One of the most underutilized methods for improved health and wellness is one that is so natural and obvious, you might overlook it completely. According to National Sleep Foundation, 67 percent of Americans who report less than good sleep also report “poor” or “only fair” health. Though there are many factors that contribute to both poor sleep and poor health, this connection cannot be ignored by a people in such unhealth as the American people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 out of 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep. This number coincides with startling numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stating that Americans consistently eat more than the recommended calories while eating less than the required amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and oils. What, if anything does our diet have to do with our sleep and vice versa? Obesity is a chronic condition among the American population, and in a time when health is paramount (during the current COVID-19 pandemic), we need to take all the health we can get.

A Free and Natural Method to Improve Sleep

  1. Reduce blue light exposure in the evening—especially in your bedroom.

    Most electronic devices emit light, called blue light. Many produce large amounts that you don’t even notice. You can purchase products online to cover these LED lights on your electronic devices or you can use black electrical tape that you already have around the house. Sleep with your phone face-down, or better yet, keep it in another room while you sleep. Opt for an old-fashioned alarm clock instead of sleeping with your phone. It’s important to limit light exposure at night and maximize it during the daylight hours for optimal sleep.

  2. Maximize daylight hours. Exposure to light in the day and complete darkness at night helps your body’s built-in clock, called your circadian rhythm, to keep time properly. Open blinds and curtains in your home. Go outside for at least 30 minutes with skin exposed to sunlight. Maximize all the daylight you can and it won’t only improve overall sleep but help you to fall asleep faster.
  3. Avoid napping during daylight hours and keep morning and night routines consistent. There are times that a person needs a nap during the daytime. Depending on age and certain illness, you may need a nap each day. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many benefits and drawbacks to adult-day-napping. If you nap at a different time each day, depending on mood or physical activity instead of a set schedule, it is likely the time to cut out the nap. Instead of napping during the day, try other ways of relaxation that are better for the body and the mind, like meditating, listening to music, taking a warm bath, journaling, or going outdoors for a walk.
  4. Avoid the “night cap”. Drinking alcoholic beverages before bed may give you a relaxing affect, but can actual work against your body’s natural need for sleep. Alcohol can increase symptoms of sleep problems and exacerbate sleep disorders as well as decrease your body’s natural production of melatonin and interrupt your circadian rhythm. Instead of using alcohol to fall asleep faster, opt for other relaxation exercises that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve the quality of sleep.
  5. Start with the bedroom. If your bedroom is cluttered, dirty, and uncomfortable, you will have difficulty relaxing in a way that promotes your best sleep. The noise in your bedroom, temperature, lights, and furniture may contribute to poor sleep and discomfort. If you cannot sleep unless a fan is running for noise or air circulation, there may be a temperature or noise problem in your bedroom. Consider revitalizing your bedroom with a new bed set, temperature setting, even a new mattress.

Tomorrow is not the time to improve your sleep. If sleep is bad tonight, tomorrow will not be its best. Try these 5 tips to improve sleep today so you can sleep better tonight.

 

 

It is no small coincidence that National Mental Health Awareness Month falls during one of the most turbulent times in our generation’s recent history. People living in our country today and across the world are experiencing social, emotional, physical, and economic hardship as never before. Families are out of work, unable to leave their homes, and many are unable to school. Businesses are forced to closed, uncertain if they will ever reopen. A month that is usually celebrated as the beginning of summer is now something else entirely. As many states move into phased reopening this May, many aspects of our life will not return to normal this summer. The warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours, and more opportunities for outdoor activities will be a great way to draw attention to mental health this May.

Encourage Others

When people are anxious or depressed, they tend to stay indoors and stay inactive. It is especially easy to do this while so many things are closed and we’re encouraged to stay home. You can encourage others to venture outdoors and stay active by posting on social media, joining social media challenges for fitness, and inviting them to join you on a hike or outing.

Move Your Body

Most gyms and fitness centers across the country will remain closed for much of May and then limit equipment and patrons for coming months. Much of your mental and emotional stress may be caused by your inability to workout. Whether you’re missing the gym or you’ve never gone before, you can benefit greatly by moving your body. No, walking in your neighborhood or on a trail is not the same as pumping iron and it won’t build massive muscles, but the health benefits are proven. Moving your body releases endorphins that improves mood, improves sleep, relieves stress and anxiety, and more.

Balance Your Diet

For weeks we have been stocking up on groceries and cooking and eating at home. Maybe you’ve eaten take out or drive-thru fast food. Maybe you have been getting free school lunches for your children. Regardless of how you’ve been eating, it is likely that fast food and dine-in restaurants will be opening in your area soon, and you’ll be tempted to splurge on dining. Whether you’re eating at home, from a drive-thru window, or in a restaurant dining room, it’s imperative that you maintain a balanced diet. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you both physically and mentally. Too much of a bad thing—well, that’s worse.

Drink More Water

Stress and anxiety doesn’t just lead us to make poor food choices. Many who are experiencing this pandemic and stay-at-home orders are drinking more caffeine than usual, drinking more alcohol than usual, and drinking less water. Drinking enough water prevents the brain-fog of dehydration, allowing you to think clearly, and feel better physically. Drinking too much alcohol and caffeine can have a negative effect on your mood and your sleep pattern.

Practice Gratitude

Create a journal in a simple notebook or on your phone so that you can keep track of the positive things in your life. Writing down something you’re grateful for every day can improve well-being, mental health, and happiness. Try to thank other people for their contributions to your life, whether it’s a family member helping out in the house or the mail man taking extra care with your packages. Practice gratitude long enough and your worldview can slowly shift from negative to positive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I began signing the back of my driver’s license as soon as I was able. Always a giving person, I viewed this as one more way I could offer something to others. In the case of organ donation, it was something major. A gift. In recent years it has become easier to register for organ donation. You can register online at your state’s registry, or you can register at your local DMV.[1] This streamlined registry and finality of having your name on a list is great for those on the transplant list, but it can be scary for someone considering donation. I know this because I’ve signed my license for years, but when I signed up the DMV and they handed me the license with the little donor symbol on the front, it felt different. Every myth about organ donation crept into my mind.

“When you’re a donor they don’t work as hard to save you.”

Surprisingly enough, this is one of the biggest fears and deterrents of organ donation registry. Many people assume that when other lives are depending on your organs, a medical team will not work as hard to save your own life. This is simply not true. For someone to become a deceased donor, they must die in a very specific way.[2] They usually succumb to illness or accident which results in head trauma, brain aneurysm, or stroke and are treated with every life-saving measure until no progress is made and brain death is confirmed. Only once brain death testing has been completed do medical professionals consider organ donation.

“The list is rigged.”

Every 10 minutes another person is added to the donation waiting list, yet only about 3 in every 1,000 deaths allows for organ donation.[3] The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the most efficient way to get the right organ with the right blood type to the person most in need at the time. Wait times and matches depend on five criteria: medical urgency, blood and tissue type as well as size match, genetic makeup, time on the waiting list, and proximity between donor and recipient.[4]

“You can’t have an open casket if you donate your eyes.”

Funeral homes are equipped to prepare for an open casket for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Throughout the entire process of medical care, organ collection, and funeral preparations, the body is treated with dignity.

“You can’t donate because…”

There are no medical conditions or illnesses that bar you from becoming an organ donor. Once organ donation becomes a possibility upon your death, your organs and tissues will be examined to determine viability. Only active cancer or systemic infection will prevent you from becoming an organ donor. Systemic infections are those that affect the entire body and may include hepatitis B and C and HIV. Though you may hear rumors that you’ll be disqualified for sexual preference or activity and other factors including travel, these are not listed on Organdonor.gov.

Just Do It

If you haven’t looked into it, take this month to acquaint yourself with the possibility of organ donation. April is National Donate Life Month, and donating organs is donating life. If you’re already an organ donor, share on social media to raise awareness. Demystify donation so that more lives can be saved.

 

[1] https://www.organdonor.gov/register.html#register

[2] https://www.organdonor.gov/about/process/deceased-donation.html#medical

[3] https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html

 

[4] https://www.donors1.org/patients/resources-for-transplant-patients/the-waiting-list/


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