Foundations of Health

Improving Your Sleep

Several people are concerned about their sleep. They wonder how to get more sleep, how they can improve their sleep quality, how to stop waking up in the middle of the night, how to fall asleep faster, among others. For those who have a hard time sleeping, sleep is all they can think about - and who can blame them? Sleep is vitally important for our bodies; sleep is one of the only times our bodies heal. If we don't sleep, or sleep poorly, we can inhibit or slow down our bodies ability to heal. It also allows your mind to sort out what has gone through your day. Different ages require different amounts of sleep; that being said, 8 hrs does overlap with all of them (check out Foundations of Health: Sleep for more information).

Sleep Hygiene

An important practice to have to help ensure that you have good sleep, is good sleep hygiene. It’s pretty much the night time ritual that you do before you sleep, to wind down and promote good sleep. This includes discontinuing any electronics for 1 hr or more before bed, using a night filter on your electronics as soon as the sun sets, and sleeping in a dark room with no lights. 

Electronics emit a blue light, which throws off our circadian rhythm, causing several people to have a difficult time falling asleep. The blue or white light from electronic devices are strong enough to make our bodies think it is day time, and as a result, it suppresses the production of melatonin by the body, making it harder for you go to sleep. Exposure to any light while sleeping could do this - especially if they are blue light, which can come from LED light bulbs; which is why it is best to sleep where it is completely dark.  If this is difficult to do, an easier way to do this would be to use a sleeping mask to mimic a dark room. 

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that our pineal gland produces to allow us to go to sleep. It is suppose to be highest at night, when we are sleeping. The problem comes for those who are experiencing a lot of stress. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and the two of them have an inverse relationship. This means, that when melatonin is high, cortisol is low, and vise versa. Cortisol is suppose to be highest during the day, and there is a secondary peak in the mid-afternoon. However, people who are stressed can experience high cortisol at night, and this interferes with the concentration of melatonin your body can make. As a result, some people feel like their minds are racing, and are unable to stop it to go to sleep. Melatonin helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, and promotes sleep by improving the sleep wake cycle, and studies have shown that it can help decrease the time it takes to go to sleep, as well has increase overall sleep amounts (Psychology Today). 

Meditation 

I’ve heard different numbers for how much sleep a good 20 minute meditation is equivalent to. They are generally between 4-6 hrs of equivalent sleep. Meditation can be difficult to do, especially if it’s your first time doing it. It allows your mind and body to go into a deeper state of relaxation, where it can rest. Finding time for 20 minutes of meditation during the day can help you with your energy for the rest of the day, and meditating before you sleep can improve your quality of sleep. There's a thought out there that says meditation is about not thinking. Based on Sri Sri’s wisdom talks (The Art of Living), meditation is the “art of doing nothing.” What he means by this is, it’s the art of allowing yourself to do nothing - so you position yourself in such a way that your senses can have a break. This doesn’t mean to actively think, “do nothing or think nothing,” it means that if a thought comes to mind, you see it, and let it go. Like when you are looking out a window in the passenger seat. You let the images go past you. Because the mind doesn’t work like the body. If you actively work your body, it does amazing things. If you actively work your mind, it doesn’t work so well. How many of you at night actively attempt to go to sleep? It doesn’t work, you end up feeling more awake. If you were to meditate, and use no effort into sleeping, then you will be able to sleep easier. 

Happy Sleeping!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Stress Management

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Stress

Stress affects everything in your body. It is difficult for your body to digest and absorb nutrients from your meals if you are stressed since your body is in sympathetic mode. Sympathetic mode is when you go into a "fight, flight, (and more recently) or freeze" state. When you are in this state, your body prioritizes these actions by pumping blood to the heart and muscles so that you can fight or run, but at the same time, it decreases the flow of blood to your intestine and stomach. As a result, your digestive system is suppressed, and you don't digest your food or absorb the nutrients, which can cascade to different effects, such as being tired. Your body doesn't differentiate between life threatening stress and having-to-meet-a-deadline stress, your body reacts the same regardless. 

To heal, you need to switch your mode from sympathetic, to parasympathetic. Parasympathetic is the "rest, digest, and repair" mode, where your body can nourish itself and heal. This is the mode you want to be in when you are eating and sleeping, that way your body can do these functions optimally; otherwise, you will not be able to recover and nourish your body fully. An easy way to do this is by using breathing techniques. The one I generally recommend is the Square breathing technique, where you breath in for 4 seconds, then hold it for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold again for 4 seconds, before continuing this kind of breathing for a few cycles (try 5-10 cycles, you can do more if you want to). Doing this puts you into the parasympathetic mode, and is also a great way to help with anxiety.

One of the best ways to help relieve and manage stress is by physically active. Being active gives you a great outlet to let out your emotions, and allows you to express it. If you're really frustrated or angry, doing contact sports can be helpful since you get to hit a punching bag and let it go. If you feel really emotional, dancing is a beautiful way to express that feeling, and to let it go. This way to help relieve stress is related to the Activity part of the Foundations of Health, and as you may have gleaned, stress related to all parts of the foundation.

Another way to help manage your stress is by journalling, this way you are able to reduce the stress from your mind. You are able to express yourself in words - unfiltered. Express how you are really feeling and not have to censor yourself from saying certain things. This can be very liberating, especially if you find that you have to censor or filter yourself the entire day. This lets you be you, all of you, without fear of judgement. 

Lastly, there are herb that you can use to help your mind and body cope with stress better. These herbs are said to be adaptogens in the botanical world, and though they will all generally help you with stress, some of them are better than others - especially depending on your constitution and how you are currently doing with the stress. Some herbs are good for long time use, while others are better for short term use. The herbs for short term use tend to use your nutritional and energy stores to help you get through the stressful situation - which can be good, if you have those stores. The ones for long term use tend to be also very nutritive for the body, which is why you can use them for long term. It is best to talk to a health provider with herbal knowledge to determine which is the best one for you.

Happy breathing!

~Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Activity

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Activity

Movement is important for the body, for mood, and energy, among other things. It has been seen to be more effective than some antidepressants when it comes to depression, and it is an excellent way of managing stress by giving you an stress outlet.

When you are first starting out, it is important to start of small, especially if you haven’t been active for a very long time. This can be something like walking for 20 minutes/day. Commit to doing this for at least 20 days, and watch how your mood and energy change as you begin to make this a regular part of your life. Afterwards, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the activity by either increasing the time to 30 minutes/day or by changing it up to jogging based on how you feel you are doing. Continue to gradually increasing the difficulty as you see fit (you can increase the time again, or change it up to running). Afterwards, you will be doing compound exercises, this is where you are training more than one muscle group at a time. You can do this by doing squats, lunges, push ups, etc.

A good workout should make you feel good - like you just worked out, and have achieved something - not completely ruined or exhausted. If you do not enjoy going to the gym, find an activity that you enjoy. This can be anything you want it to be, whether its yoga, soccer, swimming, martial arts, dancing, etc,. and make a commitment to do that regularly. You'll notice how much more energy, and how much lighter you feel after making this a habit.

Happy moving!

~Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Sleep

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Sleep, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Sleep

Sleep is very important to help your body heal and your mind sort out what has gone through your day. Different ages require different amounts of sleep, but 8 hrs does overlap with all of them.

  • Newborns (0-3 months):14-17 hours each day 
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours 
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours 
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours 
  • School age children (6-13):  9-11 hours 
  • Teenagers (14-17):  8-10 hours 
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours 
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours  (National Sleep Foundation)

A way you can increase the quality of your sleep is by having good sleep hygiene.  This includes discontinuing any electronics for at least an hour before bed, using a night filter on your electronics as soon as the sun sets, and sleeping in a dark room with no lights on, and having a night time ritual (where you wind down, eg. you can take a bath, meditate, or read a novel).

Electronics emit a blue light, which throws off our circadian rhythm, and suppressing the production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone our bodies make to help us get into deep sleep to heal and recover. With the suppression of melatonin, it becomes difficult for us to get into deep sleep, or to fall asleep at all, especially with the compounding effect of the light throwing off our circadian rhythm. Exposure to any light while sleeping could do this - especially if they are blue light - which can come from LED light bulbs. This is why it is best to sleep in complete darkness; however, if this is not possible, you can mimic having a dark room by using a sleeping mask. Another thing that could help you go to sleep easier would be using a white noise machine to drown out outside noises, it sounds very similar to the ocean, and is very relaxing. 

Happy sleeping!

~ Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Diet

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Diet, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Diet

When you look at your plate, does it look plain? How many colours do you see? It is important to have as many colours as possible on your plate to fill in the gaps in nutrition that each portion has. Eat the rainbow of plants that nature provides - that way you can get a number of different phytonutrients from all of them. For example, blueberries are very rich in anthocyanes, which is a strong antioxidant, and it is found in that nice blue, red, or purple pigment found in berries. Whereas, dark leafy greens provide a lot of minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium found in the chlorophyll of plants, which aren’t found in the same concentrations in berries.

Do you have some sort of protein on your plate? Then you need protein to help your body produce the vital things your body uses to function, like receptors, and enzymes. It also helps you maintain your energy throughout the day. If you notice you have an energy crash in the afternoon? Ask yourself if your breakfast and lunch have protein, and if it doesn't, add some in. You'll notice that you experience these crashes less often. 

Lastly, fats are very important in terms of energy and satiety. There are several fat receptors in your stomach, and if you are able to bind all of them to fat molecules - from healthy fats - then you are telling your body that you have had enough food, and that you don’t need to eat any more. You become full longer, and you give your body the building blocks it needs to make the cellular membranes in your body, as well as hormones. Just make sure you are eating health fats, such as olive oil, nuts, coconut oil, fish oil, etc.

 

Picture from Bauman College

Picture from Bauman College

Happy eating!

~ Dr. Charmagne