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It's called 'beauty sleep' because it's good for you

Published May 4, 2007


My past two columns have explored the reasons so many of us feel fatigued, and remedies that come from diet, vitamins, supplements and energy drinks.

If you're still looking to put some zip back in your day, look no further than a good night's rest. Sleep is the No. 1 supplement for energy.

I'm sure we've all suffered from some lack of sleep at one point or another. A comfortable mattress, the proper room temperature and noise-free surroundings can turn that situation around.

To further promote a good night's rest, sleep doctors suggest we adopt a sleep hygiene, or sleep ritual, which means doing the same things each night to signal to our bodies that it's time to retire for the evening. Set a specific bedtime, take a warm bath at night or read a chapter of your favorite book.

Conversely, there are things to avoid before bedtime, like caffeine, exercise and spicy foods. And while you can eliminate those factors, stress or anxiety are harder to control. In those cases a sleep aid may be needed. Be careful; while many sleep aids say they are nonaddictive, they may be difficult to kick once they've become a crutch. Use under a doctor's scrutiny.

Avoid prescription or over- the-counter sleep products by going the natural route with a supplement such as calcium magnesium, which helps calm the nervous system; or melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates our sleep cycle.

Melatonin shouldn't be taken for longer than two weeks as it may interfere with your body's own production levels. The recommended supplement is between 100 and 150 micrograms. Chamomile is also a good alternative to sleep medicines. It has been used for centuries to promote calmness and relieve anxiety.

Back to the future

As I mentioned in the first article, the genetic composition of our internal mechanisms hasn't changed much since the days of the caveman. Our ancestors foraged for fruit, vegetables and protein, walking and running almost every day in a quest to survive. Our bodies weren't designed to sit in traffic or behind a desk for eight hours a day or to function on synthetic junk foods.

So while there may be a medical condition behind some cases of fatigue, chances are good that you're simply missing out on the basics of health and functionality that our bodies were made for.

Run. Bike. Walk. Swim. Anything that elevates your heart rate and exercises muscles helps increase your metabolism. If somebody says he has a high metabolism, that means his body is working efficiently. And, chances are, you rarely see that person lulling around looking like he just got out of bed.

Your metabolism is the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy or the rate at which your body burns calories. Basically, it's like the thermometer on your oven. The higher it is, the more it's cooking. You can raise your metabolism with exercise, or even by making adjustments to your daily routine, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking the dog a little longer.

A rise in metabolic rate means you body is using more calories, even when you're just sitting around. Burning more calories means less fat. Less fat means more energy. Simple, right?

The wrap up

Excuses are abundant and change is not as dramatic as some might think. Eating three meals a day, especially breakfast, avoiding excessive drugs, caffeine and alcohol and adhering to an active workout plan are the three main ingredients that can lead us to healthier lives. It's not like we're being asked to climb Mount Everest.

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, and eat a high fat diet, your metabolism will suffer and render you lethargic. Regular exercise (three days a week) along with a solid nutritional plan and vitamin supplementation should give you that added lift to do the things in life you want to do, like hike a trail, dance at a nightclub, walk the mall or play with your children or grandchildren.

The bottom line is, when you start to investigate energy properties of your life, long term solutions surrounding your diet, sleep and exercise are the way to go. These changes in habits may even give you a quality of life you're not used to having, one in which every day is a good energy day.

[Last modified May 3, 2007, 06:51:12]

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