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5 Simple Tips to Improve SLEEP

In an ideal world, you would be falling asleep within minutes of hitting your pillow. Unfortunately, this is far from reality for thousands of people. A full 40 percent of people sleep less than eight hours every night, and even falling asleep is far from a simple process.

Sleep Like a Baby

Between one-third and half of all adults in the United States suffer from insomnia, and research collected from 1905 to 2008 shows that children have lost an average of a minute of sleep each year. Good quality sleep is more rare today than ever before. All while research shows that your quality of sleep should be a priority. 

Before I get to my sleep tips, I want to be clear that having the correct mattress for your condition and sleep style is extremely important. I often recommend specific mattresses for my patients, but if you are not a patient, Quality Sleep Mattress Store in Bellevue is my top choice for custom matching a mattress.

If you have eliminated your mattress as the source of poor quality of sleep, now you can read further as these are definitely secondary to a quality mattress.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep each night? These tips are the place to start.

 

#1. Control Artificial Light Exposure

One of the biggest factors for how well you sleep each night is the amount of light you are exposed to. We evolved to be extremely sensitive to even slight variations in light levels, ensuring that evening skies lead us to feel drowsy.

 

Today, however, an overabundance of artificial light is keeping us awake. Your phone, laptop screen, and TV all emit “blue light” which triggers your body into thinking that it’s daytime no matter what the clock says. In fact, looking at a cell phone screen late at night has been found to keep people up for hours longer than they would be otherwise.

To fall asleep faster, put all your electronics aside at least two hours before hitting your pillow to prevent your brain from getting stimulated. Also, many cell phones now have a “night mode” that essentially turns off the blue lights that come from your screen. I recommend 2 hours in this mode before sleep or ideally, no electronics at all.

#2. Don’t Stress About Sleep

STRESS about not falling asleep and you’ll, no doubt, NOT fall asleep. If you’re starting to feel anxious about the sleep you’re missing out on, it’s important to stop this mental pattern before it gets out of control.

Don’t let yourself dwell on how bad you’ll feel in the morning, and think instead about how much easier falling asleep will be the next night. Evidence shows that letting go of worry while falling asleep helps you fall asleep faster, just by removing your underlying anxiety.

#3. Practice Relaxation Techniques

The old methodology of ‘counting sheep’ might be more beneficial for your health than you think. Simple relaxation techniques can do a lot to focus your mind to help you fall asleep, so consider experimenting to find what works for you. Some people practice a twenty-minute yoga routine before bed, others practice meditation or read books in bed.

Often, the routine itself is just as crucial of a trigger that it’s time to wind down as what you do, so being consistent is key.

#4. Get Out of Bed When Necessary

If you really can’t sleep, there’s no point in lying in bed willing things to be different. Instead, get up, make a cup of tea, or spend time with a book in your living room. Don’t turn on your TV or use your smartphone though, as the artificial light will make you stay up longer.

In most cases, the change in routine (of laying sleepless) will help you forget your anxiety about still being awake, and you’ll fall asleep again quickly.

#5. Avoid Chemical Substances

Contrary to what you might think, alcohol makes sleeping more difficult. Cigarettes, caffeine, and spicy meals also disrupt sleep, so keep your food and drinks relatively bland in the hours before bedtime for the best results.

Falling asleep shouldn’t be a struggle. Experiment with these tips, and you’ll be getting better sleep in no time. Here is another blog on the very same topic that you may also consider.

Health Benefits of Drinking Red Wine

Ending the evening with a little vino is more guilt-free than you know. The health benefits of drinking red wine have been studied for decades, and research shows that it pays off to indulge.

Just one glass of high-quality wine a day can provide numerous health benefits, including:

Red wine#1. Boosting Heart Health

The polyphenols in wine make it beneficial for keeping blood vessels from forming blood clots. Likewise, research shows that drinking red wine can slow down the development of atherosclerosis, which causes a fatty buildup of cholesterol in your artery walls. In the same way, resveratrol, an antioxidant in red wine, can protect heart tissue from damage after a stroke or heart attack by keeping your arteries relaxed so more blood can flow through.

In fact, moderate amounts of wine are almost as effective as aspirin for your heart health, though overindulging can quickly lead to the opposite effect.


#2. Lessening the Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia is a high priority for anyone. Especially one that’s seen the impact of the disease on their family or friends. Adding red wine to your routine might lower your risk.


Research shows that people who eat a Mediterranean diet (which prominently features red wine) are 28 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, and 48 percent less likely to progress from mild impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. These benefits are attributed to resveratrol. Resveratrol is considered a crucial antioxidant for reducing antioxidant stress and inflammation. This can lead to reduction of the cognitive decline over time. 

#3. Providing a Natural Antioxidant Boost

Free radicals cause endless problems for your health and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. These diseases include cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular issues and more. However, the potent antioxidant properties of red wine give your body what it needs to stay healthy and fight off this damage.

 

Resveratrol is essential for fighting inflammation, and quercetin can reduce the effects of aging. Beyond fighting chronic disease, red wine might keep you healthier on a daily basis, too. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who drank 14 weekly servings of wine were 40 percent less likely to come down with a cold, making a single glass a smart choice for staying healthy.

 

#4. Helping Manage Diabetes

Drinking red wine may change how your body processes glucose, research shows. Researchers have found that red wine slows how quickly glucose passes through your bloodstream. It does this by inhibiting the enzymes that handle glucose. This helps prevent spikes in blood sugar that can contribute to type 2 diabetes, meaning that wine may have a role in a diabetic diet plan. White wine seems to be only 10 percent as effective, making red the clear winner.

 

While the health benefits of red wine are profound, it’s important to remember that more wine doesn’t lead to more health benefits.  It can cause more problems than it helps if you are not careful. So take a drink for your health, but remember to enjoy in moderation.

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The Benefits of Coffee

Stop feeling guilty about your favorite part of every morning — it turns out a daily coffee habit is good for more than just waking up. For one thing, we just made it through the holidays, so enjoy that coffee! Also, research is revealing there’s a lot more to coffee than caffeine content and, in reality, this AM go-to might be a smart solution for maintaining your health.

Enjoy a Cup of Coffee
Coffee’s Health Benefits

Black coffee averages just two calories per cup, and its high antioxidant levels make it one of the best sources for these cancer-fighting “vitamins”. Beyond jump starting your day, each cup contains following benefits for your health.

Good for Your Heart

Looking for an easy way to protect your heart? Coffee might be key. Research from Israel has found that drinking about 16 ounces of coffee per day can lead to an 11 percent lower risk of heart failure. Unfortunately for major addicts, the study didn’t find much benefit to drinking more coffee than this.

Makes You Smarter

Everyone knows that drinking coffee will improve your energy, but there is evidence that the caffeine it contains can actually improve your thinking capabilities, too. When you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine gets absorbed into your bloodstream where it travels to your brain and alters its functioning. This caffeine blocks a neurotransmitter called Adenosine, which causes other neurotransmitters like dopamine to fire more instead. Not only does this elevate your mood, but it also improves reaction times, logical reasoning skills, and your attention span, which (temporarily) improves your thinking abilities and productivity.

Coffee Helps You Burn Fat!

The increased energy you feel when you drink coffee does more than affect your brain, it also causes your body to burn more calories. Some studies have found caffeine can boost your metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent, while others show that caffeine specifically increases your body’s fat-burning capabilities by as much as a 30 percent.

Improve Physical Performance

The caffeine in coffee seems capable of waking up both your brain and your body, according to research. Studies have found that caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which triggers adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone in your body and preps it for physical exertion. In this way, a cup of coffee can improve physical performance by 10 percent or more, and the benefit is most pronounced for endurance sports like running, biking, or swimming. This means that a cup of coffee might be a smart idea before your next major workout.

Coffee Helps Fight Depression

Depression is pervasive, affecting almost five percent of the U.S. population. However, coffee might make a difference in your day-to-day happiness. A study from Harvard found that women who drink four or more cups a day were 20 percent less likely to be depressed, and similar studies found that the same amount of coffee can half the risk of suicide. These benefits are mainly attributed to coffee’s ability to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine.

The research is continuing to POUR in, and coffee has more going for it than just a way to make it through midday fatigue. Drinking black coffee every day can help you lose weight, improve your fitness level, keep you happier and even improve your mental abilities. So, grab your mug and get sipping!

Probiotic Supplementation for Gut Health

Take a look at the exploding market for all things antibacterial, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the human race is waging biological warfare against bacteria. However, people and microbes (probiotic) have lived symbiotically since the beginning of time, and many types of bacteria actually help your gut health and help your body function better.  

Probiotic supplementation

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are, simply, beneficial bacteria. These microbes positively benefit your digestive system and help improve your gut health.

Two common varieties, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, help suppress the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut to keep it functioning properly. For this reason, doctors often prescribe probiotics health supplements and fermented foods (especially dairy products) as a natural solution for treating digestive discomfort. But, with many options available online and in-store, there’s no reason not to start exploring the benefits and find a probiotic that’s right for you.

What Do They Do to Your Body?

A well-functioning digestive system is a key to good health. Every meal you eat impacts the mix of microbes in your gut, and studies are increasingly showing that an imbalance of helpful and harmful bacteria is linked to disease — too much bad bacteria can lead to health problems like irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, food allergies, and more.

By improving your ratio of beneficial microbes daily through probiotics, you may reduce your risk of developing these symptoms. These bacteria work to improve mineral absorption, aid hormone production and prevent gut dysbiosis while minimizing your risk of developing leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.

But the benefits go deeper than just your digestive system. Studies show increasing your level of probiotics may lower your cortisol level, which leads to more positive mental health and less risk of anxiety, depression, and stress. Preliminary research is also showing that regular doses of probiotics might lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

How Can You Get Enough?

Boost your probiotic levels naturally through food or from a natural supplement.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic supplements come in capsule, tablet, and powder form, and there are a variety of brands, bacterial strains, and purported benefits to sort through. To make the right decision, keep the following advice in mind.  

  • Check the CFU (Colony Forming Units). This number will be on the front of the box and usually ranges from 3-50 billion CFUs. The larger the number, the more potent the product. (Note: this does not say anything about QUALITY of the product.)
  • What strains are present? Everyone’s body reacts differently to bacteria strains, which is why investing in a supplement with a wide variety of bacteria is likely to make a bigger impact on your health.
  • What’s the shelf life? Probiotic supplements contain live bacterial colonies, meaning that they lose potency over time. Look for products that were recently manufactured and store them in a cool, dry place in your home to extend the lifespan.

Food

Probiotic cultures are common in fermented dairy products, as well as pickled vegetables and soy products in limited amounts. To keep them in your diet, make sure to regularly eat unpasteurized yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, soft cheeses, pickles and other fermented foods. Today, some products like granola bars, cereal, and soy milk are also probiotic fortified.

Remember, everyone responds differently to certain strains, so make sure to experiment with what works for you. As always, please email or bring in a picture of your probiotic for the doctor to review for you. While we carry multiple great products, we recognize that other brands are still of great quality. 

What’s REALLY in Your Fish Oil Supplement?

Fish oil supplements are more popular than ever. With an astounding average of 800mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving, is it any surprise why?

 

We all need omega-3s to thrive, yet few people get as much as they need from their daily diet alone. In fact, recent research from Harvard University found that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is one of the top 10 causes of death in America. This means that 96,000 Americans die highly preventable deaths each year, partly because they didn’t take enough fish oil supplements.

Tuna fish oil

If that fast fact has you leaning in, listen up — because not all fish oil supplements are equal. There are is huge variation in ingredients, freshness, purity, and even omega-3 content in the fish oil on the market, and not even health care practitioners always know the difference. It’s essential to investigate the efficacy and quality of your supplements before diving in — with minimal regulation in the supplement market, many products are mislabeled, unregulated and even made from harmful ingredients.

 

What to Look for In Fish Oil Supplements

When you look through fish oil supplements, there are five factors to consider when making your choice: freshness, nutrient content, purity, potency, and bioavailability.

  • Freshness: When overly exposed to oxygen, omega-3s can turn rancid. That makes it even more important to check freshness — specifically how old the oils you chose are. Consider sustainable sources (eg. Tuna oil).
  • Nutrient Content: While all fish oils contain EPA and DHA, special fish oils can also contain fat soluble vitamins for an extra nutritional boost.
  • Purity: Check each able to see if the fish oil in question meets international standards for heavy metals, dioxins and other ocean-bound contaminants.
  • Potency: Check the label for specifics on the levels of omega-3s present to ensure you’re getting what you really need to stay healthy.
  • Bioavailability: Nutrient content hardly matters if your body can’t take advantage of them. Make sure that the fatty acids in your supplements have a natural balance to ensure your body can properly absorb them.

 

The Fatty Acids You Need

There are two main omega-3s that make up majority of fish oil: EPAs and DHAs. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an omega-3 found in coldwater fish like cod, herring, tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines. In the same way, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a main structural component of the human brain and can come from the diet through fish oil, algae and even breast milk.

Both EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids — you can’t live without them, and the only way your body can get them is through food. These fatty acids are important for maintaining a healthy heart, and play an important role in the functioning of your nervous system while contributing to better moods, muscle growth, and good sleep. While both acids are essential, your body can transform EPA into DHA when necessary, making the former the most important in maintaining good health.

To ensure you’re getting the correct essential omega-3s, check the label on your fish oil supplements. The label will separate the types of omega-3’s by name.

Invest in high quality fish oil supplements and you’ll get the omega-3s you need to stay healthy. Make sure you do your research before you buy and know exactly what you’re taking. You’ll be well on your way to getting sufficient EPA and DHA — both critical building blocks to your short- and long-term health and well-being.

We prefer a Tuna Oil due to freshness, sustainability, and quality. Ask the front desk about our tuna oil options and where you may be able to purchase it.

“Organic,” “All Natural,” “Certified Organic ” and More: Is There Really a Difference?

Feel a little confused as you browse food labels on grocery store shelves? You aren’t alone. Why does organic matter? Manufacturers know healthy food is trendier than ever, and many will do whatever they can to showcase their product in the best possible light — sometimes regardless of what it really contains. 

To help you comb through the what’s-what of the grocery aisle, here’s a quick rundown of common labels and designations with clear-cut info and intel to help you make smart purchase decisions.

Organic, Fresh, No- Antibiotics...

Label me…

USDA Certified Organic:

This label always comes with the green USDA logo — and, more importantly, it’s the one standard of organic certification you can trust to mean what it implies. Only products that have been vetted by a third party to ensure compliance with organic standards can carry the seal — and that means all products with this designation must be grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, AND are free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It’s expensive for farms to gain USDA organic certification, so the sign of certification shows the manufacturer made the commitment.   

 

“Organic” or “Made with Organic Ingredients:”

Without certification from the USDA, the term “organic” has a looser meaning. To be legally branded organic in the U.S., a food product needs to be made with a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. Food products made with at least 70% organic ingredients are instead labeled “made with organic ingredients.” However, there aren’t set standards for beauty and other personal care products, meaning that the organic label is often used as a relatively meaningless marketing strategy for them.

 

All Natural:

Despite what the term seems to imply, “all natural” only means that a food product (usually meat) wasn’t overly processed and is free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. This term is defined loosely by the USDA, meaning that many customers assume it means more than it does. For example, “all natural” products can legally contain antibiotics and GMO ingredients.

 

“No Antibiotics Administered” or “Raised without Antibiotics:”

In the meat industry, it’s common to administer antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy while in close quarters. In contrast to this standard, these labels mean that the meat in question was raised without antibiotics — a plus for many consumers.

To ensure you’re getting what you think you are, look for the “USDA Process Verified” shield — this ensures the company’s claims were legally verified.


One side note — some products are marketed as “antibiotic free.” The USDA has never authorized this term and it has no legal meaning when used for food. Don’t assume this statement means the same as “no antibiotics administered” or “raised without antibiotics.” It doesn’t. I have heard one manufacturer tell me that “we don’t add antibiotics to our meat”. As if I would ever think that they would add antibiotics to the end product (which is dead). When I asked if the animals were given antibiotics the answer was, “we don’t add antibiotics to our meat”. I hope you see why the term “antibiotic free” holds little value in my opinion.

 

Fresh:

Often used on chicken, this term means that meat wasn’t cooled below 26 degrees F before being sold. I would say that this is up for a lot of interpretation and does not sound like I would define fresh. How long has this been in the refrigerator? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

Certified Humane:

Certified by the nonprofit Humane Farm Animal Care, this strict standard requires animals live in conditions where they have fresh water, high quality feed, lots of roaming space and are never administered antibiotics.

 

Non-GMO Project Verification Seal:

GMO products are increasingly common in food. Now, the only way to know for certain if your food is free of GMOs is to look for the Non-GMO Project seal. Developed in 2003, this verification process tests foods to ensure they are fully free of genetically modified materials.

I hope you all learned a few things about the labeling system and how you can make the best choices for your health and the health of your family.

How to Improve Your Sleep

We all know the frustration that comes with insomnia: watching the clock, counting the hours till morning, and flipping through late night channels. If you suffer from frequent insomnia, you’re not alone. Approximately 30% Americans are plagued with insomnia each year and even more struggle in one way or another with sleep, such as grogginess, poor concentration. But apart from these frustrating symptoms, poor sleep habits can result in long-term medical issues, including cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression. Luckily, with some small changes in your habits and sleep routine, you can take control of your sleep and boost your chances of getting better rest.

Limit Your Screen Time

Despite the urge to watch Netflix in bed, try leaving your computer, tablet, or television anywhere but the bedroom. Doing so can improve your sleep, even if you don’t suffer from full-fledged insomnia. Using electronic devices, including your phone, just before bed has been linked to irregular sleep patterns and poor sleep habits. So if you find yourself waking up exhausted or tossing and turning before falling asleep, switch out your laptop for a book.

Move Your Body

An aerobic workout may be enough to tire our your body and promote deep sleep. After all, regular exercise has been found to improve patterns of insomniacs. But even a single moderately paced exercise session may help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, at least for that night. Exercise may help with insomnia because it regulates your body temperature, reduces anxiety and depression, and helps to normalize your circadian rhythm.

Change Positions or Your Pillows

No matter how tired you are, you may find it difficult to get into a comfortable position and stay asleep. If neck pain or headaches are keeping you awake at night, you may want to re-consider your sleep position or even your pillows. After all, an individual’s reported pillow comfort is correlated with sleep quality. Aim for a position and pillow that prevents your neck from staying in neutral while you sleep. I recommend THIS PILLOW and even sell it in the office. I provided the Amazon link just in case you can save a few bucks by buying it from them. The goal is to improve your ability to get a good nights rest, not to sell you a pillow.

A good night of sleep is irreplacable

Address Pain

Aches and pain not only make it difficult to fall asleep but lead to frequent awakenings, painful mornings, and a restless night.

Unfortunately, pain and sleep may work in concert: pain can lead to poor sleep quality, and poor sleep quality can further exacerbate pain. To break free of this frustrating cycle, address the primary cause that is leading to a secondary condition of pain.

Get Checked For Sleep Apnea

If you are a snorer, wake up gasping for breath, or struggle to stay awake during the day, do yourself a favor and get checked for sleep apnea. It is a condition characterized by cessations in breathing during sleep and it is devastating to your health. Short periods of oxygen deprivation lead to numerous subsequent micro-awakenings, ones that you may not even remember. Although between three and seven percent of adults suffer from sleep apnea, very few get treatment for this potentially dangerous condition.

Consider Supplements

If all else fails, you may find yourself desperate for a good night’s rest. Hopefully you are not drawn to television advertisements for sleeping pills. Before you ask your doctor for a prescription, consider nutritional or herbal-based remedies that may help you get a better ZZZZZ’s. Look for foods that contain melatonin, including cherries. Some studies have found that melatonin supplementation reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and increases quality sleep time.

Replace That Old Mattress

If you are sleeping on a mattress that is more than 8 years old, stop! Take a deep breath, and imagine waking up in the morning without aches pains. I have tested, discarded, and been very disappointed MANY times over the years. There are two mattresses that I can recommend without hesitation. One is the Intellibed, a medical grade bed that is top notch. Unfortunately, like many mattresses, it is pricey. 

The second bed is one that I am extremely happy to share with you. It is the best memory foam mattress I have found. Yes, much better than the “brand name” that we always associate with memory foam and MUCH cheaper. Thankfully, it is cheap in price and TOP in quality. Save your money and brag to your friends that this bed is STRUCTURALLY APPROVED. Do yourself a favor and put this in your shopping cart now and get some much needed rest.

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Whiplash: Don’t Crack That Whip!

Whiplash: The Scary Truth.

Many people hear the term “Crack that whip” or “Whip It” and get a certain song in our heads along with the inevitable big smile. If you aren’t familiar with the song by DEVO that was released in the 1980’s, watch the video below. You can thank me later. Just for the record, they are not talking about whiplash.

neck

Whip It!

What many of us forget is the part that states “break your momma’s back”. That is the line that I will focus on in this blog. That line has a lot of significance right now due to our wet roads.

Whiplash… we all hear about it, but what the heck is it?

For simplicity, whiplash is an injury that can occur in your neck during any fast movement of the head. Most whiplashes are caused by car accidents, sports collisions, falls, and any time the head changes directions abruptly (including stopping abruptly). Watch this video to see how even a minor accident can result in major problems, Whiplash slow motion video.

Contrary to popular opinion, whiplash can occur in ANY DIRECTION. While most of the information out there focuses on rear end collisions (just do a google search on whiplash), in reality, any forceful change in direction can also result in LONG TERM neck damage from a whiplash.

Many cases of whiplash do not cause immediate severe pain. In fact, many report “feeling fine” immediately following a car accident. I often ask people that I know may be suffering from a whiplash type injury if they have ever had their structure evaluated. More often than not, I am sad to hear that they didn’t think about it because it “didn’t hurt”. Remember, pain is often the last of the secondary conditions that follow a whiplash. Some other secondary conditions to be aware of are headaches, foggy thoughts, trouble concentrating, loss of enjoyment in hobbies/ activities, depression, anxiety, headaches, irritability, “fussiness” and MANY MANY others. Any change in attitude, feeling of general well being, and/or mood can be a secondary condition of even a minor whiplash. It is NOT uncommon for a whiplash to actually cause residual or a secondary condition of low back pain!

My point in mentioning all of the symptoms above is to impart the importance of ruling OUT any Structural Shifts of the spine before you write of that “minor accident”, fender bender, fall or “bonk” (for the little ones).

Food for thought… in the United States alone there are an estimated 16,000,000 car accidents each year on our roads. How many do you think has one car traveling faster than the slow motion video above? I would venture to say most of them. You can decide for yourself when you realize that all of you can RUN, roll, or ride your bike faster than the speed in the video.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be safe out there and don’t neglect your structure!

If you have been in a recent car accident, then a Complimentary Consultation is a no brainer.

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