Thursday, August 29, 2019

7 things you can do to prevent a stroke

Stroke prevention can start today. Protect yourself and avoid stroke, regardless of your age or family history.

prevent stroke

Published: June, 2013
What can you do to prevent stroke? Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or other close relative who has had a stroke.
You can't reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you're aware of them. "Knowledge is power," says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. "If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk."

How to prevent stroke

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today to avoid stroke, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. "High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women," Dr. Rost says. "Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health."
Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 135/85. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.
How to achieve it:
  • Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
  • Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.
If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

2. Lose weight

Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you're overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.
Your goal: While an ideal body mass index (BMI) is 25 or less, that may not be realistic for you. Work with your doctor to create a personal weight loss strategy.
How to achieve it:
  • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

3. Exercise more

Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.
Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.
How to achieve it:
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
  • Start a fitness club with friends.
  • When you exercise, reach the level at which you're breathing hard, but you can still talk.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
  • If you don't have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.

4. If you drink — do it in moderation

Drinking a little alcohol may decrease your risk of stroke. "Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower," says to Dr. Rost. "Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply."
Your goal: Don't drink alcohol or do it in moderation.
How to achieve it:
  • Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
  • Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
  • Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

5. Treat atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. "Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously," Dr. Rost says.
Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.
How to achieve it:
  • If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
  • You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

6. Treat diabetes

Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.
Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.
How to achieve it:
  • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
  • Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

7. Quit smoking

Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. "Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly," Dr. Rost says.
Your goal: Quit smoking.
How to achieve it:
  • Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
  • Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
  • Don't give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

Identify a stroke F-A-S-T

Too many people ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. "My recommendation is, don't wait if you have any unusual symptoms," Dr. Rost advises. Listen to your body and trust your instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away."
The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke. Cut out this image and post it on your refrigerator for easy reference.
FAST - Identify a stroke FAST chart
Source: National Stroke Association

Signs of a stroke include:

  • weakness on one side of the body
  • numbness of the face
  • unusual and severe headache
  • vision loss
  • numbness and tingling
  • unsteady walk.
Get the latest research and recommendations into understandable advice that can help you prevent or cope with a stroke when you get the Harvard Special Health Report Stroke: Diagnosing, treating, and recovering from a "brain attack".

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

5 surprising benefits of walking 

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School

The next time you have a check-up, don't be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you've been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as "the closest thing we have to a wonder drug," in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Get your copy of Walking for Health
 
Walking for Health
The simple activity of walking has so many powerful health benefits. Done correctly, it can be the key to losing weight, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and boosting your memory,
as well as reducing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Walking
for Health
, created by the experts at Harvard Medical School, takes you step-by-step from why
walking may be the most perfect exercise, to how to get started on a walking program, to specific walking workouts. It even has a special section on walking for weight loss.

Read More

Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular comes with a host of benefits. Here's a list of five that may surprise you.
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.
2. It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
4. It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
5. It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
To learn more about the numerous benefits of walking, as well as easy ways to incorporate a walk into your daily routine, read Walking for Health, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. 
Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

How to Protect and De-Age Your Brain

 Food for Thought—Nutrients for Brain Health

 Thank you to:  https://askthescientists.com/nutrients-brain-health/

Your brain is powerful. You can even use it to think about how the brain itself works. Crazy, right? But this power doesn’t make your brain immune to factors that impact the rest of your body. Lifestyle and environment can affect your brain health. Luckily, there are nutrients for brain health shown to support cognitive function.

Lipids

For a long time, dietary fats (lipids) have been connected to brain health. Originally, lipids’ effect on the cardiovascular system was thought to facilitate that connection. But more recent research shows dietary fats have more direct actions on the brain.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like DHA from fish oil) normally make up cell membranes throughout your body. And like other saturated fat, they’re fundamental building blocks for your brain cells. That’s part of the reason fish is often called a brain food.

Flavonoids

The antioxidant effects of flavonoids are well-established in a test-tube setting. But these plant compounds—like cocoa, ginkgo, and grape-seed extracts—have more complex actions in the body that is continually being researched.
Some flavonoids show promising results in maintaining healthy brain function. Quercetin—a flavonoid that’s a major component of ginkgo biloba extracts—has been shown to maintain memory and learning abilities in some studies. Further research on the subject is needed.

B Vitamins

Adequate levels of the B vitamin folate are essential for brain function. The proof? Folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders, like depression and cognitive impairment.
Clinical trial results have deepened the connection between folate and cognitive function. These studies have shown folate supplementation—by itself or in conjunction with other B vitamins (B6 and B12)—to be effective at maintaining healthy cognitive function during aging.

Other Nutrients

There are more nutrients for brain health. Here’s a short list of the other nutrients with researched roles in brain health:
  • Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to maintain memory and cognitive function.
  • Vitamin E, or α-tocopherol, has also been implicated in cognitive performance. Decreasing serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory performance in older individuals.
  • Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid peroxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals.
  • Several gut hormones or peptides—like leptin, ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1) and insulin—have been found to support healthy emotional response and cognitive processes.

Energy Production

The brain runs your body. And it takes a lot of energy to literally be the brain of the operation. Healthy macronutrients are necessary to fuel your brain and provide the energy it needs.
The mechanisms involved in the transfer of energy from foods to neurons are likely to be fundamental to the control of brain function. Processes that are associated with the management of energy in neurons can affect brain plasticity.

Far-Reaching Impacts

Lifestyle and diet have long-term effects on your health. That means they are likely underestimated for their importance to public health—especially when it comes to healthy aging. But they’re important to your brain. The gradual and sometimes imperceptible cognitive decline that characterizes normal aging can be influenced by the nutrients you feed your brain through a healthy diet.
These impacts go beyond your life, too. Through epigenetics, you pass on traits to your children and their children. Newer studies back this up. They indicate that these nutritional effects on your brain might even be transmitted over generations by influencing epigenetic events.
Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul; 9(7): 568–578.
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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Put Sanoviv On Your Must-Do List For a Healthy Check-Up, Treatments and Vacation.


 Once you have been to Sanoviv, you will be sure to spend another week there in the future.  This is my fourth time there.  The Sanoviv Medical Institute is a fully-licensed hospital, that feels more like a wonderful resort.  It offers a unique blend of conventional, alternative and integrative programs to help maintain your good health and to treat a wide range of diseases. 

The unique, toxin-free construction, combined with a warm and caring staff,  provide the ideal environment for the mind, body and spirit to heal.  Cutting edge medical science is combined with proven alternative therapies to give new hope to those struggling with chronic and degenerative disease.

 Just walking along the ocean front pathway, breathing in the fresh air, is intoxicating.  You are also invited to walk on the grass in your bare feet, so good for your body.

 Your spacious bedroom has a long balcony with chairs to relax, while overlooking the ocean and the heated thalasso pools.  I start my day swimming in the lap pool.  The drawers in your bed contain the natural fiber clothing that you will wear on your visit.  Free laundry is provided every day.


 Your living room sized bedroom includes a sofa set, table, rebounder, and Chi machine.  You will enjoy the Usana shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste in your spacious bathroom.  A smaller bedroom is adjoined for your companion.

This is my doctor, who confers each day with all the other medical personnel on my progress, such as a PhD Psychologist, Dentist, Physical Exercise Expert, Nutritionist, and specialists in massage, energy medicine, meditation and the many specific treatments.  Together, they plan my program for the next day.

I especially appreciate the Hyberbaric Oxygen Therapy, a medical treatment that involves the intermittent inhalation of 100% oxygen  under pressure.  It feels like sitting in a submarine or spaceship!

This allows the oxygen to reach tissues with compromised circulatory function and increases the oxygen entering the blood stream, and can reach the difficult parts of the body like bones, plasma, the brain and central nervous system, as well as the lymphatic system.

All of that and it stimulates a positive effect on the immune system, which fights infection and kills bacteria, accelerates the healing process, growth of new blood vessels, decreases swelling and inflammation, deactivates and clears toxins and metabolic wastes.  Wow!

                                                                                 
  How to make green juice, nut butter and so many other healthy choices, happen in the beautiful dining area.  All meals are organic and gluten free, often made especially for you when ordered by the doctor for your particular health situation.  Even the desserts are low sugar but delicious.  Be sure to read more about Sanoviv at:  www.sanoviv.com  There is a video there with the visit by Dr. Oz explaining his excitement for the peace, healing and expertise offered at Sanoviv.






Thursday, December 20, 2018

How to Keeo Your Skin Healthy and Hydrated in the Winter

Dr. Jennifer Lee’s Winter Skincare Tips

The following was written by Dr. Jennifer Lee. Dr. Jennifer Lee is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a Board-certified Dermatologist. She is the Medical Director of REN Dermatology, a comprehensive medical and cosmetic skin care center in Franklin, Tennessee. She has been on clinical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Lee has been named “Top Doctors” of Nashville, “Teacher of the Year” at Vanderbilt, and “40 under 40” by the Nashville Business Journal. 

Humidify

I’m a big fan of humidifiers in the bedroom during the winter. This simple solution keeps me from waking up with a scratchy throat from dry air or my face feeling dehydrated and tight. A humidifier helps to combat the dryness from indoor heat and the overall lower humidity levels in the air.

Cleans Gently

Harsh weather calls for soothing skincare. Switch to a more gentle cleanser or creamier version like Celavive® Gentle Milk Cleanser. If you have particularly sensitive skin, you may want to skip any exfoliating treatments containing alpha-hydroxy acids altogether during the colder months.

Moisturize

Moisturizing is essential to maintain healthy skin during the winter. The recommendation has always been to moisturize immediately after the shower to best lock in moisture. Some recent studies suggest it may not be as important whether you moisturize damp or dry skin. The bottom line is your skin simply needs added moisture. Dry skin can lead to irritation, breakouts, and itchy, red, flaking rashes called Asteatotic dermatitis—which unfortunately, we see quite often in the winter, especially on the lower legs. This condition will usually clear up with a prescription ointment from the dermatologist.

Hand Care

Don’t forget to take care of your hands during cold, dry winter months. I often see patients who develop dermatitis of the hands and fingers. Due to extreme dryness and irritation small fissures occur, which are painful! Use moisturizers liberally on your hands, especially at night.

Sun Protection

Even during the winter months it’s important to protect your skin from the sun. I like Celavive Protective Day Lotion SPF 30 under my foundation, or I use a tinted moisturizer that has SPF 30 or higher and skip the makeup. This way I’m still protected from sun damage if I’m running errands during the day or driving with bright sun shining through my car windows.

Hyaluronic Acid Serums or Masks

Like Celavive Hydrating + Lifting Sheet Mask help boost your skin’s moisture. Serums can be applied under your moisturizer, 1–2 times a week. When masking, remember to apply moisturizer immediately after the mask is removed and the serum is absorbed.

Omega-3 and Vitamin D


Don’t forget your omega-3 and vitamin D supplements during the winter months. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve skin barrier function and help maintain skin balance. Vitamin D is most effectively synthesized by sun exposure on the skin, but if you live in a part of the world with short days and decreased sunlight during winter, it’s beneficial to supplement your vitamin D intake.
Winter is a magical time of year. And with a few simple steps, it’s easy to keep your skin dewy and dazzling through this chilliest of seasons.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Laughter and Leadership are the Perfect Combination


Who do people follow?  The stern?  The judgemental?  The egotistical?  The pessimist? The rich?  The bullies? 

 Or:  The optimist!  The Cheerful!  The Encourager!  Those who motivate, inspire, educate!  The ones who make you laugh and enjoy your journey in life!

I work with these serious light hearted leaders, shown here, who give others hope and a positive direction for their lives.  Carolyn Lee, GM, Usana Canada, Paul David Dueck, me, Susanne Cunningham, John Cunningham, Alison Savard, Usana Canada Field Director.  You can see that they can laugh and have fun, at the same time that they are serious about making a difference in people's lives through Usana Health Sciences.

I am presently going through a difficult change in my life, where I am finding that it is often family, friends and business associates who give me the strength and belief in myself to go forward with a measure of confidence.  They are leaders in empathy and outreach.

What other traits make for good leadership?

Oprah Winfrey:  "Don't underestimate your power.  Hate is potent, but so is kindness.  And goodness, and grace.  Use yours generously,"

As I watch the drama of leadership in U.S. politics, I see the ugliness of nepotism, lies, bullying, coverups and greed.  When this happens, it affects the mood of the country in so many ways.  The same goes with negative leadership in business, education, charities and community organizations.

What are the traits of great leaders you have known through the years?  For me....

My university advisor: Always encouraging others, wise, kind, knowledgeable, humble.

A Business President:  Flexible, Striving for Excellence, Open to New Ideas, Team Involvement for Greater Success,  a Quiet Sense of Humor that Lightened Discussions and Difficult Choices.

My Father:  Interested in my activities and personal growth, determined to give me a wide variety of fun and educational activities, kind, caring, a role model as a leader in business.

My Husband and Life Mate:  Patient. Supportive.  Loving.  Respected in his career.  A Family Man.  Balanced.  Fun with Children.  Talented.  Community Involvement.  A Man of Deep Faith.

What is my personal goal as a leader in business?  To embody as many of those above traits as possible!  I care about whatever people are going through and to build them up to push through challenges and disappointments.  Help people believe in themselves and to celebrate each step forward, each success large or small.  Encourage team effort.  Be open to change and new ideas.

And back to laughter in leadership.....to break down barriers and to help others relax and receive your message.  What would you add?

Deanna Waters,
Foundation Executive Diamond Director
Usana Health Sciences
watersdd2@gmail.com
www.thewatersedge.com  





 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Science of Slumber: Sleep and Health

www.Ask the Scientists.com



BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! An entire night has passed in the blink of an eye. The last thing you remember is your head hitting the pillow in the dark. Now, seemingly seconds later, the incessant, blaring of the alarm clock wakes you. But it does no help in reminding you what day it is, where you are, or perhaps even who you are.

Surely, you’ve experienced a morning like this: groggy, confused, and sleep-deprived. The effort to keep your eyes open feels exhausting. Standing up and leaving your warm bed behind is torturous. The day’s long to-do list awaits you and seems daunting.

Of course, you soldier on and make it through the day. But what does that day look like? It’s surely not smooth sailing, all quiet keyboard clicks and soothing, classical music. No, on days like this, you’re more likely to hear a cacophony of noises—the cell phone ringing, inbox pinging, and doors slamming after you in a hurry. All whilst trying to drown out the chatter in your head— “Don’t forget to do this!” and “I forgot to do that!”

Foregoing solid, quality sleep can affect your day in a big way. It’s important to remember that the effects of sleep deprivation are not just physical, like the physical feeling of exhaustion. Just like the scenario above, low-quality or insufficient sleep can manifest itself mentally and emotionally. That can include a loss of concentration, short attention span, and even anger. Lack of sleep can also mean a lack of motivation and sharp decision-making skills, forgetfulness, and anxiety.

Sleep is important for feeling rested, but it’s more than physical downtime. Sleep is also your brain’s chance to recharge and regroup. Let’s look more in-depth at the physical and mental benefits of regular, quality sleep.

Sleep and Health: The Pros and Cons


Pro of Good Sleep Con of Poor Sleep
Mental Solidifies memory retention and information recall Decreases ability to concentrate
Enhances learning and problem-solving capabilities Poor decision-making skills
Increases alertness Shorter attention span
Boosts creativity Lack of motivation
Promotes adaptability and resiliency Inability to cope with change
Better regulation of emotions Increases risk for feeling down
Physical Maintains cardiovascular health Increases risk for cardiovascular and kidney issues
Helps regulate hormones associated with hunger Increases risk of obesity
Helps maintain normal blood sugar levels Increases risk for blood-sugar issues
Maintains healthy development, muscle growth, and tissue repair Interruption of growth hormone secretion
Supports strong immunity Increases risk of common cold

Science of Sleep: What Happens When You Snooze

Sleep gives your body and mind an opportunity to power down and recharge. It might seem like this period is simply an absence of consciousness, where the body goes into a sort of idling mode. However, during sleep, your body and brain are actually working hard. Sleep activates a process that helps you rest, repair, and recharge. Take a closer look at the processes during the four different stages of sleep.

Stage 1 is the period between wakefulness and sleep. In this stage, everything starts to slow down. Muscles soften, heart and breathing rates decrease, and brain-wave patterns begin to change.
Stage 2 is light sleep. Your muscles loosen even more, heart and breathing rates continue to slow, and your body temperature drops.

Stage 3 is the deepest sleep stage. Here, your heart and breathing rates come to the lowest point of the entire sleep cycle. Your muscles are extremely relaxed and rousing you would prove difficult. It’s this stage that is integral to quality sleep. Without enough time spent in this sleep state, you will not awaken feeling well-rested.

Stage 4 (the final stage of the sleep cycle) is known as REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. The first three stages involve non-rapid eye movement sleep or non-REM (NREM).
In many other ways, REM is also quite the opposite of the preceding three stages. Heart rate increases and breathing rate can quicken and become irregular. Eyes move rapidly behind the eyelids and brain activity livens. Dreaming is commonly experienced during the REM sleep stage. Your body might actually experience temporary paralysis of the limbs, a protective measure to keep the body from acting out movements about which you dream.

These four stages are cycled through in succession until you wake up. It’s necessary for you to experience both NREM and REM sleep to remain sharp through the day. Without both, memory consolidation is harmed. As you’ve surely experienced, after a night of little-to-no sleep, it can be very difficult to recall even simple information quickly.

Factors Impacting Your Sleep

Good sleep can seem like a complex puzzle. Many factors can influence the quality and duration of your sleep. If you have trouble sleeping through the night, try keeping a journal to monitor the factors below. You can jot down notes throughout the day or write a quick summary before bed. Whichever your preferred method, having a daily snapshot of your diet, activity level, and emotional state can give you an idea of which of these things improve or harm your sleep quality:
  • Caffeine: This stimulant usually wakes up the body and can keep you from feeling tired. In fact, caffeine actually blocks the substance adenosine, a chemical that your body secretes to make you sleepy. While this can be a benefit in the morning or during a long day, ingesting too much caffeine in the late afternoon or early evening can affect your sleep.
  •  
  • Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol too late in the evening can disrupt your sleep patterns. More specifically, it can disrupt your REM sleep, leaving your cycles incomplete. On a simpler level, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases the urge to urinate more frequently. So, having too much alcohol can also disrupt your rest because you might have to make more frequent trips to the bathroom.
  •  
  • Diet: The timing and content of your last meal can affect your readiness for bed. Think of the blood sugar surge that comes from a meal or snack. The boost in energy late in the day can keep you from winding down easily.
  •  
  • Physical activity: Regular exercise can help you maintain a regular sleep schedule. Just don’t exercise too late in the evening before bed, or your body won’t have time to settle back down before turning in.
  •  
  • Stress level and emotional state: Consider how stressful your day was or your emotional state throughout the day. If you’re feeling especially worn down, worried, or otherwise stressed, it can be very difficult to quiet your mind for bed.
  •  
  • Bright lights: You’re constantly being bombarded by light, with can impact production of your sleep hormone. Make sure your room is dark, and take a break from bright screens (TV, phones, and tablets) before you tuck in.

7 Tips for Better Quality Rest

After journaling for a week, you may notice some patterns. Pay close attention to what these clues are trying to tell you. From these, you can create a personalized wind-down plan to prepare you for bedtime. If journaling isn’t your style, or you need some easy ideas, the seven tips for super sleep are below:
  1. Consider cutting back on how much caffeine you drink, or impose a “caffeine deadline”—a point at which you won’t ingest any more for the day.
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation or impose an “alcohol deadline” so that your body has time to readjust before bed.
  3. Avoid eating a meal or post-meal snack too late in the evening.
  4. Exercise regularly, preferably early in the day. A good starting point is 20 minutes per day—and work up from there.
  5. Plan for at least seven hours of sleep. You may need more than seven. But this is a good target to work up to if you’re currently and routinely getting less than this benchmark. While you may not be able to reach seven hours immediately, start incrementally heading for bed sooner so the change is gradual and more doable.
  6. Set a regular bedtime and waking time—and stick to it, even on weekends. This kind of routine is helpful for keeping your body’s internal clock in rhythm.
  7. Incorporate relaxation or meditation into your wind-down routine. Turn off screens, dim your bedroom lights, play light instrumental music. Light stretching can help your body release tension before laying down.

About the Author

Jenna Templeton is a health educator and freelance science writer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. After receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Virginia Tech, Jenna spent five years as a research scientist in the nutritional industry. This work fueled her interest in personal wellness, leading her to pursue a graduate degree in Health Promotion & Education from the University of Utah. Outside of work, Jenna enjoys live music, gardening, all things food, and playing in the Wasatch mountains.
© 2018 Ask The Scientists. All rights reserved.