How To Manage Your Sleep Problems

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which one has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting quality sleep. According to a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one in four Americans develop insomnia each year, but fortunately, about 75% of these individuals recover without developing persistent insomnia while the other 25% progress to acute insomnia.

People over the age of 60 tend to experience sleep disturbances more often than younger people. Females are also twice as likely to have sleep problems compared to males. There are a multitude of possible causes for insomnia, including:

emotional stress,
mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety,
chronic pain,
allergies,
asthma,
heart failure,
hyperthyroidism,
heartburn,
menopause,
restless leg syndrome,
circadian rhythm disruptions, such as jet lag or working night shifts,
sleep apnea,
certain medications,
caffeine,
heavy smoking, and
excessive alcohol intake.
Insomnia is agonizing, exhausting, and frustrating. Some people turn to sleeping pills, either over-the-counter or prescription, which may help improve sleep while you are taking them. But insomnia usually returns once they are stopped because medications do not treat the underlying causes of insomnia.

Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that is sold as a supplement. It is helpful for occasional sleep problems and jet lag. Individuals who report that melatonin does not work often make the mistake of taking too high a dose of several grams. Very often, as little as 300 mcg is already sufficient. Always start with the lowest dose before increasing the dosage. It is also beneficial to get the “timed release” melatonin as it will help you stay asleep longer. However, melatonin also does not address the underlying causes of insomnia.

A more successful approach to insomnia is to improve sleep hygiene and make lifestyle changes in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. Dozens of studies have proved that this strategy is extremely helpful in treating insomnia. In the following, we will examine these techniques in more detail.

Sleep Hygiene And Lifestyle Changes

Sleep-Promoting Habits

The goal is to help you fall asleep more easily, wake up less often and for shorter periods of time, and fall back to sleep more easily.

Regular rising time. Set an alarm clock and get out of bed around the same time every day, no matter how little or poorly you have slept. Do not try to sleep in on weekends because by doing so, you will disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm.
Reducing time in bed. Do not go to bed early because you did not sleep well the prior night. This will actually exacerbate insomnia. Determine your earliest allowable bedtime by starting from your desired wake-up time and subtracting the amount of time you want to stay in bed. The time in bed is your average sleep time plus 1 hour and can range from a minimum of 6 hours to a maximum of 9 hours. If you sleep on average 5 hours or less at night, your time in bed should be 6 hours. If you sleep 8 hours, your time in bed should be 9 hours. In other words, your time in bed should closely match the amount of sleep you are averaging per night. The purpose is to avoid the bed becoming a cue for wakefulness more than a cue for sleep. For insomniacs who are already exhausted, the hardest part is to stay awake until the allowable bedtime. Try to engage in a light activity and refrain from going to bed. As you start to sleep better and more hours, you can move the allowable bedtime earlier.
Wind down gradually in the hour before bedtime by engaging in relaxing activities. Avoid stimulating activities such as phone calls, arguments, emotional discussions, work-related activities, surfing the internet, bill-paying, or unpleasant TV programs.
If you need to nap after a poor night of sleep, limit your nap to 45 minutes and do not take it later than 4 pm.
Stimulus-Control Methods

The purpose is to help insomniacs unlearn the connection between the bed and insomnia.

Use the bed only for sleep and sex. No watching TV, working, studying, playing video games, or talking on the phone. If reading a book or watching TV helps you fall asleep, set a timer to turn off the light or TV after 30 minutes.
If you cannot fall sleep within 30 minutes or if you awaken during the night and cannot fall back to sleep within that time, get up, go to another room, or sit in bed and engage in a quiet and relaxing activity such as reading a book or watching TV until you feel drowsy. Do not lie in bed tossing and turning.
Lifestyle Factors

Engage in some form of physical activity every day. Apart from going to the gym, you can also include activities like washing the car, mowing the lawn with a non-riding mower, raking leaves, climbing stairs, bicycling, walking uphill, etc. These activities can be broken up into several shorter sessions but they should add up to at least 30 minutes each day. However, it is best not to exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.
Get some sunlight exposure during the day. If you work indoors, go outside on your coffee break or lunch hour. This will help regulate the body’s melatonin (sleep hormone) production and improve sleep. It will enhance your mood and energy as well.
Drinking 1-2 cups of coffee early in the morning probably will not affect nighttime sleep. However, if you do not sleep well, you should avoid caffeine after noontime.
If you smoke and cannot quit, try to eliminate smoking near bedtime or at night. Nicotine is a stimulant and it will make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink at least 2 hours before bedtime. Nightcaps are not a cure for insomnia. Alcohol makes it easier to fall asleep but it can make sleep lighter and more fragmented. It also suppresses deep sleep and exacerbates snoring and sleep apnea.
Food & Sleep Connection

Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates (eg. peas, beans, oats, quinoa, brown rice) have a mild sleep-enhancing effect because they increase serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
Foods that are high in protein inhibit sleep by blocking serotonin.
To fall asleep more easily and have less nighttime awakenings, try eating a light carbohydrate snack before bedtime.
Avoid foods that are high in sugar as they can cause a burst of energy.
Avoid foods that are likely to cause heartburn or any digestive discomfort.
Avoid eating late dinners.
Reduce fluid intake after 8 pm.
Studies found that deficiencies in B vitamins can impair sleep. Consider taking a B complex supplement if you think that your diet may be lacking in nutrients.
Establishing The Optimal Sleep Environment

Room temperature can have a significant impact on sleep. Insomnia is associated with a failure of body temperature to fall at bedtime. So sleeping in a warm room will make it even harder for the body temperature to drop. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (or 16 to 19 degrees Celsius).
Keep the bedroom completely dark and quiet. In general, insomniacs tend to be more sensitive to noise. Older people whose sleep is lighter as a consequence of aging are also more prone to noise-induced sleep disturbance.
Some individuals are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) than others. If so, removing electronic devices from the bedroom can reduce the stimulation caused by EMFs.
Make sure your bed is comfortable and provide adequate support. Beds that sag can disturb sleep by causing neck and back discomfort, while mattresses that are too hard can cause discomfort for people with arthritis.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I aims to treat chronic sleep problem by changing the thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep.

Relaxation Training

Stressful life events are the most common precipitators of chronic insomnia. Most insomniacs and even some good sleepers have a harder time sleeping on stressful days. Studies have documented that increased daytime stress is correlated with reduced deep sleep, which results in lighter, more restless sleep.

Fortunately, we all have an inborn tool within us that can overcome these stress responses. It is called the relaxation response (RR), which simply put, is using the mind to control the body.

How To Induce The RR

Lie down or sit comfortably. Relax all the muscles throughout the body by starting from the head spreading to the toes or vice versa.
Engage in slow, deep abdominal breathing.
Direct your attention from everyday thoughts to a neutral word such as calm, peace, relax, heavy or whatever you choose. Repeat the word silently. Or you can visualize an enjoyable, relaxing scene such as a beach, a mountain, a meadow, or floating on a cloud.
If your mind wanders or negative thoughts come in, literally say “no thoughts” a few times. Then go back to your word or scene and continue with the deep breathing.
Practice the RR everyday, either in the morning or afternoon. Allot 10-20 minutes for the RR. If you fall asleep, it is fine. However, do not practice the RR 1-2 hours before bedtime as it may affect your sleep.
When you get better at doing the RR during the day, you can try using it at night to fall asleep or after a nighttime wake-up. If you do not fall asleep within 30 minutes. Get up or sit up in bed and engage in a light activity. Do not lie in bed tossing and turning.
Be realistic and be patient. For some insomniacs, it takes up to a few weeks before their sleep improves.
Why The RR Improves Sleep

When practiced during the day, it counters daily stress responses, reducing the likelihood that stress hormones will be elevated at night.
When practiced at bedtime or after an awakening, it helps turn off the internal dialogue, quiet the mind, and relax the body.
RR produces a brain-wave pattern similar to Stage 1 sleep, which is the transition state between waking and sleeping. When insomniacs practice the RR at night, it is easier to enter Stage 1 sleep and ultimately Stage 2, deep sleep, and dream sleep.
How To Overcome Negative Self-Talk

Last but not least, negative thoughts during the day or at bedtime play a powerful role in stimulating wakefulness and causing insomnia. Certain negative thoughts and emotions are normal responses to stressful situations, such as grieving after a death. However, some negative emotions such as worry, anxiety, frustration, and anger are unnecessary, excessive, and unhealthy. They trigger stress responses that adversely affect sleep. Therefore, it is beneficial to eliminate or restructure these negative thoughts that cause more stress.

Become more aware of negative self-talk. Catch yourself doing it or better, write them down and review them at the end of the day.
Realize that most of these thoughts are either not true or overly negative and pessimistic.
Reflect on past experiences and ask yourself: “Has anything like this happened to me in the past and if so, how did it turn out?” Most likely, we tend to worry too much and things seldom turn out as badly as we imagined.
Reframe your negative thoughts and focus on positive beliefs.
Do not generalize a problem to your whole life. View setbacks as temporary.
Avoid blaming yourself for things beyond your control.
Refrain from dismissing positive events as temporary or due to luck or external causes.
Practice gratitude everyday.
Seek out optimists and avoid pessimists. Both optimism and pessimism are contagious.
Hopefully, by incorporating healthy sleep hygiene and making lifestyle changes as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, we can all say goodnight to insomnia!

Empower Your Health With Intermittent Fasting

There’s a new trend in how we eat, or possibly I should say how often we eat. It’s popularity is due to the fact that it helps people lose weight without having to deal with the effects of real hunger. It also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

What is this new trend? “Intermittent fasting” or IF is the name of this game.

Intermittent fasting is really nothing new. In fact, IF goes way back to our original ancestors. It is an eating strategy imprinted in our DNA, because our ancestors practiced a reduced eating schedule. They literally had no choice in the matter. They simply did not have the kind of frequency and ease of access to food we have now.

Our Eating Window –

This new strategy towards eating is not just about skipping meals. It’s about spending as much time as possible in the fasted state.

The best way to define any type of fasting is to think of it as simply a change in eating patterns. In the case of IF, in place of three square meals in a day, or eating a handful of smaller meals throughout the day, there is a window of time when we’re allowed to eat. This could take the form of a few hours a day, or the fasting window could represent certain days of the week. During that time, we can eat whatever we want – within reason of course.

Spacing out our “eating window,” allows our mind to get in tune with our body so we can understand what real hunger really feels like.

IF is not about starving. Fasting does not mean starving, but it isn’t a diet either. The literal definition is:

“to abstain from food and drink during a specific period of time.”

IF is about eating two meals in a day rather than three (or multiples) during which you introduce a 16 hour fasting period. You can choose either breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, and it’s proving to be a powerful approach to eating.

The Western world spends little to no time in a fasted state. True hunger is something we should only experience every 16-24 hours, not every four hours as we are accustomed to. For most, there is a constant grazing from dusk to dawn, and even into the late night for some people.

IF won’t work for anyone whose diet centers around processed foods like chips. Fasting requires us to stick to a mostly whole food diet, rich in vegetables, lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates and fats in order to experience the best and quickest benefits of IF. The two meals chosen for the day need to be packed full of nutrition and completely balanced.

It is estimated that one out of every two people in today’s modern world is obese or overweight and millions are dying from complications that stem from this truth. IF helps to manage body weight and is a powerful tool in the life extension arena as well.

Unless you snack late into the night, you likely incorporate a form of IF in your schedule already, fasting for approximately 12 hours daily. However, current research shows that some benefits of IF require longer periods of fasting to be realized, as many as 20-24 hours depending on activity levels.

The proposed benefits of IF in animals and humans reads like a laundry list of “look better,” “feel better,” and “live longer”…

Having a window of limited eating is much less difficult to pull off then restricting calories. IF is truly one of the simplest strategies for taking fat weight off and keeping good weight (muscle tissue) and requires very little change in behavior.

Slowing the aging process, boosting energy levels and rebooting the immune system are all benefits gained when you incorporate IF into your eating schedule.

So, what are you waiting for? Decide which two meals you want to enjoy going forward and choose the richest, nutrient dense foods to enjoy during that period. If you follow this protocol, and combine it with challenging strength training exercises, I promise you will see positive changes in your body and in the way you feel.

Tips for Disinfecting Drinking Water

Typically, groundwater from different sources like streams, rivers or lakes tends to contain unhealthy germs known as pathogens. They can cause water-borne infections that can spread fast when human or animal feces infected with these pathogens get mixed with drinking water. Some common types of these pathogens include parasites, viruses or bacteria, to name a few. Let’s find out more.

Basically, water disinfection methods help kill or eliminate pathogens from the water you drink. It’s not difficult to disinfect drinking water. You can perform disinfection in many ways. For instance, you can use UV radiation, heat, filtration or a combo of these methods.

Usually, water suppliers ensure the safety of drinking water through different disinfection methods. You can also disinfect your drinking water to look for an alternate source like bottled water.

This can be the only choice for you if you can’t use or get water from a water supply unit in your area or the water you get is infected with E. Coli bacteria.

The Best way to Disinfect Water

If you are looking for the most effective way of cleansing your drinking water, you can try the boiling method, especially if your water contains parasites like Cryptosporidium or Guardia.

All you need to do is boil water for a minimum of 1 minute. The boiling time will be double if you are at an elevation of 2,000 meters or more. After boiling, store the water in a food grade container and cover it up.

The use of Bleach

Generally, it’s fine to use household chlorine bleach for this purpose as it can help eliminate most types of pathogens. However, you should stay away from scented bleaches.

Typically, bleach gives better results if mixed with lukewarm water. Just 2 drops of bleach can be more than enough for 4 cups of warm water.

Cover the container and wait for half an hour before you drink from it. You may experience a little bit of chlorine smell post 30 minutes, which his okay. Also, if the water looks cloudy, you can add two more drops of bleach.

If you don’t like the chlorine taste, you can keep the water container covered for a couple of hours. This will help eliminate the taste.

Heavily Contaminated or Polluted Water

If your water is heavily contaminated, adding bleach or boiling it won’t work. The reason is that these techniques can’t remove chemicals. In this case, you should go for a different source.

Cloudy or Murky Water

Usually, water gets murky or cloudy when it contains dust or sand. To reduce cloudiness, you can pour the water through coffee filter or a clean piece of rag. Allow the bits to sit at the bottom of the container, and then pour the clear water into another container before you consume it.

The use of Iodine

You can do so for a short period of time. However, there are some health concerns linked with the use of iodine over a long period of time. If you have kids and pregnant women in your house, we don’t suggest that you use iodine for this purpose.