Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Archive for the ‘ Sleep ’ Category

17 Apr

10 Quick Tips to Boost Your Serotonin

This week’s Tuesday Ten features simple tips to make your brain hum. You’ll feel so great, you’ll be looking down on Cloud 9.

Before we get to it, a word to the wise about serotonin:

There is quite the plethora of mood-elevating, serotonin-enhancing products and drugs available. If you don’t want to go the Prozac route, there are many excellent natural methods for boosting your mood. Indeed, many studies have shown that natural methods like exercise may be just as effective as traditional drug therapies. (However, in some cases, depression can become so severe, there’s simply no food or supplement that is going to “cure” you. I like to remind my readers that it’s always important to consult an expert before embarking on your own curative adventure.)

But for light cases of the blues, or stressful days, there are plenty of things you can do to elevate that feel-good hormone, serotonin:

10. Avoid the fast track to happiness.

Carbohydrates give you an instant lift because they trigger the release of serotonin. Indeed, I’ve seen several articles lately actually recommend eating a sugary treat to boost your mood and sleep better. Bad advice (see Dr. Weil’s take). Carbs are a quick fix, but they do nothing to stimulate ongoing production of serotonin, which is what you want.

9. Don’t avoid carbs entirely.

Proteins contain tryptophan, a large amino that converts to serotonin in the brain. (I’ll be discussing tryptophan supplements in the future.) Yet relying solely on protein can hamper serotonin production. Though scientists aren’t sure why this is, it makes sense that subsisting entirely on one macro-nutrient might cause problems for brain chemistry.

Tryptophan works best when consumed in conjunction with a small bit of carbohydrate, such as a scoop of brown rice, a handful of nuts, or a few tablespoons of legumes. These complex carbohydrates are essential to helping your brain properly process the tryptophan in protein. Vegetables are also great – and my preference.

8. Eat protein.

Turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans all contain generous levels of tryptophan.

protein

7. Eat fat.

Hormonal processes require essential fatty acids, so don’t shirk your “good fats”. Get plenty of DHA-enhanced eggs and dairy in your diet, and eat fish a few times a week. Good sources are wild salmon, mackerel, and tuna. You vegheads can also nosh on avocados, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils (walnut, avocado, almond, flax, olive) and seeds.

6. Take a fish oil supplement!

Though fish oil won’t produce serotonin, essential fatty acids play a vital role in brain health and mood regulation. I recommend Vital Omegas, of course, but there are plenty of good ones on the market. As with most things, you do get what you pay for, so buy the best you can afford.

5. Exercise to feel good.

Exercise is a natural stimulator of many important “mood” hormones, including serotonin and dopamine. Don’t think of exercise as a chore to lose weight or prevent heart disease “someday”. Realize that 15 or 20 minutes of exercise every day will naturally release these feel-good hormones that are so vital to feeling happy and calm. As junior apple Mike A. says, exercise is about feeling good, not just looking good.

4. Avoid the stimulant cycle.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol. Many of us get trapped in the stimulant cycle. These substances temporarily give you a lift, but actually deplete and blunt valuable hormones in the long run. If you like caffeine, try to limit your java intake to one or two cups a day at the most. The same for alcohol. I recommend avoiding sugar completely.

3. Sleep right.

When we’re feeling down, it’s tempting to sleep, sleep and sleep some more. But quality sleep is far more important than quantity. Force yourself to get up early, but allow for a rejuvenating nap midday if you need it (just don’t exceed one hour). The same goes for stressed-out workaholics getting by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night. Find a way to get an extra hour (hey, that sounds like another Tuesday 10 to me!).

2. Investigate supplements wisely.

HTP is a popular supplement, but I personally prefer rhodiola, which actually slows the process of serotonin breakdown (it also has better scientific backing).

1. Boost other hormones!

Oxytocin is another feel good hormone often called the “cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin is released when we feel love, trust and comfort. It can be even more powerful than serotonin. If you need a lift, remember the power of simply spending time with your significant other or family members and friends.

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14 Mar

Healthy Daylight Savings Tips

Times, they are a-changin’.

This week’s Aaron’s Additions brings you news and tips about the spring time change. If you’re feeling a little bit behind this week (I know I am!), there’s a very good reason: the time change throws off everyone’s circadian rhythms, and work productivity and sleep habits can suffer temporarily. The extra sunshine feels great (don’t forget the sunscreen), but it’s not without a few temporary drawbacks.

I aim to bring you the latest health tools, tips and blogs from Web 2.0 (that handy term for the growing personalized, community nature of the internet). Since we’re all in this time change together, I think some helpful resources are in order!

Here are some helpful and humorous tools and links for you to get yourself back on track:

How Daylight Savings Time Affects You

Psych Central brings us a great article explaining the benefits and drawbacks of Daylight Savings Time – as well as a very helpful review of how this affects the mood, mind and body. It won’t put you to sleep, but it will help you understand the important relationship between sunlight and snoozing.

Has Everyone Gone Nuts?

If you’re feeling a little off this week, you’re not alone. Evidently everyone is feeling a little out of sorts! Grumplestiltskin at Woulda Coulda Shoulda doesn’t mince words about the off-kilter antics everyone seems to be involved in. A little comedic relief is good for everyone!

Let the Sun In

Maynard Clark offers some very helpful tips for adjusting to a new sleep and work schedule. Check it out!

A Parent’s Perspective

Your Fitness shares the number one tip for adjusting to daylight savings, plus some helpful links.

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Rick Harris Flickrstream

9 Mar

That’s a Wrap!

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Here’s today’s wrap-up from the world of health, Apples. Thanks for all your great support and feedback this week. Keep those suggestions and questions coming! Stay healthy and have a wonderful weekend!

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Hormones

…in our milk. The latest Big Moo decision is sure to please, although analysts on both sides of the issue wonder how significant the impact of hormones really is. It’s a good question – unfortunately, as of yet, there’s no clear answer, but this decision certainly won’t hurt.

cheese

(Ian Britton photo)

Side Effects Include Death

Yeesh! The FDA issues a warning for anemia drugs (the kind typically used for those who have undergone chemotherapy).

Don’t Have One This Weekend

Apparently, having a stroke over the weekend is riskier than having one during the week. But don’t worry too much: studies show the risk varies between being 4% and 15% greater. While 15% is statistically significant, bear in mind it’s not 15% across the board (oh, fun with stats…). Our take? Since this isn’t really something you can plug into the Blackberry anyway, don’t sweat it too much.

bp

Striatic Flickrstream

Productive Sleep

And you thought productive leisure time was enough. This is a fascinating article about scent, sleep and memory. Don’t miss it!

Locavores Vs. Organicans

Time has a great piece on the edible issue of going local versus going organic. The debate? What is better: eating an organic apple that traveled halfway around the world thanks to Middle Eastern oil, or munching a local yet pesticide-bedecked Red Delicious? It’s a tough call. What are your thoughts?

apples 1
6 Feb

The Tuesday 10

Sleep facts, minus the zzz:

10 really cool things to know about sleep, from getting more of it to fascinating facts!

10. Here are six tips for better sleep.

9. The ideal temperature for your bedroom is 60 degrees. Anything higher than 65 can diminish sleep quality. Pile on the blankets!

8. Excellent, if traditional, sleep tips. Doesn’t hurt to refresh your memory!

steeping

7. Random sleep trivia with which to annoy people endlessly.

6. They aren’t just being lazy. Teens really do need to sleep in.

clock 1

5. We have a big problem with Big Moo, Big Puff, and all the other Bigs. This guy has a problem with insomnia.

4. Why we dream: it’s evolutionary.

bubble

3. The stages of sleep. Each one is important.

2. This is a funky little blog about brain health, aging, and sleep. Get thee to it!

brainready

1. The sleep-disease link.

Sponsor note:
This post was brought to you by the Damage Control Master Formula, independently proven as the most comprehensive high-potency antioxidant multivitamin available anywhere. With the highest antioxidant per dollar value and a complete anti-aging, stress, and cognition profile, the Master Formula is truly the only multivitamin supplement you will ever need. Toss out the drawers full of dozens of different supplements with questionable potency and efficacy and experience the proven Damage Control difference!

22 Dec

Holiday Survival Guide, Part II

Isn’t it telling that we even think of the holidays as something to survive? And yet, we do. If that’s not a clear indicator of stress, I don’t know what is. I think a great deal of the immune suppression, weight gain and poor moods many people experience during the holiday season is not necessarily food-related but rather stress-related (though unhealthy foods are themselves a stress to the body). Here are my suggestions for alleviating stress during this time – as well as some culprits to be aware of that we often simply miss.

Tips to Stop Stress:

Step 1: Insist upon 30 minutes of “me time” every day. This should include some physical activity, such as a walk or quick work-out, and ideally some meditation, prayer or other time to reflect peacefully. Do more if you can, but treat yourself to 30 minutes at the very minimum. Anything that allows for you to breathe deeply, gather your thoughts, and refresh yourself is the ticket. Absolutely insist on this for yourself – you can gain more benefit from this than any other single action you take to be healthy during the holidays.

Step 2: Limit your driving time as much as possible. Stopping at several parties, giving rides or running to the store for the tenth time to get that last ingredient can be incredibly stressful, especially during traffic peaks. “Save up” your errands and tasks, coordinate driving and party stops ahead of time, and skip as much as you can. I’m always surprised by how simple it is to just say no to something I thought was needed – often, it turns out to be just a “want”, and the stress I save myself is something far more desirable.

Step 3: Get good sleep. It’s more important to get six or seven hours of good sleep than a lot of bad sleep. If you’re in bed for eight hours but spend three of them thinking of all you have to do, you’re not going to be refreshed. You might get a little less sleep during this time of year – that’s okay. Give yourself a break and focus on making time for enough quality sleep, not just “enough” sleep.

Step 4: Do it later. This is not the time of year to attempt any 11th-hour goals, such as home improvement projects (your guests won’t mind working around a problem – really). Forgot to renew your license or get the kids to the dentist after the Halloween sugar siege? Save it for January. It won’t matter.

Stress Comes in Many Forms:

There are also plenty of unlikely stress factors we forget about. First of all, consider that any change – even a good change – can be incredibly stressful to the mind and body. Good things can be stressful in their own way. It’s things like the “come-down” on the drive home from a festive gathering or the unexpected (but strangely inevitable) bickering after a long day flying to see beloved friends or relatives. It really is critical not to overload activities, daily goals or your general schedule. Give yourself and your loved ones adequate time to enjoy each good thing.

Second, the psychological impact of the “end” of the year – and the national pastime of making “New Year’s Resolutions” – can be overwhelming and depressing for many people. The holidays are one of the most stressful, serious, difficult times of year for many – everything in one’s life comes into sharp focus in the midst of a distracting whirl of activity and ritual. I encourage my loved ones to avoid any serious reflection or making resolutions if it feels at all like unhealthy pressure. Setting goals for self-improvement is a sign of a healthy and motivated mind – but personally, it’s something I like to do before the holidays even start. Self-improvement is a year-round activity, not a December obligation. When a goal pops into your mind and you weigh it, try taking the first step right then – and if you can’t, choose the right time, not an arbitrary time based on everyone else. Don’t put the pressure of “once a year” on a healthy ambition. Let it begin when you’re ready to begin it. You’ll be more successful that way, anyway – and your holidays will be more relaxed.

Finally, it can help to remember to focus on others, not yourself – give yourself a little break. We’re often our own worst critics. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should let your diet or good habits slide. (Think of healthy choices as gifts to yourself – don’t you deserve to feel good?) But I’m confident you’re already making many wise health decisions, so remember to focus on the positive.

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