Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sleep Vs. Rest

There's a difference between sleep and rest. You can have a night where you sleep, even sleep in, and not feel rested.  You could have a night where you sleep lest, yet wake up feeling refreshed and ready.  And it's very important to be aware of the difference.

It's vital to our body that we get regular rest.  For us to be living a wellness lifestyle, rest is a MUST.  Your body will not function well without proper rest.  What are some of the effects of poor rest?  The list is long but includes reducing stress, improving your immune response, reducing inflammation and more.  Rest is when your body repairs the damages done to it with every day living.  To me, the whole act of getting sleeping is a perfect example of the innate intelligence of the body.  That sensation of sleepiness comes on telling us it's time to power down, time to make repairs.  And, when we're sick with an infection or the flu, our body's natural response is to want to sleep more.  Pretty cool the way the body works isn't it?

It's important that we develop a good routine for rest, particularly as we get a little older.  Our body's work best in a routine.  This routine should start before bedtime, when we do things like turn down the lights, turn off anything that may be too stimulating, maybe put some soft music on and spend time relaxing.  That way when we hit the bed, we're already on our way to powering down.  Keep your room as dark as possible.  Most experts agree that having a TV in the bedroom is not conducive to good rest.  Maybe have some white noise in the background to drown out random sounds (I keep a floor fan running, even in the winter).  Avoid caffeine after 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  I know, people say "I can fall asleep even after a pot of coffee".  I get that, but remember that sleep and rest are two different things, and it is scientifically proven that caffeine reduces your chances of reaching the deepest levels of sleep, REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), which is where real rest and repair occur.

Here's a couple of important notes for those that have trouble sleeping/resting. Don't lay in bed tossing and turning. Get out of bed and go read something boring (like some of my blog posts???) until you get sleepy.  Staying in the bed when you're not able to sleep starts to develop a neuro-association in your mind of "bed = sleep problems".  Don't bring your work to bed with you, ie laptop, iPad, paperwork etc.  Once again, a bad neuro-association can occur.  The bed is for rest, and sex.

If you are a teen, or have teens, be wary of starting the habit of texting with friends laying in bed.  That can go on for hours and interfere with rest.  Even adults that are chained to work via their smart phones need to be wary of this habit as well.

Remember, resting well is part 4 of our wellness formula:  Eat well, move well, think well and rest well.

Until next time...Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Let's Get Serious

I was at the gym the other day, and lately I've done a few treadmill workouts instead of my normal HIIT workouts on a bike at the gym.  No real reason, sometimes it was because "my" bikes at the gym were being used, sometimes it was to spend more time with my wife while she did her treadmill workout, sometimes it was just for variety.  When I am on the treadmill, my workouts are never as intense, though I do my best to make them more than just going for a walk.  Because they are less intense, I get the chance to watch others around me working out. This is a good thing.

It's good because it encourages me.  I love seeing people out there going for it.  I especially love watching the folks running on treadmills especially, partly because it's cool to see them working hard and seeing how some run with such ease.  The other reason is jealousy that I can't run (knee issues) sometimes.  (just being honest).  It's also good because I see people that are seriously trying to get in shape and become healthier.  I see some of the less healthy and overweight people doing their best to move well.  Sometimes my initial reaction is to think about the very overweight that are there negatively.  My wife, in her infinite wisdom, brought up the point once that when we see an obese person, we never know if they've lost 30 pounds already, and are headed in the right direction.  So true, and so humbling to think of it that way.

Some of what I see at the gym though seems like people wasting their time.  I see them walking on a treadmill, and able to carry on conversations with their friend next to them without ever losing their breath.  Now I understand, as I try to see it from the other side, that they are still exercising, still burning calories, and enjoying the benefits of social relationships (which are part of a wellness lifestyle).  However, some of these same people that I know, wonder why they're not getting anywhere with their exercise.  When they come to me and ask why they're struggling with losing weight, I encourage them to get a bit more serious.  I encourage them to not just casually walk on the treadmill, but make it tougher.  To get anything out of cardio work, you have to have times where you're working hard enough that you can't carry on a conversation with someone. You can do that by increasing the incline.  That's what I do.  I bump up the incline for "x" amount of time, then bring it back down for recovery.  This way you create intervals that increase your cardio output and then recover actively. It's the simplest way to make your cardio workouts tough enough to make a difference.  It just takes getting a little more serious about how you spend your time in the gym.

So, if you're struggling with losing weight, take a look at the intensity of your cardio workouts.  Increase the intensity (with the approval of your health care provider if needed) to a level that makes you work hard enough to be unable to carry on conversations.  Do it in intervals and watch how your cardiovascular capacity improves, and how you burn more calories and melt some inches off!

Until next time....Be Well!
Dr. Bruce