A Plan for Sleeping Well

I am with my wife Laurice, we are in our bedroom and not surprisingly because we want to talk about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

I think we can talk about a lot of epidemics in this country, like heart disease and obesity among a number of them. Sleep has really become one of the newer epidemics. It is estimated that 50-70 million people have some type of a sleep disorder. They may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and they may have excessive sleepiness during the day or they may find they are doing strange things in bed at night, like kicking their legs a lot or developing restless leg syndrome.

When you look at the science of sleep and you look at what poor sleep does to our risk of chronic diseases, you really want to do what you can, to get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and things like anxiety, depression and excessive alcohol use.

This has become a 30-40 billion dollar a year industry in this country and all kinds of gadgets are coming on to the market – different sprays you can spray on your pillow, sound machines you can put by your bed and different apps you can use. You can experiment and see what works best for you.

We started our journey to getting better sleep with looking at all the different recommendations out there and trying to figure out what worked best for us.  We call this our Sleep Well Strategy.  Laurice and I had to team up on this because we both share this space.

Some of our general rules include –

  • Trying to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
  • Accessing and adjusting how we are feeling constantly as we continue to adjust our routines and environment.

The environment in which you sleep is another big part of it. We make sure that our room is dark.  The other thing is the temperature, that can be really important. Make sure your room is cool enough. For us, it is around 67 to 68 degrees.  Now, if you suffer from night sweats, you may want to read this article on Self.com, where I explain the causes of Night Sweats and what to do about them.

A Cluttered Bedroom Can Be A Big Issue

Laurice explains, “One of the things we both feel strongly about is that we don’t like a lot of clutter.” “If the room feels chaotic when we walk in and there is stuff all over the place, than that is not a settling feeling for either one of us.

Adam continues. You know, we have a pre-bed routine.  I know if I watch some action-packed movie right before bed, that gets my adrenaline going and I am going to have more difficulty falling asleep.  Sometimes I will practice mindfulness before going to bed and I find that to be helpful. The other thing is that I still wake up occasionally in the middle of the night and we actually have some night lights set up so I don’t have to turn a bright light on if I want to go use the restroom. That bright light can tell the brain, “Oh maybe the sun is up and it is time to wake up.” These are simple things that we can do to keep the environment in our bedroom more conducive to sleep.

One of the things I get asked about is taking a nap. If you are able to take a nap and have the time, that can be very effective and a nice way to rejuvenate, no longer than 20-30 minutes at the most because you then get into deeper levels of sleep and you will wake up and feel much more groggy.

It’s all about finding the way to live your best life. You want to be energized and you want to do the things throughout the day to stay focused. If you are at work you want to be productive and sleep is such a key component to this. Developing your right sleep hygiene – sleep routine – sleep strategy and find what works best for you.

Sustaining Healthy Habits and Weight Loss

Dr. Adam Perlman      So many of my patients and friends and family have struggled with being overweight and have tried various fad diets and approaches to losing weight. I get asked about different diets and whether they work or not. I know you shared with me that when you were younger you were overweight and how you were able to lose that weight and keep it off. What was the secret? What was the journey like for you?

Brian Durbin MEd, CSCS of Synchronicity  I was young, I was 19 and I’ll never forget getting on the scale and I got on there and it’s 276 pounds. So I was 6 foot 3 inches and I had been playing football and I remember thinking “Whoa, this has gone too far. . .” I wasn’t playing sports any more and I thought, I have to reel this in. So I started reading data about what happens if you don’t lose the weight and it scared me.  So, it was that point that I started putting in small, little changes that involved exercise and nutrition, trying different things, learning new information, all along the way, it was just experimentation and learning. What works, what doesn’t work.

Adam So many people have this scenario where, you used the words “it scared me!” I often wonder how we create that sort of epiphany for ourselves, that inflection point in our lives, where we decide to do something different.

Brian I get bored incredibly easily. I am not going to be the guy who has the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s not going to be my thing, but if I find some article about some crazy fruit that comes from Africa that has this health benefit, I will definitely add that into my diet for a few weeks. So I try to keep things fresh and that has been a really big help to me.

Adam It reminds me of the Duke Wheel of Health. What I like about the Wheel of Health is that it looks at all these different areas of health and well-being, not just nutrition or exercise, but the concept of rest, professional development, spirituality, which could be interpreted as purpose and meaning in your life, along with connection and relationships. Often we can be a little too tunnel vision with our view of what a healthy lifestyle is or what well-being truly feels like and the Wheel helps me think more broadly about various aspects in my life, some of which maybe healthier than others. The Wheel helps me focus on different areas.

Brian As an example, how are exercise and relationships related? On the surface it might not seem like they are, but when you go “wow, aerobic exercise actually helps with my anxiety levels, lessening my chances of depression, my self-esteem and then you go, how does that actually play out with the way I communicate with people? Or how I make time for things and how I prioritize my life.  Everything is interrelated.

Adam I’ve heard you talk to about just being grateful for things like my heart that continues to beat and grateful for the breath that I can take. This has helped me, as someone who has struggled with trying to be perfect vs excellent which has led to unneeded suffering at times. I also think of someone, as we often do, scan the environment for threats, which at one point worked well for us. Now a days the threats are a text message we didn’t like or an email that had the wrong tone and letting ourselves get trigged by that.  That is something personally that I have worked on, not only for myself but as an example I want to set for my kids.  We have five children as you know and how do we teach gratitude to them? I think it starts by stopping and feeling gratitude ourselves, on a daily basis, right?

Brian  Just feel your heart beat, right, feel your heart beat and feel the appreciation for that. None of us asked to be here.  I mean, I don’t remember asking, but I’m here.  Can you feel appreciation just for that? Just for the heart beat and the chance to be here. Whether it is hard times or good times, can you feel appreciation for that?  Blending that with Rumi, especially his Guesthouse poem, about feeling these things, bad, good, they flow through us, can we let them flow through us without labeling them as good or bad?  That is how we can experience gratitude just for the gift of life.

Adam  The mind body connection is really interesting. I have seen that many times with my patience. It doesn’t mean what they are experiencing isn’t real, somehow other aspects of the way they are thinking or feeling is influencing their physiology.

Brian  I studied biomechanics in school, which is really just physics of the body.  It’s incredible, because you can watch somebody change their body when they start talking about something uncomfortable. You can start to see neck muscles start to contract. You can see recoil, tightness in the arms. The things we maybe are not aware of, right? Depending on what’s going on in our minds is manifesting in our bodies. It’s quite incredible.

Adam  Yeah, it is a struggle.  So many people get hung up on perfection. They think “I should have a purpose, I heard this on a podcast and now I’m going to buy the Dalai Lama’s book.” It really starts with small changes. I use to put three sugars in my coffee. I think the first thing I did, is cut it down to two.

Eating Healthier When Dining Out

Today my wife Laurice and I are going to talk about healthy eating on the go and specifically one of our favorite smoothie places. Certainly one of the things that we enjoy is going out to eat. We also want to make it a part of the way we live a healthy lifestyle. So, it’s important for us to understand how we make the decisions about what to eat when we go out and how we develop the healthier habits when we are out and on the go.

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The first thing we do is look at the menu. What’s nice about Tropical Smoothie is that they break down everything on the menu, including what’s in all the different dishes and they even give you the calories, but you still need to be a little bit careful because there can be hidden things. For example, there are strawberries but are they fresh or are they preserved with added sugar.  You can really order a lot of calories in a smoothie if you’re not careful.

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At another location we visit from time-to-time, they have a smoothie called a “Hulk Strawberry”.  That smoothie has more calories than a Burger King double cheeseburger with fries.  Now, if I look at the menu here at Tropical Smoothie and check out something like the Detox Island Green smoothie with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple and bananas, and ginger, at 180 calories, I’d be hungry before I walked out the door.

I like the Health Nut, the blueberries (a lot of antioxidants), I’ll probably add some peanut butter just to give me even a few more calories which are okay for me, I had a good workout this morning.

When I go out to eat I recommend you limit sugar, refined grains, like white bread and processed foods in general. I also recommend adding more fiber, as I have done with adding kale to the Health Nut smoothie that I ordered.  You should also eliminate juices that are meant to sweeten for taste (like apple juice) but add too much sugar.

Substitutions really don’t make much of a price difference either. Just makes your meal a little healthier, not more expensive.

People are often challenged with how to eat healthy on the go. Science suggests limiting sugar, refined grains, processed foods while adding more vegetables and fruits and more whole foods.

It’s also a good idea to get something in a bowl, as opposed to having it in a wrap if you are trying to lose weight.

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Some will tell you to order smaller portions when dining out (if you are on a weight loss program). There is some recent research that explains why the quality of food you order maybe more important. This study, published in JAMA, found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

This is even when scientists are looking at genetic testing to understand if we are more sensitive to a low-carb diet vs a low-fat diet.

What matters is the quality of food choices you make.  You can read more about the study here @nytimes The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds.