Guest Post by Tuck Sleep
In a fast-paced world, many people place sleep at the bottom of their priority list. After all, many believe they can catch up on it later. If they understood the true cost of sleep deprivation, they would be far more likely to make sure sleep moved to the top of the list. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the mind and body and puts far too many people at risk when drowsy drivers take to the streets.
Driving with a Sleep-Deprived Brain
Adults need a full seven to eight hours of sleep every day, yet each year there are nearly 328,000 car accidents involving fatigued drivers. Even an hour less and the body starts to show signs of fatigue. Lack of sleep affects everything from the immune system to appetite. More importantly, when it comes to driving, it affects the brain. Sleep provides time for the brain to strengthen connections and eliminate those that aren’t needed.
Without adequate rest, the brain can’t perform these necessary biological functions. In response, the synapses in the brain that control everything from movement to memory begin to slow down. In this case, lack of sleep leads to:
It’s easy to see how these effects alter driving ability. The brain cannot make the quick decisions necessary for safe driving. These symptoms cause problems well before an accident. They’re often seen as:
If you’re on the road and find yourself struggling to stay awake, pull over in a safe place. A short 15-30 minute nap can be enough to counteract some of the effects of sleep deprivation and allow you to get home safely. On road trips, switch drivers every two hours so each driver has a chance to rest. However, the long-term solution to drowsy driving lies in getting better sleep.
Better Sleep and Safer DrivingNot only do you need seven to eight hours of sleep, you need the high-quality rest that takes you through all four sleep stages. Stress, shift work, and certain medical conditions can all interfere with your sleep cycle. With the right conditions and habits in place, you can get better sleep so that you’re not putting yourself or your family at risk when you get behind the wheel.
Make Sure You’re Not Suffering from a Sleep Disorder
If you’re going to bed at a regular time, spending enough hours asleep, and still waking up exhausted, you may have a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea can cause fragmented sleep or short episodes of wakefulness throughout the night--and those moments of alertness are often so short that you don’t even remember them the next day. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you have sleep apnea. Fortunately, many non-surgical options are available for treating obstructive sleep apnea; one of the most common devices in use is the CPAP machine, which uses air pressure to prevent your airways from closing while you sleep.
Create Sleep-Promoting Conditions
The bedroom needs to be your sleep sanctuary. Keep your bedroom at a cool 60-68 degrees and keep light and sound to a minimum. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress that supports your body in your favorite sleep position. The right mattress can eliminate aches and pains that may be keeping you from reaching the deep sleep you need.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime
The body runs on circadian rhythms that rely on you keeping a regular sleep schedule. A consistent bedtime helps establish and keep those rhythms running smooth. With consistency, your brain will start to send out the right hormones like melatonin at the correct times of the day so you’re ready to get a full night’s rest.
Eliminate Sleep Disruptors
Stimulants like caffeine can keep you awake long past your bedtime. Stop drinking or eating stimulants at least four hours before bedtime. The bright light from televisions, laptops, e-readers, and smartphones can make the brain believe it's time to stay awake. Turning off screens an hour before bed can help keep your circadian rhythms in sync.
Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been referenced by Well + Good, Smithsonian Magazine, Harvard University and by many sleep organizations across the web.
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While the diagnosis of anxiety is a HUGE topic in and of itself, most of us experience distress, dis-ease, irritability, fatigue and the general feeling of “running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off” at least from time to time.
Ultimately, our feelings about the world don’t change unless we change deep-seated habits, behaviors and thoughts. Doing things like regular exercise, getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, avoiding social media, cutting back on activities that don’t bring us joy and sharing in engaging community events can definitely prevent or even treat mild, generalized anxiety. Ideally, we’d all live our lives to the fullest, engaging in fulfilling work that pays us well and leaves us enough time to stay active, sleep well, laugh with friends and family and volunteer.
But, in reality, that simply is not the case for many Americans. They simply don’t have the time, mindset or resources to do all of these things. While I do think people need to check their perfectionism at the door, simplify their lives and work on themselves regularly to highlight what they truly want out of life, I am realistic that some aren’t ready to change their habits and that’s ok too.
(I've written about self-care as health care before - Self-Care 101 blog post here.)
In fact, I believe as time speeds up (which it is!) and our lives get busier and busier, we create this feeling of busyness in order to “get everything done”. So, sometimes we need a little help. Be that in the form of meditation, exercise, herbs or supplements, I’m all for it. I’m also FOR people who’ve tried these techniques and feel they need medication to help them out while they transform their habits and negative thinking.
That’s where herbs and supplements may be of benefit (and occasionally medication).
Here are my top 5 natural herbs/supplements for mild, generalized anxiety...you know, when your mind is spinning and going 100 mph; your heart is pumping a bit more than usual; and maybe you experience diarrhea or constipation when it worsens. I am NOT talking about panic disorder, PTSD, or severe anxiety (although the herbs/supplements discussed can help with those too):
This herb is one of the most calming scents known to man and it goes without saying that it’s beneficial to most. I have written about it’s unique properties as an essential oil and I often recommend it to be taken internally by those who are extremely sensitive to other herbs/supplements. In fact, on particularly tough days at my old job, we used to pass out cotton balls with lavender oil on them for all employees and staff. It really helped us stay calm and not react to external situations happening in the clinic. And our patients love when we are relaxed as we became more attentive to their needs.
It’s calming to the entire nervous system when used both internally or aromatically. I highly recommend inhaling this essential oil throughout the day to decrease sympathetic tone (fight or flight) and increase parasympathetic tone (rest and digest) in the body.
For internal use, I love a product called Lavela by Integrative Therapeutics, which is a brand that only healthcare practitioners and some local pharmacies can distribute (ie, People’s Pharmacy in Austin)
This herb from India is a potent adaptogen (meaning it helps you adapt to the world better) and can be found in many herbal formulas for anxiety, stress and the sleep. As it is a more “male” herb (the energetic blueprint of the herb), I often prescribe it with other herbs that compound it’s effects in a gentle way.
It is a member of the nightshade family and thus, some people may not tolerate it. Also, given it’s latin name is Withania somnifera (with somno- being the latin root word for sleep), it can compound sedative effects of anxiety medications and antidepressants, so it should only be taken as prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner. I highly recommend starting it at night to see it’s effect.
3. Kava Kava
This root native to Polynesia and the South Pacific has been used ceremoniously and medicinally for centuries to improve sleep, decrease anxiety and promote relaxation. More recently, the herb received some bad press due to a few case reports (25 to be exact) of fulminant liver failure/damage after using the herb. It was subsequently banned from use in the U.S., but has since replenished its reputation after those case reports were found to have been isolated and potentiated by a mix of factors, such as alcohol and prescription drug use.
In fact, the herb has become so popular, that Kava root bars are popping up nationwide! You can drink custom kava tea creations while getting work done or socializing! Win-win!
What I love about kava (and it’s not for everyone), is that it relaxes the body while not affecting the mind. It can relax the mind as well, but it generally is not a mental sedative. My favorite form of this relaxing herb is in a tea made by Yogi Tea – it works well and tastes great!
Beware of possible GI side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea and make sure to consult with your doctor about any possible liver issues you have before starting this herb. Otherwise, you should feel relaxed and restored after drinking it.
4. Lemon balm
Otherwise known as Melissa officianalis, this herb is in the mint family and can be used aromatically or internally for its calming effects. The plant is generally used to attract bees for honey making, thus I think of this herb as a happy plant. Only happy, thriving bees can make honey for their Queen. And this herb can help keep people calm in times of chaos.
I generally recommend it in essential oil or tea form for nighttime use. It is often found in combination form with similar herbs that promote sleep and reduce restlessness. It, like most calming herbs, can cause sedation and can interact with prescription medications, so please consult your Integrative Medicine provider before starting the herbs listed.
This amino acid found in green and black tea has been researched for it’s direct effects on the nervous system. While it is not generally my personal go-to recommendation, many people find it helpful for improving sleep, agitation and restlessness. It has been found to work directly on the brain and does so without sedation.
Each cup of black tea contains about 25 mg/cup of L-theanine while green tea contains about 8 mg/cup. In order to get the recommend daily dose (200 mg), supplement form is promoted and is generally well tolerated.
While this is just a partial list of herbs and supplements to help with mild to moderate generalized anxiety, I urge you to try one or two remedies (after consulting with your health provider and/or local herbalist) to see how they affect you. You will likely find they are beneficial and have minimal negative side effects.
Other ways to achieve more calm in your day include using the breath (see my blog post on the 4-7-8 breath), exercise, acupuncture, journaling, yoga and just stepping out in to nature for some fresh air and vitamin D. If you’d like to learn more about any of these techniques or herbs/supplements, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The possibilities are endless!
May your holidays be filled with calm and ease and may the joy of the season feel magical!
Ten and a half years ago, almost to the day, is when I first stepped foot in Tucson, Arizona. It was 2007 and I had traveled away from my medical school as a knowledgable and somewhat competent 4th year student, to explore more of the Integrative Medicine concepts I had learned over the last few years. I had already completed rotations in all the major medical specialties but knew there was more to medicine than medication and symptom management.
I still recall driving the manual transmission car I had learned to drive the weekend prior to the start of the rotation. It had been leant to me by the medical student who was housing me and I loved the thrill of shifting gears and idling safely. That little car, a Honda Fit, took me everywhere and changed my view on what driving should be like.
The most amazing place it took me was to the site of the Integrative Medicine Medical Student Rotation sponsored by the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. I walked in to the Spanish style hacienda, noting the beautiful desert landscaping and wildlife, and immediately felt like I was home. And I was! Inside the hacienda, a group of 15 incredible student/resident healers had gathered. We were weary from our medial training and were searching for better options for both ourselves (“Physician, heal thyself”) and our patients. And man, did we hit the Motherlode!
Over the following 4 weeks, we delved in to a wide range of healing modalities, including Native American rituals (including a sweat lodge experience), botanical medicine, yoga, Buddhist meditation, sound healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Feldenkreis, massage therapy and the like. Our teachers were world-renowned experts in these areas, including Drs. Randy Horwitz, Victoria Maizes, Tieraona LowDog and the man who started it all, Andrew Weil.
For the first time in our student lives, the focus was shifted to self-care and sustainable, natural medicine. Years of stress, doubt and insecurity that runs rampant in medicine, were shed from our bodies. Soul-level friendships were made as we formed an instantly congealed family of love. It was such a gift and it was a truly INCREDIBLE experience!
Since that time, my friends and I have all gone on with our lives. Most have families and jobs they love. They continue to inspire me in their marks on the world, like Hansie’s recent endurance run of ?100 miles? and life adventures in New Zealand; Adam’s gift of communication and ability to be the calm in any storm; Stacy’s movement to ensure safe sidewalks in her community and her raising awareness of food allergies in the country; Gurindher’s political and social activism in San Francisco and Surya’s steadfast groundedness that I was able to re-witness firsthand while we worked together for a time in New Mexico. These people will always inspire me.
I dedicate this post to them.
With love from Tucson,
Have you ever heard the term Medical Acupuncture? If so, are you aware that it is different than what Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners do? If not, are you interested to learn what it's all about?
To find out more about this growing field, listen to this podcast I recorded with Lahana Vigliano of Thrival Nutrition.
And let me know if you have any questions. I'm here for you!
A million thanks to O Waves for this wonderful blog post on how I structure my day and from where I find inspiration.
I met the founder of O Waves, Dr. Royan Kamyar at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine conference in 2014. He and his team created an app to help people plan their days around health and not surprisingly, it's a hit! Every week, they feature a new lifestyle medicine professional in their blog and disclose top secret information about them.
Do you have a secret self-care ritual you engage in?
Check mine out here
Here's another podcast I'm proud to be a part of.
This one was created by my incredibly soulful friend Sofia Alvim, Creator of the Goddess Out Loud website and podcast. The podcast features amazing interviews with a variety of practitioners working with feminine energy to improve the world.
Don't know what that means?
Read all about it on Sofia's website - www.goddessoutloud.com and then listen to her podcast episode interviewing me about my journey to Integrative Medicine and the shifting paradigm in medicine.
Specifically, we discuss:
- how the paradigm of medicine is changing at large
- how I practice medicine from a more feminine, integrated perspective
- how the mind, body, connection can help us heal
- how can we be more aware in caring for our bodies
- dismantling orthorexia, the obsession with clean eating
- the simple things you can do to prioritize wellness & self-care
Recently, I took part in a 10-day food reset called "Shred10" with a physician friend of mine. Part of the Shred was to drink 2 smoothies a day using JuicePlus Complete Protein Powder. I had already been drinking one smoothie in the morning and loving it, so I had to get creative with my smoothie recipes.
If you know me, you'll know I LOVE chocolate, but not just any chocolate - smooth, creamy, delicious chocolate.
Here's what I came up with as my most favorite smoothie recipe:
- 1 scoop Juice Plus Complete Powder
- Get yours here
- 2 cups hemp or almond milk
- 1/4 tbsp almond butter
- 1/2 small avocado
- 1/2 of a medium banana
- 1 teaspoon Brain Octane oil by Bulletproof
- Can get this on Amazon or from Central Market
- 1 drop therapeutic-grade Copaiba essential oil from Young Living for digestive and
- Get yours here as part of the Premium Starter Kit
- 1 cup ice
Add all the ingredients in to a blender (powder on the bottom is best so it doesn't fly everywhere).
And enjoy this rich, creamy, anti-inflammatory smoothie. The omega-3s from the avocado, hemp/almond milk and almond butter help your brain and heart function properly and help stave off hunger. The fats in the MCT oil in Brain Octane oil do the same, so you shouldn't feel hungry for a few hours after drinking this smoothie.
Using Juice Plus Complete Powder gives you multiple servings of fruits and vegetables that you may not be getting through your diet.
Truth is, only 1 in 10 Americans gets the recommended 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily!
And Juice Plus has been studied clinically for improving bridging this gap in nutrients - www.juiceplus.com/us/en/clinical-research/clinical-research.
Don't forget to let me know what you think of my recipe and/or your favorite smoothie recipe. I'm all ears! :-)
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website does not serve as medical advice nor does it substitute for a thorough medical
evaluation by a qualified health care practitioner. It also does not represent the opinions of any of the medical institiutions or practitioners mentioned.
Consult a physician or local health care provider before changing any medications, diet or exercise regimen.