sure way to lose all your extra time.

What many people fail to think about is that looking after your health is an investment. It may be a bit pain staking in the initial stages an yes it may even cost you more time but it can and will save you literally years of time in the long run. You will have to spend extra time initially buying products and resources to help you, you will have to likely reschedule some items in your day. You may even have to get up earlier or go to bed later. But after a short while everything will become a habit. And that's where the power is because then you are no longer thinking or using extra energy but you are automatically doing the right things everyday.

So where does the extra time come in? Firstly, as you become healthier you will likely need to sleep less because your body will be more efficient at producing energy and your quality of sleep will be much better. I would say the average person can almost instantly gain an extra 4-6hrs per week from sleeping less and not feel any worse for it.

The next area would be food prep. Again truly healthy fresh meals actually take hardly anytime to prepare and once you get into a routine of knowing exactly what your body needs at what times you can save time in the kitchen.

Next as a result of eating right, exercising and supplementing your mind will be more sharp and focused. You will be more attentive and productive. You will get more work done in less time whether it be physical or administrative labor.

Then we have reduced time wasted on useless activities. Believe it or not becoming healthier actually makes you more conscious of your time soon the TV and other useless time wasters become less important and you begin to focus on things that matter.

I think most people see the biggest pay off here: reduced illness and injury. Lets say the average person gets sick in some way shape or form 2-3 times a year and each bout of illness lasts 4-7 days. That's 2-3 weks that you are almost useless each year. Imagine regaining that time. And injuris become less frequent and you will heal faster when health is a priority.

Finally we have the actual life extension portion of the equation. While no one can predict his or her longevity with any sort of accuracy we all know that payin attention to your health can add 1-30yrs on to your life. And that is thinking conservatively. I am a part of a group of people who are willing to believe that with the right protocal living to be 130-150yrs old should be quite easy. And whats more you won't spend those extra years lying in a hospital bed with a chronic or terminal condition rather you will enjoy every last day of your life.

So bite the bullet and invest in your health because you have everything to gain.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The 3 Most important Factors for Health

Far too many people focus on the small things in health. Not realizing that they could save ample time and energy by choosing to focus on 3 key areas. Furthermore focusing on these 3 areas will give you much more happiness. Health will no longer become a drudgery but pure pleasure.

The 3 Most important factors for health are: Food, Relationships, and Communication. Perhaps this is why family dinners and eating with friends feels so good?!

The universe is purely based on communication. God 'spoke' the universe into existence. Yet if you look at the universe from purely scientific or mathematical terms you miss the boat with your health. Everything becomes a numbers game. Rather than the holistic view of learning to communicate with your body and listen for intuitive signs of what feels right for your health and wrong for your health.

Think about how much better you feel when you are in a relationship with someone amazing. Think about how bad you feel when your relationship is not going well or if you are with a bad person. Relationships always produce emotion in us. Emotions are more powerful than anything as far as controlling our biochemistry and subsequently our health. If you feel supported and loved you will do better in life period. This is why people in isolation deteriorate quickly. From my previous posts on acid/alkaline balance you will remember that negative emotions produce a far greater acid load on the body than even the worst foods. Whereas positive emotions produce some of the best alkalizing agents ever. Hence, laughter truly is the best medicine.

Focus on what you eat, focus on how you speak, focus on who you spend time with and how they make you feel. If you can optimize these things you will feel incredible everyday.