Posts belonging to Category Healthy Living



Is Your Alarm Clock Bad for Your Health?

Reduce chronic stress by getting rid of your loud alarm clock.

Reduce chronic stress by getting rid of your loud alarm clock.

You may find your alarm clock annoying as it beeps at you in the early hours of the morning, but did you know it can also be bad for your health?

Physical Effects

ABC News cites a study done by the National Institute of Health in Japan that found alarm clocks raise heart rate and blood pressure as well as increase adrenaline. The increase in adrenaline may help you get up and moving, but daily exposure to these alarm clock side effects can take its toll on your health.

Performance

In addition to the negative health effects, abrupt waking during a deep sleep cycle can also seriously impact your daily performance. Being woken up during deep sleep can affect your memory as well as your ability to think clearly. Alarm clocks have no regard for your natural sleep rhythms and can easily wake you during some of your most important sleep stages.

Alternatives to Abrupt Mornings

Unfortunately, for most of us, alarm clocks are a necessity. They help us get to work on time, make our planes, and get the kids to school. There are a few ways to reduce the negative impact of alarm clocks and still be on time:

  • Go to bed earlier. Getting more sleep will help you feel more rested and you are less likely to be awakened suddenly by your alarm clock.
  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday. Getting your body used to a sleeping rhythm will eventually eliminate the need for an alarm clock.
  • Use natural light. Our bodies are designed to work with the natural rhythms of the sun rising and setting. Crack open your blinds to let some light in during the morning hours. You can also use artificial light, like a sunrise alarm clock, to help your body wake more gently.
  • If you need noise to wake up, find a sound that is gentler than a beep or a buzz. Use soft music or chimes instead.

Ease Into Your Morning

Avoid the risk of chronic stress caused by the very first thing you encounter everyday. Change a few habits so that you can wake up gradually instead of abruptly. Hopefully you will find that you are more calm and more productive throughout your day. Better productivity will ultimately lead to more time to sleep breaking the cycle of staying up too late and setting your alarm clock to wake you up when you are not rested.

Have you ever tried getting rid of your alarm clock?

Image “Comfyness” by Guilherme Tavares

Tips for Avoiding Allergens During the Holiday Season

Tips for Avoiding Allergens During the Holiday Season

Dust off your tree and ribbons.

Allergens are lurking all over your home during the holidays. Make your Christmas season more enjoyable by removing these pesky allergens.

Christmas Tree

Using an artificial tree instead of a real tree can help many allergy sufferers feel better during the holiday season. If you are using an artificial tree, don’t forget to remove the dust it collects each year. You can remove dust before you set it up by gently vacuuming it with an upholstery brush attachment or a small hand held vacuum. Test a small section in the back of your tree to make sure your vacuum isn’t too strong before cleaning more visible portions of the tree.

WikiHow also suggests wiping the tree down with a damp cloth. Use a small amount mild dish soap in a bucket of water. Wring out your cloth so that it is barely wet and carefully wipe down the tree. Make sure you aren’t leaving behind suds or drips of water.

Using a bag to store your Christmas tree each year will also prevent your tree from collecting excessive dust while it is in storage.

Artificial wreaths and garland can also be cleaned in a similar manner.

Sheets

When you pull out your flannel sheets and down comforters be sure to wash them before putting them on your bed. Storing your seasonal sheets in a storage container or bag will also help cut down on the dust that collects in them. Washing your sheets with a half cup of vinegar will help remove any musty smells the sheets may have collected.

Candles

Some people are sensitive to burning candles. If it is the burning that bothers you use a candle warmer instead. You can melt scented wax cubes and still get the desired aroma without burning a wick. If it is the scent that causes problems, simply freshen your kitchen or bathroom by putting out a small container of baking soda. The baking soda will absorb odors without covering them with another scent.

Ribbons

Ribbons on wreaths and other decorations can also collect dust or mildew while being stored. Consider replacing your ribbons each year to avoid any mold or mildew. Storing decorations in plastic tubs will also protect them from any unwanted moisture that causes mold and mildew.

A few extra steps can and some caution used when storing seasonal items can help you feel healthier throughout the winter season. During the winter, when you spend more time in your home, you want to remove anything that might make you feel sick. What do you do to feel great during the holiday season?

Image: “Christmas Tree Closeup 7” by Zechariah Judy

Do You Suffer From SAD?

Do You Suffer From SADIt is common to want to stay in bed a little longer in the winter. Dark mornings and chilly bedrooms make it hard to throw off the covers and get ready for the day.

However, if you are feeling like you want to sleep constantly you may be experiencing a specific problem. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD typically sets in during early winter and sticks around until spring.

An article in The American Family Physician estimates that 10 to 20 percent of people may have mild SAD. Your risk of experiencing SAD goes up the farther you live from the equator.

 

Causes

No one is sure exactly what makes some people more susceptible to SAD, but there are some theories about its causes. Mayo clinic suggests three things that may trigger SAD. The first cause may be your biological clock. The body sends signals about when you should be asleep or awake. These rhythms depend on sunlight. Stress may be caused when the amount of daylight changes, but our sleeping habits don’t. Another cause of SAD may be, “A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood.” Lowered serotonin can be caused by changes in sunlight. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, is also affected by changes in exposure to sunlight.

Symptoms and Treatment

The Depression Blog from Mayo Clinic suggests that there are several symptoms that may indicate SAD. These include; weight gain and craving carbohydrates in particular, anxiety, oversleeping, social withdrawal, and difficulty concentrating.

If you experience these symptoms at the beginning of the winter season, you may want to see your doctor for help. Because SAD is thought to be caused by lack of sunlight, light therapy is often the prescribed treatment. Spending time in front a special lamp every day can help ward off seasonal depression. Doctors may also prescribe drugs for severe cases of SAD.

Feeling Good

Even if you do not have a serious case of SAD, many people feel a bit down in the winter. Spending time outdoors will help you get a little more sunshine and boost those mood enhancing hormones and brain chemicals. Exercise is also a good way to have more energy. Spend time with friends and socialize. The more you avoid the temptation to isolate yourself, the better you will feel. Supplementing your diet with vitamins can also help.

Do what you can to cut back on stress and sleep well. Taking care of your body will lead to feeling well emotionally. If you are experiencing signs of depression, see a doctor for help. A little preventative action will help you enjoy a beautiful winter season.

Photo “day eleven” courtesy of m_cygne

Eating Breakfast to Reduce Stress

An important part of sleeping is waking up. If you sleep well, it is easier to wake up in the morning. Often people wake up stressed from the start, having hit the sleep button too many times, they are in a hurry and skip breakfast, in order to make it to work or school on time. However, some studies are showing that taking a few minutes to eat breakfast may reduce your overall stress level.

Healty Breakfast

Taking a few minutes to eat breakfast may reduce your overall stress level.

 

 

Lower stress throughout the day may help you sleep better at night, allowing you to skip the sleep button, and end the cycle of ever increasing stress levels.

 

The Study

A study done by Cardiff University in Wales showed that eating breakfast cereal lowered stress levels. Stress was measured objectively by monitoring salivary cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that helps the body cope with stress. According to the study, high cortisol levels were associated with high stress. Volunteers who ate breakfast cereal had consistently lower levels of cortisol both throughout the day and the week the tests were conducted. While it is likely that the cereal itself has some effect on cortisol levels, eating breakfast is also a common indicator of a healthy lifestyle. Many people who eat breakfast may also consistently make other healthy choices that lowers their overall stress level.

 

Healthy Choices

Whether it is the breakfast cereal itself, or regularly making healthy choices that reduces stress, if you are experiencing high stress levels, breakfast seems like a good place to start for some relief. You don’t have to take time for anything fancy, just a bowl full of cereal can help. To avoid the sleepy feeling after a sugar high, avoid sugary cereals. Choose a cereal that is high in fiber, and add fruit instead of sweetener for continued energy during the morning.

 

Getting Started

You can start by setting your alarm clock a few minutes earlier, so you have time to eat some cereal before you leave for the day. You may find you enjoy the morning ritual of breakfast. Relaxing a bit in the morning, instead of rushing around, may help you feel more relaxed throughout the day, ultimately resulting in a better night’s sleep.

Photo “Strawberries and Cereal” courtesy of Ralph Daily

How to Prevent Snoring

While snoring is relatively harmless, it can be frustrating, especially if you share a bed. There are a few different causes for snoring and a variety of solutions. It may take a bit of trial and error to pinpoint an effective solution. With some persistence you may be able to prevent snoring and get a better night’s sleep.

Causes

Snoring can be caused by your soft palate, in the back of your throat, relaxing and vibrating as you breathe.  It can also be caused if your nasal passages are clogged. The last, and more serious cause of snoring can be obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea has more serious side effects, such as excessive daytime sleepiness and high blood pressure and should be addressed by a doctor.

The Soft Palate

When snoring is caused by the soft palate relaxing into the throat, studies suggest changing your sleep position. The soft palate collapses into the throat and obstructs your breathing if you are laying on your back.How to Prevent Snoring Sleeping on your side or stomach may be all you need to do to prevent snoring. You can position pillows to prevent you from rolling onto your back, or even attach a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas. Alcohol can also cause your muscles to relax and should be avoided a few hours before sleeping. WebMD also suggests that in some cases weight loss can also reduce snoring that is caused by the soft palate.

Nasal Passages

When snoring is caused by clogged nasal passages, you can address both the nasal passage and what causes the clogs. WebMD recommends clearing your nasal passages before you sleep by taking a hot shower, or using a sinus cleanse such as the neti pot. Strips that hold your nasal passages open can also help in some cases.

Allergens

Your clogged nasal passages may be caused by something in your room. Allergens such as dust mites, and pet dander can cause you to feel congested at night. If you don’t normally feel congested during the day, try washing your pillows more often, dusting the furniture and not allowing your pets to sleep with you. If that doesn’t help, you may need to consider getting a mattress cover to prevent dust mites or even removing your carpet.

WebMD so warns to avoid over the counter drugs and solutions because they are rarely tested to prove effectiveness. With a few home remedies, you can reduce your snoring. If your snoring persists and remains bothersome for you or your partner, you should consult a doctor to see if there is some other underlying problem. 

 Photo “Unglued” courtesy of mmarcotte51

 

Chamomile Tea as a Sleep Aid

Chamomile tea is usually made from the crushed dried flowers of the chamomile plant. They can be found in tea bags or used loose leaf and steeped with an infuser. It has been traditionally used as a calming drink, helpful for inducing sleep.

Chamomile Tea as a Sleep Aid

Studies

There are few studies that have been done to either prove or disprove the effectiveness of chamomile, however, general consensus and generational wisdom seems to indicate that it is a worthy sleep aid. WebMD sites one Japanese study in which rats given chamomile oil fell asleep as fast as rats given tranquilizers. Health on a Budget  sites a study in which patients given chamomile were relieved of some General Anxiety Disorder symptoms.

Side Effects

While there is little available to prove the effectiveness of chamomile, there is certainly no harm in trying it, to help you sleep at night. It is very mild and will not have any negative side effects on most people.  There are only a few instances when a person should not drink chamomile. Because it can induce premature labor, it should be avoided by women who are pregnant. Web MD also warns that people who are allergic to ragweed should avoid chamomile. The plants are related and it can induce a similar reaction.

When to Drink Chamomile

The tea should be taken 30-40 minutes before your expected bedtime. If you have a tendency to wake during the night to use the bathroom, you may want to avoid tea as a sleep aid.  In addition, to the properties of the chamomile helping to relax your body and ease you into sleep, the ritual of beginning your bedtime with a cup of chamomile tea may help as well. This nightly routine will signal to your body it is time to sleep and help you enter sleep faster.

Other Benefits

Health on a Budget also discusses the many other benefits of chamomile, including reducing inflammation, relieving stomach cramps, treating wounds and easing skin ailments such as eczema. 

If you are unable to fall asleep at night because you are experiencing stress or anxiety, or you wake up frequently with your mind racing, chamomile tea may help you get the rest you need to feel better. Do you have a favorite nighttime drink?

Photo “Chamomile” courtesy of derya

Is Special Laundry Detergent Necessary For Babies?

Laundry Detergent For Babies

Is Special Laundry Detergent Necessary For Babies?

When you are welcoming a new baby to your family you want everything to be perfect. It makes sense that you may want a special laundry detergent to protect your new one’s sensitive skin. However, you may not need to pay the high price for specialized baby laundry detergents.

Fragrances and Dyes

Some babies are sensitive especially to fragrances and dyes. You do not have to use a special baby detergent to avoid these. Any brand that is free of fragrance and dyes will work. “Free and Clear” or “Natural” are often the labels used to describe this. There is also a good chance your child may not be sensitive to detergents at all.

Testing

Baby Center suggests washing a few clothing items with your regular laundry. Check the baby for any reaction such as a rash or dry skin. If there is no evidence of a problem, you can wash all of your baby’s laundry with regular detergent. Using a liquid soap will also help, because all of the soap is rinsed more easily from the fabric. Powdered soap is more likely to leave residue behind that will irritate baby’s skin.

Wash Everything

If your baby does exhibit a sensitivity to laundry soap, remember to wash anything he or she may touch with free and clear detergent. This includes sheets, blankets, burp clothes and even your shirts and the shirts of anyone who may hold the baby regularly. If you are visiting a newborn, ask the parents for a blanket or burp cloth to put between you and the baby when you hold him or her. This will protect them from any scents or irritants you have on clothes.

Other Irritants

Keep in mind that a baby’s skin sensitivity could also be the result of soap or lotion. You may have to make sure all of your products are free of fragrances and dyes.

Babies typically outgrow these sensitivities fairly quickly. By the time they are a year you may be doing the whole families laundry together! While no one wants their baby to experience discomfort, trial and error may be the only way to determine your baby’s sensitivities.

You can save a bit of money by buying an all natural or free and clear detergent that is not marketed specifically for babies. How do you wash your baby’s clothes and sheets to make sure they are soft and comfortable?

Image:”Small clothes” by kaatjevervoort

Improve Your Game with More Sleep

You usually sense how much better you feel when you get a good night of sleep, especially when you get several full nights of sleep in a row. Did you know that sleep can also improve your physical abilities?

 2011 Murray State University Men's Basketball

The Study

A study published by the journal Sleep in 2011 followed the Stanford University basketball team to discover what impact extending the amount time spent asleep at night had on the player’s physical abilities. The researchers measured several physical activities performed while playing basketball, such as sprinting and shooting accuracy, during a period of 2-4 weeks. During that time the players slept for the amount of time they normally sleep every night.  They also questioned the players regarding mood and general feelings of sleepiness. Then they required the players to sleep longer, spending at least 10 hours in bed every night for 5-7 weeks. Over the course of that period of time the players improved at both sprinting and accuracy in shooting. They also reported better mood and less sleepiness.  

Improved Performance

If you are training for a marathon, playing volleyball on a recreational league, or even walking your dog, you may find your performance improved when you get a healthy dose of sleep at night. Even if you don’t play competitive sports, it is possible to conclude from this study that if you sleep well, you will feel better and be more physically capable of doing the tasks your day requires. Getting a few extra hours of sleep every night can help you feel more physically fit and feel better mentally and emotionally.

Changing Your Schedule

Remember that the study was performed over a period of weeks. One extra long night of sleep after days on end of short nights will not offer a quick fix. To gain the physical benefits of sleeping well you must make a commitment to change your schedule so that you get an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis.  Unlike the college basketball players, you may not need ten hours of sleep every night to perform well, but you probably need more than seven.

Sleep is essential to staying healthy and performing well. Do you notice feeling better when you get more sleep? How do you make sleep a priority in your everyday life?

Photo “2011 Murray State University Men’s Basketball”  courtesy of Murray State

 

Healthy Hot Breakfasts for Cold Mornings

Whole Grain Waffles with Cherry Sauce

Whole grains are better for your body. They provide much needed fiber. Trythis recipe from Eating Wellfor whole grain waffles. Using a fruit sauce instead of bottled maple syrup will add important nutrients and vitamins to your breakfast. The recipe calls for cherries but you can also use the super food blueberries to increase your antioxidant intake.

oatmeal

A warm bowl of oatmeal.

Eggs with Spinach

Eggs are an incredibly healthy food. Eggs contain good cholesterol and are not associated with heart disease. Eggs contain antioxidants and nutrients that prevent age related eye disease and promote healthy brains. Eating protein in the morning also helps your body regulate blood sugar all day long.

Eggs are quick to cook and can be eaten in so many ways. For an added healthy dose of greens which are rich in iron, sauté a little bit of spinach in the bottom of the pan. Then add eggs to scramble. This makes a fast, nutritious, hot breakfast. Scrambled eggs rolled up in a whole wheat flour tortilla with some salsa is another quick and easy way to eat eggs.

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

If you want to have breakfast ready when you wake up, you can start it the night before. Use steal cut oats to make this hearty recipe from  Eating Well. The fruit will add plenty of flavor so you won’t have to use extra sugar. Slow cooked oatmeal can feed a lot of people or it can be stored and reheated in the microwave for several breakfasts.

Cream of Wheat with Egg and Vanilla

Cream of Wheat is an excellent, fast hot breakfast. Use this recipe from TheKitchn, which adds an egg to get the extra nutrients and protein. It will transform regular Cream of Wheat into a delicious custard-like breakfast.

Your Favorite

Whether you have time to enjoy a slow relaxing meal or need to grab your breakfast and run, there is a healthy and warm option for you. You can start looking forward to the mornings and a hot meal to warm you up on a cold morning. What’s your favorite hot breakfast?

Image: “Oatmeal, Part 2” by Rachel Hathaway

How to Get More Sleep

Often times when our lives get busy, sleep is one of the first things we cut out. However, sleep is essential for good health and the ability to stay focused and alert. Here are a few ways you can catch a few more zzz’s in the midst of your busy life.

How to Get More Sleep

1.     Turn Off The TV

Skipping out on just a half an hour of TV at night will give you a little more time to sleep. It will also help you fall asleep faster because the blue spectrum light from the television can stimulate your brain, prevent production of melatonin and keep you awake longer. If you need noise to fall asleep, consider using a radio instead.

2.     Take A Nap.

 If you find that you are tired during the day, a quick 20 minute nap will not interfere with your nighttime sleep. Taking a quick nap can re=energize your mind and body, and help you to be more efficient. Be sure to keep your nap time limited to 20 minutes. Taking a long nap will actually have the reverse affect and cause you to feel more tired, as well as interrupt your restful sleep at night.

3.     Turn Down The Lights.

Turn off a few lights or dim them if you can in the evening. Turning down the lights will simulate a natural sunset and help your body feel sleepy sooner in the evening, prompting you to go to bed earlier.

4.     Use The Snooze.

A habit of hitting the snooze button may not be healthy, but it won’t hurt you to use it when you really need it. Hit it just once, and those 9-15 minutes may be just what you need to make it through the morning. Whatever you miss in your morning prep time wasn’t as important as those few extra minutes of sleep on that particular day.

5.     Don’t Read In Bed

When you read in bed you may be tempted to stay up longer than you would have if you were reading in another room. If you like to read to relax, sit up in another room and set a timer for when you want to finish. That way you won’t get caught up in the book and avoid going to sleep. This will also help you fall asleep easier when you climb into bed, because when the only thing you do in your bed is sleep, getting into bed sends signals to your brain that it is time to sleep.

Try one of these five tips to squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep. A few minutes here and there can add up over time. You may find yourself less stressed and more productive during the day when you are getting the proper amount of sleep.

What tricks do you have for getting enough sleep at night?

Image: “Sleep, Don’t Weep” momo