How to Sleep Better, Naturally

Top 10 Proven Strategies to Get More Z’s

 By Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

1. Plan On A Good Night’s Sleep

This might sound obvious, but when was the last time you actually planned to have a great sleep? If you are like most of us, probably never.

However, isn’t good planning a key part of success in everything else you have done well? This article discusses a series of scientifically proven steps to help you meet your goal of a good night’s sleep.

The first and probably most important component of getting a good night’s sleep is to create a time buffer that allows you to power down. This helps you create calm during your hour before bed with a hot bath or whatever helps you unwind. Many of us are busy and race right into TV or a glass of wine.

However, if you plan on having a great night’s sleep, make sure to plan on giving yourself this buffer zone where you start to relax. The science proves this as well. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, showed older people who dozed off to soothing music had significantly better sleep quality that cumulatively improved over time.

2. Get The Gadgets Out Of The Bedroom

This also sounds obvious, but light and noise can inhibit sleep. A study in the Journal of Sleep Research, for instance, showed that bedroom computers and cell phones contribute to poor sleep habits. Keep the room you sleep in at a cool temperature, invest in a good pillow and mattress, wear earplugs and an eye mask, and use an ambient-noise machine if you need it.

3. A Simple Eating Strategy to Help You Stay On Plan

Sugar and high-glycemic foods can spike and crash your blood sugar, making you feel lethargic during the day and less likely to sleep optimally at night. If you are sticking to a good diet, this will not be a problem. But if you are falling off track or feeling tired, a simple adjustment can help you meet your GOAL of having a great night’s sleep.

Stabilize your blood sugar with lean protein, green leafy vegetables, good fats, and high-fiber starches. And limit the Starbucks visits: large sample and population-based studies show habitual, regular caffeine intake can disturb sleep.

4. How The Right Exercise Helps Ensure Your Sleep Goal

A study in the journal Clinics in Sports Medicine concluded exercise proves “a healthy, safe, inexpensive, and simple means of improving sleep.” For one, regular exercise creates deep, intense slow-wave sleep so you wake up rejuvenated. It also reduces sleep-inhibiting stress and anxiety. Limit physical activity to morning or afternoon hours, since evening exercise can make you feel alert rather than sleepy.

Again, this is nothing we don’t know. However, when you exercise in the right way, you increase your motivation to exercise, which automatically helps tee you up for a better night’s sleep.

5. Limit Naps to 30 minutes or Less

Shorter, colder days encourage napping, but a two-hour mid-afternoon siesta can make dozing off at night difficult. A study in the Journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine concluded that limiting naps to 30 minutes or less promotes wakefulness, improves learning ability, and enhances performance.

6. Definitely Try an Herbal Tea or Supplement

This is a biggie. Numerous studies and vast historical evidence tell us that mildly sedative herbs can help you sleep better. For example, more than 20 double-blind clinical studies show valerian improves sleep quality and insomnia. Commercial teas sometimes combine valerian with other calming herbs like Chamomile. A study in the journal Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin concluded chamomile significantly decreased the time it takes you to fall asleep.

In addition to valerian root, herbs such as California poppy, kava kava, hops, skullcap and lemon balm are commonly used in popular natural sleep products. The minerals calcium and magnesium are also added to quality products because deficiencies in these two nutrients can cause people to wake up after only a few hours of sleep. Ashwagandha, which is a popular Indian root used to help people “deal” is also an ingredient of several top sleep formulas.

A quick search on Amazon shows that Power To Sleep Softgels, By Irwin Naturals contain a broad array of these recommended herbs, plus a small amount of melatonin. This product is highly ranked on the Amazon website.

As we discover more high quality, proven formulas in this area, we will link to them for you.

7. Be Super Mindful of the Stimulants

Despite the myth that crabs and alcohol make you sleepy, that third glass of pinot noir or late-night freezer raid for Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey could prevent high-quality sleep. According to Drs. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, alcohol, chocolate, tea, and even some commonly used medications contain stimulants that stall sleep.

Real World Tip: If you are one of those people who must have their evening wine or chocolate, a cup or two of herbal tea in the two hours before you go to sleep will help cut into the negative effects of any stimulants. And if you are serious about sleeping, this will be part of your power-down window.

8. Keep A Sleep Routine When You Can

Sleeping till noon on Sunday often results in a restless Sunday night followed by a groggy Monday morning. Consistency is key for sleeping well. A study in Sleep, for instance, concluded young children who had trouble falling and staying asleep greatly benefited from consistent bedtimes. Another study in that same journal showed elderly people experience less insomnia with consistent sleep routines.

9. Use Melatonin When Consistent Sleep Isn’t Possible

Last-minute deadlines, sick kids, flights to different time zones, and emergencies can interfere with your sleep routine. Supplementing with melatonin can help. A study in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms evaluated 86 shift-work nurses with sleep disorders. When one group took 5 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed, they significantly decreased sleep latency and improved sleep quality compared with the placebo group.

Word of Caution: Melatonin should be used infrequently. According to recent studies, overuse of melatonin can interfere with the body’s natural production. The popular sleep formula linked to above contains 2 mg of melatonin.

10. Foods To Put On The Dinner Menu To Help You Sleep

Foods that are high in tryptophan can help promote sleep. There have been at least 40 controlled studies show that tryptophan helps reduce the time it takes to go to sleep, for people who have a hard time going to sleep.

The Turkey Myth! Many of us immediately think of turkey when reminded of tryptophan. However, while turkey contains measurable and impactful amount, all poultry contains the same amount. Egg Whites actually contain 4 times the amount, per 100 grams of food. Cod contains 3 times the amount.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, and helps to make serotonin, which in turn helps make melatonin naturally. Milk, cheese, eggs, fish and seeds are all high in this essential nutrient. Both pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are high in tryptophan.

(This article was originally published at )


If Only I Loved a Little More…

By Christie Clipper, MS

Why can’t we just love…?  Ourselves!  As women we can be our own worst critic.  The messages of self image and our place in this world that give birth to seeing ourselves in a negative light begins early in our formative years and grows throughout life’s experiences.  Thoughts become beliefs that paralyze our ability to reach our full potential.  Oftentimes, we live our lives through others.  We are everything but true to ourselves. We suppress our needs and desires.  We neglect our greatest asset.  Ourselves!

If only we loved ourselves a little more we would see the precious gift we are to our own being.  When we don’t love ourselves we restrict ourselves from being creative, resourceful and living life to our fullest potential.

Each day is a gift of time to use as you will. “What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you left behind… let it be something you’re proud of” (author unknown).

Allow yourself the time to deeply assess and ask yourself:

  • Am I completely happy with who I am?
  • Are my needs and wants important to me?
  • Am I accomplishing what I desire to be, to do, to achieve in life?
  • Moving forward, is there anything I wish to do differently?
  • Do I love myself?

Set a goal allowing tomorrow to be today and get started being, doing and achieving. Your journey begins by doing the work necessary to see how wonderful and important it is to love yourself.  Why wait to live your best life?

If Only I had a Little More Time…

By Christie Clipper, MS

It seems as though we just brought in the New Year and spring is already upon us. Time passes too quickly not to pay attention to what we are giving and receiving in life. There is no time like the present to check in with ourselves.

A close friend of mine moved to Georgia. Each time we’d talk she told me I have to watch the movie Bucket List. I like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freedman but had no interest in watching the movie. One day I finally listened to my friend. To my extreme surprise I didn’t like the movie, I loved it! It sent a clear message to me. Why wait! We spend so much time planning for tomorrow or getting lost in the day to day that we cheat ourselves out of living in the moment. We restrict ourselves from being creative, resourceful and living life to our fullest potential.

Each day is a gift of time to use as you will. I came across a quote whose author is unknown but wanted to share it with you, “What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you left behind… let it be something you’re proud of.”

Allow yourself the time to deeply assess and ask yourself:

  • Are you completely happy with where you’re at right now in your life?
  • Are you accomplishing what you desire to be, to do, to achieve?
  • Imagine celebrating your 80th birthday. Looking back on your life is there anything you would have wanted to do differently?
  • What would be on your bucket list?

Set a goal allowing tomorrow to be today and get started being, doing and achieving. Why wait to live your best life?

""The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins..." ~ Bob Moawad

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins…”

~ Bob Moawad


The Paleo Diet for Constipation

By Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

You can get enough fiber and long-term constipation relief by adopting a paleo diet, with its abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and even meat. Most people have experienced constipation’s uncomfortable symptoms, including infrequent bowel movements, strained and painful bowel movements when they do occur and stomach cramping.

A Paleo Diet Eliminates Constipation-Causing Foods

The modern diet, including dairy and processed foods, contributes to constipation. The paleo diet eliminates these culprits, as well as wheat products like bread and cereals, which usually contain paltry amounts of fiber.  On a paleo diet, you eat the whole, unprocessed, fiber-rich foods nature intended. You’ll likely find constipation becomes a thing of the past.

Fiber-rich Fruits and Vegetables

A paleo diet includes copious amounts of nutrient- and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to relieve constipation. According to Dr. Jonny Bowden, author of “Living Low Carb,” people used to receive about 60g of fiber daily. Now most people get less than 10g. Fruits and vegetables, along with other paleo foods, offer two types of fiber. Soluble fiber binds water and softens stool. Insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and frequency. You need both kinds to effectively combat constipation.

Let’s say within a day’s paleo-based menu, you include 2 cups of spinach, 1 cup of broccoli, 1 cup cauliflower, 1 cup of blueberries and 1 cup of raspberries. Altogether you’ll get 29g of constipation-relieving fiber.

Meat Can Also Reduce Constipation

Fiber isn’t the only silver bullet to get things moving again. Paleo meats like bison and grass-fed beef, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, also help improve constipation. A study in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” showed that a higher-fat diet, compared to lower-fat diets, speeds up gastrointestinal transit time. Food waste passes quickly rather than lingering in your gut. That’s because your gallbladder releases bile to break down fat. Adequate bile secretion triggers peristalsis, or digestive-muscle contractions, to speed digestion.

Nuts and Seeds: A Healthy Fat/Fiber Combo

To round out your constipation-relieving paleo diet, incorporate beneficial fat- and fiber-rich nuts and seeds. A quarter cup of raw walnuts, for example, provides nearly 10g of omega-3 fatty acids. Combine that with 1/4 cup of almonds, and you’ll get 6g of fiber.

Water and Constipation

Your body contains about 60 percent water. Dehydration means your colon absorbs water from food waste, creating hard, strain-inducing stools. Water is an underrated ally to relieve constipation. The Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes recommend that healthy women consume about 91 oz. and healthy men about a gallon, of water daily. Strenuous physical activity and numerous other factors can increase or decrease those recommendations.

Constipation is Multifactorial

Many factors, including stress, lack of exercise and even depression can contribute to constipation. While for many people a modified diet with exercise can reduce or eliminate the problem, visit your doctor if you experience frequent constipation for more than a few weeks.

(article originally published at

Spring into Motivation

By Susan Miccile, Rph CEC

Spring is right around the corner.  The sun shines brighter with each passing day.  The days are getting warmer.   The end of winter hibernation is near.  Now is the time to spread your wings and catch the breeze of motivation. 

What is motivation?  What does motivation look and feel like to you?  There are many definitions of what motivation is:   It is the desire, drive, or incentive to achieve a goal.   The desire is the driving energy that ignites the action to move forward.  Motivation looks and feels different for everyone.  What motivates one person towards a specific goal may not motivate another.  Motivation is rooted in a process of visualizing the possibilities and potential that lies within us.   That potential is the goal that awaits achievement.   What is your wellness potential? What is the motivator that will begin to move you toward your specific wellness goal? To answer that question, begin by becoming aware of what you are thinking, and feeling about wellness.  What does wellness mean to you?  If you are not leading your ideal wellness life, then what will motivate you to begin your journey towards greater wellness?  The more clarity you gain around what your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions of health and wellness are, the greater the sustainable wellness outcome.

Your wellness is your choice.  It depends on your motivation and your motivation depends on you knowing yourself both inside and out.

Living mindlessly . . . takes an enormous toll.

What we get from each moment
depends on the attention we give it, and the quality of our
experience reflects the quality of our awareness.

~ Roger Walsh

Working Health into YOUR Life

By Erica Smith, M.S., B.S., B.S.N., RN, HFS

I’m ready for warmer weather, how about you?

I recently began working the night shift, and it is hard.  I am a nutritionist, personal trainer, and nurse, and I still find myself struggling on figuring out ways on how to be healthy.   I have no normal schedule anymore, which is one of the things I thrive off of and so does my body.  So here I am, a health professional, working hard to figure out how to be healthy.

With spring just around the corner, I’m excited for the opportunities this brings.  I love working out outside, and it also has a lot of benefits.  We’ve all heard the research that we as a country are deficient in Vitamin D and that is contributing health factors.  No matter what your age, getting out in the sun (with some sunscreen) is good for your health physical and emotional!

For me, being outside means I get to be more active.  I love a competitive game of football or playing tennis.  And the feeling of a good sweat on a warmer day makes me feel refreshed.  I love going for a hike and seeing nature.  As you age, it is important to keep your body moving.  With mobility not being as stable as you age, it is hard to get outside with the ice.  As the ice melts, every one of every age should be heading outdoors!  Taking a walk around the block is a great activity.  Also, during the summertime a lot of times water aerobics is offered.  For the elderly, this is a great way to get moving without putting too much pressure on the joints.  And swim lessons for kids is a great way to get them active and promote safety.

Our bodies are built to move for a reason, but we sit a lot, especially during the months of winter.  Make sure, as the weather starts to get warmer in the next few weeks (at least hopefully!), that you start to ACTIVELY think of ways to get you and your loved ones moving. 

Look in next month’s newsletter for more information on how much activity you should be doing, but for this month try to just start moving.  Also, if you haven’t had a physical in the last year, go to your primary healthcare provider and talk to them about your goals for wanting to start being active.  Ask them if they have any guidelines they want you to follow.  Get the kids outside, take a walk no matter what your age, and maybe even try a few bicep curls with some soup cans you have lying around. 

How do you plan on becoming more active as the weather warms up?  Let us know!

Blood Pumping Calms the Nerves and Heals Hearts

Erica Smith, M.S., B.S., B.S.N., RN, HFS

Heart healthy, what does it mean?  When you reference your heart are you talking about the actual beating organ inside your chest?  Or that place in the center of your chest where all of your emotions seem to let themselves loose?

This month I’m talking not just about your physical beating heart and its health, but the one where all those crazy emotions reside as well.   You know exercise is good for preventing different heart disease and conditions, right?  Such as preventing hypertension and reducing your blood pressure, preventing and reducing coronary artery disease, it reduces the amount of LDL (or lethal cholesterol) in your blood, and various other effects to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or developing congestive heart failure (Myers, 2003).  Did you know that exercising is also good for your emotional heart?

The CDC states that approximately 1 in 10 adult’s report depression.  That means 10% of our population. There are varying degrees and types of depression, but this is still a large sum of the U.S. population. According to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) 18.1% of all U.S. adults are diagnosed with some form of anxiety. Anxiety and depression can cause major issues in a person’s quality of life and day to day living.  Even if you are not classified under one of these categories, chances are you experience high stress living in a society that must constantly be going, but not necessarily exercising.

Quite a few theories out there have tried to tell you why exercise works.  The most popular theory is the endorphin theory.  I’m here to tell you, sadly, those endorphins cannot go across the blood brain barrier so that theory is false.  However, the proof is inevitable; if you exercise it helps your mood.  For me?  It has a lot to do with the way my body feels so free and light afterwards and how my brain processes so much during that time.  At the end of a work out whether it be 5 minutes or 2 hours, my body feels like its accomplished something and my brain has processed a great deal.  For others, they benefit from the time they had to completely zone out and think about nothing.  In the end though, studies show that exercise not only helps your mood, but also your energy levels.

The benefits of exercise are endless to both your physical and emotional heart.  So what form of exercise makes you feel the best emotionally afterwards?  A long run?  Dancing?  An intense house cleaning?  Yard work?  Power walking through the mall?

For me it’s a nice intense match of tennis or a long interval run.  Afterwards my head is clearer, my muscles are more relaxed, and I often have a new outlook on life.

Get your blood pumping for your heart health!

The Best Low-Carb or Controlled-Carb Diet

By Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

Whether you do Atkins, South Beach or Protein Power, low-carb diets focus on a few basic principles. Most require you to limit carbs to around 20 or 30 g a day during the weight-loss phase, then slowly reintroduce carbohydrates until your weight loss stabilizes. These diets also encourage quality protein and fats, plenty of fiber and optimal levels of vitamins and minerals. Based on these principles, you can custom design a low-carb diet.


Focus every low-carb meal and snack on high-quality protein. A 2008 study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” showed protein keeps you satiated and lean, and helps you burn more calories. Protein signals a hormone called cholecystokinin, or CCK, that lets your brain know it’s full. You don’t need to weigh or measure protein on a low-carb diet. Simply eat until you’re satisfied, but not stuffed.

Whole, unprocessed foods, which are the mainstay of a low-carb diet, offer abundant protein. Three large eggs, for instance, contain 21 g. Lean meats likewise provide protein to keep you satiated throughout the day. You might find protein-based meals so filling that you don’t need to snack. But if you do, nuts and unsweetened yogurt make excellent protein-rich choices.

Good Fats

Dietary fat comes in three types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Without fat, you won’t absorb important nutrients like vitamins D and E.

Low-carb staples like chicken and almonds contain high amounts of monounsaturated fat. A 2001 study in the journal “Diabetologia” concluded consuming more monounsaturated fat improves insulin sensitivity, which helps you lose weight and prevents type 2 diabetes.

Wild-caught salmon and other fish offer abundant omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that reduces your risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes. Eggs, another low-carb mainstay, contain a perfect balance of all three fats. Always eat the yolk.

You don’t need to count fat grams on a low-carb diet, and the only type you should avoid is trans fat, often found in margarine, baked goods and processed foods.


Aim for 35 g of fiber in a low-carb diet. Among its many benefits, fiber keeps you full longer and reduces post-meal insulin response so you store less fat.

Your fiber quota adds up quickly with the right low-carb foods. Two cups of spinach, for instance, provides 9 g. Add a cup of broccoli for another 5 g. One ounce of almonds provides 4 g. For dessert, a cup of raspberries gives you 8 g.

Flaxseed also boosts your fiber count. Mix 2 tbsp. into your protein shake or cottage cheese. In addition to 4 g of fiber, you get omega-3s and 3 g of protein.

Optimal Nutrients

Low-carb foods provide abundant nutrients, but no diet is perfect. Think of a good multivitamin-mineral as your insurance policy: it covers the gaps you might not get in your food.

A 2010 study in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” concluded that six nutrients, including vitamins D and E and the mineral chromium, proved consistently low in four popular diet plans, including Atkins and South Beach.

A multi ensures you have optimal levels of these and other important nutrients. Find one that offers 400 IU of vitamin D, 50 IU of vitamin E and 400 mcg of chromium. Also make sure you get at least 400 mg of magnesium. Potassium can help relieve the cramping you might encounter when you begin a low-carb diet.


 This article was originally published at


By Susan Miccile, Rph CEC

The heart by one definition is a hollow, four chamber, pump like organ located between the lungs.  Its rhythmic contractions move blood throughout the body.  The heart provides all vital organs with blood needed for our body to thrive.  Heart health is the key to our overall physical wellness. If the action of the heart is not in balance, our bodies are not balanced and we become ill. 

Akshobyavajra Mandala

Another definition of the heart is that is a central source of emotion, intuition and feeling.   Heart health is also the key to our emotional wellness.   As I sat down to write about the heart, I came across a picture of the Akshobyavajra mandala.  The four quadrants of this mandala represent the four elements of unity.  Each quadrant is represented by a color:  red presents all-knowing compassion; green represents action through informed wisdom; white is penetrating light and yellow is the treasure of equanimity.  This is a mandala of balance and healing.  I envision this as the heart of our emotional, intuitive feelings.  Emotional wellness is achieved through compassion, wisdom, light and calm stability.  When we move from our thinking mind of intellect and connect the heart of feeling, a gentle balance of peace can be found.

How do we move from our thinking mind to our hearts?  Focused energy on our breath, quiets the busy mind.  Deep, slow breaths in through the nose, expanding the stomach and out through our mouth is the easiest way to begin.  As you breathe, your mind gets quieter and you can hear your heart.  You can feel your heart.  Heartfelt feeling.