Are you quarantined due to Covid-19? Perhaps you have lost your job or maybe all you do is go from home to work and back, in order to protect yourself and family. Have you been out of contact with friends and loved ones due to Covid-19?
Are you concerned about friends or family members who are currently ill with Covid-19? Have you lost loved ones to this terrible disease?
Do you remember what bedtime was like when you were a small child? You probably had a special bedtime ritual or routine.
I’ll bet it went something like this: First you a had a warm bath, filled with lots of bubbles for sure, along with fun bath toys. After the bath, while Mom or Dad dressed you in your pajamas, you probably talked about your day, asked questions and had your toes tickled. Then while you were tucked into bed, it was time for a favorite story, and maybe a song or a prayer. Finally, a goodnight kiss and lights out.
Eventually, every parent learns the importance of a bedtime ritual or routine to allow children to relax, unwind from the day and get ready to fall asleep. As we grow up, it seems we usually forget the importance of spending time to prepare the body for sleep. It is equally important for adults to have a bedtime routine as it is for children.
With today’s stressed and hurried lifestyle, we all need to allocate time to prepare our minds, brains and bodies to unwind and relax as the first step toward falling asleep and achieving a restful, restorative night’s sleep.
Remember those light-sensitive neurons in the hypothalamus and the importance of circadian rhythm of light and dark? We need to allow our brains to wind down from both daylight and all of the artificial light with which we are constantly surrounded.
An extremely important aspect of preparing the brain for sleep is limiting light exposure. This means that we must turn off our televisions, computers, cell phones, and tablets at least 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. Preparing for bed is not the time for stimulating or scary movies, TV programs, or video games.
Bedtime is the time to allow the wakeful inhibiting neurons to do their job, and they need increased darkness. Instead of watching screens, try reading, listening to music or an audio book, writing in a journal, doing a craft, or playing an enjoyable game with your partner or children.
Speaking of your children, the hour before bed is the time to unwind, not do homework. Considering homework and studying for that important test, remember that it is during deep sleep when memories are encoded and sleep is critical to learning. Even if your children are older or are teenagers, it is still important to have a bedtime routine and it must include turning off computers, televisions, cell phones, and video games.
The need for darkness should also include the bedroom. As much as possible, it is important to have darkening or blackout shades/curtains to shut out outdoor lighting. If you have a lighted alarm clock or clock radio, turn the light to the dimmest setting and turn the clock face away from directly lighting your bed.
By the way, for all of us women who wonder why our husbands seem to get to sleep faster and sleep better than us, wonder no longer. It’s a scientific fact that, on the whole, men do sleep better than women. There are differences in sleep stage cycles and circadian rhythm patterns in men and women that may account for differences in quality of sleep in men and women.
For the best night’s sleep, your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Believe it or not, we sleep better in a room with a cool temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, because our body temperature naturally drops as we fall asleep.
However, that being said, some people sleep better between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s important to experiment to find the best cool temperature for you. You should be comfortably covered, without the need for layers of blankets. Babies need it a little warmer and the best temperature for a baby’s room is between 67 to 72 degrees.
So, let’s say you have done all of the above things, but you still can’t get to sleep. Let’s not forget the relaxing effects of nice, hot bath. Adding relaxing essential oils to the water can help make the bath even more effective. Experiment with scents you find appealing and relaxing. Here is a list of seven scents that are used in aromatherapy for relaxation: lavender, vanilla, rose, geranium, jasmine, sandalwood, and citrus. Depending on individual reactions, both sandalwood and citrus can be either stimulating or relaxing.
Did you know that magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium, as well as trace minerals, are as important to our nervous system and a good night’s sleep as they are for our bones and teeth? It turns out that the best time to take mineral supplements is before bed. They are absorbed better while we sleep and help to calm the nervous system so we can fall asleep easier.
If you suffer from leg cramps, jerky limbs, or restless legs, this could be a sign that you are not taking enough minerals in your diet or through supplements. As it happens, restless leg syndrome is a real thing and tendency toward it is a genetic trait. You may experience restless legs when you are overly tired or overly stressed, as well as when you are not getting enough minerals. In those situations, supplements of minerals can help relieve the symptoms.
I have a tendency toward restless legs, it runs in my family. I have found that taking minerals before bed prevents the problem. I can always tell I am deficient in taking minerals when my legs start that awful jerking just as I’m trying to go to sleep. That’s when I get out of bed and take some mineral supplements.
I have found one of the best complete mineral supplements, for me, is from a product called “Repair” from the company called Ola Loa. It’s a powder that is mixed with water and is instantly absorbed by the body. For me, drinking it brings relief almost instantly. I also take a homeopathic preparation called “Restful Legs” when my legs start acting up, and it is extremely helpful.
In addition to different supplements, have you considered diet? A heavy meal of meats, fats and carbs late at night, or one rich in fats, sugars and caffeine can contribute to sleeplessness. A diet rich in whole grains, leafy greens, and colorful fruits and vegetalbes is both anti-inflammatory and rich in anti-oxidants. Such a diet can balance your mood and enhance synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in relaxation and stress release.
Still can’t sleep? Remember the neurochemicals GABA and Melatonin? They are both available as supplements. One of the best, natural sleep aid supplements I have found is called Sleep Science NightRest, from a company called Source Naturals. It combines GABA and Melatonin with herbal preparations and minerals proven to help relaxation and sleep.
There are also herbs which have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to promote relaxation and sleep. Among them are Ashwagandha, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, and Valerian. Please remember that herbs are medicines and should always be used with caution. Before taking herbal medications, check for side effects and interactions with pharmaceuticals your doctor has prescribed.
There are numerous safe and effective homeopathic preparations. Check with your local health food store for information and recommendations on herbs and homeopathic preparations. Experiment to find what works best for you. We are all different and reasons for difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep vary.
My final suggestion, but also a very important one, is the practice of meditation. Listening to music designed specifically for mediation and to quiet the mind helps a person relax into a meditative state. There are also numerous audio tapes and Apps that provided guided meditation for both relaxation and sleep.
Check out a website called The Tapping Solution. They provide a series of guided mediations for a variety of personal issues, as well as relaxation and sleep. The concept of Tapping, is to tap on specific acupressure points on the body, face, and head while listening to a guided meditation. They have a wonderful APP that helps you fall asleep almost instantly.
I hope this series on sleep has proven of interest and benefit to you.
A book I found helpful in preparing this series is SLEEP, by Nick Littlehales.
In addition, there were several websites that provided sources of information:
Biological Rhythms During Residence in Polar Regions: Josephine Arendt, Chronobiology International, 2012 May 29 (Published online 2012 April 12)
We live in a world that is filled with invisible living creatures known as microbes. Algae, fungi, and bacteria are types of microbes. Microbes are single-celled, living creatures. Look at a drop of pond water under a microscope and you will see a variety of fascinating creatures of different shapes, sizes and methods of movement.
Acne outbreaks can be unsightly, painful, and embarrassing. Acne outbreaks can affect a person’s sense of self-confidence.
The good news is there are hundreds of easily obtained products designed to reduce and prevent acne outbreaks.
First let’s take a look at over-the-counter creams and cleansers commonly found at your local drug store or grocery store. A check of the most common ingredients shows the majority of these products contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as the “active ingredients’. Also found as “active ingredients” are hydrogen peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids.
The acids penetrate the skin, dissolve dead skin cells that clog pores, and reduce oily build upon the skin surface. They also act as anti-inflammatory ingredients and help prevent bacterial infections.
However, these ingredients are extremely harsh and can actually damage the skin. That is why they are always diluted and combined with a variety of creams, gels and ointments designed to soothe and re-hydrate the skin.
Whenever I look at a condition or disease, I always ask: are there natural alternatives to chemical and pharmaceutical preparations?
Actually, natural remedies have been used for hundreds, even thousands of years to alleviate common skin conditions and even treat wounds. Common natural remedies are high in anti-oxidants, and have one or more ant-bacterial, anti-fungal, and/or anti-viral properties.
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant. It has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used to treat acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis, and head lice.
Add 4 drops of tea tree oil to half a cup of water and apply to the face with a cotton ball twice daily. Tea tree oil is very strong and should be diluted before using. Tea tree oil can be added to your favorite shampoo to help clear dandruff.
Tea tree oil products for acne and other uses are available at your local health food store. Do not swallow tea tree oil or get it into your eyes. It is toxic if taken internally.
Honey has been used since ancient times to treat burns, sores, and boils. Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-oxidant properties. Raw, pure honey never gets moldy or rancid.
Manuka honey comes from flowers of the melaleuca tree. Doctors in New Zealand and Australia use it to treat wounds and burns. In 2007, the FDA approved use of manuka honey for treatment of wounds and burns in the US.
Gently dab raw, unfiltered honey onto pimples. Anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties of honey help clear debris from clogged pores. Dilute a half teaspoon of honey with a little lemon juice to create a facial mask and gently massage into your face, avoid getting it into eyes. Rinse with warm water after 5-10 minutes.
Aloe vera has also been used for hundreds of years to treat burns, wounds, and skin conditions. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. After cleansing, use creams or gels with at least 10% aloe vera content. It is an excellent moisturizer, and can be used as a face mask right from the plant or bottled in its natural state.
Now I want to share a very exciting new product. Modere, the company that makes Liquid BioCell, has created CellProof, a facial serum containing the Liquid BioCell molecule. Designed for anti-aging, CellProof improves hydration, microcirculation, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. I decided to test it for use with acne.
My grandson, Simon, age 17, had been regularly using over-the-counter acne products with salicylic acid when I took these photos on August 10, 2019. His acne became so bad that a dermatologist prescribed a course of anti-biotics.
Following his anti-biotic treatment, I gave Simon a bottle of CellProof serum and asked him to use it faithfully, twice a day after washing his face. He continued using acne products with salicylic acid, but the addition of CellProof with Liquid BioCell increased the effectiveness of his cleansing routine. After about a week of using CellProof, he said that he noticed his skin felt smoother, and most importantly, his face did not hurt anymore.
Adding the serum to his daily cleansing routine made a tremendous difference in the severity of his acne. On October 20, 2019, I took these photos of Simon:
On December 15, 2019, I took these photos. Notice that acne scars have begun to heal and there are only minor breakouts.
Finally, here is Simon, now 18, taken on February 15, 2020. What is most remarkable is the healing of deep acne scars and almost no breakouts.
I am not a health care or medical professional. The things I share in my blogs should not be construed as medical advice. I am simply writing about my personal experience and my research into different areas of personal interest. I practice the use of natural remedies and herbs and follow a basically whole-food, plant-based diet. I believe them to be extremely important in a healthy lifestyle. I also follow the advice of my naturopath physician.
One of the things I do professionally is to provide Real-Time, EEG Neurofeedback for brain injury and learning disabilities. This is frequently seen as related to health and wellness professions. As such, I am often asked questions about health.
I was recently asked whether I knew anything about help for a condition known as cystic acne. I had never heard of this condition and became curious. I did some research on cystic acne and acne. I found out some very interesting things that I am eager to share with you.
Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It protects us from bacteria and other microorganisms, helps regulate our body temperature and is our largest sense organ. Through our skin we experience touch, heat, and cold.
About the Skin
Skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. It provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone. Even though our skin is waterproof, our skin is still permeable.
Being permeable means that it is possible for the skin to absorb substances that are placed on the skin. This is the reason certain medications can be placed on the skin using special patches, for example nicotine patches to help people stop smoking. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the quality and contents of cosmetics, creams, and even drugs we rub on our skin.
The epidermis is composed of anywhere between 50 to 100 layers of dead skin cells. Only the very bottom layer of the cells of the epidermis receive nourishment and oxygen. The majority of the epidermis is composed of dead cells constantly moving up to the surface to replace dead cells being continually sluffed off the surface.
Between these layers of dead cells are fatty substances that act like the cement between bricks. This combination of dead cells and fats creates the natural moisture barrier of the skin. The moisture barrier protects against microorganisms, chemical irritants, and allergens. Loss of the moisture barrier creates dryness, itchiness, redness, and other skin problems.
Beneath the epidermis is the dermis. It consists of tough connective tissue cells. It is where we find our hair follicles and sweat glands. The dermis also contains blood vessels that provide nourishment and oxygen to the bottom layer of the epidermis and the dermis. The most common structural component within the dermis is the protein collagen. It provides the mesh-like framework that provides strength and flexibility to the skin.
Finally, we find the hypodermis, the deepest layer of the skin. It consists of fat tissue that insulates the body and provides shock absorption. Like the dermis, the hypodermis contains blood vessels and connective tissue cells, which support the upper layers of the skin.
Hair prevents heat loss and helps protect the epidermis from minor scrapes and exposure to the sun’s rays. Each hair grows from its own bulb-like structure, the follicle, within a pore in the skin. Hair is composed of dead cells filled with keratin, a special protein produced by the hair follicle.
Pores are formed by a folding-in of the epidermis into the dermis and are lined with cells that constantly shed. The follicle is found in the dermis and is nourished by tiny blood vessels.
Each follicle is connected to an oil gland, the sebaceous gland. These glands secrete a fatty substance, called sebum, which lubricates each hair as it grows and helps create a moisture barrier to the skin.
Sweat glands are found in the dermis and are long, coiled hollow tubes of cells. Sweat is produced at the coiled bottom and excreted to the skin surface through the hollow tube. Perspiration helps cool the body, hydrate the skin, and eliminate toxins.
Acne and cystic acne are the result of inflammation and infection of the pores of hair follicles and sweat glands.
In Part Two of this series, we will go into detail about how acne develops.
Sleep is essential for our bodies to function. It is during sleep that the body removes toxins, and our cells divide, grow, and repair. Without sleep our brains cannot create new neurons, make connections between neurons, and lay down memories. Sleep affects every tissue and system of the body and is crucial to brain function.
Sleep and arousal are dependent upon circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the cycle of day and night, light and dark, and changing season resulting from the earth’s rotation. Deep within the brain are several structures that are responsible for falling asleep and waking. Light and darkness are the triggers that begin a series of events that bring on sleep and help us to awaken.
In addition to being tuned into environmental circadian rhythm, we also have our personal circadian rhythm and our personal internal clock, our chronotype. Whether you are a morning bird or a night owl is actually a genetic trait.
Morning people wake naturally, often not needing an alarm. They love mornings, enjoy breakfast, feel less fatigue during the day, and go to bed early. They often find it difficult staying up for late night parties and outings. Night people frequently have difficulty waking and usually need that alarm, often hitting the snooze button. They like to stay up late and sleep in. Getting up and going in the morning takes them a while. They make great night shift workers because it fits right in with their natural rhythm.
Our sleep/arousal cycle is controlled by several structures located deep within the brain. The hypothalamus, a peanut-sized structure deep within the brain is our internal master clock. The hypothalamus regulates our sleep/arousal patterns, body temperature, hormone release from the pituitary gland, hunger and thirst, sexual behavior and reproduction, and even moods and behavior.
Inside the hypothalamus is a cluster of thousands of nerve cells that receive information about light exposure directly from the retina of our eyes. The brain stem, a structure at the base of the brain that is the beginning of the spinal cord, communicates with the hypothalamus to control transitions between sleep and arousal.
Both the brain stem and the hypothalamus have sleep-promoting cells which produce a chemical called GABA in response to decreasing light and approaching darkness to help us fall asleep. GABA inhibits our level of arousal.
When darkness approaches, the light-sensitive cells within the hypothalamus communicate with pineal gland, a tiny, pea-shaped structure located deep within the brain. The pineal gland then releases melatonin, which increases sleepiness and helps us fall asleep.
Once we are asleep, we experience several stages of brain activity, known as the sleep cycle. In addition to the hypothalamus and the brain stem, several other structures of the brain are involved with the regulation of our sleep cycles and are active during sleep.
Check back shortly to read part 3 of my series on sleep. I will discuss the stages of sleep and the parts of the brain involved. So, stay tuned!
Part One in a 5-Part Series Have you ever heard someone say:
“I would give anything if I could just get a good night’s sleep.” Or “I just don’t know why I can’t get to sleep.” Or “It seems I just lie awake and can’t stop thinking about stuff.”
Everyone is talking about sleep. Nearly everyday, a news article or internet post appears about the topic. My own research about sleep is eye-opening. So, for the next few blogs, I want to share some of my lessons learned.
Restful, refreshing sleep is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures. But we have become a nation of sleep-deprived adults, teenagers, and children. We can’t get to sleep because we’re stressed out and we’re stressed out because we can’t sleep.
Lack of sleep is not just stressful. Scientific research links poor sleep to depression, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, increased colds, poor work performance, work related accidents, and even Type 2 Diabetes.
Why do we struggle to sleep? After all, sleeping is a natural activity. We were born to sleep. It’s written in our DNA. So, sleeping should be a simple biological function. We get tired, we go to sleep. Babies do it all the time.
In actuality, falling asleep and staying asleep are part of a complex symphony of physical and environmental conditions working in harmony. Several different stages of sleep and many different structures within the brain contribute to sleep.
It all begins with something called circadian rhythms. The world runs on circadian rhythms. These are natural periods of light and dark, day and night, and changing seasons, resulting from the rotation of the earth.
All living organisms, from bacteria to plants, to animals, and to humans. Circadian rhythms govern us all. In fact, circadian rhythms influence sleep/arousal cycles, hormone release, eating, digestion, behavior, migration patterns, and even sexual activity.
Humans, like all other vertebrates (animals with backbones), have biological, internal master clocks similar and related to the environmental circadian rhythm. Our internal master clocks form our own personal circadian rhythm. They regulate our sleep/arousal cycles, bodily functions and even moods and behaviors.
Located deep within the brain is our master clock, which is located in a peanut-sized area known as the hypothalamus.
In addition to the hypothalamus, several structures within the brain contribute to the regulation of our sleep/arousal cycle. In the next blog, I will discuss some brain anatomy and physiology involved with the sleep/arousal cycle.
I hope you stay tuned and watch for my next installment.
This time of year brings about a flurry of extra activities, many of which we are unwilling or unable to say, “No” to. Last year (well, actually last month), we discussed the ways various people celebrate during this time of year. Today, we wanted to offer helpful advice about how to stay healthy in 2019 and beyond. To read part 1, click here.
The additional pull on our (likely already) overscheduled lives, leads to additional stress, generally compounded by lack of sleep. Stress can sap our natural resources, leaving us susceptible to illness. University of Birmingham researcher, Dr. Anna Phillips, warns that:
“A breakdown in usual routines, less sleep, more alcohol and immense pressure to be the perfect host can combine to create a very real risk of Christmas making people ill.”
This time of year brings about a flurry of extra activities, many of which we are unwilling or unable to say, “No” to. The additional pull on our (likely already) over-scheduled lives, leads to additional stress, generally compounded by lack of sleep. Stress can sap our natural resources, leaving us susceptible to illness.
It’s a good idea to sit down and make a list of activities you really don’t want to miss, and those which you are alright eliminating from your schedule this season. This ensures that the activities you do participate in are ones that you really enjoy, and, by not overscheduling yourself, you are better able to fully experience them – stress-free!
Unless you are the picture of restraint, everybody indulges a bit more during the Christmas and holiday season. Each event we attend has platters heaped with scrumptious treats, and most of us attend a ton of events during this season.
University of Birmingham researcher, Dr. Anna Phillips, warns that, “A breakdown in usual routines, less sleep, more alcohol and immense pressure to be the perfect host can combine to create a very real risk of Christmas making people ill.”
Additionally, the added load on our schedules, leaves less time than usual for fitness.
This disruption to our fitness routine, combined with our loosened diets, can do real damage to our bodies. As I stated in my last blog post, the average person puts on between 1 and 4 lbs. each holiday season, and most do not go on to lose the extra weight afterward.
Mindfulness and preplanning go a long way toward helping you successfully navigate the holiday treats. Moderation really can be the key to helping you enjoy the seasonal treats, without the extra weight.
When you are doing your Christmas shopping, park as far away from the entrance as possible, forcing you to get some extra walking in, and freeing you from competing for the “prime” spots.
Poor Mental Health
The winter holidays and Christmas are a joyous, warm, wonderful time of the year, but for many, they are also filled with painful reminders of dreams, and loved ones we’ve lost. While the message of Christmas and the other holidays around the winter season is one of hope and joy, the heart wrenching emptiness felt at the loss of a loved one, can make it difficult to feel that hope, let alone celebrate it.
It may be helpful to participate in charity events during this season; sometimes putting the focus on others (and their needs) can distract us from our own pain. For some, continuing with favorite traditions is a soothing comfort.
Whatever gatherings, ceremonies, celebrations, and traditions in which you participate, I want to wish you a healthy and joyous holiday season. And, if you need a little restart, feel free to contact me for assistance with your wellness journey.
While we are part of a society that focuses on Christmas, we often forget that not everyone we meet personally celebrates Christian traditions.Throughout the world, millions of people are participating in joyous and holy celebrations unrelated to Christmas.
Diwali This five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. It is a celebration of good triumphing over evil and is usually held in November.
Chanukah A Jewish holiday, this is an eight-day festival of lights. It is a celebration of triumph over adversity and the miracle of a small jar of holy oil that burned for eight days instead of one, which allowed the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Kwanza A seven-day holiday of lights, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate family culture and heritage, and is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa.
Winter Solstice The shortest day and longest night in the Northern Hemisphere. This year it falls on Friday, December 21st. There will only be 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight hours. Throughout human history, from prehistoric time to the present, this time of year has been a time of celebration and ceremony.
Ancient civilizations around the world built temples and structures designed to capture the rays of the sun at the moment of the Solstice. One of the most famous of these is Stonehenge, located in Wiltshire, England. The Winter Solstice is particularly important for Druid, Wicca, and Pagan communities. Today, people around the world celebrate the Winter Solstice with bonfires, music, family gatherings, dancing and singing.
Shalako Kachina Ceremony is a series of dances and ceremonies conducted by the Zuni people at the winter solstice, typically following the harvest. For other tribes, this is commemorated as the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa and also the season of K’aliyee, the time of the north wind blowing.
The Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony involves extinguishing old fires and lighting new ones. The Hopi Holy Cycle celebrates the changing of the seasons and the nature of the Hopi sacred universe.
Chinese New Year Also known as the Lunar New Year, this is the most important date of the Chinese calendar and is related to the Chinese Zodiac. Because the Chinese calendar is both a Solar and Lunar calendar, the actual New Year’s Day changes from year to year. Prior to the New Year, people clean their houses thoroughly and set up traditional decorations.
This is a time of year for family reunions, parties, gift giving, and fireworks.Many of us look forward to the holiday season each year, and revel in the traditions that accompany it. However, with the holiday season, comes a myriad of potential threats to your health. Check back next year (on January 1), when we will post about how to stay healthy in the New Year.
Whatever gatherings, ceremonies, celebrations, and traditions in which you participate, I want to wish you a healthy and joyous holiday season.