Why is Sleep Important?

"I'll just watch one more episode... .""I'll catch up on sleep during the weekend." "I have so much to do. I'll sleep when I retire!"

These thoughts are too often in our daily narratives...  Due to our busy lives, many of us place sleep at the bottom of our list of priorities and never give it a second thought.  When an endless to-do list is running through our minds, why would we use up precious time to sleep?

Then we wonder why we crave sugar (want to kick sugar with us?), why our colds stick around, and why that bit of belly fat just won't go away.  Sleep is the single most important behavior that humans experience. When consistently sleep deprived, a multitude of  health issues can affect our overall well-being.  We need to place sleep as one of our top priorities to ensure a healthy body and mind.

Today, the majority of us get 5 hours or less of sleep each night.   Most of us are walking around consistently sleep deprived.

"How do I know if I am sleep deprived?"

When suffering from sleep deprivation, your body will tell you. You just have to listen and watch for the signs. One key thing to look for is whether or not you are experiencing micro sleeps. Essentially, your body is telling you it needs to rest, and when this issue is not addressed you may start to experience involuntary moments of sleep. Micro-sleeps can happen at the worst times! During a meeting, during a lecture, even during a conversation with a friend... we feel our head start to nod and are usually awakened by a concerned co-worker or peer... or even the start of drool down our cheek. Definitely embarrassing, these micro sleeps can also be extremely dangerous and even fatal. It has been reported that 31 percent of drivers have fallen asleep (micro sleep) at the wheel. These micro sleeps also lead to poor judgment. If at the wrong time, a micro sleep can put us and anyone around us in great danger.

Unfortunately, what do most of us do when we can’t shake the Zzzz's? We resort to some type of stimulant to "wake us up." Coffee, energy drinks, supplements, nicotine, etc. The list could go on and on. Stimulants fuel the awakened state of the mind and it becomes hyperactive. Essentially, we trick our brains into thinking that it is time to be awake and we disrupt the electrical functions of our brains.  We then have trouble falling asleep at night, and some of us rely on depressants, such as alcohol or sleeping aids to fall asleep; however these sedate us rather than induce healthy sleep. Only further damage occurs from here, and yet we follow the same patterns day after day.

Poor quality and lack of sleep leads to a plethora of unwanted side effects. Poor memory, poor creativity, and irritability are just a few. Aside from side effects,  improper sleeping habits can lead to weight gain, trigger our stress response, and affect our delicate hormone balance.  There are at least 10 different hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that function improperly when we don't sleep enough. These hormone shifts lead to changes in our appetite, fertility, mental health, etc. It's no wonder we aren't the friendliest people when we are tired... everything is irregularly wired!

Healthy sleeping patterns can help prevent all of those side effects and health issues plus more. While we sleep, three major functions occur:

  1. Restoration. While we sleep, our brain rebuilds and restores the body's energy sources. It works to prepare our body for the next day’s work, ensuring that it is properly fueled and functioning.
  2. Energy Conservation.  Going along with restoring our energy sources, our body conserves energy while we sleep. This way our body is not running on empty throughout the day!
  3. Memory Processing and Consolidation. Just as any organ in the body, waste needs to be cleared out in order to ensure proper function. While we sleep cerebrospinal fluid flows through our brain, flushing out these products. A good way to think of it is as your kitchen. What would happen if you stopped cleaning your kitchen for a month? Dishes would pile up, bacteria would grow. Eventually, it would be come unlivable. Cleaning the kitchen makes space, protects from infections, etc., just as our brains do while we sleep.

"So, what can I do?"

There are many things we can do to ensure we get the proper amount and quality of sleep that our bodies need.

1)  Listen to your body! Our bodies have a unique way of letting us know when we need sleep. Pay attention to those moments when you feel exceptionally fatigued, can’t seem to focus, or you notice changes in your mood, stress levels, and overall health. Plan your day to ensure you can get to sleep by a decent time or allow yourself to take a nap in between activities. The more hours of sleep that you can get before midnight, the better!

2)  Take some time to wind down: Prior to going to sleep, chill for a bit! Turn off electronics which excite the brain and seek darkness. Avoid those late night urges to watch television in bed or scroll through the internet on your iPad or phone. Our brains register this light as daytime which stimulates them and prohibiting rest.  So instead, dim the lights about an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Use this time to allow your body to adjust and begin to calm down.

3)  Make the room slightly chilly:  Sleeping in a slightly cool and dark room is the best practice for quality sleep.

4) Watch your sugar and caffeine intake: Especially late in the day.  As we get older as well, our ability to process caffeine diminishes, so you might to be able to drink as much caffeine as you used to.

5) Have a warm beverage!  Go for a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk, both of which work natural magic on our bodies and promote healthy sleep.

6)  Take a little magnesium!  Magnesium is one of the few supplements that have studies to back up its effectiveness.  200 to 400 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate before bed can help relax the nervous system and muscles.

7)  Make the room pitch black.  Cover all those blinking lights, better yet, unplug all those blinking lights.  If you don't have heavy curtains, it's time to invest in some.  Ideally, you shouldn't be able to see your hand in front of your face!  Even slight light has been shown to hinder melatonin production, which helps us to sleep and to restore.

All in all, pay attention to your body’s needs. Sleep is just as important as exercise and proper nutrition. It is together, that these activities ensure the highest level of health and overall wellness! Written by Ashley Green and Tammy Chang for The Nourished Belly Sources: Main, E. (2014). 9 Foods to Help You Sleep: These Food Cures Will Get You Back to Your Zzzs. Organic Gardening. Retrieved from http://www.organicgardening.com/living/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep?page=0,0 Foster, R. (2013). Why Do We Sleep? TED Talks. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep?language=en Wiley, T. S., Formbly, B. (2000). Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Juicing....Worth the Hype?

Join me January 12th for the 3 Week Regeneration Diet!  Save money and learn how to cook AMAZINGNESS at home.  Find out more here!

So many people ask me about juicing, and whether or not it’s the end all be all of nutrition.  Many people have watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and have started on a juice craze.   I’ve decided to just put in my two cents about what a holistic nutrition and weight loss coach thinks about juicing.  

1)  Vegetable juicing can be a great ADDITION to an already healthy diet.   An example of when juicing is appropriate is sipping on juice while you are at your desk at work between meals, or after you’ve had a workout.  More than once, I’ve talked to people who have done long juice fasts and have dropped weight dramatically.  But when they start to eat again, the weight comes back on quickly, because learning how and what to eat is first and foremost.

2) Stick to mostly vegetables.  People tend to throw in too many fruits. Instead, focus on cucumbers, leafy greens (you can juice leftover kale and collard stalks!) and celery.  Juicing too many fruits can upset your blood sugar balance.  

3)  Is it the right time of year?  The right time of year can be important.  Juicing is something that is more aligned with the summer months.  In winter, our bodies tend to crave warm soups and stews.  Remember, your body is intelligent, so listen to it.

4)  Balance Thermal Properties:  Many common vegetable used for juicing are cooling in nature, which is fine for summer months, but in winter remember we want to eat more warming foods.  If you INSIST on juicing, add some warming foods in to balance out your juice.

 

Cool Foods

Warming Foods

Cucumbers

Spinach

orange

lemon

bananas

apples

pears

Chard

Romaine Lettuce

Ginger

Cayenne

Cinnamon

Garlic

Coconut milk/meat

 From http://www.acupuncture.com/nutrition/chinut1.htm

5)  Your body needs protein and fats! Juicing alone is not a good source of protein or fats.  It’s mainly carbohydrates and nutrients.  Which, by the way, many of the nutrients in juices are more absorbable with a healthy amount of fat, so if you are hell bent on juicing, add some healthy fat to it.  An avocado, pastured egg yolk, chia seeds, and olive or coconut oils can be helpful for absorption.

 

In summary:

  • Juice in addition to a healthy diet, not in place of a healthy diet.

  • Focus on organic vegetables instead of fruits.

  • Think about time of year

  • Blend in warming foods

  • Add some fats!

So there are my two cents!  Don't forget to check out my Regeneration Diet, starting January 12th, where focus on learning how to make and eat nourishing and seasonally correct soups and stews at home.

Happy Nourishing Everyone!

Tammy

 

*LEGAL DISCLAIMER – This website (including any/all site pages, blog posts, blog comments, forum, etc.) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have an urgent medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion. Tammy Chang and The Nourished Belly are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this website and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it. Readers should consult their own physicians concerning the recommendations in this website.

 

5 Myths About Weight Loss

Aloha Nutrition Lovers! I’ve made some exciting shifts in my practice lately. I’ve decided to start focusing on nourishing and sustainable weight loss! People have been coming to me for different sorts of things, but weight loss is a recurrent theme. And when people embrace this new way of living, many of them find that they are doing just that…. Experiencing weight loss that seems pretty effortless. So, in honor of my new title as a Holistic Weight Loss Coach, here’s a blog post about 5 common myths about weight loss and to really drive the idea home that yo yo dieting and starving yourself thin are really NOT the way to do it.

5 Myths of Weight Loss

Fat Makes Us Fat

For years, we’ve been conditioned that eating fat will make us fat. Many of us still buy low fat dairy products, don’t eat the skin on chicken, and are scared of using butter. The thing is though, our bodies need fat. We love fat. It allows us to absorb nutrients, it helps keep our blood sugar stable, and fat and cholesterol are the building blocks of many of our hormones, which we really, truly need. If you eat dairy, buy whole milk. Buy whole plain yogurt (organic of course.) Never buy something that is advertised as low fat, and eat the skin on your organic chicken! It makes things taste a whole lot better and fat is what makes us feel full.

Vegetable Oils are Healthy

I advise my clients to throw these suckers out. Maybe with the bottle you have in your cupboard, you can grease your bike chain, or clean some goo off your hardwood floors, but do NOT put this stuff into your body. You can read a bit more about why not in my blog post about cooking oils, but the basics are that vegetable oils (corn, soybean, Wessen for example) are extremely delicate oils, and most are extracted using high heat and solvents, and are often damaged before they even get to your house. Then you cook with them and damage them further. Or they are chemically processed (hydrogenated) to look like butter (margarine), and instead are just a heaping pile of transfats. Don’t

 

use them.

Diet Sodas Will Help Me Lose Weight

We drink diet sodas because we think that we don’t want any more calories, but there are studies out that show that just the sweet taste alone is enough to cause insulin secretions...which will cause us to store fat. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been linked to cause headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, and a whole host of other problems. There are many people who have written about this subject at length, Joseph Mercola being on them. Read more. Just the word artificial is an accost to my whole foods, nature loving sensibility. Are you with me?

I Just Need to Exercise More

Gary Taubes’ 2011 book Why We Get Fat and What do to About it, addresses the idea that it’s not as simple as eating less and exercising more. Exercise has plenty of benefits and everyone should be doing it, but it’s not the end all be all of losing weight. Taubes points out that exercise will invariably make us hungrier, and that while exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, we won’t necessarily exercise ourselves thin. Losing weight because of activity level has a lot do with our individual metabolism, and honestly and most importantly…because of WHAT YOU EAT. More fabulous info by Taubes here.

The Less I Eat the Better

Deprivation has not been shown to aid in sustained weight loss. Gary Taubes points out that according to the Women’s Health initiative, which was a 15 year research study looking at the habits of post menopausal women, women who were eating 360 calories less a day for 8 years lost an average of 2 pounds each! I often look at clients’ diet journals and see that they aren’t eating ENOUGH. When the body doesn’t eat enough calories, our metabolism slows down and we start to store fat. Instead of depriving ourselves, we need to nourish and create an awareness between the food that we eat and how we feel. You should feel happy and satiated when you eat the right things.

Ok people. Get out of the old paradigm, and into the new.

Happy Nourishing, Tammy