6 tips for a better sleep

alarmAccording to a 2010 study in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, the consequences of sleep deprivation at 24 hours is comparable to the cognitive impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Insomnia whether it is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or early morning waking is frustrating and can have significant impact on your overall health.

Sleep is crucial to our quality of life because it:

  • Improves concentration, memory and motor skills
  • Regulates appetite and metabolism
  • Helps with recovery and repair
  • Helps regulate our mood.
  • Is one of the building blocks of a healthy immune system.
  • Helps reduce stress
  • Helps the brain get rid of its waste

If you experience insomnia, practice the following suggestions to help you reestablish a healthy circadian rhythm.

1. Avoid hitting the snooze button
Any extra sleep you get is fragmented making it low quality. You also prepare the body for a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to finish resulting in fatigue throughout the day.

Set your alarm for when you actually need to get up. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day to support your natural sleep cycle.

2. Schedule it!
Catching up on sleep on weekends isn’t ideal. It can undo some but not all of the damage that sleep deprivation causes.

Go to bed and wake-up at the same time each day, even on weekends to stabilize your circadian rhythm.

3. Using technology before bed.
78% people engage in screen time before bed. The blue light from screens of computers, phones or tablets can delay the production of melatonin and keep you awake longer.

You can install the free software F.lux which changes the light of your computer depending on the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. You can also buy some blue ray blocking glasses to wear at least 2 hours before bedtime while viewing screens.

Instead of starting at a screen before bed, practice meditation to allow the body to relax.

4. Avoid stimulants before bed.

Avoid caffeine in the evening. If you are sensitive to caffeine try to limit your intake to mornings only. Finish your dinner at least 2 hours before bed. Avoiding alcohol close to bedtime as it reduces REM sleep, the phase which is associated with deep dreaming. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness. Opt for herbal teas such as chamomile, which has a sedative effect. Also limit your amount of fluids so that you don’t need to get up to use the bathroom.

5. Make sure your room is cool.

Your body temperature needs to lower for you to get to sleep. Set the temperature in your room between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. Cold feet are strongly linked to the sleep cycle. If you your feet are cold, put on a pair of socks to induce sleep more quickly.

6. Increase melatonin

Specific practices that increase melatonin are: eat/drink protein 30 min before bed for example 1 tbsp of almond butter, use dark out curtains or an eye mask.

If you have tried these recommendations and despite all your efforts you are still struggling to get a good night sleep consult a Naturopathic doctor to find the right natural sleep aid for you.

Make ahead lunches

soup-1006694_1280When it comes to making healthy lunches, planning is crucial. The good news is that once you get used to the routine it becomes easier.

Planning for healthy work or school lunches might look like this:

  1. during the week make a list of possible lunches
  2. create a grocery list
  3. create menu plan to ensure meal rotation
  4. prepare your meals Sunday and possibly a few on Wednesday

Choosing foods that stay in the fridge for a few days without going bad is key. As a general rule cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 to 4 days. This is why you might want to take some time Wednesday to cook a few things such as quinoa.

The following foods keep for at least 3 days once cooked and refrigerated:

Rice: 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Quinoa: 3 days in the refrigerator

Beans: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 1-2 month is freezer.

Chicken: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 4 month is freezer.

Boiled eggs: 1 week in the fridge.

Hummus: see the label. Most are good for up to 5 days after opening.

Foods that freeze well include: soup, stews, chili, pasta sauce, bread, baked goods, or homemade bars.

Not sure what to make? Here are a few lunch ideas:

You can use flour tortillas, pita bread, collards or romaine lettuce as your wraps. Fill the wrap with your favourite fillings. Egg and tuna salad is good in romaine lettuce. Refried beans, salsa and cheese are good in a flour tortilla. Make a salad and stuff it into pita bread. Ideally you would have all the ingredients on hand and make your wrap in the morning so that it doesn’t get soggy overnight. You can also bring the filling in a separate container and make your wrap at lunch time.

Bento Boxes
For those who love variety, the possibilities are endless! If you need some ideas check out this post and if you want to make an extra special bento try these.

Hearty soup, stews and chili
Make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch. Use a slow cooker to save time.

Veggie Bowls
Add steamed, roasted or raw veggies over cooked rice, quinoa, rice noodles or another grain. Top with it beans, nuts, or lean meat for added protein and add a drizzle of your favourite sauce.
This is a simple and delicious sauce that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can add it to a veggie bowl, salad or use it as a dipping sauce.

Tahini Lemon Sauce
Blend 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup water.

Burrito Bowl
Layer some rice, refried beans, salsa and avocado. This is one of the quickest lunches to put together when you have everything on hand.

Once your meals are prepared, pack them in containers free of BPA and other toxins. It’s best practice to stay away from plastic as much as possible. If you do use plastic make sure they are dishwasher safe if you use a dishwasher and do not heat your meals in plastic.

Some ideas for safe packaging include: mason jars, stainless steam thermos and parchment paper. Ikea sells these glass containers that have good lids so they are less likely to leak. Terra 20 has a few stainless steal contain options such as this 2 layer sandwich box.

If you have children include them in the planning and prepping process so that they get into the habit of preparing healthy meals.

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

granola-787997_960_720Are you getting enough fiber? Most Canadians only get half the recommended daily amount. According to a survey by the Heart and Stroke foundation the average Canadian daily intake is about 14 grams instead of the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Fiber does more than keep us regular, it helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight, controls blood sugar, and lowers the risk of disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies are discovering the importance of fiber on gut microbiome. Research has found that when your gut lacks fiber the microbes are starved and start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut which can lead to inflammation and disease. You can read more about fiber and gut health here.HighFiberList

The article notes that you need to eat a high fiber diet consistently to maintain a healthy gut. If you currently aren’t eating enough fiber you will want to increase your intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating and discomfort. You will also need to drink more water to help move the fiber along.

There are 2 main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gel-like when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through largely intact. Some foods contain both types of fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types.

Here are some tips to increase your fiber intake:

  • Always compare food label when grocery shopping and opt high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Eat vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner.
  • Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.
  • Have some hummus and veggies as a snack.
  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and shredded coconut to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt
  • Download this list and keep it handy to make high-fiber choices.

By focusing on adding more fiber rich foods to your diet you will inevitably make better eating choices!