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Sleep Well!

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Sleep impacts nearly every aspect of your health and wellbeing.

How have you been sleeping? If your answer is “not great,” we want to help you get your rest. Like eating nutritious food and staying active, sleeping an average of 7 to 8 hours each night can be game-changing for your physical and mental health.
Each night while you sleep, complex processes in your brain and body improve your ability to:
⦁ Regulate blood pressure
⦁ Heal and repair your heart and blood vessels
⦁ Regulate hunger
⦁ Repair muscle tissue
⦁ Fight off infection
⦁ Pay attention
⦁ Make decisions
⦁ Be creative
⦁ Solve problems
⦁ Control your emotions
⦁ Cope with change
Sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night for even a couple of days will impair your functioning. Not getting enough sleep for weeks, months, or even years? That takes a serious toll.
Individuals who regularly sleep fewer than 7 hours a night are more likely to report having:
⦁ Diabetes
⦁ Heart attack
⦁ Coronary heart disease
⦁ Stroke
⦁ Asthma
⦁ Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
⦁ Cancer
⦁ Arthritis
⦁ Depression
⦁ Chronic kidney disease
If you’re struggling from lack of sleep, you’re in a big club. According to the latest national data from the CDC, on average, 35% of Americans sleep less than 7 hours per night. That means more than 1 out of 3 people are chronically sleep-deficient.
One strategy you may already be working on is getting regular exercise. A National Sleep Foundation poll of 1,000 people found that those who engage in any level of activity during the day reported sleeping better than those who didn’t exercise at all. Further research shows that exercise helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Aside from physical activity, let’s explore other changes — big and small — that will help you rest well.

 

Stay Aware of Sleep Apnea

Be on alert for this common disorder, so you can address it quickly.

Have you heard of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? It’s an extremely common sleep disorder that often goes unnoticed. Half of all people with hypertension are estimated to have the disorder.
Sleep apnea is an interruption in breathing during sleep that can last 10 to 120 seconds and may occur up to 30 times or more each hour. OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, typically when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes. That blockage prevents you from breathing. As oxygen levels drop, your lungs automatically trigger a big intake of air. To someone else in the room, this can sound like choking or coughing.
When your body is repeatedly deprived of oxygen, it triggers a stress response that drives up your blood pressure and blood sugar, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, and making it harder to manage hypertension. Day to day, sleep apnea disrupts and prevents restorative sleep, leaving you tired and groggy.
What causes OSA? In adults, a common cause is being overweight or obese, as increased fat deposits in the neck can block the upper airway. Drinking alcohol and smoking are also contributing risk factors.
Below are symptoms that may indicate you have OSA:

When You’re Awake When You’re Asleep
You feel tired, despite getting to bed at a decent hour Snoring loudly
Not being able to concentrate Tossing and turning
Being forgetful Coughing or choking
Having a morning headache Getting up to urinate frequently
Having a sore throat in the morning Sweating heavily

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your primary care provider. There are many effective treatments for OSA, including weight loss, reducing nasal congestion, and using devices that keep the airway open.

 

Common Sleep Disruptors

Not sure why you can’t fall or stay asleep? Here are some likely causes.

Sometimes, there’s a major obstacle standing between you and a good night’s sleep — such as caring for small children, chronic pain or discomfort, or a job that requires you to work at night. Dealing with one of these? Reach out to your coach, who can guide you toward positive steps.
Otherwise, if you struggle to fall or stay asleep, it’s likely that one or more of the factors below are infringing on your shuteye. Read up on the factors that may be impacting you and what you can do about them, starting tonight.
Which sleep disruptors might be affecting you? Which could you potentially change?

Using digital devices before bed

Watching TV or using your phone at night can feel like a harmless, entertaining habit, but it may be keeping you awake. Using devices distracts you from sleep, and light emitted by digital screens may suppress melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
To sleep better, consider shutting down your phone, your laptop, your tablet, and your TV an hour before bedtime — polls show that people who use devices 60 minutes before bed have the hardest time falling asleep. Make sure everything is in do-not-disturb mode so you won’t be woken up by pings, chimes, and suddenly bright screens.

Drinking alcohol at night

Drinking before bed may help you doze off faster but can lead to low quality sleep later in the night, and cause you to wake up more often. The neurochemical effects of alcohol prevent your brain from transitioning into the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep.
And because alcohol relaxes the muscles of your throat, drinking also makes you more prone to snoring and sleep apnea (more on that topic on the next page). Lastly, you’re more likely to wake up because you need to use the bathroom.
If you currently drink at night and wake up tired, aim to have your last drink at least 2-3 hours before bed

Eating foods that trigger acid reflux

If you struggle to fall asleep because of a burning sensation in your chest or wake up coughing or choking with a sour taste in your mouth, it could be due to acid reflux (aka gastroesophageal reflux). Acid reflux is a digestive issue that occurs when stomach acids flow backwards into the esophagus. It’s one of the leading causes of disturbed sleep among people ages 45 to 64.
The main causes of acid reflux include increased pressure on your abdomen due to excess weight, certain medications (talk to your primary care provider about whether something you’re taking could be contributing to acid reflux), and smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke.
If you experience acid reflux, you may be able to control it by:
⦁ Avoiding greasy and/or spicy foods, as well as alcohol, coffee, peppermint, and tomatoes/tomato products
⦁ Eating smaller meals
⦁ Finish eating 2 – 3 hours before bedtime
⦁ Staying upright 3 hours after a meal
⦁ Wearing clothes that are loose around the waist
⦁ Raising the head of your bed by 6-8 inches (by putting blocks under the bedposts)
⦁ Losing weight
⦁ Quitting smoking/avoiding secondhand smoke
⦁ Taking over-the-counter medication to reduce stomach acid

Consuming caffeine late in the day

You know caffeine makes you more alert and less sleepy but you may not realize that the chemical stays in your system for up to 6-8 hours after you consume it. That means having a cup of coffee or a caffeinated soda later in the day could be keeping you awake at night.
Note that different people can be more or less sensitive to caffeine (and caffeine sensitivity can increase as you get older). So if you struggle to fall asleep and can’t pinpoint a reason, it’s worth reducing or cutting out caffeine to see if it helps.

Taking certain medications

Many medications can disrupt sleep, including several used to treat hypertension. If you’re not resting well at night, ask your primary care provider if anything you’re taking (whether prescription or over-the-counter meds) could be keeping you up or interfering with your normal sleep cycles.
Even if you think a medication is making it harder for you to sleep, do not alter or skip doses without talking to your primary care provider.

Being stressed, anxious, or depressed

If you have chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do drift off, you may sleep lightly, missing out on the benefits of more restorative phases of sleep. (If you’re on antidepressants and aren’t sleeping well, talk to your primary care provider about whether the medication could be affecting your sleep.)
A relaxing bedtime ritual may help you counteract stress before bed. See the next page for more info.

Smoking before bed

There are many health-related reasons to quit smoking. Add getting a better night’s rest to that list. Nicotine is a stimulant, so smoking within one or two hours of bedtime is likely to keep you up.
Nicotine has also been shown to disrupt normal sleep and contribute to sleep apnea (see the next page), leading to chronic sleep deprivation. Heavy smok

A bright, noisy, or overly warm bedroom

To facilitate sleep, your bedroom should be like a cave — dark, cool, and quiet. Next time you turn off the lights in your bedroom, consider how dark it really is. Many electronics have small, bright lights that you can’t turn off. Consider covering them with thick, black paper or electrical tape.
If you live in a noisy building or neighborhood, get a good set of earplugs or use a white noise machine, fan, air-purifier, or soft, instrumental music to drown out other sounds.
To allow your body temperature to drop at night (a natural sleep precursor), keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature, and wear light, breathable pajamas.

 

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The Great Snack Debate

Publicado

en

To snack or not to snack? Here’s how to decide.

Snacks have a bad reputation as sources of excess calories, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, regular snacks may be a key way for you to manage hunger and get extra nutrition. Research shows that people who snack on fruit and nuts tend to have a higher-quality diet, and that snacking on veggies is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI).
Figuring out if your current snacking habits are working for you depends on when you’re snacking, which snack foods you’re choosing, and how your snacks impact your appetite at mealtimes.

You may want to add a snack if…

You’re overly hungry at mealtimes
You could benefit from added nutrition (e.g. more fiber from veggies and fruit or more calcium from dairy) but it’s challenging to fit it into your meals

You may want to eliminate a snack if…

You’re not hungry at mealtimes
You eat to distract yourself (from stress, boredom, or other uncomfortable emotions)
You eat because you’re tired or low on energy

You may want to change up your snack choices if…

You still feel hungry after snacking
You snack on “trouble foods” that are easy to overeat
You snack on high-sodium foods
This week, we’ll help you evaluate your snacking habits so you can decide what, if anything, you want to change. Plus, we’ll serve up some fresh snack options in case your current standbys are getting stale.

 

Track Your Snacks

Shed some light on between-meal munching.

Snacks can be challenging to track, especially if you’re quickly eating whatever’s available when hunger or a craving strikes. To gain insight into your habits, consider tracking all your snacks for a week, or at least a few days. As you enter snacks into your Omada Food Tracker, add details that help you identify patterns.
Details to include in your tracker:
Approx. serving size(s) of your snack
Time and place you ate it
How hungry you were
What you were doing and/or how you were feeling
The more information you add, the more useful tracking will be. Your entries might read something like “Handful of grapes, 1 cheese stick (11am, at work, mildly hungry, stressed)” or “2 cookies, medium black iced coffee (3pm, coffee shop, not hungry, low energy).”

As you track, keep an eye out for these and other patterns:

Snacking on high-sodium foods. Store-bought snacks tend to be sky-high in sodium. Switching to homemade and whole-food snacks (see the next page for ideas) may be a great way for you to reduce your sodium intake.

Portion-free snacking. Not sure how much you ate because you were snacking straight out of a box or bag? Make it a goal to roughly measure out a single portion (and put the rest away) before you start snacking.

Snacking at certain times/places. Knowing when you typically snack empowers you to plan ahead and ensure you have nutritious options available.

Snacking before physical activity. It’s common to think you need extra snacks when you exercise, but unless you’re exercising at moderate or high-intensity for 30 minutes or more, that may not be true. Tune into your hunger level — your body will let you know if you need a snack.

Snacking late at night. If you have a balanced dinner within 3-4 hours of bedtime, night snacking is probably more a matter of habit (or an attempt to satisfy a craving) than a response to hunger. Choose low-calorie snacks — air-popped popcorn, cut veggies with dip, roasted chickpeas, or veggie chips (see recipes on the next page).

Snacking instead of eating meals. If you’re snacking through meal times, that’s a habit worth changing. Snacks aren’t likely to provide balanced nutrition that keeps you at your best. It may also be a sign that self-care — which includes eating well — is too low on your list of priorities.

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The Power of Self-Compassion 

Publicado

en

The Power of Self-Compassion 

Being kind to yourself has surprising benefits.

When facing mistakes, setbacks, or tough life situations, you may have a knee-jerk reaction to criticize yourself. But there’s growing evidence that doing the opposite — being compassionate with yourself — helps more.

What is self-compassion?

This concept can be broken down into 3 parts:

Self-kindness: Just like you offer support and understanding to a friend going through a tough time, “self-kindness” means extending that same type of care to yourself.

Humanity: If you can accept that no one’s perfect and everyone has their own unique struggles, you may not be so hard on yourself and feel less alone.

Mindfulness: If you acknowledge that you’re feeling a negative emotion (like jealousy, frustration, or anger), you may be less likely to get “stuck” in it.

The Science Behind Self-Compassion

You don’t have to be a “touchy-feely” person to appreciate the science behind this concept. Studies have found that people who learn and practice self-compassion:

Find it easier to bounce back from tough situations

Are more confident

Feel more motivated to make changes or try something difficult

Have more emotional bandwidth for others

Improve their body image and worry less about weight

Are less likely to get caught up in self-pity

Experience less anxiety and depression

Are less likely to burn out at work or as a caregiver

How to Practice Self-Compassion

The next time that you catch yourself saying that you should do something differently or better, try giving self-compassion a shot. To get started:

Recognize that you’re being hard on yourself. Noticing your self-criticism will make it easier to soften its edges.

Think of what you’d say to a friend. Imagine that someone you love is facing the same situation. What would you say to comfort them? How would your tone be different? Then, see if you can talk to yourself the same way.

Zoom out and take a larger view. Remind yourself that sometimes feeling inadequate is part of being human. Admitting this can help you be less hard on yourself, and you may be more likely to reach out to others for support.

Name your feelings. Instead of judging your emotions, try simply acknowledging them. Instead of “I’m a failure because I haven’t done any physical activity today,” maybe you can think: “I’m disappointed and frustrated.”

Take care of yourself. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion or until you “deserve” it! Massage your neck or hands. Turn on your favorite music. Physically caring for yourself, even in small ways, shows self-compassion, too.

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What’s Fantastic About Fiber

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en

This indigestible carbohydrate does wonders for health and weight loss.

As a nutrient, fiber is unique because our bodies can’t digest it. But the common adage that fiber “passes right through you” doesn’t do this health-crusader justice. Fiber boosts your health in all of the following ways:

  1. Fiber helps protect your heart. Fiber lowers the amount of artery-clogging “bad” cholesterol in your blood and may reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Increasing your fiber intake is associated with a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.
  2. Fiber intake is associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Insoluble fiber — which we’ll discuss later in this lesson — binds with glucose in the digestive tract, slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
  3. Fiber helps protect against cancer. Eating more fiber-rich foods may help prevent certain types of cancer.
  4. Fiber helps control hunger and weight. A high-fiber food usually contains fewer calories than the same volume of a low-fiber food yet takes longer to eat and leaves you feeling fuller. People who eat a generous amount of fiber every day are less likely to be overweight.
  5. Fiber helps improve bowel health. Fiber prevents constipation by boosting the weight and size of stools and making them softer, which moves things along. A high-fiber diet may also reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids and colon problems like diverticular disease.

On average, you’re probably not getting enough fiber. The daily recommended intake for fiber is 28g per day for women and 36g per day for men. On average, Americans only get about 16g. It’s time to fix that! This week, we’ll talk about getting more fiber from nutritious foods.

 

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