Sleep Hygiene: Maximizing your zzz’s

I have struggled with poor sleep for a long time. Growing up, it was normal for nearly everyone in our household to have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or feel unrested in the morning. I have always been a morning lark–waking up at 6AM or earlier from a young age (what fun for my parents ;). After starting college, I started to wake up more and more often during the night. While I might have slept for 8+ hours, that sleep was interrupted at least 2-3 times.

After my own issues staying asleep, I began looking into techniques and tools to improve my sleep quality. There are a few common practices suggested by the CDC, National Sleep Foundation, and a number of other reputable sources out there:

1. Consistency is key: Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s tempting to stay up late on weekends and sleep in, it can throw off your body’s rhythm. This is a tough one when you’re in your 20s, but I try to limit to late nights of partying to 1-2 times a month so my body isn’t thrown out of whack as often.

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2. Ambiance: Very little light, a colder temperature, and white noise. These little tweaks go a long way! I always scoffed at white noise machines until I tried one myself six years ago and have been using it ever since. Whether you live in a loud dorm or a bustling city, noise machines (or a white noise song on repeat) can be a real life saver.

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3. Screen Shutdown: This one is tough. I was much better about this during college, but set a time that you shut off your screens every night. I used to turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” at 10pm and wouldn’t check it again until I woke up the next morning. My life is much less structured now and I definitely don’t follow this rule anymore, although I do try to stay aware. I highly recommend the computer app called f.lux — it’s a free tool that customizes your screen’s blue light to the time of day and when you go to bed. It decreases the blue light as you approach bedtime so you can use your screen a little later with less negative effects.

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4. Caffeine: Stop drinking caffeine early in the afternoon. My cut off time is 3pm; I’ve played around and learned that this is the time that works for me. Drinking caffeinated beverages any later has a noticeable effect, but it’s likely different for everyone! I’ve read that holding off on caffeine starting anytime between 1pm and 5pm is best.

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5. Melatonin: Melatonin is the hormone your body naturally produces when it’s time to go to sleep; it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. My dad has been using melatonin for over a decade! I started using it in college when my sleep issues started and I’ve only found a few brands/types that actually work for me. I’ve recently been trying out Quality of Life Supplements Melatonin-SR. The melatonin has micronized, sustained-release, which means that it is made to release over time to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Research suggests that you should take melatonin about two hours before you want to fall asleep. I find that if I take it much later than that, I have trouble getting up in the morning. I’ve been taking QOL Melatonin-SR for the past 2-3 weeks and can really feel it helping–it makes it easier for me to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. I will definitely continue taking it!

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Use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements! Stay tuned for my review of their digestive health products.

Ted Talk Friday: The #1 Public Health Issue Doctors Aren’t Talking About

I am on a Lissa Rankin kick! She has such a fresh perspective on wellbeing, and her engaging speaking style makes her so relatable. She does the perfect job of mixing scientific studies, anecdotes, and her own opinion to create a cohesive story. I have recently moved from a community-centered college and my home, where I am surrounded by family, to a totally new city on the West coast. I am consciously working to combat loneliness; I am prioritizing social events and opportunities not just for fun, but also for my health.

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Do you agree? Do you live in a community?

Is Glycemic Index Useful?

“Glycemic index” is a common indicator of how a food impacts blood sugar, or how quickly blood sugar rises after consumption. High glycemic diets are linked with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a variety of cancers, and cardiovascular disease.[1] Glycemic index helps classify carbohydrates beyond the categories of simple or complex; simple carbohydrates are sugars or highly refined grains compared to complex carbohydrates, which include unrefined grains, whole grains.[2] This has led to recent trends focused on “low glycemic” foods and sweeteners, like agave syrup or coconut sugar.

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The glycemic index (GI) is based from the glycemic impact of glucose, or simple sugar, which has a has variable GI depending on the GI reference list used. GI scores differ across different sources, but always use glucose and white bread as reference points within the index. While this variability in scores has been attributed to methodological differences in the past, it is becoming more clear that GI may be more complicated than researchers once believed.[1]

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A recent study at Tufts University found that GI can differ as much as 25% among individuals and 20% within an individual. This study found the same food can have low, moderate, and high glycemic impact, which makes it difficult to create categories that are accurate across individuals. The study used white bread, which is often villainized as a high glycemic food, yet in the study it had moderate to low impact for a number of participants. Additionally, the same foods have variable impact even within the same individual. The results suggest that glycemic index has far less value than was previously believed.[3]

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While glycemic index promotes healthy choice in theory, it is not a reliable measure. A senior author of the study suggests that individuals should choose whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean meats. Glycemic index also only observes the impact of carbohydrates in isolation, rather than looking at the effects of a whole meal; individuals eat more than carbohydrates in any given meal, which renders the isolated effects of a single carbohydrate source far less meaningful in real life situations. While advertisements may continue to tout the benefits of low GI food products, research has shown that the benefits are limited.

References: 
1: Foster-Powell, K., Holt, S. H., & Brand-Miller, J. C. (2002). International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. The American journal of clinical nutrition76(1), 5-56.
2: Saris, W. H. M., Astrup, A., Prentice, A. M., Zunft, H. J. F., Formiguera, X., Verboeket-van de Venne, W. P. H. G., … & Vasilaras, T. H. (2000). Randomized controlled trial of changes in dietary carbohydrate/fat ratio and simple vs complex carbohydrates on body weight and blood lipids: the CARMEN study. International journal of obesity24(10), 1310.
3: Matthan, N. R., Ausman, L. M., Meng, H., Tighiouart, H., & Lichtenstein, A. H. (2016). Estimating the reliability of glycemic index values and potential sources of methodological and biological variability. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition104(4), 1004-1013.

This post was originally featured here on 03/29/17. 

Why Plant-Based?

I’ve made a greater effort to choose plant-based options over the past few months. While everyone is different, I wanted to share a few reasons why I’ve made the slight shift. I am definitely still eating plenty of animal products, but here are some of the main reasons I’m opting for more plant-based options:

  1. It’s better for the planet. Plant-based options have a smaller carbon-footprint; these foods often require less transportation and have fewer environmental side effects (decreased carbon emissions, decreased methane gas–ehem, cows). sky-earth-galaxy-universe
  2. Animals are cute (ethics). While some people think eating animals is entirely unethical, I do not personally fall into that camp. I take more issue with eating animals and byproducts of animals that have been treated poorly. Choosing cruelty-free, local, grass-fed options makes a huge difference, but often those options are more difficult to come by and are more expensive.7479512636_b19884cac6_b
  3. Nutrition. There is a ton of evidence that eating a plant-based diet has numerous positive effects on health. The China Study, one of the few large-scale, reputable nutrition studies, was conducted by Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. The study found individuals with a plant-based diet where most protein comes from plant sources have decreased cancer rates and lower prevalence of bone fracture, among other health benefits. If you’re curious, read more here.Nutrition-pyramid
  4. It’s not all or nothing. I think this is a huge misconception in our world of extremes. Everyone thinks that you must choose a label and stick with it, but I prefer to stay flexible, eat what I want, and eat to feel good. There is no need to be a strict vegetarian or vegan, but trying to make mindful choices and choose plant-based options a little more often can add up to big benefits.764px-Balanced_scale_of_Justice.svg_
  5. I love Nuzest protein powderThis is a simple one…I fell in love with Nuzest protein powder when I first tried it. This is a super simple pea protein with very few added ingredients and it tastes great. Look out for recipes using this powder coming to the blog soon!Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 5.31.29 PM

Ted Talk Friday: Radical Self-Love

I am starting a new series: Ted Talk Fridays! I absolutely love Ted Talks, but know that sometimes there are just too many options and choosing one can feel overwhelming. I am planning to post one of my favorite Ted Talks to the blog every Friday. I hope you enjoy!

Today’s Ted Talk is “Radical Self-Love” by Gala Darling

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What do you think of radical self love? What are some steps you might take to put her ideas into action?

Podcast Round-Up

I consider myself a little too well-versed in podcasts…according to the NPR One app on my phone, I listed to over 28,000 minutes of podcasts throughout 2016. I am not sure whether I should feel proud or embarrassed…but, I do think it means that I know a good show when I hear one! In honor of the new year, I wanted to put together a list of my favorite podcasts. Most of these podcasts are available on the NPR One app, which you can download to your phone. The app is like Pandora, but for podcasts; it gets to know your preferences, gives your news updates, and makes new recommendations based on what you like. Definitely download-worthy! Whether you do or don’t want the app, these podcasts are fantastic and will keep you engaged for hours.

  1. Note to Self,The host of this NPR podcast, Manoush Zomorodi, connects technology, health, and wellbeing through this engaging series that tackles even the heaviest subject matter with a dose of humor. Topics range from “information overload” to the ethical considerations of parents posting photos of their young children on social media. A recent episode released from early January discusses New Years Resolutions and is FANTASTIC!

    New Year. Same Old You.

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2) The PulseI could listen to this podcast non-stop. If you are interested in health in any way, then I am sure you will enjoy this show. Every episode has a topic like “Rock and a Hard Place” or “Challenging Our Assumptions” and weaves together an engaging narrative that touches on numerous aspects of health, technology, and ethics.

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3) On Being, In an effort to explore my own spirituality, I started listening to this podcast and fell in love. The host, Krista Tippett, has the most soothing voice and interviews inspiring individuals across numerous sectors. Most recently, she interviewed one of my personal heroes, Congressman John Lewis.

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Just me fan-girling a bit…

 

4) RadiolabI might be slightly biased because the host, Jad Abumrad, attended my high schoool alma mater, but it is well worth a listen. I’m not sure where to begin, but if you have a curious cell in your body…you will enjoy Radiolab episodes!

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5) Hidden Brain, the description from NPR reads, “A conversation about life’s unseen patterns.” Now, this might not sounds all that interesting, but don’t let that deceive you. The podcasts generally center around psychology and questions about human behavior. One recent episode that I particularly enjoyed discussed the word “literally” and how its use has changed over time–integrating culture, linguistics, and history.

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6) Impact Theory,  I just recently started listening to this new podcast hosted by Tom Bilyeu, one of the founders behind Quest Nutrition. The podcast is unique and features some amazing guests with some great discussions on topics related to positive psychology and personal success.

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Do you like podcasts? What are some of your favorites?

Strengths, Self Love, and a Giveaway

I am majoring in Psychology and Human Health and have become completely enamored with the field of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is not about mental illness, but instead focuses on positive mental health and improving wellbeing. I have been lucky enough to take classes on the topic and learn about simple lifestyle choices that lead to happier, and often healthier, lives. The quote on my Yogi Tea the other day was a reminder of a key focus of Positive Psych: focus on your strengths. Our strengths are a mixture of natural talent and hard work (I would argue mostly hard work and perseverance!), but utilizing them and letting our strengths shine is a wonderful way to maximize our abilities and feel successful. It is easy to focus on where we are lacking or areas where we struggle, but if we focus on our strengths and how to use them to achieve our goals we can maintain a positive mindset.

In no way do I believe that we should not strive to improve and challenge ourselves–that is a huge piece of happiness and growth! Striving for improvement is crucial to success, but it is important to maintain appreciation for your strengths throughout the process. What are your strengths? How have you used them today?

On a less serious note, the NuNaturals giveaway has been extended to December 31! Enter here for your chance to win:

NuNaturals Stevia Giveaway!
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Moments of Beauty

 

I am so blessed to have this beauty as part of my walk to classes every morning. Although this week has been rainy, humid, and dreary, I am grateful to have this beautiful scenery and the frequent sunny, mild days of Southern fall. It’s easy for me to feel annoyed at the slightest inconvenience; just missing the shuttle to main campus for class, stepping in a puddle, a (extraordinarily) bad hair day…but when all is said and done, those things are inconsequential in the grand scheme of life.

Continue reading “Moments of Beauty”