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    18 Tips For Getting A Good Night's Sleep

    It’s good for your body.  It’s good for your mind.  But most people just aren’t getting it.  A good night’s sleep.  

    The way you feel during your waking hours is directly dependant on how well you sleep at night.  If you want to be emotionally balanced, mentally sharp, and physically energetic, commit to getting the best sleep possible every night.  Here are 18 great tips for getting a good night’s sleep. 

    1.Make your bed work for you.  Your sleeping environment should be conducive to sound restful sleep.  A quality mattress, comfortable pillows, and clean sheets create a welcoming place to rest.  

    2. Get rid of light pollution.  We were meant to sleep in the dark.  Use thick blinds or curtains to block out excess outdoor light, and avoid the bathroom nightlight. 

    3. Dress for the occasion.  Wear comfortable clothing that won’t keep you awake.  Make sure it is appropriate for your room and body temperatures.  Being too warm or too cold or too uncomfortable does nothing to help you achieve quality sleep. 

    4. Be happy and think positive.  When you are lying in bed trying to drift off into dreamland, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the mistakes and bumbles of the day.  Try to put everything into a positive light and avoid thinking negatively right before bed.  Dwell on the positive things that happened in your day and how you can make the next day be even better. 

    5. Avoid media traps.  The bedroom is no place for television or the internet.  It’s a place for sleeping.  Keep media distractions in another room to avoid late-night temptations. 

    6. Have a bedtime ritual.  Have the same routine, whatever it may be, every night before you lay down for sleep.  This will help alert your mind and body that it’s time to wind down.  This is a great time for prayer or meditation…and don’t forget to brush your teeth. 

    7. Use the bathroom.  Make sure to empty your bladder as part of your bedtime routine.  You don’t want your quality sleep disturbed by urgently bursting bladder. 

    8. Open a window.  If the weather allows and the neighborhood isn’t too noisy, some fresh circulating air is good for fostering quality sleep. 

    9. Find some white noise.  White noise is the kind of droning monotonous sound that helps little babies sleep, and it helps adults sleep, too.  A fan running on low usually does the trick (just make sure it’s pointing away from you.  Drafts aren’t good for sleep), or you can invest in a white noise machine.  There are also white noise MP3s you can download and play during sleep. 

    10. Get some exercise.  A regular exercise routine has been shown to help you sleep better at night.  Schedule your exercise in the morning or early afternoon.  Exercise late in the day boosts your metabolism and raises your body temperature, both of which make it hard to fall asleep.

    11. Make dinnertime earlier.  Eating a big heavy meal late in the evening can disturb sleep.  Push dinner back to at 3 hours before hitting the sack, and avoid overly heavy rich foods.  Beware of spicy or acidic foods as well, since they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn. 

    12. Eat a light snack.  While you don’t a want a large meal on your stomach right before bed, a light snack could actually help you sleep better. It gives the digestive system something to do and can actually calm the brain.  A bowl of whole grain, low sugar cereal or a cup of yogurt and some warm chamomile tea make for a relaxing bedtime snack. 

    13. Avoid the alcohol.  Don’t be deceived into believing a nightcap will help you sleep.  Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it reduces the quality of your sleep, often waking you up in the middle of the night. 

    14. Cut the caffeine.  Caffeine can actually cause sleep disruptions ten to twelve hours after consumption!  Consider eliminating caffeine after mid-day or dropping it altogether.  

    15. Quit smoking.  If you needed another reason to kick the cigarette habit, getting a good night’s sleep might be it.  The nicotine found in tobacco products is a stimulant and can, working to keep you up at night.  Also, because nicotine is highly addictive, some smokers actually suffer from withdrawal symptoms at night, making it hard to stay asleep. 

    16. Be consistent.  Your body loves a predictable schedule.  If at all possible, keep the same bedtime and wake time even on weekends and holidays.  Your body and mind will learn when it’s time to sleep and when to wake up.  Deviation from the schedule can make it difficult to achieve the same quality of sleep. 

    17. Relax.  Practicing relaxation techniques are a great way to prepare for sleep.  It calms the mind and helps lessen the stress of the day.  Try deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation (Tense and then relax each muscle in your body starting with your toes and working your way up the body to the top of your head).  

    18. Know when to see a doctor.  If you’ve tried all of these steps and still can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep, you might need professional treatment.  Consider scheduling an appointment with a sleep doctor if you’ve tried all of the suggestions above and still find yourself suffering from persistent daytime fatigue or difficulty falling or staying asleep.


    Kick the Water Bottle Habit

    It’s a common misconception that drinking bottled water is safer and healthier than water from your kitchen sink.  And, of course, since plastic bottles get recycled, we aren’t doing any harm to the environment, right?  Actually neither could be farther from the truth.  Here are 8 solid reasons to kick your water bottle habit. 

    1. At least 40 percent of the bottled water in the United States is just filtered tap water anyway.  Check the label.  If it says “from a municipal water source” or “community water system” its source was the same as tap water.  If you want a little extra filtering, just purchase a counter filter like Brita or Pur, and filter your own tap water.
    2. Bottled water costs the consumer anywhere from $.89 to over $8.00 per gallon.  Tap water, on the other hand, costs only $.002 per gallon.  If you want to save money, ditch the bottled water.
    3. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 30 million plastic water bottles are thrown into landfills and waterways every day.  In fact, only about 12% of plastic bottles are actually recycled.
    4. Plastic water bottles often leach dangerous chemicals into the water (such as DEHP, a probable human carcinogen), especially when left in the heat/sun or reused.   
    5. The production of the polyethylene used to manufacture plastic bottles takes about 17.6 million barrels of oil each year.  That oil could fuel more than one million US vehicles annually.  Globally, 2.7 million TONS of plastic is used to bottle.  Want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?  Stop purchasing water packaged in plastic bottles.
    6. It can take as much as seven times the amount of water IN the bottle to actually manufacture the bottle itself.  In a world where fresh drinkable water is often in short supply, this is inexcusable.
    7. Right now there are about 37,000 tractor trailer trucks cruising the highways across this country delivering water.   Take a minute to think about the amount of gasoline used to fuel those trucks and the greenhouse gases being chugged out into the atmosphere.
    8. The Food and Drug Administration sets standards for bottled water.  The Environmental Protection Agency sets the standards for tap water, and their standards are much more stringent.

    Have you kicked the water bottle habit?  If you like the convenience that disposable plastic water bottles provide, try a reusable water bottle (just make sure to get one that is BPA free).


    Making Real New Year's Resolutions

    I tend to be a bit of a scrooge when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  My bah-humbug attitude comes from the fact that so many of those resolutions deal with health and fitness, crowding the gyms through the month of January, only to see them vacant again, resolutions abandoned, by mid-February.  So many people make those resolutions because it’s the socially appropriate thing to do this time of year, not because they are truly committed to making real and lasting changes. 

    Perhaps the majority of New Year’s resolvers out there don’t understand the true meaning of the word “resolution”; otherwise they’d still be sweating it out at the gym in the middle of July. 

    One definition of the word “resolution” is “the finding of a solution to a problem”.  That means acknowledging there is a problem in the first place.  Look at yourself in the mirror and admitting the truth of your health situation is a scary step - one most people avoid.  Be honest with yourself, even if it isn’t pretty or makes you feel bad.  The journey to health and fitness is just like any other journey.  If you go to Mapquest to plan a trip you have to enter a starting point in order to get the directions to where you are going.  Without having that point of departure, even Mapquest can’t get you to where you want to go.  Chances are you already know the solution to your problem and it lies in healthy nutrition and exercise.  If you need help with the specifics, Wo40 is here to help.  I suggest starting here.

    A resolution also involves the trait of being “resolute”.  (There’s an SAT word for you.) 

    resolute - firm in purpose or belief; characterized by firmness and determination

    Why don’t you take a minute and read that one again, because it’s important.  If you are going to take the time to make a New Year’s resolution, be resolute about it.  Be firm in your decision, and most of all, be determined.  Make it your unshakeable resolution to finish the work you start on January 1st.  Let your resoluteness carry you through the battle. 

    When you look at it that way, a resolution is a pretty powerful thing, not just something to willy-nilly announce on Facebook because all of your friends are doing it.  When the work gets hard or your life gets busy, remember your resolutions with a firm purpose and belief that you will see your goals attained.

    Even with all of my skepticism regarding the making and keeping of New Year’s resolutions, I still acknowledge that the beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to draw a line in the sand and move forward.  For some more ideas to help make your resolutions stick, check out Keith’s entry, This Year I Resolve.  Oh…and have a Happy New Year!


    Restaurant Survival Strategies

    Have a problem overdoing the calorie intake when you eat out but just don’t want to give up the occasional night out at a restaurant?  One woman’s advice:  Put half your entrée in a to-go box before you start to eat.

    While that strategy helps significantly reduce a single meal’s calories, it can also be embarrassing.  You know you have portion control issues, but does everyone in the restaurant really need to know it, too?  Having the waiter deliver a to-go box along with your meal, and shoveling half your entrée inside is like lighting up a giant neon sign that blinks disturbingly:  "Fat Chick With No Self-control."

    No thank you.

    Here a few real-world strategies for cutting back on restaurant binging that won’t leave you horrifyingly embarrassed.

    1. Treat the bread basket like it’s laced with cyanide.  You don’t want to stuff yourself with empty white-bread calories.  Save it for the good stuff.

    2. Double up on vegetable sides.  Pick extra green beans or broccoli and skip the carbohydrate intense mashed potatoes or baked potatoes or anything made with white potatoes, especially if it comes in french fry form.

    3. Put your fork down between bites.  This simple act stretches out the task of eating, giving both your stomach and your brain time to register that you are full.

    4. Box the rest up immediately.  When your brain does send you the signal of satiety, have your waiter box up (or remove) the rest immediately.  This will keep you from mindlessly nibbling over stimulating conversation.


    Exercise is Good For Your Brain

    I sincerely plan on living into a ripe old age.  I see myself as a spunky old woman, maybe a bit on the eccentric side, refusing to wear old woman clothes and sensible shoes.  However, my plan does not involve early bird specials, reruns of Walker Texas Ranger, or boring word searches.  Rather my vision for old age sees me karate chopping unruly great-grandchildren and hiking the Appalachian Trail

    One of the reasons for my interest (sometimes it could be labeled “obsession”) with health and fitness is my desire to grow old and still be active.  I don’t want to hobble around with joint pain or shortness of breath.  I want to flamboyantly blast through the doors of my senior years dancing and bending and twisting with ease.

    But what good would it all be if I wasn’t in my right mind?

    My grandmother recently passed away after 83 years of her own spunkiness.  While it was a severe infection that actually caused her death, she spent most of her last years as a healthy old woman.  She had no problems with arthritis or diabetes or heart disease.  But most days she couldn’t even remember her name.  She didn’t recognize her own children and she couldn’t remember to eat. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease.

    My grandmother’s death has forced me to consider my own mortality.  I’ve questioned my desire to live a long, long healthy life.  Would it be merciful to die an early death and save myself the loss of my intellect and personality?

    Thankfully there is something that effectively reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s something I’m already doing.  It’s regular exercise.

    That’s right.  Physical activity has benefits beyond heat health and a smoking body.  There is a mounting number of studies which suggests the more regular exercise that raises the heart rate inhibits Alzheimer's-like brain changes, slowing the development of key features of the disease.

    Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer's Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, said "Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer's disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet."

    Add that to your list of reasons to get up of the couch and get moving.  If you’ve ever seen the effects of Alzheimer’s on a loved one, it’s enough to make want to run screaming in the opposite direction.  And that’s exactly what you should do.  Maybe minus the screaming part, it tends to freak out the neighbors.