Want a Nap? Try Working Out to Increase Your Energy Level Instead

Fitness Article: Want a Nap? Try Working out to Increase Your Energy Level Instead

Pin me to your fitness board for easy reference and to share with others.

Though exercising when you are tired and want a nap may sound counterintuitive, and maybe even counterproductive, working out to increase your energy level may work for you. When I first heard from a mentor that I should exercise when tired instead of taking a nap, I was exhausted between working full time at my internship site and finishing up grad school assignments. Although sleep is, of course, important, I knew a nap would put me at risk of not being able to fall asleep that night, which could contribute to my sleep debt. So I decided to do a 20 minute workout with Les Mills Pump. I figured that it was short enough to power through and if it didn’t work, I could always take a nap afterward.

It did work! I shouldn’t have been surprised, of course. I had heard long before this advice was given to me similar sentiments from Chalene Johnson. In one of her Turbofire workouts, she talks about how people ask her why she always has so much energy and she says that she works out. People say that they’re too tired to do that, and she says that if they worked out they’d have more energy. That’s how it works. How does exercise work to increase energy?

The Body Creates Energy from Exercise

According to nutritionist Samantha Heller, energy production begins with mitochondria in our cells, which she says are like “tiny power plants to produce energy”. The more activity you have, the more mitochondria are required, so doing regular cardiovascular exercise prompts the body to increase the mitochondria available in the body to meet your energy needs (1).

Robert Gotlin, MD, DO, and the director of sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, says that the energy increase from exercise is also related to improvements in mood and fitness level. Hormones called endorphins are released when doing things requiring a burst of energy, like working out, and the increased level of endorphins helps people feel more focused mentally after a workout. Better cardiovascular health comes from working out, which leads to more endurance, allowing people to have more energy left over at the end of the day. People may also experience improved sleep after exercise which leads to more energy the following day (2).

Types of Exercise that Boost Energy

The type of exercise you do may matter if your’e hoping for an energy boost. In a 2008 study by University of Georgia researchers, it was discovered than inactive people complaining of fatigue could decrease fatigue up to 65% and increase energy up to 20% through participation in regular, low-intensity exercise (1). According to behavioral therapist and personal trainer Therese Pasqualoni, Ph.D, exercise that is in your low to moderate training heart rate range “will prevent you from depleting your body and help you from feeling fatigued…” (1). According to experts mentioned by Bouchez in a WebMD article, yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi, are among the workouts that can be beneficial for this goal (1). There are some excellent home workouts that incorporate these workouts including yoga workouts Ho Ale Ke Kino and Yoga Booty Ballet, PiYo (a cross between Pilates and Yoga), and Tai Cheng, which is based on Tai Chi.

Robert Thayer, Ph.D, a psychology professor at California State University Long Beach, indicated that a 10 or 15 minute walk “has a primary effect of increased energy”. He discussed with WebMD a study in which people had more energy on days when they had more total daily steps than on days when they walked less (1). I have heard from several people that 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to have, and I know some who use a FitBit or similar device to track their steps and other activity levels. I haven’t given such a thing a go yet, but for awhile my car was broken down and I was walking nearly every day for at least 40 minutes, and I did feel a lot more energetic those days, even though I had to motivate myself to take those first steps. You can read more about increasing your motivation to walk or run here and some fit facts about walking here. If you do prefer high intensity workouts, Thayer reports that it might be possible that within about an hour of an intense workout “when your muscles recover, you might see a surge of energy but without the tension” (1).

Bicycling at Wildwood Recreation Site, Welches - horizontal - 281 Photo by Mt. Hood Territory via Flickr (creative commons)

Bicycling can be just for fun or to help you exercise on the way to a destination. [Photo by Mt. Hood Territory.]

Pete Mcall, Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise recommends bicycling for pleasure and to run errands or commuting to work. He says, “Research indicates that most errands people run are within two miles of their home, a distance easily covered on a bicycle.” He points out that bicycling for errands has a dual benefit, in that it reduces the the amount of carbons in the air as well as helping people to exercise (3). I may actually be getting a bike soon for both purposes. He also recommends working extra activity into your day by taking the stairs or parking in a spot further from your destination. McCall says “chronic exercise beats chronic fatigue every time” (3). I’ll have to keep that line in mind next time I do multiple (not overly strenuous) workouts in a day and am asked “Why are you working out so much?”

If you want to know the absolute best workout for an energy boost, Gotlin says the best workout is “up to you and what you like to do” because “it’s not going to work if you don’t like it”. (2).

What do you like to do for exercise (and hopefully fun)? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Sources:

1. Exercise for Energy Workouts that Work by Colette Bouchez on WebMD

2. Boost Your Energy Levels With Exercise by Diana Rodrigues on Everyday Health

3. Exercise as a Cure for Fatigue and to Boost Energy Levels by Marion Webb on AceFitness.org


Note: As an Independent Beachbody Coach I do make a commission on sales through my shop, which is where links to Beachbody products will point. If you choose to purchase through them, I thank you for your support, and I look forward to helping you invest in your fitness!

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Combating Stress for College Students

Combating Stress for College Students

Me buried under books toward the end of my first degree, which was in creative writing. Click to go to the Pinterest board where you can see some of my writing.

As a recent graduate from a master’s program in counseling psychology, I know firsthand that being a student can increase stress due to anything from worrying about grades, to juggling a heavy workload, to trying to meet deadlines, to trying to figure out how to pay for school. I’ve experienced all of these things, and I know that stress in any form can impact productivity, health, and overall wellbeing.

CollegeDegreeSearch.net has asked me to share an infographic on stress in students, which has a lot of information on things that contribute to student stress and ways to combat student stress. They’re not compensating me for this post; I just thought that the info might be useful. I also wanted to comment on a few of the facts and ideas presented, so I’ll do that now:

Get Enough Sleep to Help Manage Stress

This infographic mentions the importance of getting enough sleep. Though adults should get an average of 8 hours of sleep a night, a quarter of students are sleep deprived. While the infographic doesn’t mention it, a lack of sleep also builds up a sleep debt. You can learn more about what that is and how to pay that back here. To reduce stress and help you fall asleep, one thing you may want to try is taking baths. You can find out more about how baths can help in relaxation, stress relief, and getting more sleep here.

Even if you fall asleep easily, if you can’t stay asleep, your grade point average can suffer. This could be due to the fact that a lack of sleep reduces your concentration. In addition to getting tired, getting less than 6 hours of sleep can lead students to feeling more sad and stressed. Check out these 10 sleep hygiene practices to help you sleep better.

Reduce Stress Through Exercise

One suggestion the infographic makes for reducing stress is to exercise. Some individuals get stressed trying to figure out how to fit exercise into their schedule, and I know even as someone who enjoys working out it is easy for me to let exercise slide during times of stress. However, when I do make time to exercise, I always feel better. The infographic points out that even walking for 30 minutes while listening to music counts. I did this a few times recently and it was a great workout. You can check out more ways to motivate yourself to walk or run here. There are also many Beachbody home workouts, some of which only require 30 minutes such as Insanity: Max 30 and P90X3. Still too much time? How about 10 Minute Trainer? Everyone’s got time for that.

Eat Healthy Food When Stressed

Although eating healthy is important all the time, this infographic also mentions the importance of eating something balanced and healthy when dealing with stress. It’s really tempting to grab unhealthy foods, especially as a college student, because they’re often cheap and take little to no time to prepare. What if you had a healthier alternative? Shakeology is a great grab-and-go option which, unlike fast food, contains superfood ingredients with nutrients, vitamins, proteins, and minerals. The cost is about $4 per shake, which is less than many fast food meals or coffee-shop lattes high on sugar and low on nutrients. If you are interested in working out and trying Shakeology, Challenge Packs offer you a way to save on both. This tool can help you select a Challenge Pack that’s right for you, or you can contact me for assistance and with any questions you might have.

Find out more info on the impact of stress on students and ways to handle stress in the infographic below. If you found this post useful, please share it with others via any of the social media options below and consider subscribing to Investing in Fitness so you don’t miss future posts on fitness, health, and improving your wellbeing.

Combating Student Stress "Stress Outbreak" InfoGraphic via CollegeDegreeSearch.Net

Pin the infographic to your Pinterest board for Student Life or Improving Wellbeing for easy access to the information on it and to this post.

CollegeDegreeSearch.net

 

Note: Though CollegeDegreeSearch.net is not compensating me for the post, as an Independent Beachbody Coach I do make a commission on sales through my shop, which is where links to Beachbody products will point. If you choose to purchase through them, I thank you for your support, and I look forward to helping you invest in your fitness!

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Challenge Yourself to the ABC’s of Gratitude

ABC's of gratitude A few days ago, I heard that one can always “go to gratitude” as a “shortcut to serenity”. Yesterday I heard something else about the importance of gratitude. I was miserable due to having allergies and since I’d been reminded of gratitude twice recently, I decided to do something I’ve done before, an ABC’s of gratitude in which each letter of the alphabet stands for something I’m grateful for.

I like to do this sometimes because it is challenging and makes me deliberately focus on things to be grateful for that I might otherwise ignore. I started yesterday’s ABC’s of gratitude as I was laying down to sleep and managed to fall asleep before I got to the end. I decided to do another one today, which also happened to be a day in which I came across something about gratitude. I worked on this gratitude list throughout the day, jumping around the letters, and I finally finished as I was working on this post. Here’s what I came up with:

Todays’ ABC’s of Gratitude

Allergies being somewhat relieved compared to yesterday

Boardwalk Empire entertaining me while I clean

Calming lotion scents (today it’s eucalyptus tea)

Dogs who amuse me me and cuddle with me while we sleep

Energy following the three workouts I did today (Les Mills Pump‘s Pump Challenge and Hard Core Abs and Brazil Butt Lift‘s Cardio Axe)

Frutarre for making the mango frozen fruit bar I had for a snack

Germany and the chance to live and travel here (which you can read more about here)

Having a place to go that helps me connect to others and improve myself

Internet helping me keep in touch with people and to learn

Just Listening to You for a blog post that reminded me of a long-ago meditation retreat and a more recent trip to a barefoot park

Kindness shown to me and that I’ve seen shown to others

Les Mills Pump for helping me build muscle and get back in shape

Messenger on Facebook so I can talk to my husband while he’s away

New bras (that I will hopefully keep out of reach of my corgi this time)

Old bras turned into a dog toy awhile ago that my corgi still plays with

Playing with my dogs

Quiet time with no one running up the stairwells or slamming their doors

Reheated leftovers for lunch…always great to get two meals out of one dish

Someone who encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone

Tasty pulled pork I had for dinner

Underwear…not much else to say there

Veggies frozen but easily cooked (today I had harvest veggies in a garlic sauce mmm)

Water keeping me hydrated and helping me get clean and relax at the end of the day

Xtra Vitamin D that was added to my orange juice (Yeah I know that one is pushing it, but there aren’t that many words that begin with X).

Yogurt I had after dinner (the one I mentioned in this post; it’s still one of my favorite treats)

Zzz’s I got this morning sleeping in and am about to get tonight

 

I encourage you to challenge yourself to the ABC’s of gratitude. If you do so, feel free to share it in the comments below, or share a link to it if you want to post one on your blog.

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5 Songs to Chase Your Worries Away

5 songs to chase your worries awayI love music. When I am worried, anxious, stressed, or otherwise upset, music is one of my go-to ways of pulling myself out of a funk. Today I want to share some songs to help chase your worries away.

I’m sure most people have heard the first song (although if you haven’t you’re about to get your chance), a list of “Don’t Worry” songs wouldn’t be complete without the original: “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. Following that song I’ll share 4 others. If you’d prefer to play these songs in a playlist, you can find it here.

1. Don’t Worry; Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

2. Do Your Best and Don’t Worry by Morrissey

3. Don’t Worry Baby by the Beach Boys

4. Don’t Worry Now by Brit Nicole

5. Don’t Worry by Madcon feat. Ray Dalton

If you enjoyed these songs and are looking for a few more tunes to lift your spirits, check out these 8 Songs to Turn Your Frown Upside Down. If you need more inspiration to be happy, check out this post in which I explore the idea of happiness and share some happiness quotes. You can find more uplifting quotes on my Pinterest board “Don’t Worry; Be Happy“.

What songs help you get in a better mood?

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Are You at Risk for Malignant Melanoma?

Melanoma Research Foundation #GetNaked

Cick to visit Melanoma Research Foundation for info on the #GetNaked initiative.

The short answer to the question “Am I at risk for malignant melanoma?” is “Yes!”. Melanoma doesn’t discriminate. It can strike anyone of any age with any skin type. The Melanoma Research Foundation estimates that this year alone 137,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma.

Many seem under the impression melanoma only develops in older people who have spent enough time in the sun to get that leathery look, or to people who frequent tanning beds. While those people do have an increased risk, I rarely laid out in the sun, usually wore sunblock, and never used a tanning bed, and I still got melanoma at the age of 20.

I did have other risk factors: pale skin, blue eyes, occasional sunburns (some of which peeled), and a family history of melanoma. The last one may have been the biggest risk factor, but it was also the reason I even knew what to look for, and knowing what to look for is one of the main reasons I am alive today. You can learn more about melanoma, my experience, and the sunscreens I’m using this year here.

Although anyone can get melanoma, there are many risk factors* that can increase your risk of developing melanoma:

Exposure to UV rays: These can come from sunlight but also from tanning beds and sun lamps. Those who are out in sunlight during the midday are also at increased risk.

Fair skin, especially that burns easily, and/or light hair color (blonde, red), blue eyes, or freckles: Due to having less pigment to begin with, someone with fair skin has less protection against UV radiation.

Having many moles or large or irregular moles: Having more than 50 ordinary moles, or having any large or irregular moles increases the risk of melanoma. If you have many moles, you may want to photograph them or have them photographed by someone you trust or a dermatologist to keep track if there are changes. You can also ask a significant other or trusted friend or family member to help in checking hard-to-see spots.

History of sunburns, especially ones that peeled or blistered: Even one blistering sunburn can increase your risk of melanoma.

Living close to the equator or at a higher elevation: These locations place you in more direct and higher contact with the sun’s radiation.

A family history of melanoma: About 10% of people with melanoma have a family history, and your chance of developing it is 2-3 times greater if you have a first-line relative (parent, brother, sister or child) with melanoma. The person in my family with it prior to me was not a first-line relative, but it was still good to know the family history existed.

Personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers: 5% of people with melanoma may develop another one and those with other skin cancers are also at increased risk.

Weakened immune system or certain genetic conditions: If you have a weakened immune system such as from an organ translate or HIV, you are more susceptible to developing melanoma. Those with certain genetic conditions (xeroderma pigmentosum, retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Werner syndrome, and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome) are also at increased risk.

Male gender especially after age 45; Female gender before age 45: Males overall have a higher rate of melanoma than women and have a higher risk of developing melanoma than women after the age of 45. However, before the age of 45, women have a higher risk of developing melanoma than men.

Whether you identify with the above risk factors or not, it’s a good idea to be sunsmart. Avoid sun exposure between 10am and at least 2pm ideally 4pm. Wear high SPF sunblock if you will be out. You should also be aware of the signs of melanoma so that you can monitor any moles you have. Any changes in a mole can signal melanoma, but changes meeting ABCDE and P (see below) warrant special concern.

Melanoma signs ABCDE P

Pin me to your Pinterest so you don’t forget the signs of melanoma.

You should regularly check your skin for new moles and any changes to existing moles. The Melanoma Research Foundation provides a Self-Screening Guide, which you can pin to Pinterest or download as a PDF. Make sure to use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Though they didn’t turn out to be anything, I have had moles removed from areas that I wouldn’t have been able to check without a mirror. If you have a significant other or trusted friend or family member, you can also ask for their help in checking hard-to-see moles.

If you see new moles, existing moles with any of the symptoms above, or any changes to your moles, get to a dermatologist as soon as possible. Even if you don’t see these changes, it’s a good idea to have regular skin screenings. In the U.S. the American Academy of Dermatology offers free screenings. You can use this map to find a location offering skin screenings in your area.

Are you going to self-screen and/or get a skin screening this summer?

 

 

 

 

*Sources

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-risk-factors

http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/melanoma/risk-factors-and-prevention

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/melanoma/basics/risk-factors/con-20026009

 

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Learn the Signs of Melanoma and Ways to Help Reduce Your Risk

Learn the Signs of Melanoma

I learned from Gillian at Just Stay Curious that yesterday was Sunscreen Day. It’s also Melanoma Awareness Month. So, today’s post will focus on one of the reasons sunscreen is important: helping reduce the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. I was diagnosed with melanoma when I was 20. I only knew to have my changing mole checked because a family member once had melanoma, and I had some idea what the signs were. Without that knowledge, I don’t think I’d be here today.

Melanoma Signs

Pin me so you don’t forget me!

At that time, the symptoms of possible malignant melanoma were limited to Asymmetrical, Border irregularity, uneven or changing Color, and an increase in Diameter. E was added later, which stands either for Elevated or Evolving, depending on the source. At one point I also saw a suggestion to add P for persistent issues like itching and scaling. P doesn’t seem to have caught on, but most places do mention “additional symptoms” to look for which include those, so I’ve added it to the list.

My Experience With Melanoma

In my case, a mole I’d had for awhile on my right calf increased in size and got darker in color. I knew those were signs of possible melanoma, so I went to my primary care doctor. Although I told her there was a family history of melanoma, she just told me to watch the mole and come back in about a month. 

Since she didn’t seem worried and school was hectic, I ended up putting it off a little longer than that, finally going in about two months later. By then, in addition to being bigger and darker, the mole had started to itch and have sort of a white scale to it. These were all more signs of melanoma, though I didn’t know itchiness and scaliness were symptoms at the time.

During the followup appointment, the doctor measured the mole for the first time. It was 8mm, and even a few millimeters less would have been cause for concern. She biopsied the mole for testing though she still didn’t seem too concerned. I was not surprised when I got a call two days later informing me that I had melanoma. An appointment had already been made for me to see a dermatologist for a few days later.

At the dermatologist’s office, I was told that melanoma is a deadly skin cancer (there are other types of skin cancer which aren’t deadly). Melanoma occurs when melanocytes, or pigment cells, become malignant. For a longer but still brief explanation, you may want to watch the following video:

The dermatologist said many people with melanoma have the mole removed and that’s the end of it. In my case, the cancer had spread below the skin, though fortunately not too far below it, and thus required surgery. I had to have a centimeter in either direction of the biopsy removed. He also decided to remove a couple other moles as a precaution. Neither of those turned out to be malignant.

A few weeks later, I had the surgery, which was outpatient. I was awake for it, though he numbed the area with anesthetics injected into the site. I actually watched him perform the procedure. 

The dermatologist said melanoma is most likely to recur in the first three to five years, and if it comes back in the same spot it’s almost as if it was never caught at all. That was kind of scary. For awhile I had to be screened by a dermatologist every few months, then every six months.

Lately I’m down to once a year unless I notice a new mole or changes in an existing mole, (although I did have a German dermatologist recommend sticking with every six months). Fortunately, it’s been 10 years this month since my surgery, and though I’ve lost count of the number of moles that have been removed as a precaution (knock on wood) I haven’t had a recurrence of melanoma.

Get Screened for Melanoma

Melanoma isn’t typical in young people, which is probably why my initial doctor didn’t seem concerned at first, but I’m proof it can occur. Yet even a family member was told she was too young to worry when asking for a screening at an age older than I was at diagnosis. Whether you’re related to me or not, if you ask for a screening at age 20+ and are told you’re too young to worry about melanoma, tell them you’re not because I wasn’t too young to get it at 20, and I wouldn’t be alive today had I not been screened and had the biopsy and surgery soon enough. It’s never too early, but it can be too late!

If you are an adult of any age with a new mole, or anyone of any age with a mole that meets any of the ABCDE or P symptoms above or changes in any way, I encourage you to get a skin screening. Any dermatologist can perform one and I have often seen events during which free skin screenings are offered. In the U.S., the American Academy of Dermatology offers free screenings, and you can use this handy map to find one in your area.

Aveeno and Banana Boat sunscreen

The first two sunscreens of the summer.

Reduce Your Risk of Melanoma

While we may not be able to prevent melanoma–I was told it was “when” not “if” I was going to get it due to my genetic predisposition–we can reduce our risk for getting it (or reduce a risk of recurrence). We can do this by minimizing exposure to the sun, avoiding tanning beds (which I had never and now will never use), and using high-SPF sunscreen when we are out in the sun.

Although I don’t totally avoid the sun, and even used to live in the Sunshine State, I do try not to be out too long during the “peak hours” (about 10am to 2pm or 4pm depending on whom you ask). I also wear sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher as has been recommended to me. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30.

Finding sunscreens I like in an appropriate SPF is something of a challenge for me though. While my favorite sunscreen scent is Hawaiian Tropic, and I can wear it on most of my body, it tends to irritate my face, as do most sunscreens. I’ve even had ones made for babies or for sensitive skin cause my face to turn red within a few seconds of putting them on.

This summer, I bought two new sunscreens to try, both of which are sweat and water resistant, one for the body, and one just for the face. The body sunscreen I’ll be trying is Banana Boat Protect and Hydrate Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF-50, a 2 in 1 UVA/UVB Sunscreen and All Day Moisturizer with Aloe Vera and Antioxidants. It’s labeled as fragrance free, and seems to be, which will be nice if I want to wear other scents. The color is the way it looks in the bottle, but it rubs in.

For the face, I got Aveeno Active Naturals Protect and Hydrate with Broad Spectrum SPF 50 and Nourishing Oat. Though not fragrance free, the fragrance is pretty mild. It did turn my face a little pink the first time I put it on, but it wasn’t beet-red so I’m going to keep using it for now.

What sunscreen will you be using to protect your skin this summer? 

 

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Baths May Help You Sleep Better, Stress Less, & Relax More

A bubble bath. Links to a post on my other blog, Embracing Adventure, in which I talk about some products I like, including my favorite bubble bar.

Did you know that today is Bubble Bath Day? It’s true! A whole day dedicated just to bubble baths. I didn’t end up taking one, but I do love bubble baths. They’re a good way to relax and to get in some leisure reading (with a paperback of course), and they may even help you stress less and sleep better (and deeper). Here are four ways baths may benefit you:

1. A bath may help you sleep due to the change in body heat. In a 2006 study, Horne & Reid tested a group of women in cool and warm water baths and found that a warm bath increased the participants’ sleepiness at bedtime, their slow-wave sleep (which is deep sleep), and their stage 4 sleep (also part of deep sleep) while their REM sleep decreased. Part of the reason for this may be that the temperature of the body naturally drops at night and raising the temperature via a warm bath results in a steeper drop in temperature, thus promoting deeper sleep. Joyce Walsleben, Ph.D. and professor recommends a 20-30 minute bath 2 hours before your bedtime.

2. Adding lavender oil to your bath may aid in deeper sleep. You’ve probably heard of lavender aromatherapy. If you’ve wondered if it has any basis in science, it does, and if you add lavender essential oil to your bubble bath (or it’s already in your bubble bar or liquid bubble bath), you may get better sleep. In a 2005 study by Goal, Kim, & Lao, participants were exposed to lavender oil or a control (distilled water) and assessed over three nights in a sleep lab. Participants exposed to lavender oil had an increase in deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, and reported “higher vigor” the next day. In women, stage 2 sleep, or light sleep, was increased and REM sleep was decreased, while the opposite happened with men. These findings suggest lavender can be used as a mild sedative and to aid both men and women in achieving deep sleep.

3. A bath may reduce muscle tension, helping you relax. According to Paul Ingraham, a science writer and former massage therapist, while a heat pack warms up the skin, a hot bath can warm up the actual muscles. He recommends combining the bath with self massage using a tennis ball trapped between your body and the bottom or back of the tub. If this sounds like it might hurt, remember you’ll be more buoyant in the water and therefore in more control of how much pressure you apply. He also recommends stretching in the bath.

4. If you read in the bath, you may reduce your stress level. Good news for those of us who like to combine a bath and a book: according to research by cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis at the University of Sussex, reading, which can slow the heart rate and reduce muscle tension, also reduces stress. In his study, reading resulted in stress reductions of up to 68%. Dr. Lewis says that “losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation”. How long do you need to read for to relax? According to his research, just 6 minutes of silent reading can reduce your stress level. If you’re not a reader, he also found that listening to music reduced stress by 61%, so it might be worth bringing a radio in the bathroom. Just make sure to keep it far from the water!

If you like bubble baths, stay tuned as I am waiting on the ingredients to make my own bubble bar (also called solid bubble bath) and will be sharing my experience. If you found this post helpful, please pass it on via one of the sharing options below and subscribe to get future blog updates.

 

Sources:

An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s PubMed

Nighttime sleep EEG changes following heat in a warm bath on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s PubMed

Bedtime behaviors that work: 7 habits that will prepare your body for sleep on Health.com

A better hot bath: Tips for getting the most out of the oldest form of therapy on PainScience.com

Reading ‘can help reduce stress’
 
on The Telegraph (Note: I wanted to keep the links to things everyone can access but if you want to read the original research and have the means to do so, look up: Dr. David Lewis “Galaxy Stress Research,” Mindlab International, Sussex University (2009).

 

 

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10 Sleep Hygiene Practices to Help You Sleep Better

Apollo nap

Want to sleep as well as my min pin, or at least better than you do now? Check out these 10 sleep hygiene tips.

What is “sleep hygiene”? According to Michael Thorpy, M.D., of the National Sleep Foundation, it’s a “variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.” Practicing sleep hygiene can help one avoid developing a sleep problem or disorder. Sleep hygiene is important for children as well as adults, although some of the suggestions may not apply to children. So what practices constitute good sleep hygiene? Although opinions vary, I’ve seen a lot of common themes. Below I’ll share summaries of tips I’ve seen with additional comments from my perspective in parentheses.

10 Sleep Hygiene Practices

* Avoid naps, but if you must nap, take a brief one prior to 5pm. (As a former caregiver, I can tell you that this is one that won’t apply to children at least three years old and younger who do benefit from nap time).

*Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, spicy or sugary foods, and large meals within 4-6 hours of bedtime.

*If you’re hungry before bed, you might consider warm milk and foods high in tryptophan, such as bananas, to promote sleep.

* Exercise in the morning or late afternoon to promote deepened sleep, but do not do strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime.

*You can do relaxing exercises before bed to help promote muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety. (Two workouts that might fit your pre-bed workout routine are Ho Ale Ke Kino, which is a yoga workout, and Tai Cheng, which uses moves from Tai Chi).

* Have a comfortable bed that is associated only with physical intimacy and sleep; avoid reading, working, or doing other recreational activities in bed. If necessary, limit the bedroom itself only to these two activities.

* Make your bedroom as quiet as possible, such as with white noise or earplugs, as dark as possible, such as with blackout curtains, and comfortably cool, between about 60-75*F, with good ventilation. (As a former third-shift worker and current night owl who always ends up back on a third shift schedule when I’m not working, blackout curtains are a must. These are the ones I have in my bedroom.)

*Set your internal clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, or at least getting up at the same time everyday because you should…

*…only go to bed when you’re tired. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading, until you’re ready to return to bed. If you get out of bed, be sure to keep the lights dim so your body doesn’t get the idea it should be awake.

*Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine, and avoid any stressful activities, to include discussing emotional issues and worrying.

If you’re not sure what to do to establish a relaxing pre-bed routine, stay tuned as I’ll be sharing some of the things that I have found helpful and relaxing prior to bed in a future post. If you haven’t already, please subscribe via email or
follow my blog with Bloglovin so you don’t miss future updates. Thanks for reading. If you found this post helpful, please pass it along via one of the sharing options below. Sleep well!

Sources: 
The National Sleep Foundation
University of Maryland Medical Center
Healthy Sleep by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in partnership with WGBH Educational Foundation

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What is Sleep Debt and How Do We Pay It Back?

Gir napping on my yoga mat today.

Today was Festival of Sleep Day. Now that’s a holiday I could (and did) invest in. I have been terrible about getting enough sleep lately, especially while I was doing my practicum and final paper for my master’s, so this year I’ll be working on getting more adequate sleep.

Today, I got up around 10am after about 6 hours of sleep and decided to celebrate this holiday by sleeping for at least an extra hour or two, so I could get my full 7-8 hours of sleep. Well, I didn’t end up getting to sleep until about noon, but instead of getting an extra 2 hours of sleep, I got about an extra 7. I guess my body needed the rest. I’ve been building up a sleep debt and today was a day for paying some of it back. To find out more about what sleep debt means, what it does, and how to pay back your debt, read on.

Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you get less, any unslept hours become “sleep debt”. Sleep debt can cause problems with health and mental functioning, and night owls (that’s me) and shift workers (that’s usually me) are at the highest risk for building one up. A study by the University of Chicago helped highlight that chronic sleep debt increases risks for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School found that found impairments in reaction time, memory, and cognitive tasks in those getting four to six hours of sleep when compared to those getting eight hours of sleep a night. When compared to a group who stayed awake for three days, those who went two weeks with four hours of sleep were cognitively equivalent to the no-sleep group after the first sleepless day and had memory and reaction times scores similar to the no-sleep group on the second sleepless day.

Apollo sleeping on my leg. Clearly neither of my dogs have an issue with sleep debt. They can sleep anytime, anywhere.

Having a sleep debt doesn’t put one in a hopeless situation, however. Sleep debt can be “paid back,” which is what I was doing today, and you don’t necessarily have to sleep the same number of hours you were short to do so. The regional director of the Harvard-affiliated Sleep Health Centers recommends that those missing 10 hours of sleep in a week get 3 to 4 extra hours of sleep on the weekend and an extra hour or two hours per night until the debt is repaid.

For those who have built up a bigger sleep debt, he recommends a low-stress, light-obligation vacation in which one turns off one’s alarm clock and sleeps every night until one wake’s up naturally. To avoid building up sleep debt again once it’s paid off, he recommends going to bed and getting up at the same time every day during the week and, if necessary, catching up on some sleep debt on the weekends.

If you’ve built up sleep debt because you’re a night owl, have insomnia, or get too busy doing things and don’t get to bed in time, paying back your sleep debt may seem easier said than done. In future posts, I’ll talk about some sleep hygiene techniques and things that I do that help me relax and fall asleep, so stay tuned.

Do you have a sleep debt? If so, please share in the comments what you’re doing (or planning to do) to pay it off. If you’re getting enough sleep, please consider sharing your healthy sleep habits in the comments below.

 

Reference: The information in this article was summarized from information found in Repaying Your Sleep Debt found on Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications. It’s an extensive article and includes much  more information than I mentioned here, so check it out if you’re interested in further reading.

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