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Disrupted Sleep - could it be making you fat?

Disrupted sleep – could it be making you fat?

New study: Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’

Disrupted sleep can increase ‘hunger hormones’ leading to unwanted weight gain, a new study suggests (1). The review, published recently in the Journal of Psychology, examines the various ways in which disrupted sleep and the associated problems cause increased food intake.

Disrupted Sleep and ‘Hunger Hormones’

Our experience of hunger is controlled by two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that tells our brain that we are feeling full, while ghrelin sends signals from our stomach to our brain to increase appetite.

Studies have found that a lack of sleep leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin (2,3). Any imbalance in these hormones can spell trouble for appetite and cravings. The result is that we are left feeling hungrier than usual. This type of imbalance also means that we are less likely to feel ‘full’ after a good meal and more likely to experience cravings for sugar-laden foods.

Disrupted Sleep and Will-Power

The researchers pinpoint another mechanism that may link sleep and weight problems. “Disrupted sleep patterns may impact food intake of both adults and children via impairment of executive functions”. If you’ve ever blamed a lack of will-power for thwarted weight loss attempts, then it may be helpful to look at improving your sleep. It seems that disrupted sleep can impair the part of the brain that is responsible for ‘executive control’ and ‘impulse modulation’, and so can sabotage weight loss attempts by affecting healthy meal planning, impulse control and simple ‘will power’. (4).

Disrupted Sleep and Emotional Eating

A third factor highlighted in the review is the role that sleep plays on emotional regulation, scientifically known as the limbic system. A pattern of disrupted sleep means we are more likely to see the ‘glass half empty’ – negative emotions are amplified and emotional challenges are more difficult to manage (5).

The result is comfort eating. We begin to reach for sugar-laden or stodgy foods – sweet and energy-dense foods to rebalance our levels of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin and endorphins.

Solutions for disrupted sleep

“Sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behaviour,”, this new study concludes. In other words, if you are struggling with weight loss or sticking to a healthy eating programme, then addressing sleep problems is a good place to start.

Basic sleep hygiene is important. Try to go to bed and rise at the same times each day, and refrain from doing anything too stimulating – playing computer games, checking emails, heavy exercise – in the couple of hours before bed. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and kept at a comfortable temperature.

Magnesium, the ‘relaxing mineral’ has been found to relieve sleep problems. Taking 300mg magnesium before bed, or using a topical magnesium oil, can boost your levels in order to promote healthful sleep. Magnesium salts can also be added to bath water and will be absorbed through the skin.

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid, plays a role in relaxation and has been seen to improve sleep quality in recent studies (6). L-theanine works by enhancing alpha-wave activity in the brain, resulting in a more relaxed state and reduced anxiety levels.

Valerian is a herbal supplement often used for promoting healthful sleep. Many individuals have found relief with herbal sleep formulas although more research needs to be done in this area.

Finally, tart cherry juice (such as CherryActive), has also performed well in initial placebo-controlled sleep studies, probably as a result of its anti-inflammatory properties and melatonin content. This type of cherry juice has been found to improve sleep parameters such as sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep time (7).

References:

  1. Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson (2015) Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(6):794-805
  2. Tatone F, Dubois L, Ramsay T, et al (2012) Sex differences in the association between sleep duration, diet and body mass index: A birth cohort study. Journal of Sleep Research 21(4): 448–460
  3. Burt J, Dube L, Thibault L, et al (2014) Sleep and eating in childhood: A potential behavioral mechanism underlying the relationship between poor sleep and obesity. Sleep Medicine Reviews 15(1): 71–75
  4. Beebe DW, Fallone G, Godiwala N, et al. (2008) Feasibility and behavioral effects of an at-home multi-night sleep restriction protocol for adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49(9): 915–923
  5. Daniela T, Alessandro C, Giuseppe C, et al. (2010) Lack of sleep affects the evaluation of emotional stimuli. Brain Research Bulletin 82(1): 104–108
  6. Lyon MR et al (2011) The effects of L-theanine (Suntheanine®) on objective sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):348-54
  7. Wilfred RP et al (2010) Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. J Food Med. 13(3):579-583
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Sun Chlorella: How to cope with the snooze you lose

Sleep trouble? Could Sun Chlorella help?

Most people will experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and it is thought that around a third of Brits suffer with chronic insomnia.

Many things can contribute to a sleepless night – stress, diet, environment and lifestyle factors – but when we do find ourselves tossing and turning into the small hours of the night, it can be all too tempting to reach for the sleeping pills – but a report published by a leading mental health charity suggested that Britain has become a nation of ‘sleeping pill addicts’.

Reduce your risk of becoming addicted to these pills and try something natural instead, such as Sun Chlorella. Research from across the globe has suggested that some whole foods may improve sleep quality by up to 42% . So before you pop those prescription pills, take a look at these tips from Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist Nikki Hillis who has shared some of her favourite foods to help you achieve a longer, deeper sleep.

Sun Chl  1. Chlorella

It might seem bizarre but an algae supplement such as Sun Chlorella® is rich in chlorophyll that contains high amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids, all essential nutrients for quality sleep.

A recent study by Oxford University showed that the participants on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the participants taking the placebo.

Furthermore, the tryptophan found in chlorella is a sleep-enhancing amino acid used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin that help you relax and go to sleep. While young people have the highest melatonin levels, production of this hormone wanes as we age. Calcium and magnesium relax the body and B vitamins are essential for stress relief.

nuts2. Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium – two minerals that help promote sleep. Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan. The unsaturated fats found in nuts improve your serotonin levels, and the protein in the nuts help maintain a stable blood sugar level to prevent you waking in the night. 100 grams of sesame seeds boasts over 1000 micrograms of tryptophan. The same amount of chia seeds have over 700 mgs of tryptophan, while pumpkin seeds have almost 600 mg.

3. Herbal teas (such as Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Lemongrass)

Valerian is one of the most common sleep remedies for insomnia. Numerous studies have found that valerian improves deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and overall quality of sleep. Lemongrass’ calming properties have been long revered to ward off nightmares while chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.

kiwi 4. Kiwi Fruit

Research suggests that eating kiwi fruit may have significant benefits for sleep due to its high antioxidant and serotonin levels. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep and found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. After 4 weeks of kiwi consumption, researchers found that the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed decreased by 35.4%, the amount of time spent in periods of wakefulness after initially falling asleep fell 28.9% and the total time spent asleep among the volunteers increased by 13.4%.

5. Honey

Honey promotes a truly deep and restorative sleep. If you take a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you’ll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that your brain doesn’t activate a stress response, which often occurs when glycogen is low. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain, as it leads to a slight spike in insulin levels and the release of tryptophan in the brain.

Sun Chlorella 'A' 6. Sun Chlorella Sound Asleep Smoothie
Smoothies are a popular and satisfying breakfast but we rarely associate them with bedtime. Here, Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist – Nikki Hillis – shares her ‘Sound Asleep, Sun Chlorella Smoothie’ packed with tasty ingredients to help you nod off and enjoy a restful kip.

  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup uncooked oats
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 sachet of Sun Chlorella®
  • Bee pollen to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • Cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a blender and sprinkle with bee pollen and cinnamon.

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Ease stress levels with Magnesium for restful nights this Sleeptember

September marks the start of a new school year. Typically at this time of year our lives become busier, the holiday period is over and work pressure builds as we head into the colder, darker months in the run up to Christmas.

A recent study by The Sleep Council found that 90% of people admit to suffering from some form of stress in their lives, with almost two out of five saying they are regularly, frequently or constantly stressed.

Not surprisingly three quarters say they have problems sleeping while stressed, with the catch 22 that almost a third say when they can’t sleep they get stressed, while just over a quarter say the best way to relieve stress is to have a good night’s sleep.

It is not always possible to remove stress from our daily lives, but transdermal magnesium can help you to relax and increase the body’s ability to cope with stress.

Magnesium is a natural relaxant, but stress can greatly increase magnesium loss.

This can be a vicious circle, as our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our Western diets means many of us do not get the levels we need.

When magnesium levels are low, the nervous system gets out of balance, and we feel increasingly anxious, with our muscles naturally tightening. Magnesium deficiency promotes excessive muscle tension, leading to muscle spasms, tics, restlessness, and twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency may also be one of the causes of insomnia.

Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou, said: “The physical effects of stress, including high heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles and fast and shallow breathing, can play havoc in our bodies. Sleep helps to slow these effects and encourage a state of relaxation.

“Our body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest, but a lack of the mineral in our low magnesium Western diets means that we are not getting the levels we need. Magnesium levels are difficult to rectify via traditional tablets, as our body benefits most from small regular amounts rather than a large single dose.”

A pilot study by Watkins & Josling (2010) found that magnesium levels increased with BetterYou Magnesium Oil an estimated five times quicker compared with oral supplementation.

Following this, a clinical trial by Cardiff University (2011), highlighted how well magnesium is absorbed through the skin. BetterYou’s range of magnesium products, including oil sprays and flakes, are absorbed faster than capsules and tablets; delivering magnesium directly into the skin tissue and entering cells immediately.

References

Stressember: The worry starts here
Opinion matters surveyed 2035 UK Adults on behalf of The Sleep Council
http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/2014/08/stresstember-the-worry-starts-here/

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Help yourself to sleep efficiency

You’ve probably got used to the notion of efficiency ratings. Your fridge, your car, your insulation: all these are judged by their efficiency. You may not have realised that your sleep can be too.

The amount of time spent asleep in relation to the amount of time spent in bed is known as sleep efficiency. 80-85% is considered optimal, while below 75% is considered a sign of poor quality sleep. [1] These busy days, with so many people coping with hectic schedules, constant caffeine intake and very little rest and relaxation, sleep is often illusive. The reasons for tackling this are compelling:

  • People getting less than 7 hours sleep per night are almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those achieving more than 8 hours per night. [2]
  • After a night of only 4 hours sleep, calorie intake can rise by up to 22%.[3]
  • Patients with resistant hypertension high blood pressure that doesn’t come down even when on as many as three different medications for it have been found to sleep 33.8 minutes less than those with controlled hypertension and 37.2 minutes less than those with normal blood pressure. [4]

What’s more, when you enter REM or rapid eye movement sleep, when most dreams occur, you are better able to solve a new problem the next day with lateral thinking. So sleeping on it really can work.

After a night of only 4 hours sleep, calorie intake can rise by up to 22%

Tips on improving sleep efficiency:

  • Keeping to a consistent sleeping schedule – going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Consider taking a nap during the day – power naps from ten to thirty minutes in the afternoon is best. Any longer that this, will risk falling into a deep sleep.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol at night – the stimulating effects of caffeine can disrupt your sleep quality.
  • Try a mixture of Valerian and Hops to improve the way your body slips into sleep from a wakeful state, as well as increasing the likelihood of your subsequent sleep moving through all the stages including REM sleep, so that you wake refreshed and ready to solve those problems.
  • Keep the distractions at bay – switch off electronic devices and turn the lights off. Earplugs are also good to use to eliminate background noises.

References

[1] BMJ 2008; 337: a1245.

[2] Cohen S et al. Archives of Internal Medicine 2009; Vol. 169 (1): 62-67

[3] Bronel L et al. Am J Clin Nutr (March 31, 2010) doi10.3945/ajcn.2009.28523

[4] Friedman O et al. American Journal of Hypertension 2010; 23 2, 174–179

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Back to School: Immune-boosting tips for kids

The start of the new school year is upon us, and this can cause worry for some parents whose children seem particularly vulnerable to illness. Coughs, colds, ear and chest infections are commonplace in schools, with the average child catching between 8 and 12 colds or flu viruses each year. This is not surprising when we consider that the school environment is the perfect breeding ground for infection – up to 90% of children with a cold are carrying the virus on their hands, and germs can survive up to three days on surfaces.

Fortunately there are some simple measures that can help support your child’s immune system, helping to lessen the duration of an infection or even avoid illness altogether.

A good night’s sleep
Children need more sleep than adults, with primary school children needing at least 9 hours each night. Any less than this can compromise the immune system. Sleep deprived children have lower levels of germ-fighting T-cells, leaving them vulnerable to infection (1). Tips to improve sleep include keeping a regular bedtime routine, ensuring that televisions are kept out of the bedroom and reducing sources of caffeine such as chocolate and sodas.

Immune-boosting antioxidants
Another way to help support your child’s health is to ensure that his or her diet provides plenty of immune-boosting antioxidants. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C boost production of interferon, helping to prevent infection from taking hold (2). Vitamin E and carotenoids help to increase production of natural killer cells, B cells and T cells, increasing antibodies against specific germs (3).

Fruit-Bowl
Kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost.

Finally, nutrients called bioflavonoids actually work to block cell receptors so that germs cannot get access to cells. Present in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, flavonoids have been shown to exert both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activity (4). Flavonoids are not easily absorbed from foods we eat. For the best sources of well-absorbed flavonoids, make sure your child eats plenty of blue and purple fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and red grapes.

If infection has already taken hold, then steps to reduce the length of an infection can be helpful. During an active infection, the body’s requirement for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. A fruit salad made with oranges, kiwi fruit and strawberries can provide a welcome vitamin C boost. During an active infection, taking a vitamin C supplement 3-4 times daily can also be a helpful measure to speed up recovery.

Protective probiotics
Probiotic supplementation offers a further protective measure for children who suffer with repeated infections. Probiotics reduce the risk of allergies, tummy upsets and diarrhoea, and have recently been found to prevent the common cold (5). They give the immune system a boost by increasing natural killer cell activity and phagocytosis, both important mechanisms for protecting against infection. In children in particular, probiotics work to ramp up levels of mucosal immunoglobulin A, the first line of defence against harmful pathogens that enter the body (6).

Probiotic supplements designed especially for children offer a safe way to support your child’s immune system. Adding some probiotic yoghurt to fruit salad or breakfast muesli can help keep your child’s levels of immune-boosting bacteria topped up.

While children can’t be shielded from every bug in the classroom, these simple measures can help ensure that your child building blocks of a strong immune system and feels fit for the new school year.

References

1. Diwakar Balachandran, MD,  director, Sleep Center, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

2. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold (Review) Hemilä H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Cochrane Review. 2010. Issue 3.

3. Hughes DA: Antioxidant vitamins and immune function; in Calder PC, Field CJ, Gill HS (eds): Nutrition and Immune Function. Wallingford, CAB International, 2002, pp 171–191.

4. Middleton E (1998) Effect of Plant Flavonoids on Immune and Inflammatory Cell Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Volume 439, pp 175-182.

5. En-Jin Kang et al (2013) The Effect of Probiotics on Prevention of Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trial Studies. Korean J Fam Med. 2013 January; 34(1): 2–10.

6. Lomax & Calder (2009) Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 15(13):1428-518.

7. Image courtesy of vanillaechoes.

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Cherry Juice may improve sleep quality

A recent study carried out by researchers at Northumbria University has found that tart cherry juice improves both the quality and duration of sleep.

Drinking tart cherry juice can improve the quality and length of sleep
Drinking tart cherry juice can improve the quality and length of sleep

Participants in the study slept for an extra 25 minutes each night after drinking two servings of the juice drink during the daytime.

Tart Montmorency cherries contain significant amounts of melatonin, a naturally occurring antioxidant that helps to regulate sleep in humans.

The study required 20 healthy volunteers to drink a 30ml serving of either tart cherry juice or a placebo juice twice a day for seven days. Urine samples were collected from each participant to measure levels of melatonin.

The researchers found that when participants drank cherry juice for a week there was a significant increase in their urinary melatonin (15-16%) both compared to the placebo group and to their own measurements taken at the beginning of the study.

Each participant wore an actigraphy watch sensor to monitor their sleep and wake cycle. Participants also kept a daily ‘sleep diary’ to record their own sleep patterns.

The actigraphy measurements showed that those who consumed the cherry juice saw an increase of around 25 minutes in their total sleep time and a 5-6% increase in their ‘sleep efficiency’, which means that they spent less time lying in bed awake.

The sleep diaries kept by the participants also showed that cherry juice drinkers spent less time napping in the daytime than they did before the study began. During the study, they also spent less time napping than the placebo group.

Study leader, Dr Howatson, said: “These results show that tart cherry juice can be used to facilitate sleep in healthy adults and, excitingly, has the potential to be applied as a natural intervention [to] populations with insomnia and general disturbed sleep from shift work or jet lag.”

In clinic, I often recommend the tart cherry concentrate, CherryActive, to sports nutrition clients. This is because its high antioxidant content improves muscle recovery between workouts. I suspect that the improved sleep quality afforded by the melatonin in cherry juice might also account for the benefits that athletes feel when using this drink.

In many countries, melatonin supplements are available over the counter. They are often used by shift workers, or those suffering with jet lag or other sleep difficulties. In the UK, where melatonin supplements are not freely available, tart cherry juice appears to represent a safe and effective natural alternative.

Written by Nadia Mason,  BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

Howartson G, Bell, PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHigh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European Journal of Nutrition, October 30th, 2011.

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Natural solutions for more energy

Are you the type of person that jumps out of bed every morning with a smile on your face as soon as your alarm goes off, ready and waiting to face the day? Do you remain full of energy and on full pelt for the rest of the day before having a great night’s sleep every night? Or are you more likely to hit snooze on your alarm as much as possible before you absolutely have to get up? Then day-dream about your bed as your energy levels drop through the floor throughout the day?! If you are more likely to be the latter, you are most certainly not alone.

A persistent lack of energy is one of the most common complaints in both men and women across the nation. Daylight, and more importantly sunlight, has a great effect on our overall energy levels.  Historically we are used to being outside all day benefiting from the effects of sunlight. Modern living, however, results in the majority of us spending large amounts of time indoors, deprived of sunlight and this causes problems with our body’s natural rhythm and well being.

Officially summer comes to an end this weekend with clocks going back an hour. This signals the start of dull days with very limited and less intense sunlight and even less opportunity to benefit from the sun. This can bring about a reduction in energy levels for much of the population and reduced daylight can, in some cases, cause Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes known as Winter Depression. As a result many people begin to dread the winter months. There are, however, many natural ways to combat low energy and SAD. Balancing your circadian rhythm is a great way to do this.

Below we have drawn up a brief guide on how you can boost your energy levels and prevent the frequent desire for those 3pm snoozes!

Early Morning (approx 6.30am – 9am)

A healthy start to the day
A boiled egg with wholemeal toast will provide you will a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning. (1)

Your Internal Bodyclock is in its “awakening” mode at this stage. Your metabolism is slow and rising. Your body temperature, blood pressure and cortisol levels are all also increasing, signalling to your body to wake up. You may feel ‘groggy’ first thing and crave that morning cup of coffee or a bowl of sweet, sugary breakfast cereal. This may give you a rapid increase in energy, but it will also leave you with an energy slump once the initial effects have worn off. This is where people can fall into the habit of regular caffeine or sugary snacks in an attempt to maintain this feeling.

There are better ways to boost your energy and replenish the low blood glucose levels that have developed during sleep. Try adding a slice of lemon to hot water – this has natural sugars and also helps cleanse the digestive system (having the effect of a bit of a mini detox) ready for the day ahead. Also opt for high fibre breakfasts such as 100% pure rolled porridge oats with a handful of fruit and seeds or a boiled egg with wholemeal toast. These kinds of foods will provide you with a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning, keeping you full for longer and reducing those energy slumps.

Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible in the morning as this will wake your body up for the day. The winter days will prevent many people from being able to do this, therefore you may wish to try using a sunrise alarm clock, like the Lumie Bodyclock Starter in the mornings. This will stimulate your brain into waking gradually, balancing your circadian rhythm and your cortisol levels, which has the added bonus of being able to also support your immune system and stress levels.

Morning until Lunch (approx 9am – 2pm)

As your cortisol levels are still increasing you are more alert and efficient and your mental capability has reached its peak of the day. This means your concentration, memory and focus are all waiting to be utilised. So use this time to get all your lingering tasks done!

You could also try using a SAD light for 30 minutes every day for energy stimulation. The effectiveness of SAD Lights is measured in lux, which is the level of light intensity that you would normally get from the sun. A SAD light with 10,000 lux is recommended for those who want to see the most benefits.

Also avoid drinking coffee at this time as this can cause the swift rises and falls in energy levels. Instead you could try green tea, which is packed with antioxidants and contains much less caffeine per cup. Other teas are also great options such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion. Peppermint, fennel and camomile are also good options.

Females should take extra care too. A lack of energy can be due to low iron levels and coffee has been shown to reduce iron stores in the body. Make sure your levels are topped up by eating foods rich in iron such as meats, some fish and leafy greens such as spinach. Consider taking an iron supplement and remember to take this with vitamin C to help its absorption. B vitamins are also great for energy – You could try adding a multivitamin with extra B Complex, such as Viridian High 5 Multi Vitamin to your daily routine.

Another helpful tip is to try to get outside during your lunch break – the fresh air and daylight can do wonders to prevent that mid-afternoon slump. When choosing your lunch, choose slow-release carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholemeal bread rather than refined carbs such as white bread or crisps. Also ensure you have some protein in your meal too – such as lean chicken, fish, beans or pulses.

Afternoon (approx 2pm – 5pm)

Your cortisol levels start to drop which can often lead to drowsiness or that mid-afternoon slump. It’s best to avoid the temptation for biscuits or chocolate for a sugar boost at this time. If you must have a snack, try a small piece of minimum 70% quality dark chocolate or some dried fruit, nuts or seeds. Make sure you prioritise your tasks for the afternoon so you know exactly what you need to achieve before home time. That way you can go home happy and content with the day. ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ after all. Also taking in deep breaths is great for energy levels and can help reduce stress and aid concentration.

Lumie Bodyclock Active
The Lumie Bodyclock Active, which gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off

Evening (approx 5pm – 10pm)

As the evening progresses your melatonin levels start to increase (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep) and your digestion slows. Try to avoid snacking in the evening and heavy meals before bed time. This will require a lot of digestion as insulin is less effective at night. Also your digestive system will struggle to cope with excess amounts of food before bed and this can lead to weight gain as well as disruptive sleep – contributing to an imbalanced circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol as much as possible at this time as these can also disrupt your sleep.

A bad night’s sleep can cause low energy the following day and contribute to reduced mental performance. This can cause stress and lead to a spiral of stress and disrupted sleep which is hard to get out of. If you have trouble drifting off at night, try a sunrise alarm clock with a sunset feature like the Lumie Bodyclock Active. The light gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off. If a sunset feature is not for you, then try spraying lavender on your pillow or rubbing some lavender sleep therapy balm on your body to help you switch off.

In addition to these helpful tips, specific nutrients that can support energy levels are:

  • Magnesium – found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Vitamin B Complex – found in brown rice and wholemeal bread. If you supplement this, it is best taken as a “complex” of B Vitamins
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) & Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) – Found in green foods such as broccoli, spinach and some red meats
  • Co-Enzyme Q10 – found in fish, organ meats such as liver and whole grains
  • Iron – found in a multitude of food sources, such as red meat, beans and pulses, leafy green vegetables, tofu and fortified breads and cereals
  • Ginkgo Biloba – a widely available supplement or combined in an energy supplement such as Femergy

Consistent poor energy levels should be treated seriously. If you think the cause of your low energy levels is more than poor diet you should always consult your GP or Natural Health Practitioner.

 

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

 

References

1.  Image courtesy of Simon Howden.

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Aromatherapy could help the common cold and improve your sleep

Aromatherapy isn’t hocus pocus and it’s nothing to do with ‘hubble bubble toil and trouble’. It’s simply a natural practice of using natural plant oils and essential oils for psychological and physical wellbeing.

Lavender Aromatherapy
The calming and relaxing fragrance of Lavender aids a peaceful and natural sleep. (1)

Whether these oils are inhaled or topically applied there is an array of benefits to using aromatherapy that go way beyond simply having a nice smelling house.

Essential oils, which come from the pure essences of a plant or herb, have been found to have a number of psychological and physical benefits.  The term essential oil is used widely to include all natural, aromatic, volatile plant oils.

There is often much scepticism about aromatherapy but this is mainly due the fact that there are many products out there masquerading as essential oils but are merely perfume oils that contain synthetic materials and provide none of the benefits of true essential oils.  When purchasing your aromatherapy products it is vital to check the ingredients label.  Only choose products that contain no fragrance oils or un-pure and unnatural chemical components.  Look for products that contain pure essential oils.

Inhaling essential oils

Essential oils can be applied either topically or inhaled.  Inhaled directly into the lungs, essential oils can have a wide range of positive effects. When inhaling essential oils, not only does the aroma of natural essential oils simulate the brain, it can also have a number of therapeutic benefits.  For example, if you suffer from a cold or congestions, try inhaling eucalyptus essential oils to help ease your symptoms and get rid of that horrible bunged up feeling.

Topically applying essential oils

When essential oils are applied to the skin, they can be absorbed into the blood stream and depending on the oil you use, can have a number of benefits for health and beauty.  To apply powerful essential oils to the skin they must first be diluted into a carrier such as Sweet Almond Oil or Apricot Kernel Oil.  If you often have trouble sleeping try applying a lavender essential oil such as the PRIMAVERA Organic Lavender Sleep Therapy Roll On, direct to the temples, earlobes, wrist and chest.  The calming and relaxing fragrance aids a peaceful and natural sleep.

Other benefits of essential oils

There is a vast array of uses for essential oils that go way beyond the medicinal and physical benefits. They can be used in anything from home made household laundry cleaners to repelling mosquitoes and other nasty bugs.  Citronella essential oil is the marvellous ingredient in some of the most effective mosquito repellents on the market.

Find out more about the array of uses of some of our most popular essential oils in our new essential oils table of scents.

 

Written by Mike Pye

Refererences

1.  Image courtesy of Simon Howden.

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