Happy Friday, my friends! Welcome to my 29th One Simple Change post.
I think it’s high time we talk about SLEEP. I have a fair amount to say on this subject, so I am going to divide this post into 2 parts. Here in part 1, I’ll discuss why sleeping well is essential to good health; I’ll also define a good nights sleep. In part 2, I will talk about reasons why you might not be sleeping well, and I’ll offer some tips for improving your sleep if it’s less than ideal.
Let me kick this post off by letting you know that I am not a sleep expert (I am pretty sure you already knew that). I am just someone with an educational background in holistic health which means I’ve long understood that good sleep is intimately connected to good health. Also, I’ve done a lot of research on sleep over the years to help out various members of my family who struggle in this area.
Why is sleeping important?
Deep rest for a good many hours each and every night allows us to be at our best every day. When we don’t sleep well, things like our attention, concentration, memory, motivation, and mental performance will suffer. We also, obviously, feel tired when we don’t sleep well. Who hasn’t missed out on some winks and then felt crappy the next day? I personally feel terrible when I don’t get enough sleep.
But good sleep is needed for much more than your mind and for energy…it’s a time when muscles and other bodily tissues, as well as your organs, are undergoing restoration. Sleep is also a time when hormones that regulate the immune system and the appetite/metabolism are being produced. I don’t want to get into all the hormones involved because it’s too much to talk about here, but suffice it to say that not getting enough sleep can actually make you sick (poor sleep has been linked to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and depression). Not sleeping enough can also negatively affect your weight.
What is a good night’s sleep?
For most people, a good night’s sleep is the ability to fall asleep right away and sleep deeply for at least 8 hours. Some individuals may be able to get away with an average of 7 hours per night, but less than that probably isn’t enough. If you have a history of sleep deprivation, a lot of stress in your life, or if you are dealing with an acute or chronic health issue, you probably want to strive for an even longer sleeping stretch on a regular basis…you might need as much as 10 hours per night. Note that these numbers are what I am suggesting for adults…children have different sleeping requirements.
If you always have trouble falling asleep or if you habitually wake up in the night and can’t fall back to sleep, then you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. If you toss and turn and wake up a lot, then you’re not getting a good night’s sleep either.
Many experts in the field of natural health believe it’s best to get to bed by 10 pm on a regular basis because your organs (including the very important adrenal glands) rest and replenish in the early nighttime hours. This is hugely problematic for many people…including myself…especially on the weekends when the tendency is to stay up late and then sleep in. While it may seem like you’re getting enough sleep if you stay up until 2 am and then sleep until 10 am, it’s not nearly as good for your body as if you sleep from 10 pm until 6 am.
So what about you? How many hours do you sleep each night? Do you get to bed early? Do you feel rested during the day? Are you all set in the sleep department or is this something you need help with? As I said above, I’ll be publishing a part 2 to this post with recommendations for how to get a better night’s sleep naturally. Look for that post in a couple of days ;)
Sources consulted for this article:
Sleep Away the Pounds: Optimize Your Sleep and Reset Your Metabolism for Maximum Weight Loss
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival
The Schwarzbein Principle, The Program: Losing Weight the Healthy Way
Take Control of Your Health
Homemade granola is so easy and economical to make….it’s also much healthier and more delicious than granolas you can buy. I’ve been hooked on making my own ever since I baked up my first batch.
I’ve tried many different recipes since then…I guess you could say I am on a quest to find the perfect granola. I’ve experimented with quick cooking and slow cooking, I’ve played with the oils and the sweeteners, and I’ve added all sorts of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Here is my latest incarnation, adapted from Maria Speck’s beautiful book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More. It might just be my favorite one yet.
You know what I like best about this granola? It’s not too sweet. Though Maria does call for dried fruit in her recipe, I opted to leave it out. Also, I happen to love the salty aspect of this granola (since I used sea salted almonds in addition to some sea salt in the recipe).
One thing I haven’t quite figured out is how to get lots of big “clumps” in my granola. This recipe does give you some, but not enough in my book. If you know the secret to clumpy granola, PLEASE do share your granola wisdom…oh, wait: Kelsey’s recipe might be the answer :)
My family loves this for breakfast with milk or Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. Berries make a glorious addition…so do sliced fresh apricots.
Recipe for Nutty Olive Oil Granola
Yield: About 10 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
If you're bothering to make your own, then why not make a lot? In my experience, granola keeps well and running out is sad. This recipe contains no dried fruit, but you are welcome to toss some in after it's baked: raisins, dried cherries, and chopped dried apricots are all tasty additions. You're also welcome to substitute (liquified) organic coconut oil for the olive oil in this recipe.
*6 cups organic rolled oats (use certified gluten-free oats if you must avoid gluten)
*1 cup organic shredded, unsweetened coconut
*1 cup chopped almonds (I used roasted, sea salted almonds)
*1/2 cup skinned, chopped hazelnuts
*1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
*1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
*3/4 cup olive oil
*1/2 cup honey (I used a local clover honey)
*1/2 cup demerara (or other non-refined) sugar
*1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
*1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
*1 teaspoon sea salt (I used coarse, but fine is...well...fine)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place oats, nuts, and seeds in a very large bowl. Add the olive oil, honey, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and use a wooden spoon or your (very clean) hands to mix everything together (note: if you measure and pour the olive oil before the honey, the honey will slide right out of your measuring cup).
3. Spread the granola evenly onto your parchment-lined baking sheet: you will have a thick layer. Press the granola down firmly...I think this helps it clump :)
4. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
5. Rotate your pan (you can stir the granola around at this point but I didn't...again because I thought it might impede "clumpage") and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the granola is golden brown on top and the amazing aroma is driving you crazy.
6. Leave granola to rest in the pan for at least an hour or as long as overnight (covered tightly with foil) before breaking it up and transferring it to an air-tight container(s) for storage. I store my granola in a giant Mason jar, but smaller glass jars can be used at well; you can freeze some if you don't think there's any chance you'll eat up the whole recipe in the near future.
My previous granola recipes:
Healthy Homemade Granola
Olive Oil Granola with Dried Persimmon and Pistachios
Spiced Pumpkin Granola with Cashews and Cranberries
Welcome to my 28th post for One Simple Change! If you are new here, One Simple Change is a (more or less) weekly series that I started in January, 2012. My goal with each post is to share an easy way to improve your health- and your life- holistically. If you’d like to check out my previous One Simple Change posts, you can find them here.
I apologize for how quiet it’s been here on my blog lately…life this summer has been so full! I started this post days ago then set it aside; for various reasons, I just could not give it the attention that was required. But I can now resume my “regularly scheduled programming”, and I’ll get back to posting One Simple Change on Fridays next week. Since I didn’t post last week, I’ll make that missing post up to you soon, ok?
Before I go on, I want to mention that not too long ago, I would have given myself a seriously hard time for not getting my blog posts done “on time”. But ever since I wrote this, things are different. I’ve been following my own advice and it’s truly changed my life…I sincerely hope that you are getting something out of One Simple Change, as well.
This week I want to talk about Slowing Down.
This is a post I’ve been planning to write for One Simple Change for a while, and I think now’s the perfect time since I just did a week long rock climbing camp with my kids. Yes, you read that right…I went to rock climbing camp. I’ve got a very sore back, scrapes on my fingers, and a banged up knee to show for it. I’ve also got a contented heart: I really enjoyed the camp!
Once upon a time (not too long ago), I was obsessed with being productive…with crossing stuff off one checklist or another. My mind was racing all the time with thoughts of everything I needed to do, and I rushed through most tasks just to get them finished.
Ever since I committed myself to being in the moment, however, much of the above has changed. In making the effort to be present, my mind is no longer racing. My life has slowed down and I am making different choices. I don’t think I would have signed up for this rock climbing camp before. I wouldn’t have allowed myself the week off to do something like this. But I am so glad that I did.
If you’ve ever rock climbed before, you know that’s it’s the ultimate exercise in being present and taking it slow. Exactly what I needed right now.
I used to be afraid to slow down because I feared I would never get anything done. How could I if I didn’t rush? Now I understand that by slowing down (and being present), I can clearly see what I actually need to do. And if I do whatever it is I need to do slowly, I generally do a much better job (don’t confuse slowing down with procrastinating, though…the two are NOT the same).
I also used to worry that if I slowed down, I’d end up late. Now I see that this just isn’t the the case. Being late is more often about not leaving yourself enough time to prepare. Have you ever had the experience of being in such a rush that you spill your breakfast all over your clothes? Then you need to clean up the mess, go change, etc…and you waste a whole bunch of time as a result? I certainly have. I’ve also gotten a speeding ticket when I was rushing to be somewhere. Of course I ended up super late as a result.
Keep in mind that slowing down may require you to adjust your schedule. For example: you may need to start getting up earlier so that you can move at a slower pace in the morning and still get to where you need to be on time. I’ve personally been getting up 1/2 an hour earlier than I used to on weekday mornings (I am working on moving my bedtime earlier, too…we’ll talk more about sleep in a One Simple Change post soon).
So don’t rush through life: it’s a marathon not a sprint. Give yourself permission to take it slow sometimes (and to take time off when you need it). Slowing down is a good strategy for dealing with anxiety; it’s also a good way to help manage stress. Management of stress is essential for a healthy life.
Practice taking your time as often as you can. Slow down when you cook, and slow down when you eat: your meals will taste better and you will better digest your food. And try to slow down in your interactions with family, friends, and everyone you encounter.
If your job lends itself to slowing down, then by all means do so, but definitely slow down when you’re at play. Slowing down lets you see things you might have otherwise missed.
Know that slowing down does not equal being lazy! If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing slowly :)
These days, most people are seriously over committed. This usually leads to having to be in a rush all the time, and rarely being able to experience the beauty of slowing down. It’s really important to recognize when your plate is too full. When that happens, I advise you to consider “scraping some things off” (ie letting some commitments go), and that probably means learning how to say “no”.
For those of us who spend a lot of time online, this might mean saying no to opportunities that promise little “return on investment”. It might also mean reigning in an overactive social media existence. I’ve been experimenting with this by spending less time on sites like pinterest and twitter lately…it’s kind of amazing how much less busy I feel, and how much extra time I’ve freed up to do other (more important to me) things by doing so. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that I experience imagery/information overload when I spend too much time online…I really need to step away quite frequently if I want to “stay slow”.
I sincerely believe that if you spend a lot of time online, it’s good to do an occasional social media “fast”. Go away (or stay home) and unplug from the computer and/or your phone for a little while. How long you do this is up to you…it could be 5 hours or it could be 5 days. This will allow you to take a break from that pressure to stay connected that so many of us feel nowadays…I think this is a great way to slow down.
Some other ways to slow down:
1. Close your eyes and take 10 very deep, slow breaths. Try this any time you feel overly busy/stressed.
2. Read a book (preferably not a murder mystery!)
3. Go for a walk/get some fresh air every day/make time to connect to nature
4. Make sure you get enough sleep
5. Schedule down time into your day
So what do you think about this week’s One Simple Change? What does slowing down mean to you? Do you slow down on a daily basis? On weekends? On vacation? Or never? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts :)