Sleep: More Important Than You Think

sleep

The world needs sleep. We spend a third or more of our lives sleeping and for good reason. It’s how our bodies recharge themselves and prepare for another day. After hours of activity and wakefulness our energy levels slowly become depleted and that bed starts looking real comfy. But if it’s so important, why is it that so many people don’t get enough sleep? Let’s start with a little base knowledge.

How much sleep do you need?

Sleep needs vary largely on the person but the average adult requires 7-8 hours of sleep at night to feel well rested. During this time our bodies experience multiple sleep cycles, each lasting approximately an hour and a half. Some people will say that you need less sleep the older you get but there is no evidence to support this. In fact there is probably a reason for that.

What affects sleep quality?

There are a huge amount of external factors that affect how well you sleep at night. Factors such as loud noises or aches and pains which can disrupt the cycles which is a common problem for elderly people, but there are more common things like what you put into your own body. Caffeine and sugar are perfect examples of this. Where you sleep and who you sleep with can have major effects as well. For example, if you’re sleeping in a hotel for the first time, it’s new it’s not home, there’s a new bed and different pillows. You’re not used to it so it negatively affects the quality of your sleep. The there’s something that everyone is exposed to because of new technology. Exposure to light is one of the largest factors I’ve come across. Your body has it’s own internal clock that tells you to wake up when it’s light out and go to bed when it gets dark out. With the invention of artificial light, we are now exposed to light much later into the day than we would have been in the past and it has altered our internal clock. It makes it harder for us to fall asleep at night because our eyes interpret it as daytime and we shift our preferred time of sleep to later in the day. All of these things can cause sleep deprivation which can cause even more problems.

Effects of sleep deprivation.

Cognitively it can affect you a lot. It makes you sluggish and tired. You’re ability to concentrate and learn new things is interfered with, your ability to form new short and long-term memories is negatively affected, it impairs your ability to make decisions, and it can make you more irritable which negatively affects your mood. It affects your bodies ability to fight off infection. Your body doesn’t have the same amount of resources built up to fight off illness when it’s sleep deprived and it increases your risk of developing diseases as well due to your bodies decreased ability to fend them off. But the most important aspect to me is your body repairs itself while you sleep. It fights infections, it repairs damaged cells, it heals cuts and bruises, it prepares itself for the next day. If you cut your sleep short then all of these happened at a diminished level which can only hurt you in the long run. Some examples are high blood pressure, risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. We don’t want any of that.

So what can we do to improve the quality of our sleep?

Set yourself a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. You’re body gets used to that schedule and adjusts your sleep accordingly. It will help you fall asleep faster and feel more rested when you wake up. Watch what you eat. Don’t go to bed feeling full, or feeling hungry, otherwise your mind will be too focused on other things to sleep. An active mind is an awake mind. Stay away from the screens before bed. Having a strong concentration of light in your eyes makes trying to fall asleep very difficult. Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best but any exercise will do. It helps you burn up any excess energy you have and makes you tired, plus it’s a healthy activity that will boost your quality of life. Give yourself some time to wind down. Read a book or form a nightly ritual you do every night before bed. Having the ritual will help in telling your body that it’s time for bed.

Sleep is so important in so many ways but we never seem to get enough. We have to wake up for work and school, or we have other important things that we need or want to do instead of sleep. We see it as an irritation that gets in the way of things we want to do because our time is important to us. But if you neglect your sleep then you are damaging the quality of your time that you actually get. Don’t neglect it. It’s important. You want to be the best functioning you all the time and if you’re not getting enough sleep then that’s not happening. How will you get through that job interview if your brain is foggy? How will you do well on that test if your ability to learn and memorize is compromised? Think about it.

Get some sleep!

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Sugar: It’s Killing You

F-Sugar-cubes-2Sugar is great. It makes things taste better and we crave it because it’s delicious. Who doesn’t like a slice of cake, or some ice cream for dessert? But the truth is there aren’t many worse things to put into your body. The negative effects of sugar are staggering, and the worst part is, it’s almost impossible to avoid it in today’s world and it’s addictive. Let the education begin!

Daily recommended values.

The recommended daily calorie intake for the average woman is 2000 calories and for the average man it’s 2400 calories. It is recommended that less than 10% of your daily calorie intake be from sugar, added or natural. So how much sugar does that work out to be? Well 10 percent of 2000 is 200 calories and one gram of sugar is equal to 3.87 calories. That’s roughly a maximum intake of 52 grams of sugar in a day for women. Now if we do the same thing for men it ends up being about 62 grams of sugar per day. These are the facts. Now it’s time to ruin your day.

How much sugar do you think is in your favorite foods?

Here’s a list of some popular everyday foods and the amount of sugar they contain:

Breakfast

Honey Nut Cheerios – 33g of sugar per 100g of cereal (1-2 servings)

Maple Syrup – 14g per tbsp

Strawberry jam – 10g per tbsp

Fresh fruit – 9g per 3 ounces of fruit

Orange juice – 21g per cup

Milk – 13g per cup

McDonalds large double double – 21 grams of sugar

Small blueberry muffin – 22g of sugar

Lunch

Ketchup – 3.7g per tbsp

Italian dressing – 1.6g per tbsp

Tomato Soup – 10g per cup

Tomato Sauce – 10g per cup

Quaker chewy bars – 29g per bar

Dinner

Barbecue sauce – 6g per tbsp

Teriyaki sauce – 2.35g per tbsp

Baked beans – 13g per serving

Pizza – 3.8g per slice

Pasta – 12g per cup

Sweet and sour sauce – 7g per 2 tbsp

Extras

Chocolate cake – 55g per 1/12 of a cake

Gatorade – 56g of sugar per bottle

Reese Chocolate bar – 24g per bar

Monster Energy drink – 27g per can

Apple Pie – 17g per slice

Fuzzy peaches – 47g of sugar per 64g of candy

Can of pop – 39g per can

Oreos – 7g per two cookies

This is only a basic list. Just take a quick read through and see how much sugar you think you consume in a day. I don’t know about you but I’m so far over the cap it’s ridiculous. I passed the sugar cap after breakfast alone. So now what? You have an idea of how much sugar is in some common everyday foods, but what does it all mean? Is it bad for you? You bet it is.

How does sugar affect you?

First and foremost it rots your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feed on simple sugars and produce acid that destroys tooth enamel. This is well established and this has probably affected most of us.  The second problematic thing is that it makes you hungry. There is a hormone in your body called leptin, it’s the thing in your body that says I’m Full. Excessive sugar inhibits leptin so you don’t feel full. This inevitably leads to the next problem. Weight gain. You can see this just walking around your city, and sugar is responsible for most of it. Cutting sugar out of your diet is one of the best ways to lose weight (just so you know!). It also boosts your insulin level and keeps it there. When you have a consistently high level of insulin your sensitivity to it is reduced. This sensitivity loss causes fatigue and high blood pressure leading to a more sedentary lifestyle further contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now for the fun stuff, here’s a list of all the diseases and impairments it can cause:

    • Kidney disease
    • Diabetes
    • Liver failure
    • Pancreatic cancer
    • Heart disease
    • Cognitive decline
    • Gout

 

So how do you feel about sugar now?

That’s pretty brutal isn’t it? I thought so. And based on this list I’m well above the recommended sugar level and you probably are too. That means you are susceptible to everything on this list of problems. There are healthier versions of most foods on this list so it’s easy enough to cut back with a little research. As far as drinks go though, there was only a single thing I looked up with less than 10g of sugar per cup. Water. I don’t know about you but I drink at least four or five cups of something a day. Anything other than water for those five cups puts me over the daily maximum for sugar intake.

This was a huge eye opener for me and I fully intend to make changes to my own diet to support a healthier lifestyle. I hope this was as motivational for you as this was for me. If there’s one healthy change I would strongly recommend to everyone it’s to seriously cutback on your sugar intake. Make a healthy choice today and save yourself in the long run.

Stress: Free Yourself

stress_pictureStress. It is the mental and emotional strain caused by demanding situations and it has the power to make everything in your life harder.  In the past it guided our fight or flight response in life or death situations. It still does but now our world has changed, and we feel the effects of stress every day. In small doses it’s not a problem, but chronic stress is becoming more and more of an issue.  We have increased responsibilities, time constraints, and added pressure from friends, family and colleagues. We are constricted by laws, rules, cultural norms, expectations and governing bodies. There is so much pressure on us that it’s amazing we don’t just explode. All of this pressure has a negative effect on you.

It affects your body and your health.

I know your health is important to you. Mine sure as heck is to me. So just to drive the point home of how bad stress is for you here is a quick list of all the effects of chronic stress.

  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Heart Attack
  • Stomach Ache
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heartburn
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycle

There are so many more things and these are just the effects it has on you. But you’re not the only one your stress has an effect on.

Stress affects everyone around you.

When you’re stressed you become much more irritable. Little things bother you. You get emotional and overreact to things it doesn’t make sense to overreact about. While this can be attributed to the stress, this still affects your relationships. It is often people who are the target of your irritability, and people don’t like that. If you’re stressed all the time you will drive those people away. And nobody wants that. We all want to see the regular happy person that’s buried underneath all that stress. So let’s find out how to help.

So how do you combat stress?

Everyone needs a strategy. I personally like to exercise when I’m stressed because it helps me focus my mind on something else, something engaging that can distract me from my stress and help me relax. But everyone has a different strategy. The way I see it you have two major options to choose from. You can either avoid the stress, which is not always possible so this is not the ideal solution, or you can alter your reaction to the stress. When you’re stressed it is extremely easy to get angry and frustrated with everything, that’s our natural reaction after all. But that’s not really helpful. If we get angry and frustrated all we’re going to accomplish is to make ourselves more angry and frustrated. That’s because when we lose our temper we take shortcuts, we get irritated, it distracts us and we cause more problems because we’re acting more aggressive.

Take a step back.

Until you separate yourself from the stressful situation you will never be able to de-stress. You need to give your mind time to breathe. For me I prefer to exercise, but for you maybe it’s different. Find something to occupy your mind that is constructive and helpful in your everyday life and your killing two birds with one stone. You’re building a healthier lifestyle and you’re dealing more effectively with your stress.

Change how you view the problem.

It can’t be a problem if you don’t see it as a problem. Here’s an example that I can relate to. Maybe you can hear the faucet dripping and it is absolutely driving you insane. You can’t or don’t know how to stop it and it’s been going for hours. You can’t get rid of the sound so have fun with it. Since I like to be silly I made a beat out of the sound of the drops in my head into something I liked. Then every time I heard the faucet dripping after that I heard the beat I made up in my head and it made me feel happy instead of miserable. Reframe the problem. Make a solution out of it.

Adjust your diet.

What you eat can also contribute to stress. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and drugs are all things that produce a temporary high and end with a crash that can disrupt your mood and behavior. Cutting back on any or all of these can have a major impact.

You have to find out which strategy works for you. This is a bit of trial and error and it can take time. Take the time and put in the effort. And most importantly, have a positive attitude. If you’re negative you’re focusing on the problem but if you’re being positive you’re focusing on the solution. Having a positive attitude is beyond helpful. Find what works for you. Then do it.

How do you cope with stress? If you have any helpful hints and strategies, be sure to share them in the comments!

 

Exercise: How To Start Out Right

Exercising is important. The combination of exercise and proper eating habits are essential to living an active and healthy lifestyle. It’s what everybody wants. It makes you stronger, your body works more efficiently and it makes you an overall healthier person. So why does everybody struggle with it? Let’s look into that.

People try and go too fast.

100000-transformation-challenge-training_e_maleEveryone wants to live a better lifestyle and get in better shape. We’re told that the best way to do that is to go to the gym or go outside and get started. That’s where everyone goes right? So what do we do? We jump right into it. The problem is everyone wants to fast track their success. They take on too much too fast. So much that they get overwhelmed, fall flat on their face and give up right away.

Slow down, pace yourself.

This is not a rush things kind of activity. You need to pace yourself. For one thing, your body is not used to working out. No matter what you’re going to be sore afterwards and it’s going to suck. But if you take on too much right at the beginning it’s going to feel like too much and it will put you off of exercising. That’s not what we want. We want to make this into a habit so it’s something we do naturally everyday without having to think about it. We want this to be long lasting. So how do we do that?

Start small and then build yourself up.

If you’re going to run, don’t start running 5k because you’ll never do it. If you’re lifting weights don’t give yourself heavy weight and a massive workout regime because you’ll never do it. If you’ve never done something before how much do you think your body can handle right off the bat? The answer is not much. So you need to start with the not much your body can handle. This depends completely on the individual. If you’re in decent shape from other things, you’ll be able to start off a little stronger. But if you’re completely new to the exercise scene then it’s a different story.

 Start at ground zero. That means you’re going to be doing a lot of trial and error. For absolute beginners, as well as more experienced people, I recommend you start off with a personal trainer. Many gyms offer a free lesson with a new membership, take advantage of that. If you’re really new, you don’t know how to use the equipment, which equipment is for what, how to do the exercises properly, proper form; the list goes on and on. Use that personal trainer and get them to show you as much of the equipment and exercises as is humanly possible. They are an absolute gold mine of information. Use it. They’re going to want to give you a workout program but that takes up valuable time. A 10 minute google search can give you varying basic workout routines and how to form a proper workout routine. Use your brain and figure it out. Use the personal trainer to show you everything else.

Lose the fear.

The reason I say get as much exposure to the equipment as possible is because if you don’t know the equipment it becomes an unknown. That scares some people. If you don’t understand it or are afraid of it you won’t use it and you could be losing a valuable exercise tool. Don’t hold yourself back, you want to have everything you can available to you to make yourself into a healthier person.

Bring a friend.

Sure you can do it yourself. You need to be motivated and disciplined and focused but you can absolutely do this by yourself, and lots of people do. But for those people who are still struggling with their motivation or willpower a friend beside you can be extremely valuable. They push you to keep going, you challenge each other to do better, you improve faster. If you have a day that you’re just not feeling it your friend will drag you out of your slump, you’ll feel obligated to go. Having a friend with you makes it much harder for you to stop because it’s not just you anymore.

Be active in other ways too.

Young couple run together on a sunset

Don’t just go to the gym. Go for a hike, play some sports, do some mountain biking. Something active. Whatever it is you like to do. If you don’t have one of those interests yet, find one. There are enough things available in the world that there is at least one you will enjoy, do a little research in your area then do some more trial and error. Not everyone likes to go to the gym all the time so other outdoor activities are a viable option. Make it something you enjoy. If you enjoy it you are ten times more likely to keep at it and that’s what you want.

I want you to find something that works for you because I want you to feel good about yourself. Be active and enjoy it. You’ll be glad you did. The other half is healthy eating habits. For more information of forming healthy eating habits see my post Dieting 101.

Have any other tips that worked for you? Tell us in the comments below!

Health

Diet: What You Need To Know – Everybody wants to diet, and your friends, your peers and the media are pushing you to do it. But should you? Is that the right way to lose weight?

Exercise: How To Start Out Right – It’s hard to decide to start living a more active lifestyle/ But once you do, where do you go from there? Learn how to start out right here.

Health: Boost Your Mornings – Mornings are tough. Lots of us aren’t morning people including myself. Here’s a few tips that might make mornings a little bit easier for you.

Stress: Free Yourself – Nobody likes stress. It makes us miserable and makes our lives harder. Find out how to combat your stress here.

Sugar: It’s Killing You – It’s addictive, it’s delicious and it’s slowly killing you.