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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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Dementia Linked To Beverage Consumed By 50% Of People Every Day

Half of North Americans use a drink linked to dementia on any given day.

Both sugary and artificially sweetened ‘diet’ drinks are linked to dementia by two new studies.

People who drink sugary beverages tend to have poorer memories, smaller brains and a smaller hippocampus (an area vital for learning and memory).

Diet sodas, though, don’t seem much safer.

A follow-up study found that people who drink diet sodas are three times more likely to develop dementia and stroke, compared to those who drink none.

Both studies show associations, so it doesn’t prove cause and effect.

Professor Sudha Seshadri, who led the research, said:

“These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it’s strong data and a very strong suggestion.
It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn’t seem to help.
Maybe good old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to.”



Excess sugar intake has long been linked to obesity, diabetes  and heart disease.

Its effect on the brain is more of an unknown (although what are the chances it’s going to be good for us?!)

More surprising is the link between diet sodas and dementia.

The researchers suggest it could be down to the artificial sweeteners used.

Sugar is toxic to the brain

This is certainly not the first study to link sugar intake with dementia.

A recent study linked excess sugar intake with Alzheimer’s disease.

It suggested that too much glucose (sugar) in the diet damages a vital enzyme which helps fight the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

High blood sugar levels have also been linked to memory problems.

The researchers in this study think that sugar could have a ‘toxic’ effect on the brain.

The studies were published in the journals Stroke and Alzheimer’s & Dementia (Pase et al., 2017; Pase et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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Nerd Alert: Reading is Good For Your Health

Clients who seek solace by pouring their hearts out in Alison Kerr Courtney’s office don’t get rewarded with a Xanax or Prozac prescription. Instead, they walk away with a reading list.

The founder of  BiblioRemedy isn’t a licensed therapist, nor is she currently an English teacher, although she did work as one for 10 years in France, and has spent years shelving books at the library and in bookstores.

Courtney is a kind of book whisperer.

For as long as she can remember she’s had a knack for matching people with books that fit with their intellectual interests. But some clients want more when they make an appointment with her at her office in Lexington, Kentucky.

What they seek is a kind of bibliotherapy. It’s a growing trend where people tell empathetic listeners like Courtney their goals or problems. Courtney then suggests books that can help them clarify their goals, work through an emotional issue, or may even help them turn a page to start a newer, healthier life chapter.

“I’ve had clients dealing with grief issues, for example. I pair them up with books I think will most help in their specific situation,” Courtney said.

A recent client dealing with grief told Courtney how much her recommendations helped. Typically Courtney suggests five to seven books. The client said she read every one, except for the ones dealing specifically with grief.

“Not everyone is ready for certain books, and that’s OK,” she said. “They may get there eventually and the other books may help with that process.”

Books can literally change your life and they don’t all have to come from the self-help shelf to work.

Fiction may actually be more powerful, according to a new study running in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Books such as Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” or “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” or Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” may teach you about complicated topics such as racism, poverty, teen angst, bullying, sexual orientation or other issues, but they may do even more. They could help you know your own heart and others’.

“People who read fiction may understand people better than others,” said Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychology professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. He’s also an award-winning novelist. “A work of fiction is a piece of consciousness that can pass from one mind to another and that reader can make it their own.”

Books can work as a kind of “moral laboratory” as the scholar Jemeljan Hakemulder calls it, or they can act like the mind’s “flight simulator,” as Oatley describes it.

Reading can help you safely test how you feel about certain issues or people, without your having to experience something directly.

Oatley believes the novels that help people best are the ones that “help us understand the characters from the inside,” rather than more plot-driven novels.

That means we can learn from a book that’s a part of the literary cannon, such as Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway,” equally as well as we can learn from popular fiction such as “Harry Potter.”
Spending quality time with these characters as you relax on the beach or sit propped up on bed pillows is more than mere escapism. Reading these books may enhance your emotional intelligence.

That means reading books could improve your love life, your family life, your relationships at work.
That’s because as you learn about Mrs. Dalloway’s worries as she shops for flowers or you witness Harry Potter struggle to control his powers in front of his neglectful muggle family, you contrast that experience with your own.

The characters’ experiences “can be internalized to augment everyday cognition,” according to the study.

In other words, as you read, you think, “‘This person does this and it reminds me of this person I know,’ and when you think deeply in that way, you get better at empathizing with others,” Oatley said. Even if you may never throw the perfect London party or you never meet a moody teenage wizard.

Lab tests seem to show this.

People who have been reading fiction test higher for empathy. Other brain studies of people who listen to a story with intense emotion show a physical response. Their heart rate changes and brain scans show the area that corresponds with emotion lights up, as if the person was experiencing that emotion personally.

Earlier studies have shown that reading can actually develop neural networks in your brain that can help you understand even more complex thought.

Even if you are not a big reader, there’s still hope.

Past studies have shown serial television programs that are character driven such as “The West Wing” or ” The Good Wife” also “can help you better understand what we human beings are up to,” Oatley said. Other studies have shown watching character-driven sitcoms can lessen a viewers’ prejudice.
Natalie Phillips, an assistant professor of English at Michigan State University, said this current study about fiction is exciting and seems to fit with some of the early data she’s gotten from her own lab tests on readers.

Research on this topic, she said, is only the “tip of the proverbial iceberg.” There is still so much more to learn about what fiction can do for us. She does caution that more lab work needs to be done to see if the empathy someone has for a character extends to others beyond the book.

“Because people are feeling something as they read, doesn’t always lead to more positive relationships with someone,” she said. “However, this research marks one of the crucial first steps in that direction toward understanding the intricate cognitive processes involved in literary reading.”

Oatley believes reading can help our emotional development in large part because humans are highly social creatures.

You can be as smart as Sherlock, but to get along well in this life, you really do need to understand people emotionally. And you can’t be as emotionally unavailable as Mr. Darcy throughout much of “Pride and Prejudice.” You have to learn the lesson Jane Austen is trying to teach with that book, Oatley said: To love people, you really have to know them. Perhaps you can do that best by living by the book.

“People say you only get one life,” Oatley said. “But I say read fiction and you can live many lives in one.”

By Jen Christensen, CNN         Tue April 25, 2017
source: www.cnn.com


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Is Living Alone the Unlikely Answer to Loneliness?

New research shows that people who live alone are less lonely.

The authors of the book Loneliness describe their concern that Western societies do not take the inherent gregariousness of humans seriously enough. They note that “the latest figures show that ever-greater numbers of people are accepting a life in which they are physically, and perhaps emotionally, isolated from one another.” Among the evidence they cite in support of that fear is the growing number of people who live alone.

It seems intuitive that people who live alone would be lonelier than people who live with others. Most single people do not live alone, yet single people are believed to be lonelier than married people. I’ve found evidence of this in my own research, and researchers in other countries have as well.

A new study of loneliness, based on a large sample of German adults, examined the links among loneliness, living alone, and living single. The research was based on data collected in 2013 from more than 16,000 Germans ranging in age from 18 to 103, who represented more than 10,000 households.

The authors found that when they compared people who lived alone to people who lived with others—focusing on that key aspect of their living arrangement and not letting other factors muddy the picture—the people who lived alone were less lonely.

They also tried to make the case that single people are lonelier, and seemed to imply that if they were to get married, their loneliness would subside. But they ended up showing that they really don’t understand basic methodologies, and that they don’t appreciate, psychologically, how the experience of living single after you get divorced or become widowed could profoundly differ from the experience of living single all your life.

Loneliness and Living Alone: The Link Is Not What You Think

When the authors simply compared the people who lived alone with those who lived with others, the people who lived alone reported more loneliness. But people who live alone differ from the people who live with others in all sorts of ways, so we don’t know, without looking more closely, if living alone really is linked with greater loneliness.

Fortunately, the authors took this step. They found that one way people who live alone differ from others is in their income. So they controlled for income statistically, which means that they essentially compared people at the same level of income to see how loneliness differed between those living alone and those living with others.

Here’s what they found: When people who live alone have the same income as people living with others, the people who live alone are less lonely.

The authors conclude that “living alone may even have beneficial effects on the quality of one’s social relationships” and add, as researchers often do, that more research is needed. Many studies already show the ways in which single people are more connected to other people than married people are, and demonstrate that it is the people who marry, rather than those who stay single, who become more insular.

The research does not show that living alone is a cure for loneliness. Among the people who live alone are those (we don’t know exactly how many) who chose to live that way. If people who prefer living with other people were urged to live alone, we don’t know what would happen. Maybe they would make an effort to form and maintain the kinds of social ties that keep loneliness at bay. Or maybe they would just end up lonely.

The Link Between Loneliness and Single Life

The authors used their data to compare three groups:

  • People who are single and not living with a partner;
  • People who have a romantic partner but are not living together; and
  • People who are living with a romantic partner (and are often married).

They seem to think they know what they are going to find, because in their view, previous research shows that, “Being married is robustly associated with lower levels of loneliness.” They report that in their own research, “average loneliness levels were highest among singles and lowest among those living with their partners.”

The implication seems to be that if only those single people would get married, their loneliness would dissipate. The authors never quite say that married people are less lonely because they are married, but that seems to be the implication.

The problem is, neither their data, nor the data from the previous research they cite, could ever establish that getting married causes people to be less lonely. In fact, the design of the studies and the comparisons they use are a set-up, biased to make married people look less lonely than they really are. The studies compare only people who are currently married (or living with a romantic partner) to those who are single. They set aside all of the people who got married, felt desperately lonely in their marriage, and then got divorced. No, wait—the authors of this paper did not set them aside. If the people who got divorced are still single, the authors included them in the single group, along with the lifelong single people.

And what about people who are widowed, and who may indeed feel deeply lonely without their spouse? They are also included in the group of lifelong single people.

Here’s what their data really show: If you include all of the people who are widowed (and may well be quite lonely) in the group of single people, as well as all of the people who chose to marry but then divorced (and may also be feeling lonely on their own after having been married), then the people who are left in the married group are less lonely than the people who were included in the single group. But does that mean that if all the single people got married, they would become less lonely? No, the research does not show that at all.

In fact, even by using the technique that gives married people a great big unfair advantage, the results were a lot less definitive than the authors expected. When they looked separately at three age groups, they found that romantic relationship status didn’t matter among the adults younger than 30. People who were living with a romantic partner (and often married), people who had a partner but were not living with that partner, and people who were single (with no romantic partner) all experienced about the same levels of loneliness. Among those older than 65, the singles were a bit lonelier, but the differences were small. Only among the middle-aged group (ages 30-65) were the people living with romantic partners noticeably less lonely than the single people.

The article could leave readers with the impression that those people were less lonely because they were married (or cohabiting). An alternative possibility is that the married group looks less lonely because so many of the people who were lonely in their marriages got divorced (and then the authors put them in with the lifelong single people). The article doesn’t discuss the fact that the single group also includes people who are widowed, and are probably lonely because they miss their spouse. The implication seems to be that being single means you’re lonely, and if you’re married, you’re not lonely.

I want you to think smarter than that.

When the authors state in their article abstract that the “late-life increase in loneliness could be explained by…higher proportion of singles in this age group,” the implication seems to be that single means lonely. That might lead you to think, “Oh those poor old people, they are lonely because they are single.” But maybe they are lonely because so many of them are widowed. Maybe they spent so many years of their lives married that they don’t know how to lead a full, rich, socially connected life as a single person. And maybe lifelong single people do know how to do that.

Actually, there’s no need to qualify that last statement with a “maybe.” We already know, from lots of research, that lifelong single people have more friends than married people, and do more to maintain their ties with friends, siblings, parents, and neighbors. It is when people get married that they turn inward and pay less attention to the other people in their lives.

Clinging to Ideology, Not Facts

  • The arguments in the article seem to be rooted in an ideology of marriage, which maintains that just about everyone wants to marry and that people who get married are better off physically, psychologically, and interpersonally than they were when they were single. I believe this because of the way the authors talk about single people and partnered people. For example:
  • When discussing loneliness in older people, they say that “the absence of a significant attachment figure (spouse, partner)” is important. Do you see what’s wrong with that? This suggests that only a spouse or romantic partner counts as a significant attachment figure. No matter how close you may be to a lifelong friend, a sibling, or anyone else; and no matter if your relationship with another person meets all the criteria for an attachment relationship, your attachment figure is not considered a significant one if that person is not a spouse or romantic partner.
  • The authors say that “the formation of an intimate relationship and partnership in young adults is a developmental accomplishment.” It is, if that’s what you want.  But not everyone wants that. There are young adults (and adults of every age) who are uninterested in that goal. In this article, marriage is portrayed as an accomplishment. That’s an ideological assumption, but it is stated more like a fact — and this is in a scientific publication.

When the authors find, to their surprise, that romantic relationship status has nothing to do with loneliness among adults younger than the age of 30, they try to explain it this way: “[Y]ounger people can compensate for the absence of a romantic partner through a larger social network in both private and professional life.” The key word is “compensate.” It reveals the assumption that romantic relationships matter more than any other relationships, to all people, and therefore if adults do not have such a relationship, they need to compensate for that somehow.

The compensation assumption is especially remarkable in light of the authors’ own findings. Relationship status did not matter as much as they thought it would. Results were not consistent across the three age groups, and they did not mean what the authors said they did. But another factor matters, in predictable ways, and in consistent ways across the three age groups: having friends.

What’s more, there was no undermining the importance of friendship, no matter how the authors analyzed the data. People with more friends were less lonely. The results were that simple. But nowhere do we learn anything about how people need to compensate for not having friends.

Bella DePaulo Ph.D.   Living Single   Sep 26, 2016


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How to Train Your Brain To Stop Overthinking

Overthinking may be something you want to train your brain to stop doing, especially if it causes problems for you. For example, does your overthinking lead to a negative mood or increase your level of anxiety? Does it stop you from doing things that you need to get done? Are you procrastinating making a decision because you want to weigh all of the possible outcomes?

Overthinking can have negative consequences for those who are chronic worriers. Focusing on future uncertainties makes us anxious when we feel a lack of control. Overthinking can also keep us from enjoying the present moment. Let’s explore ways to train your brain to stop overthinking and start appreciating what is here for us in the now.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara showed images of kaleidoscope colors to study participants and then tested their ability to remember if they had seen an image before. Participants who took their best guess at the memory test did better than those who spent time trying to remember colors and patterns. The overthinkers focused their brain power on recalling the visual information that they were presented with did less well than those who did not focus their attention on remembering details.

The researchers say that this study shows ‘why paying attention can be a distraction and affect performance outcomes.’ The area of the brain in our prefrontal cortex that is active when we pay attention is the dorsolateral area. Participants with less prefrontal cortex stimulation during the test remembered the images better. In other words, paying more attention to details actually hurt their ability to remember what they had seen.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO STOP OVERTHINKING AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE

The research shows that a more broad overview approach may be better for recalling complex images. To train your brain to process information this way, try to imagine taking in all of the details at once, as if your brain is taking a photo and seeing all of the pieces of information at once.

You can practice underthinking by finding a picture book, opening to a random page and looking at an image for 5 seconds. Close the book and try to recall everything that you saw. The short amount of time prevents your brain from overthinking, but you will be surprised at how much you can recall. Try this repeatedly until you feel more confident in your brain’s ability to process information quickly.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY

There are things you can know, and things you may never know. Overthinkers have trained their brains to focus on the uncertainties because they are trying to solve them. For an overthinker, their brain is like that of a two year old constantly seeking answers. Although some questions can be answered, overthinkers may tend to dwell on those that can’t.

Or at least they think they can’t be answered, for example ‘What could they possibly have meant when they said that’ could be easily answered by asking the person to clarify their meaning. ‘I wonder what they think of me’ could be answered by asking the person whose opinion you are overthinking. Either seek the answer to the question that you are overthinking, or tell your brain that you’ll have to be okay with not knowing the answer.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO OBSERVE YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-THINKING

Meta-thinking is thinking about how you think, which requires some self-observation. If you’re reading this article and have concerns about your overthinking, you are already aware of your own unproductive thinking patterns. People who experience distress about overthinking usually have negative thoughts about themselves because of their thoughts.

Allowing negative thoughts to exist while rejecting them as being part of what we identify as ‘self’ is part of a technique that can help overthinkers. Researchers in the journal Behavior Therapy found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helped people to feel more self-compassion rather than negative emotions about their overthinking. People who went through MBCT therapy experienced less stress associated with their thoughts.

FIND ONE THING YOU CAN CONTROL

If overthinking is happening because you need to gain control over a situation, then find one concrete action step that you can do to gain back some sense of control. For example, writing down the problem is simple and it allows your brain to stop trying to remember the issue. Then identify one more thing you can do that will be a step in the right direction, for example, making a phone call to get more information.



REFERENCES:
HTTP://THEMINDUNLEASHED.COM/2014/09/8-WAYS-STOP-THINKING-FIND-PEACE.HTML
UC SANTA BARBARA
HTTP://WWW.NEWS.UCSB.EDU/2013/013593/OVERTHINKING-CAN-BE-DETRIMENTAL-HUMAN-PERFORMANCE
MINDFULNESS
HTTPS://WWW.INFONA.PL/RESOURCE/BWMETA1.ELEMENT.ELSEVIER-8BD302D8-2A24-3686-9CFC-C75269D9138D


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Fun Fact Friday

  • You have a 96% chance of surviving a plane crash.

  • Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup.

  • Crying is good for your health, flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.

  • Adding salt to pineapple will actually cause it to taste sweeter.

~Happy Friday!~
source: @faccccct 


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10 Former Insomniacs Share the Trick That Finally Worked for Them

There are almost as many insomnia treatments as there are insomniacs. Here’s what some now well-rested folks did to overcome those sleepless nights.

Listen to your inner cave man

Former attorney and current health coach, Jeff Hughes, had insomnia for most of his life. It started when he was a child, and lasted well into his 30s—that was 25 years, and a lot of trial-and-error insomnia fixes ago. “How did I move beyond it? Unfortunately, there was no quick fix. I tried and tested lots of things, until I developed a routine, that worked for me. The main elements included not drinking alcohol right before bed, not having caffeine in the evening, meditating regularly, and using blue-light filters on my electronic devices, since blue light suppresses melatonin production,” he says. All those habits are highly effective bedtime hygiene techniques, but for Hughes, the most important change was learning to respect his circadian rhythms. “Humans evolved to wake up when its light outside, and to fall asleep when it gets dark. In modern times, we create our own schedules, often staying on our electronics 24-7. The body is more comfortable with the Stone Age pattern, which I now follow, on both weekdays and weekends,” he explains.

Combine M&Ms: meditation and melatonin

Jennifer Bright Reich, co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Getting Your Baby to Sleep, started experiencing insomnia herself, when her boys were five- and three-years old. Her theory is that her newfound insomnia was caused by a very-common combination of stress, and perimenopause. “Ironically, when my boys were little, and didn’t sleep well, I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Then, suddenly, I couldn’t. I started to do two things: take melatonin and listen to meditation tapes. Both worked wonders,” she says. Reich takes ten milligrams of melatonin, in the form of gummy bears, each night before bed as a treat, and now has sweet dreams, instead of sleepless nights. Here’s what science has to say about meditation’s benefits.

Consider magnesium

Movement specialist Janis Isaman is committed to helping people achieve health and wellness, but when it came to her own insomnia, she was at a loss. Isaman’s fatigue was unending, and partially explained by a rib that dislocates habitually, causing her physical pain. She also experienced random periods of unexplained wakefulness, which had her up for two-to-three hours a night. “I typically woke up between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., and stayed awake, unable to get back to sleep until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. It was basically misery, because at that time of night (and day), there’s nothing to do. I sometimes listened to yoga nidra, or Deepak Chopra meditations, and I sometimes read. But I also sometimes lay there, tossing and turning,” she says. Isaman’s physician realized she was consistently tired, after multiple checkups in a row, and asked if she was sleeping properly. Upon learning of her ordeal with insomnia, he suggested she try magnesium, essential for helping the brain to settle down, as a first line of defense. Isaman’s doctor suggested a dosage of three 100 mg. pills for her to try—and it worked. Even a slight lack of magnesium can have detrimental effects.

Try cognitive behavioral therapy

Like many people, Mary Kaarto’s unending bouts with insomnia left her too exhausted to exercise, or to work. An author, Kaarto found herself unable to put two words together, because her decision-making abilities were too compromised by her lack of sleep. “For years, I was treated solely by my primary care physician, who prescribed various sleep medications. Most of them worked for a while, until my body developed a tolerance for them.” Frustrated, Kaarto turned to a board-certified sleep specialist, with little success. Then, she learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on her own and started working with a CBT therapist who specialized in insomnia. CBT is a powerful form of therapy, designed to help patients identify, and change, negative thoughts, and actions. “My CBT therapist assured me I would be cured, and that she would make sure of it, no matter how long it took. The confidence she had helped give me the faith, confidence, and hope I needed so desperately,” says Kaarto, who has been cured of insomnia for two years.

I scaled back on coffee

Mary Ladd was cursed with a spouse who could sleep through anything. “My insomnia was so lonely, because I could hear him sleeping in bed next to me. The fact that he could sleep through the night, and I couldn’t, reminded me that my eyeballs felt dry, and tired. I begin to tally up the things I did wrong that day, or stress over what I needed to do the next. Ironically, my mom’s death brought some relief, because I had been worrying so much about her, while dealing with my own post-breast cancer symptoms,” she shares. The San Francisco native dealt with feelings of anger about her insomnia, and then, was able to create a change. “What works for me is visualization—picturing myself being cocooned in a nice, fleece blanket, and meditation, to decrease stress, and anxiety.” The 43-year old mom also keeps to a solid sleep schedule, which includes waking up when her body wants to wake up, instead of when an alarm clock says it’s time. “I also had to scale back on booze, and caffeine, many medical folks told me that my two-to-four bowls of daily coffee may have been seriously injuring my chances of a good night’s sleep. At least they didn’t take away chocolate ice cream, or runny Brie cheese, because then I would really have nothing to live for!” she laughingly adds.

Keep a sleep diary

A sleep doctor gave Amy George, a former insomniac, life-changing advice. “Three years ago, I spent the summer seeing a sleep doctor—a psychologist, not an MD. I didn’t want to keep relying on drugs like Ambien, which is addictive, no matter what anyone tells you. She had me keep a sleep diary, so I could see that I was nodding off on the couch, when I should be going to bed! She also said something I still remember, and think of – ‘Don’t put sleep on a pedestal.’ In other words, stop making it so important. Tell yourself if you lose sleep it’s OK. You’ll still function. You’ll still get through the day. Sometimes that’s what you need to do to calm down and go to sleep.”

Try essential oils

Painkillers, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety medications..Lynn Julian Crisci had tried them all, and none could provide relief from her 10-plus years of insomnia, following a head injury. “I could only get a few hours sleep in a row, each night. Nothing helped. Last year, I tried hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a proven treatment for multiple medical issues.” Hyperbaric oxygen therapy refers to the administering of pure oxygen, in a pressurized room, or tube. Crisci feels confident that the treatment helped heal her brain tissue, starting her on her journey of sleeping through the night. But that’s not all she did, to get the result she was hoping for. “I added CBD oil, made from hemp, to my morning, and nightly supplements. CBD oil is a neuro-protectant which is thought to protect brain tissue, aiding the part of the brain that controls sleep. Recently, I added CBD oil made from cannabis, to my nightly routine. This has a low dose of THC in it. Since then, I sleep through the night every night and wake up rested. I live in Boston and obtained a medical marijuana card, to get the cannabis-derived CBD oil,” she explains.

Learn to recognize when you’re sleepy

Dr. Sally Nazari is a well-established psychotherapist, but her many years or practice were not enough to provide what she needed to conquer her own insomnia. “I had a significant amount of trouble falling asleep and none of the home remedies were working for more than two or three nights. I learned about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) which was only a six-session treatment,” she explains. Nazari’s sessions involved learning about cues that affected the way her brain and body responded to her bedtime routine, and rituals. Knowing this, she was able to make modifications that helped her structure her routine in a way that let her wind down, and notice that she was sleepy, instead of just tired. “CBT-I also focused on working through the thoughts related to how I reacted to the possibility of yet another sleepless night and, instead, be more ready for a better night of rest. Without those concerns, I can more easily settle into the night and let my body’s natural sleep rhythms take over,” she adds.

Focus on work-life balance

Marketing and publicity are hardly low stress fields. Even so, Jasmine Powers started not one, but two, agencies, doing that very thing. “Around 2010, I suffered terribly with insomnia, and also had trouble eating. The anxiety from my first year of full-time self-employment, and client demands, made it hard to relax, so I worked around the clock. What helped was taking anti-anxiety meds, and working with higher paying, and lower stress clients. Now, I work part-time, balancing that with lots of time outdoors, practicing mindfulness, and aligning my sleeping times with daylight,” she explains.

Invest in a new mattress

“In my experience, it’s not just one factor that must change when you are addressing insomnia in your life. Insomnia made me short with my kids,” says Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer, and former insomniac. “I was struggling at work, to keep up with demands. I got up every morning desperate for more rest. The desperation drove me to seek a solution. It turns out I had to change several things I was doing to finally get that coveted full night’s sleep,” she explains. For Thompson, those changes meant more daily exercise. “I found that if I didn’t get enough exercise every day, my body was just not worn-down enough to go to sleep. I also gave up having caffeine later in the day. When I chose to restrict my caffeine consumption to nothing after 4:00 p.m.. I was able to fall asleep at the time I wanted,” Her biggest change may have been her mattress. “My mattress was everything. I tossed and turned a lot, and was sore when I woke. I experienced low back pain, and realized that part of my insomnia was due to my inability to get comfortable. There are lots of mattresses on the market for different sleep issues and back pain. I chose a new one and added a Tempurpedic topper, and that’s what made all the difference.” Here are seven signs its time for a new mattress. 

BY COREY WHELAN
source: www.rd.com