Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Four Tips To Reduce Stress

I got this in my inbox today and thought it is good to share. Stress is one of the factors that does cause sleeping problem.

Stress is linked to over 70% of all diseases in the United States. Studies show that more people feel stressed out during winter than any other time of year.

Many people are unaware of the severe impact that stress has on their lives. Stress-related illnesses include: hypertension, migraine headaches, ulcers, anxiety, allergies, asthma as well as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Your New Year's resolution may be to lose weight, but watch out, stress can sabotage your efforts. Studies show that biochemical changes during high stress prevent weight loss and in some cases cause weight gain, even during dieting.

Take the following Stress Level Quiz and see how many statements apply to you.

I yawn constantly.
My breathing is often irregular.
I don't sleep well.
I bite on my fingernails, pens or pencils.
I feel lightheaded sometimes.
I get clammy hands.
My mouth gets dry a lot.
I grind my teeth or wrinkle my forehead a lot.
I suffer from indigestion.
I often have acne.
I get frequent headaches or migraines.

If two or more statements describe you, you may be more stressed out
than you know! Here are four easy ways to reduce stress in your life:

1. Diet and vitamins
Unrelenting stress may deplete your nervous system of essential nutrients. If you are under constant stress, it may be important to avoid things that negatively impact the nervous system, such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Choose foods that nourish the nervous system, such as whole grains, fresh vegetables and foods rich in essential fatty acids like nuts, seeds and cold-water fish. B vitamins help support the nervous system and may be depleted by stress; consider adding B vitamins to your diet.

2. Sleep
Set aside more time for sleep. Create an environment that helps you get a good night's rest by keeping the room cool and turning off the telephone ringer. Also, try to relax before going to bed. Take a hot bath, drink a cup of herbal tea or read a relaxing book. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.

3. Quiet time
Try to take at least 15 minutes per day just to relax. Find a quiet space and unwind by writing in a journal, listening to peaceful music or meditating.

4. Exercise
Daily exercise not only reduces tension and frustration but also boosts the brain's feel-good chemicals. If you prefer to exercise in the evening, make sure that you finish your workout at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Reducing the stress in your life is important for your physical and emotional health. Take a few minutes to evaluate your stress level.

Do you have moments in the day that you feel stressed or do you suffer from chronic stress? Count the number of times you feel stressed out and overwhelmed each day. Start by gradually eliminating the amount of stress in your life and make sure to get proper nutrients. If you are feeling constantly stressed or anxious, it may be a good idea to seek professional advice, especially if your stress leads to depression.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Advice on Natural Sleep and Natural Sleep Products

What could be more pleasant than falling asleep naturally and waking at the appropriate time refreshed and energized? This most natural of joys is taken for granted by many of us, and longed for, more than material wealth, by others. There are, however, steps that can be taken to improve both the quantity and the quality of ones sleep without resorting to costly (and possibly harmful) pharmaceuticals.

Rituals to fall asleep by:

Create your own path to sleep

Creating a path to natural sleep, or developing a sleep ritual is part of what is recognized as "good sleep hygiene." Sleep rituals may vary greatly one from another but they all have these two intrinsic commonalities. Sleep rituals signal the senses to alert the subconscious to the fact that the time for sleep is approaching. Sleep rituals also relax the conscious mind, getting it ready to move aside for the subconscious and the sleeping world of dreams and renewal.

A sleep ritual might be as elaborate as turning off lights and lighting candles at a certain time, then taking a warm bath with soothing, sleep inducing lavender oils and listening to soothing music before going to bed. A sleep ritual could also be as simple as quietly reading for a half hour before bed. The important thing is that the ritual occur at the same time each night, day in and day out, without varying it on weekends.

Hints for having a good natural sleep

Don't try to force yourself into sleep. Engage in some quiet activity until you start to feel sleepy. This is far more productive than thrashing around in bed.

Sit quietly in a candle lit room. Listen to soothing music. Use an aromatherapy herbal pillow filled with herbs known to help induce sleep, such as hops, lavender, or chamomile.

If you expect to sleep well at night don't take naps during the day.

Drink some herbal tea or take some herbal sleep inducer about forty five minutes before sleep time.

Don't engage in strenuous exercises before bedtime. Vigorous exercise during the day is good and necessary for a good night's sleep, but it should be done long before bedtime.

For the sake of a good night's sleep avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your natural ability to fall asleep. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, cocoa, chocolate and some prescription and non-prescription drugs. It may seem that alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it actually leads to broken sleep patterns.

For some, a light snack before bedtime may encourage a general feeling of well-being and help you fall asleep faster.

Have a warm glass of milk. This is a well known remedy. Milk contains tryptophan, which is a natural sleep inducer.

Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable Try to keep your room cool, using warm, cozy blankets on the bed. If outside noise (or a spouse's snoring) is a problem use a sound masking device like a white noise machine or Pillow Sonic. In some cases using earplugs might be a good idea.

If it is possible, wake up to sunlight, and open the drapes. If you must wake up before dawn, turn on all the lights. Light helps your biological clock reset itself each day.

See a doctor if your sleeping problem continues:

If you continue having trouble falling asleep at night over a long period of time, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should see a physician. Your primary care physician may be able to help you or can recommend a sleep specialist.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Should You Take Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills can and do become addictive. In addition, your body developing a tolerance after the first couple of weeks. Also, point that most people are unaware of, is that the pills usually contain an antihistamine, as in most sinus medications, and will make your nose, mouth and eyes dry.

Don't take a higher dose than prescribed, or mix with sedatives or alcohol. If the dosage no longer works, it is best to discontinue the medication.

It is always best to discuss with your doctor first if you are having problems sleeping instead of reaching for those pills. Make sure that you ask when is the best time before bed to take the medication, the side effects you may get, and report any side effects that you may be having.

Another drawback is that sleep mediation will stay in your blood stream, so you may not feel very "refreshed" the following morning. It can give you a hangover effect.

There has been much debating amongst researchers and medical experts on the use of sleep induces, or sleeping pills. They do however, offer some short term help.

There are a lot of other alternatives you can try - don't drink coffee after dinner, try a relaxing warm bath, don't drink alcoholic beverages, eat a light dinner at an earlier hour, change your exercise routines, try natural herb remedies, don't go to bed worried or mad - relax, it will help.

Read all that you can about sleep inducers, the natural way. Magazines and newspapers constantly print reports on sleeplessness, a seemingly growing problem.

If these alternatives don't seem to help, then it may be best to speak to your physician before reaching for those sleeping pills, either prescribed, or available over the counter.

This is written as one person's opinion, to show that there are alternatives. Seek medical advice.


Stress-Less Sleep: Mind-Body Medicine You Can Use Tonight

I just attended a seminar today on Stress-Less Sleep: Mind-Body Medicine You Can Use Tonight by Dr. Lim Kok Kwang. Basically the seminar is talking about how to get a good sleep in a natural manner and I thought it is good to share. However, I did not bring with me writing materials so I will do my best to put down what I can remember. I hope this could help you in some way.

I am very fortunate to be able to sleep every night but I do have a lot of friends who have problems sleeping at night. Some of them are having too much stress because of work and some problems in life while others have been having insomnia for a number of years. A good night sleep can be a luxury. Wishing you a good night of sleep tonight.

According to Dr. Lim, there are 2 main kind of reasons for insomnia namely physical and psychological.

For physical, usually it is due to environment or bodily pain or over-arousal. The environment where we are sleeping could be too bright or too noisy. In one of his examples, he had a patient who was having problem sleeping at night. The reason is that she needs to leave the bedroom light on (for safety reason) while sleeping as her husband, who is getting on in age, needs to use the toilet 2-3 times a night. So Dr. Lim suggested to her to leave the toilet's light on instead and to keep the toilet's door slightly ajar so that the room would not be totally dark. And two weeks later she went back to Dr. Lim saying that she no longer has any problem sleeping at night. In the case of bodily pain or over-arousal, it could be due to something like a sprained back or with the things you ate.

For psychological, which are due to unrealistic beliefs or emotional disturbance. The latter is more serious and there would be a need for consultation. People who is having problem sleeping due to psychological reason usually could be stress, depressive due to work, family or friends.

Not all people who has problem sleeping can get sleeping pills from doctor. Apparently there is a certain Insomnia Diagnostic criteria that a doctor needs to go through before prescribing sleeping pills to patients. Personally I think that should be the way as I am not in favor of taking medication unless there really is a need to.

The consequences of poor sleep are emotional distress, mental distress and bodily distress. When in emotional distress, the person will be easily irritable, nervous, lost of pleasure and just plain miserable. Mental distress will lead to poor concentration and forgetfulness while bodily distress will cause headache and fatigue.

In Dr. Lim seminar today, he shared one method of how you can get yourself to relax through a 2 power steps in 17 seconds:

1. Single focus: in his elaboration, he gave the example on breathing. Whenever you breathed out, you count it out audibly as 1.
2. Neutral, non judgmental or observer attitude (mindfulness). What he meant by this is that when you are doing the first step, you will have disrupting thoughts coming in and instead of denying these thoughts, just let then come in and go out. Focus instead on the counting of '1' as you breathe out.

Personally I had tried it out while I was in the seminar and it really worked. For just about 30 seconds, I can feel myself more relax and at the same time more focus.

Last but not least, Dr. Lim shared 7 steps to sleep success

1. Reduce caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, sleep medications and water (sleep hygiene)
2. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep (stimulus control)
3. Plan 'to do' list (emails, phone calls, etc) and leave it to tomorrow.
4. Exercise (brisk walk etc) 3 to 4 times per week
5. Do Sleep Restriction.

  • Set Wake-up time.
  • Set Minimum sleep time for adequate functioning the next day: meaning to find out the minimum hours of sleep that you need and yet you will still be able to fuction effectively the next day.
  • Set go-to-bed time.
  • Stick to schedule for 2 weeks.
  • Avoid naps

The purpose of this Sleep Restriction exercise is to prevent ourselves from lying in bed trying to get to sleep. The more we spent lying in bed trying to get to sleep but still staying awake, the more it will 'stick' with us in the mind that we are not able to sleep.
6. Do ha Breathing meditation.

  • Focus on breathing out for as long as you can comfortably. Breathe in through your nostrils and breathe out through your mouth. When you are breathing out, you produce a 'ha' sound.
  • Repeat for 15 minutes.

This is truly effective. I tried it out for a couple of minutes and it really put me in a very relax and focus state and I mean really focus.
7. Use guided imagery: while you are lying down on your bed, focus your mind on a single spot or pattern like your ceiling or wall. This will prevent your mind from disruptive thoughts which could prevent you from sleeping.