To Sleep, Perchance to Dream….

Got sleep? Most of us don’t. And whoever coined the term “sleep like a baby” CLEARLY never met my kids! #funnynotfunny. On our journey to health one of my goals was to get solid, refreshing sleep every night again. Thankfully we have arrived! Let me share with you how…

Perhaps my story is a bit unique. I was always a rather light sleeper but Medical School and Residency put a nail in the proverbial coffin. I trained back when working 36 hour days was common place. YES, 36 hour days. We would go in at 6am and not go home until after 6pm the NEXT day. Depending what department you were working in that could mean you didn’t have much opportunity to sit down let alone lie down during that time frame. I do NOT miss that aspect of training to say the least. It took me almost a year after I finished training to even find out how much sleep my body actually needed. Then I got married and had kids. Oy vey!

My sweet Bunny was okay for the first few months and would only wake up at night to nurse and typically go right back to sleep but daytime naps?! Fuhgeddaboudit! Few and far between and WAY too short for my taste.

Sweet little BeBe was an AWESOME sleeper. He was the baby that made you think you could have a hundred babies. Then at about 2yo or so they both went left! I was always so on edge that I never fully relaxed into sleep thinking one of them would pop up and come scampering in our room at any moment.   It became clear that my sweet BeBe’s body clock and rhythm were just unpredictably and inexplicably off! The cost of raising a baby genius is sometimes their brains just won’t. turn. off.

There are several things that you can do to encourage restful, restorative sleep.  We were already doing all of the typical bedtime routine recommendations by the book to no avail so we looked for more.  A balanced, whole food based diet rich in fresh veggies and fruit and all of their beneficial nutrients and anti-oxidants is essential. If you don’t think your meeting the mark of the recommended 5-9 fruits and veggies a day, consider filling in the gaps with a whole food based supplement like Juice Plus.

We also started adding Epsom Salt to their bath every night. The magnesium causes a relaxation response and also helps the liver sulfate and remove toxins from the body (great addition during cold and flu season for that reason, too). If you find that you are consistently popping up at 3 – 4am, it could be due to your liver being overwhelmed with clearing all of the toxins that we are confronted with daily.

I started dabbling in essential oils, too. Lavender, chamomile, and geranium essential oils seemed to be the most helpful in facilitating restful sleep. Make sure that you get genuine essential oils and not just a fragrance.  For more info read this.  You can add a few drops of them to the Epsom Salt that you put in in the bathtub or use a diffuser near bed time to signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down. White noise machines with pleasant ocean waves and the like can help lull you to sleep.  Reducing exposure to bright, blue wave lights from TVs, cellphones and the like near bed time can be helpful but also adding red or magenta colored night lights helps to encourage a relaxed state. Red or magenta tones are the colors you “see” in utero as a fetus floating around in your mother’s womb. Red or magenta night lights help mimic that peaceful nurturing environment.

Believe it or not, probiotics can also be quite helpful. Serotonin (a neurotransmitter that impacts mood) is actually produced in your gut! So if your gut is inflamed or the good bacteria in your gut is not present in good numbers, that can impact your ability to adequately produce serotonin (low serotonin can also contribute to depression by the way). Serotonin THEN has to travel to the brain where it is converted by the pineal gland to melatonin which signals to the brain that it is time to sleep.  So if your gut isn’t producing enough serotonin, then your brain won’t get the melatonin signal to shut it down for the night. So you see – all things do seem to begin in the gut!

If you find that you are still having trouble, consider seeing an Integrative Doctor that can do a simple, non-invasive test like a urine OATS test to look for hormones,  neurotransmitters, and metabolites or by-products of physiological processes to see if there is evidence of nutritional deficiencies for which natural supplementation would be useful.

Good, restful, restorative sleep is essential to child development, learning and just having a foothold on a good day in the morning. Here’s to you on the road to rest!

Happy Healthy Living (and sleeping)!

Until next time….

Questions, Comments? Post them below.

The Doctor is in!

Take Home Tidbits

  • A balanced whole food based diet rich in antioxidants helps encourage restful sleep
  • Epsom Salt baths and the magnesium therein can help relax you and help your liver clear toxins from the day
  • Red or Magenta night lights help induce a relaxed state
  • Probiotics can support your gut’s production of serotonin so your  brain can convert it to melatonin to signal that it’s time to shut it down for the night

To Juice or Smoothie? That is the question….

Do you juice or make smoothies? Currently we are juicing in my house but we have done the smoothie thing in the past.  Why do people choose one over the other?  It depends on what you are looking for….

If you’re looking for a meal replacement or an after workout pick me up or recovery, then a smoothie may be more up your alley. Smoothies are good for a filling rejuvenator or meal replacement in a pinch. You can add protein (there are even vegetarian options available) and other supplements that may be harder to palate alone or sneak in extra nutrition or veggies for your picky eaters. *Hint – baby spinach has no taste so slip it into a smoothie and put it in a dark colored or opaque cup with some tasty fruits and your picky little one will be none the wiser. We’ve even squeezed in a bit of green bell peppers, romaine lettuce, kale, and cilantro to fresh juice and Sweet BeBe couldn’t get enough!

Juicing gives you the opportunity to jam pack all the powerful micronutrients found in fresh fruits and veggies in a smaller volume of liquid.  It’s a great way to complement a detox protocol or as an immune booster when a bug gets you down.

Different fruits and veggies offer different benefits. Each fruit or veggie is the color that it is due to the dominating phytonutrients that it contains.  That is why “eating the rainbow” is essential so that you get a broad spectrum of nutrients to help your body do it’s job most efficiently. Juice or Smoothie

Masticating juicers are best. With mastication juicers there’s no heating up the juice which can happen in other types of juicers.  Centrifugal juicers spin at high rates as the fruit or veggie is pressed down against the grating mechanism.  The friction that occurs releases excess energy as heat.  The increased heat during processing can damage some of the very phytonutrients that you are trying to consume. Mastication (think of the chewing motion your mouth makes when you eat) compresses and grinds the fruit or veggie and extracts the juice in a more gentle manner.  They can be more expensive but may very well be worth the investment.  If you’re not sure if you will stick with it, start with a smaller, cheaper run of the mill juicer before you make a huge investment.  My first juicer was just about $30 and I used it for about a year to be sure it wouldn’t be just a fad for me before I considered investing in something more pricey.

No matter how you slice it getting as close to the recommended 5 or so cups of fruits and veggies a day can be a little easier if you add a smoothie or fresh juice into your routine. (5 cups a day is based on a basic 2,000 calorie per day plan.  Your age and level of activity may dictate a different caloric requirement per day so discuss this with your doctor.) Throw in a couple of fresh, organic berries! Berries are full of rich anti-oxidants which can help reduce your risk of heart disease.  If you have concerns regarding elevated blood sugar, then focus on the veggies and add just enough fruit to make sure that the taste is pleasant to you.  If you’re really concerned, taking a capsule of cinnamon before you eat or juice can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. 

Happy Healthy Living!

Until next time…

Take HomeTidbits

  • Smoothies are a good meal replacement or rejuvenation option especially if you add protein and/or supplements.
  • Juicing allows you to concentrate all of the powerful micronutrients in fruits and veggies into a smaller volume.
  • The color of each fruit or veggie indicates a different set of nutrients are present so eat the rainbow!
  • If elevated blood sugar is a concern, cinnamon can help!

Questions or Comments? Post them below!

The Doctor is in!