Health Tips

Brought to you by Jason Seib

Sleep Does a Body Good
Are you sleeping well?  Sleep might be the most overlooked, ignored, and neglected component of health that we encounter with the people we coach, and it has the power to make or break virtually any health and fitness goal.  Along with decreased mental function and increased inflammation, poor sleep patterns are great for causing excess fat storage and inhibiting fat loss. Multiple studies have shown that as little as one night of broken or missed sleep may cause levels of insulin resistance found in type 2 diabetics.  In other words, if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, it’s possible that you have said to your body, “Okay body, we aren’t going to use any stored fat for energy today.”  To make matters even worse, you are also very likely to be hungrier and suffer more sugar cravings, which might mean actually gaining more fat along with shutting down your fat loss goals.

If you truly want to feel good, perform well, and look amazing forever, you can’t afford to discount the effects of sleep. We have seen perfect diet and exercise plans completely negated by bad sleep.  Whether or not we like it, we are diurnal creatures. That means our bodies expect us to sleep 8 or more hours per night, and those 8 hours need to at least loosely coincide with dark/light cycles.  Sleeping from 10 PM to 6 AM will be much better for most people than sleeping from 12 PM to 8 AM because the latter is a better match to our natural cortisol rhythms. If you currently stay up too late, you probably won’t be able to simply go to bed 2 hours earlier tonight.  You would likely just lay awake, tossing and turning and getting frustrated. Try baby stepping your bed time to a more reasonable hour in increments of 15 or 30 minutes. Making your room as dark as possible and eliminating stimuli like TV, computers, and phones in your last half hour before bed will also be helpful.

It may take some time to adjust to better sleep patterns, so be patient and don’t be too hard on yourself. The good news is that like nutrition and exercise, healthy sleep will make you feel better, even if you don’t think you feel bad now. Sleep tight!

Why aren’t you meditating?
Well, if you are like most people, you probably simply misunderstand a couple of key points about meditation. First and most important, meditation is not necessarily an escape from stress by finding your happy place, but more of an exercise in stress management. The idea is to TRY to quiet your mind by focusing on one thing, like wherever you feel your breath. I say “try” because nobody will ever be able to completely shut off their thoughts, but therein lies the exercise and the magic.
After a little practice, your meditation sessions will look something like this:
Relaxed, breathing, and focused on your central focus point.
Thoughts begin to creep in.
“Did I pay that bill?
I’m so forgetful!
I wish I had a better memory!”
Back to center.
Thoughts acknowledged but not owned.
Rinse and repeat for the duration of your mediation session.
In the beginning, most people tend to feel like they are failing or bad at meditation when their minds wander. In reality, addressing your wondering mind is what it’s all about. The whole point is to learn that our thoughts need not identify us. Some common analogies are that our thoughts should pass into and out of our minds like leaves in a stream or clouds in the sky. In other words, it is possible to say, “I acknowledge you, negative thought, and now I’m letting you go.” This is a much better situation than saying, “I acknowledge you, negative thought, and use you to identify myself at this time. I am a negative person.”
The other thing that many people misunderstand about meditation is the length of time needed to make it effective. In my opinion, meditation is kind of like walking – we should do it whenever we can, but a little each day will make a big difference if you haven’t been doing it at all. Personally, I use the guidelines laid out in the most excellent book, 8 Minute Meditation by Victor Davich. Everyone can make time for 8 minutes per day, and the book is broken up into weekly homework assignments so even the reading isn’t too time consuming. There are lots of other options and I have never seen a bad one.
YouTube has more meditation instruction videos than anyone could ever watch. Look for one that resonates with you. Whichever you choose, you will just need a tiny bit of education and a few spare minutes. Commit to giving meditation a try for a couple of weeks. It isn’t fair to try 2 or 3 times before making your mind up, but with a little practice, you will wonder how you made it this far without meditating!