It is amazes me how our attitude’s change about sleep as we get older. When we are younger we relish staying up late, brag about it, and generally try to milk every moment we can by staying awake. As we get older though we start to appreciate sleep time…trying to make sure we get a solid eight or more hours of dream time. We might even take naps. I know I plan my day around sleep time. I always want to ensure I get enough rest. If that means I have to go to bed at 6pm, before the best prime time shows even start, so be it. That is what a DVR and the weekend is for. We cannot expect to be healthy, fit, and strong if we ignore the benefits of adequate rest.
So what if you have trouble sleeping. I am one of the not-so rare folks who do. I wouldn’t say I have full blown insomnia but I am definitely sleep challenged. It runs in the family. Like my father, I toss and turn and wake up numerous times each night. I have tried a variety of things to help fix these issues because I am not a fan of pharma meds and don’t want to go that route.
Here are some natural ways to help you sleep better… one of them was a game changer for me.
Blackout curtains or a sleep mask – Total darkness often means a better night’s sleep. It also helps regulate our hormones better. Artificial light messes with our sleep systems so make sure to block all sources with blackout curtains. That way your neighbor’s porch light or street lights won’t be impeding your sleep. If you have artificial lights in your room such as the displays on alarm clocks or cable boxes, turn them off or use a sleep mask if you would rather not.
On the flip side, waking up with natural light is also ideal. If you have to get up before th sun does, like I do then use a wake-up light. The warm yellow light begins 30 minutes prior to your alarm time, increasing in intensity as your chosen waking time approaches. They are fantastic!
Get rid of EMF near the bed – Electrical appliances produce toxic electromagnetic fields called EMFs. It is not a good idea to have these devices near you when you are trying to sleep. To make your bedroom an EMF free sanctuary use a wood bed frame if you can (instead of metal) or just put your mattress on the floor. Turn off electrical devices or if you can, turn off the fuse that powers your bedroom. If you use a cell phone as an alarm clock (like I do!) keep it as far from you as possible, even if it means you have to get up and walk across the room to turn it off. You can also buy an EMF Neutralizer for your cell phone.
Use a natural remedy – Many people swear by Valerian (an herb) and Melatonin (a hormone). For the latter, start with a teeny weensy dose, even if you have to cut an already small pill in half. It can be a powerful sleep aid but it can also have side effects for some people such as vivid nightmares.
For me the most effective remedy I have ever tried is lavender essential oil. it is AMAZING. I put a roller ball on a bottle of pure lavender oil and apply it neat (means undiluted) to the bottoms of my feet thirty minutes before bed. Then when I slide into bed I am out like a light and I wake few times if any. Total game changer.
Eat light – Don’t fill your belly right before going to bed. That fires up numerous systems in order to digest the food and assimilate all the nutrients. Eat a couple hours before bed time or eat a light meal.
Take a bath/shower – A hot bath or shower is very relaxing before bed. You can also use a few drops of essential oils to relax you even more. Try Roman Chamomile, Peace & Calming blend, or Marjoram.
Avoid stimulation – Don’t exercise right before bed, watch TV, or play on the computer. Take an hour or so before bed to wind down and stay away from artificial lights such as bright TV screens and computer monitors. We cannot expect our bodies to go from 60 to sleep in just a few seconds/minutes. We need to wind down naturally and prepare our bodies for sleep. After sunset use candles and install software on computers and phones to dim the lighting with he setting sun. Try f.lux. It’s free.
Do you have sleep tips to share?
A couple months back I was introduced to The Homegrown Collective and I fell in love. No seriously…in love. Every month you get a new box with various DIY, homesteading projects and recipes. Everything you need and detailed instructions come in the box so you are learning new recipes and skills each month.
You not only get to TRY new things you get to LEARN new things. I have a bit of an obsession with homesteading and homemaking skills long since forgotten in this day of modern convenience and these boxes manage to capture all of it perfectly. A box of new skills hand delivered to your door….skills that will make you more self sufficient, reduce your environmental impact, and save you money. This is an ingenious product concept and I simply adore it.
Last month the theme was detox and this comes at a great time because after a long hard winter, being stuck indoors, and a general tendency to let eating and fitness habits get lax… a detox or cleanse is probably in order. Spring is around the corner and we have that nagging feeling we need to clean and clear out he cobwebs. Well, that applies to our bodies as well. Sometimes we need help expelling toxins and sloughing off the remnants of winter.
The first item in the box I dove into was the tea. It is dandelion organic herbal leaf tea and honestly I was intimidated. I have heard of all the yummy things you can make with these weeds but I had only tried them (the flowers and the leaves) in salads and they are not my favorites by any means. I was kind of weary of the tea. Turns out though that my anxiety was misplaced because this is some seriously delicious tea. I can easily suck down a cup or two or three a day…it is that good. Upon drinking up what came in the box I immediately contacted Homegrown Collective about getting some more.
The box came with an infuser to use when brewing but I decided to use my husband’s Keurig and a reusable K cup. I fill the cup with the loose tea and then I run it through the Keurig 2 or 3 times. It tastes wonderful every time and then the remnants get composted.
But back to the tea itself… dandelion. According to the The Herb Book it is supposed to be one of the best blood purifiers and liver cleaners we have access to. It also helps us to reduce acidity in the body, replace important vitamins and minerals, and increase activity in our pancreas and spleen. I love drinking it and I LOVE that drinking it is so good for me.
Next up was the detox bath DIY project. The box came with dead sea salts, baking soda, 100% cotton muslin bags, and dried organic lavender buds. This is everything you need to make fizzing bath soaks that will help you detox while you relax in the tub. The dead sea salts have 21 essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iodine, zinc, and potassium. They all detoxify, treat, and cleanse our bodies. Two thousands years ago Flavius wrote about their ability to heal the body so this is not a new concept.
The lavender buds make the bath soothing and aromatic and I adored this project because it was easy and enjoyable. I don’t often take the time for baths and this provided me with the encouragement to take some time for me and relax. I will be making these fizzy bath soaks often!
Last up was a bentonite clay and rosewater facial mask. Again this is something I rarely take the time for. In fact I don’t think I have used a facial mask in years but they are incredibly helpful for the skin. Healing clays in general are another ancient remedy that has gone by the wayside in modern times. They are rich in nutrients (bentonite clay is made from aged volcanic ash) and they help draw out and absorb toxins, heavy metals, impurities, and chemicals.
The mask was soothing…as was the rosewater. For a few days after the mask I kept feeling my skin and being impressed with how silky and smooth it felt. I will definitely be using up my remaining supply and then buying some more to make this a monthly practice. I will also be keeping the clay on hand for making healing poultices for stings, bug bites, and bouts with poison ivy.
I can’t wait to see what next month brings me! Check out The Homegrown Collective to try it yourself.
It’s a key ingredient in curry powder. It is a gorgeous bright yellow-orange spice that adds color to your dishes and it tastes amazing when added to a variety of dishes. And I do mean a variety…one of my fave desserts is turmeric ice cream with ample amounts of the spice and grassfed cream. It is that amazingly earthy spice that has some pretty wonderful qualities…antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-angiogenesis (blood vessel formation). Turmeric, also known as curcuma longa, is a very common herb that acts as a natural medicine which heals the human body and serves it in many ways. Since ancient times, turmeric has been a medicinal aid and a source of relief. Even today it is well known as a great aid for curing a cold and fever when you drink turmeric milk. This article expands on the qualities of this natural medicine and why you may want make sure you getting enough turmeric in the diet.
Turmeric helps a person fight cancer. In 2010 a study was published by The European Journal of Pharmacology and it revealed that curcumin (an antioxidant found in turmeric) inhibited the metastasis of breast cancer cells that had been implanted in mice. Consuming the spice would be advantageous for those in the initial stages of cancer so that the disease is prevented from metastasizing (spreading) throughout the body. This is huge because it is often the spread of cancer to vital organs that lowers the chance of survival. Anything that can stop cancer in its tracks is hugely beneficial and it can be supported with a spice that virtually anyone can access.
Many health conscious folks in Asian communities swear by drinking turmeric milk with honey in the morning every day to keep fit. The same compound discussed above, curcumin also does wonders to regulate our metabolism and break down fats in the body. Both of these aspects can help us to maintain a healthy weight or lose some pounds. Exercising and eating healthy will always be the holy grail when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight but turmeric can be used as an assist if this is an issue for you. Another study, also done on mice, revealed this to be true when two groups of mice were fed unusually high caloric diets. The group that was also given turmeric did not gain nearly as much weight as their counterparts who were not given turmeric.
Turmeric also helps in healing wounds faster than any other medicine mostly because of its antibacterial powers. It has been used since ancient times for just this purpose. A turmeric paste would be applied to a cut or wound as soon as possible to stop the bleeding and heal the wound. It can be used in first aid today as well. To use this method yourself make sure to clean the wound thoroughly and eliminate any dirt and debris. Then cover the clean wound with turmeric powder and reapply as necessary. For rashes, bruises, stings, sprains, or bites mix the powder with water to create a paste and apply. This will help prevent infection, reduce swelling, and help with healing.
Turmeric is also used to boost immunity. When ingested it helps fight off bacteria, viruses, and infection (sepsis). It gives immune compromised or ill people a much needed assist and healthy people an advantage when they are exposed to illness.
Anti-aging & Beauty:
Aging is sped up by free radicals in the body and antioxidants (like turmeric) help neutralize free radicals and the damage they cause to cells and organs. This slows down the signs of aging and improves overall health and vitality. Applying it directly to the skin via a mask can help with skin problems such as acne and dry or oily skin.
Turmeric is a pretty amazing spice that helps in healing wounds, improving immunity, fighting disease, and keeping a person fit and fine in life. Adding more of it to your life/diet seems like a no brainer.
How to Get More Turmeric:
Eat more curry dishes
Add to a fruit smoothie
Sprinkle on yogurt
Add to chicken soup or homemade broth
Sprinkle on eggs, rice, and potatoes
Add it to homemade soaps (or buy turmeric soap)
Drink turmeric milk (recipe below)
Mix with coconut oil or water for a topical paste
Add to tea
Take it in pill form
Easy Turmeric Milk Recipe
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups regular, almond, or coconut milk (full fat)
2 teaspoons raw honey
Dash of cinnamon
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan or heat up just enough to warm through if you want to preserve the benefits of the raw honey. Remove from heat and pour into a mug. Enjoy!
This is the time of year when people start getting gung ho about their goals for the new year. For many those goals will include goals to lose weight or generally improve their fitness levels and ‘change’ their body. Sadly it is also the time when our bodies are naturally the most resistant to changes such as these. Why??? Because they are programmed that way!
During the winter months we naturally want to hybernate more, sleep more, and stay warm and cozy. The body doesn’t like to lose body fat or expend much energy this time of year. What might work well any other time of year is LESS likely to work in the cold weather months and we need to adjust and learn to nurture ourselves a bit more. Making strides to better health is an awesome goal but we also don’t need to needlessly stress our bodies during what can be an already stressful time of year (holidays, dark days, cold weather). Our bodies need TLC and here are some ways you can nourish your body during the winter months so you can stay well, be less stressed, and hopefully encourage your body to work with you on your goals and not against you.
Eat Warming Foods
When we think about slimming down or getting healthier we often think of cooling foods like salads, fruits, and green smoothies. If you want to cool your metabolism off then go ahead and eat those foods. If you want to fire up your metabolism than you need to pick more appropriate foods. For winter months we can choose from a whole world of warming foods like kale, collards, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, garlic, clove, squash, parsnips, cinnamon, coconut, fenugreek, pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, turmeric, mushrooms, and vinegar.
Eat With the Season
We need different nutrients at different times of year and we need to eat more of what nature intended for us during the seasons rather than what we can have shipped to us from across the world. If you love smoothies than go ahead and have one but use an apple or pear rather than frozen strawberries or a banana. Foods shipped across long distances will also be full of pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals meant to preserve them and keep them attractive looking after their journey.
Eat Nourishing Foods
It is especially important to eat nutrient dense foods in the cold weather months. Organ meats are an excellent choice. Liver, heart and kidney contain some of the highest concentrations of several nutrients and have been prized in traditional cultures for this reason. Fish oils are also excellent, especially fermented cod liver oil, as are bone broths and gelatin. If your body is starved for nutrients it will be less than cooperative when you want it to shed pounds, gain muscle, or otherwise change.
Change Your Sleep Patterns
You need more sleep in the winter months. 8-10 hours at least is critical and the general thought is that we also need to get as much sleep before midnight as we possibly can. Those hours are more rejuvenating and healing than those after midnight, so get to bed earlier and invest in blackout curtains so that unnatural light is not adversely effecting your sleep. Also look into earthing…
Bring Some Light Into Your Life
It’s cold outside so we are less likely to get outside, even if we see the sun peeking out. Many folks have to work so they are indoors and away from natural light for a big chunk of the day and usually have to get up and go before the sun comes up. If at all possible get outside for a walk every day, even if it is only 10 minutes. Use a wake-up light if you are using blackout curtains or have to get up while it is still dark. These lights simulate the sunrise. Light gradually increases for 30 minutes before your alarm time (whatever that may be) to gently prepare your body to wake up and feel more energetic at the start of your day. A vitamin D supplement is also a very good idea.
Because the cold weather months are drying and we because aren’t as likely to be eating those cold watery foods we need to make sure we are drinking enough water. Consumption of caffeinated tea and coffee typically increases and can dehydrate us even more, so drink your water. Your body needs to stay lubricated and your skin will thank you as well.
A few simple changes can help you nourish your body during the winter months and make it more receptive to the changes you want to see in the new year. Good luck!
It can be tough to remember which remedies are effective for different ailments. It’s difficult sometimes to remember all the essential oils, spices, herbs, or homeopathic remedies and what they are effective for. It’s a lot to remember! This is why I have an herb map that I keep on my kitchen wall that acts as a quickie cheat sheet for me to recall which herbs are helpful for various illnesses, injuries, and also preventative treatments. The herb body map below has the same basic function. It highlights various herbs and shows you via the body map what they are used for most commonly and effectively.
I like how user friendly it is. Migraines/head area/Chamomile. Bladder/groin area/Barberry bark. Easy peasy. Its a great quickie reference guide. Enjoy!
Image from G Baldwin & Co