Joy Bauer https://joybauer.com Life is hard, food should be easy Tue, 23 Feb 2016 16:23:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.3 Insomnia Basics https://joybauer.com/insomnia/abount-insomnia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=abount-insomnia Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:46:42 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1174 If you suffer from insomnia, your lifestyle and nutrition choices may be a major cause.

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Overtime, insomnia can be dangerous to your health. Learn what lifestyle factors may be keeping you awake at night.

Insomnia is more than just frustrating tossing and turning — it can be detrimental to your health. Give up counting sheep — the right diet can offer Food Cures for all types of insomnia and have you resting easy. Experts at the National Institutes of Health estimate that 70 million Americans experience sleep problems, and about half of those can be considered chronic. Insomnia is more than frustrating; it can be downright dangerous. Excess sleepiness increases your risk of injury from accidents. And lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, raising your chances of developing everything from a common cold to type 2 diabetes. Of course, the prospect of long-term disease is no help when you are lying in bed in the dark, wide-awake with no hope of sleep. It is hard not to feel like you are the only person on earth staring at the ceiling. It’s lonely and depressing — and unnecessary. Nutrition, however, holds the answer for many different cases and types of insomnia; certain Food Cures can help.

What Affects Your Ability to Sleep?

Insomnia has a variety of faces. It can mean difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking throughout the night, or waking up too early in the morning. (But just because you don’t sleep much, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem — many people feel that three or four hours of sleep each night are sufficient. They are happy to have more time in their day and do not have insomnia.)

It is not unusual for just about anyone to have difficulty sleeping once in a while, particularly in times of stress, or during travel, or if the room you’re sleeping in is too hot, cold, noisy, or bright. These types of short-term episodes of insomnia are annoying and can certainly affect the way you function the next day, but they are often easily remedied.

Temporary insomnia can also be caused by certain medications, including bronchodilators, pseudoephedrine (found in some over-the-counter cold medicines), antipsychotic medications, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, most antidepressants, and many, many others. If your insomnia started within two weeks of taking a new medication, talk with your doctor about whether there is a different medication or dose that might work better for you.

If insomnia occurs at least three nights a week for a month or longer, it is considered chronic. At this point, lack of sleep becomes more than just an annoyance, it can be life altering. Almost all cases of chronic insomnia can be traced to a medical condition, a lifestyle habit, or a psychological preoccupation. Let’s take a closer look at all three.

Medical Conditions

Conventional wisdom used to be that insomnia was age related and you could reasonably expect your sleep habits to change after age 60. That’s no longer considered true. Although people do seem to have more difficulty sleeping as they get older, the underlying reason is usually medical. In other words, insomnia is not an inescapable companion of aging. The confusion arises because many of the medical conditions that affect sleep occur more often in older people — conditions such as depression, gastroesophageal-reflux disease (GERD), sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, arthritis, kidney or heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, or Parkinson’s disease. Those disorders can affect neuron function, cause pain, interfere with breathing, or trigger major muscle movements — all of which can lead to sleeplessness. That’s why it is important to have all new cases of insomnia checked out by a doctor to rule out the possibility of a physical disorder.

Lifestyle Factors

Anything that affects the rhythms of your life can affect your sleep pattern: the long work hours leading up to a deadline, a new exercise routine, or a suddenly busy travel schedule as well as sudden idle time. All that upheaval can be reflected in your sleep patterns. For example, when people retire, they may sleep later or feel less stress than they did when they (or their spouses) were still working. These changes help some people sleep better, but others develop insomnia. It may take a while for the new lifestyle to become routine and for new habits to assert themselves.

Until then, sleeplessness can be a real problem. Some lifestyle choices have an immediate effect on sleep. For example, caffeine and nicotine are common causes of insomnia because they can activate the brain. (So if you need yet another good reason to quit smoking, do it to improve your sleep.)

Psychological Factors

Mental preoccupation can have devastating effects on sleep. We all know how worrying over a disastrous work project can wreck a night’s sleep. Imagine if those feelings lasted for months or even years. Depression, anxiety, and other mental-health disorders can trigger insomnia. Research suggests that the reverse is true as well: Left untreated, chronic troubled sleep can cause severe mental distress and contribute to anxiety or depression. If you have experienced long-term insomnia, I encourage you to see a health professional — no matter what you think the cause is, no matter whether it is based in physiology or psychology — because you don’t have to live like that. Help is available.

NEXT: How Food Affects Your Sleep

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How Food Affects Your Sleep https://joybauer.com/insomnia/how-food-affects-sleep/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-food-affects-sleep Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:43:06 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1168 If you suffer from insomnia, what you eat — and when — may be playing a major role.

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Combating insomnia through nutrition is about eating the right combination of foods in the evening and — perhaps even more importantly — knowing what foods to avoid.

Among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan, an amino-acid component of many plant and animal proteins. Tryptophan is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for creating feelings of calm and for making you sleepy. How sleepy? A 2005 study of people with chronic insomnia found that after three weeks, those who ate foods with high amounts of tryptophan with carbohydrates or who took pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan supplements had improvements on all measures of sleep — and the food sources worked just as well as the supplements.

The trick is to combine foods that have some tryptophan with ample carbohydrates. That’s because in order for insomnia-busting tryptophan to work, it has to make its way to the brain. Unfortunately, amino acids compete with one another for transport to the brain. When you eat carbs, they trigger the release of insulin, which transports competing amino acids into muscle tissue . . . but leaves tryptophan alone, so it can make its way to the brain.

BEST LOW-PROTEIN/HIGH-CARB FOODS FOR SEROTONIN PRODUCTION: Whole-grain breads, crackers, and cereal; whole-wheat pasta; brown rice, wild rice; oats; fruits, especially mangoes, bananas, grapes, papaya, oranges, grapefruit, and plums; vegetables, especially spinach, yams, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), green peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, pumpkin, celery, beets; milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), low-fat ice cream, low-fat frozen yogurt

WHAT NOT TO HAVE BEFORE BED

  • Caffeine. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many caffeine junkies come into my practice complaining of sleep problems! People with troubled sleep should avoid caffeinated drinks and foods — coffee, tea, many soft drinks, and chocolate — several hours before bed. Caffeine is a natural chemical that activates the central nervous system, which means that it revs up nerves and thought processes.If you drink caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime, chances are it will keep you awake. Of course, what too close means varies from person to person. Sensitive people should stop drinking caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime (that means by 3:00 p.m. if you hit the sack at 11:00 p.m.). You can play with your particular timing…just don’t experiment on a night when you’re counting on getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Alcohol. It’s true that a drink (or two) can make you sleepy and may help you get to sleep. But after a few hours, alcohol can cause frequent awakenings and lighter, less restful sleep. I’m not saying you need to give up alcohol, but don’t use it like a sleeping pill; and if you have insomnia, I strongly recommend omitting alcohol for a few weeks to see if your sleep problem resolves.
  • Large Meals. Eating a huge dinner, or even a large before-bedtime snack, may make you feel drowsy, but the sleep won’t necessarily take. When you lie down and try to sleep, there’s a good chance you’ll feel uncomfortably full, which can keep you awake. Even worse, you may develop heartburn or gas, which will only increase your discomfort. I recommend eating a dinner that has no more than 600 calories (and optimally at least three hours before bed). Rather, have a light snack consisting of the low-protein, high-carb foods I recommended above.
  • Liquids. The single best piece of advice I can give to those of you who wake up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom is to avoid drinking water or any fluids within 90 minutes of bedtime. It takes that long for your body to process liquid of any type. If you must have something to drink, for example, to take a prescribed medication, take a few small sips. If the medication requires a full glass of water, take it earlier in the evening if possible.

PREVIOUS: What Is Insomnia?
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Best Supplements for Insomnia https://joybauer.com/insomnia/supplements-for-insomnia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=supplements-for-insomnia Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:38:13 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1164 Do supplements and herbal cures that promise to help you doze off more quickly actually work?

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If sleep doesn’t come easily, you may want to consider trying a supplement in addition to your Food Cures.

Q: There are a ton of supplements and herbal remedies that claim to help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly. Do any of them actually work?

A: If you are plagued by insomnia and want to consider supplements, two have been studied scientifically and shown to have beneficial effects:

Valerian. This herb has been used as a sedative for hundreds of years. Like sleep medications known as benzodiazepines (which include Xanax, Valium, Librium, and Ativan), valerian seems to enhance the action of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), which acts to calm us down and make us sleepy. Studies examining the effectiveness of valerian as a sleep aid have been mixed — some studies show no benefit, while others show improvements in certain measures of sleep quality. If you’d like to give valerian a shot, look for an extract standardized to contain 0.4 to 0.6 percent of valerenic acid. Take 400 to 900 milligrams per day, two hours before bedtime. Although valerian has been well researched for safety, it shouldn’t be taken for longer than 30 days. Common side effects include headache, itchiness, dizziness, and gastrointestinal distress. You should not take valerian if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are also taking a prescription sedative. Although valerian has not been shown to have any significant interactions with medications, it is always best to talk with your doctor before beginning any herbal supplement.

Melatonin. This neurohormone has long been linked to sleep. Research shows that people with some forms of insomnia have lower–than–normal levels of melatonin. Reviews of the medical literature suggest that taking melatonin may help some people with insomnia — in particular, some older people and so–called night owls who naturally have a hard time falling asleep before 2:00 a.m. Melatonin seems to be safe if taken for only a month or two. The most common side effects are nausea, headache, and dizziness. If you want to try melatonin, the recommended dosage is 3 to 5 milligrams per day taken 30 to 60 minutes prior to bed time. (When buying supplements, remember that 1 mg = 1000 micrograms.) If you have trouble falling asleep, use immediate- release form; if you have trouble staying asleep, use sustained–release form. You may need to take it for several days before you see any results. If you don’t see results after two weeks, chances are it won’t work for you at all.

 

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The Truth About Nighttime Eating https://joybauer.com/insomnia/nighttime-eating/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nighttime-eating Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:34:33 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1160 Could you be waking up and helping yourself to a midnight snack, without even knowing it?

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Could you be waking up and eating at night, and not remember it?

Q: I’ve been waking up with cookie crumbs in my pajamas and a mess in my kitchen. I think I’m getting up and eating at night, but I don’t remember any of it. Is this possible?

A: Yes, it is possible and more common than you might think. There are several different reasons why this happens. If you are on a very restrictive weight–loss diet, your body may be doing what comes naturally — seeking food it desperately wants. If this sounds like you, I recommend eating one of my best bedtime snacks to make sure you don’t get hungry in the middle of the night.

Or maybe you’re eating enough during the day but “overly preoccupied” with food, even while you sleep. I’ve had some clients who were forced to put padlocks on the kitchen cabinets and leave notes around the house reminding them to “Wake up” and “Do not eat!” In this case, I also recommend that you see a psychologist or psychiatrist; many times “sleep eating” is a sign of an eating disorder of some sort. It’s always better to have these kinds of extreme behaviors checked out by a professional.

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Can Decaf Coffee Keep You Awake? https://joybauer.com/insomnia/can-decaf-coffee-keep-you-awake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-decaf-coffee-keep-you-awake Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:31:14 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1156 Caffeine is a known culprit of interrupted sleep, but does drinking decaf also cause insomnia?

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It’s obvious that regular coffee can keep you up at night — but can decaf coffee also be a culprit?

Q: When I drink coffee, I drink only decaf, but on the nights I have a cup, I notice I have a hard time falling asleep. My friend told me that even decaffeinated coffees and teas contain small amounts of caffeine. Is that true? Do I need to stop drinking hot beverages at night?

A: The teeny-tiny amount of caffeine in decaffeinated drinks is so inconsequential that it really shouldn’t affect your sleep (generally less than 5 milligrams per cup, compared with 100-plus milligrams in regular coffee). There are a couple of reasons why your beverages might keep you awake. First, if you order decaf coffee at a restaurant, you may not be drinking actual decaf. It is a sad fact that some restaurants accidentally serve full caffeinated coffee instead of decaf. Even the color of the pot or the label on the carafe may be misleading.

If caffeine is a real problem for you, I recommend you avoid coffee altogether when you eat out. Instead, order decaffeinated or herbal tea, and examine the tag to confirm that you received what you asked for. Another possibility is that there is a psychological reason you can’t sleep — either you are worried about not getting enough sleep, or you are too revved up from your evening’s activities. If there is any lingering doubt, switch to herbal teas, which naturally contain no caffeine.
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Foods That Help You Sleep Better https://joybauer.com/insomnia/foods-that-help-you-sleep-better/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=foods-that-help-you-sleep-better Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:27:16 +0000 http://www.joybauer.com/?p=1151 Overdoing it on late-night nibbles can impact the quality of your sleep.

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Most of us know that mindless munching after dinner (usually in front of the TV or a computer) can derail even the best weight loss plans. But what many people don’t consider is how these late-night nibbles can impact the quality of their sleep, as well.

Eating large, heavy meals late in the evening can make you feel uncomfortably full and keep you up tossing and turning. But a light snack (200 calories or less) with the right mix of ingredients can actually help you get a better night’s rest.

Among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan, an amino-acid component of many plant and animal proteins. Tryptophan is one of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, a brain chemical that helps you feel calm and can make you drowsy. The trick is to combine tryptophan-containing foods like turkey, low-fat dairy, and eggs with carbohydrates, which help transport tryptophan into the brain, where it can make you sleepy.

A 2005 study of people with chronic insomnia found that after three weeks, those who ate foods with high amounts of tryptophan with carbohydrates or who took pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan supplements had improvements on several measures of sleep – and the food sources worked just as well as the supplements.

When nighttime munchies come calling, a plain rice cake (those are your carbs) with some low-fat cheese (that’s your tryptophan source) is the perfect sleep-inducing snack. Other good options are a slice of turkey on whole-grain crackers, or banana slices over low-fat frozen yogurt. For best results, combine your nightly snooze-inducing snack with these healthy sleep habits.

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