Daily archive for April 7, 2010

Healthy Sleep Habits

Do you often wake up feeling tired? Do you feel pain or
discomfort while sleeping? If so, you’re not alone. A major problem
affecting many in today’s society is a lack of quality sleep. Not only
does not getting enough sleep bring you down physically and emotionally,
it has also been linked to many health issues.

The human sleep cycle
To understand why sleep is so important, it’s worth learning what
happens to your body during a night’s sleep. The human sleep cycle is
divided into cycles of two main phases, non-REM and REM
(rapid-eye-movement). Non-REM sleep is then divided into four stages.
Stages 1 and 2 occur when the person is just closing his eyes, and
eventually preparing for deeper sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are characterized
by deep sleep in which the person will feel disoriented if awakened from
this stage. These stages are important for strengthening the immune
system, and for repairing and regenerating tissues such as bones,
muscles, ligaments, and skin. REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye
movement, and paralysis of the rest of the body. During this stage is
when most memorable dreams occur.

How much sleep do you need?
On average an adult requires 7-8 hours of undisturbed, quality sleep
each night; teenagers and young children require even more. Disturbances
to quality sleep can include extraneous noises, chemically altered
sleep (medications, caffeine, alcohol, etc.), watching television prior
to sleeping, inconsistent sleep-wake times, temperature, or pain.

Position matters
To avoid pain during sleeping and increased strain on joints and
muscles, one must be aware of his sleeping position. In general,
side-sleepers should use one supportive pillow under the head, and one
between the knees. Some prefer to use a body pillow between the knees,
and to support the arms. A back-sleeper should also have one supportive
pillow under the head, and one or two under the knees to relieve strain
on the lower back. Many shoulder and neck problems stem from sleeping
with arms overhead.

Not enough sleep can be deadly
Lack of sleep has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular
disease, type II diabetes, motor vehicle accidents, occupational
accidents, and psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcoholism, and
bipolar disorder.

Proper sleeping habits are important for our overall health and
well-being. Our bodies need good sleep for healing and regeneration, and
to prevent injury and disease. For even more information about how you
can get better sleep, consult with your doctor or therapist.

Benefits of Volunteering

Recent studies have shown a strong connection between
volunteering and significant health benefits. According to the
Corporation for National and Community Service, people who volunteer 100
hours of service per year can achieve healthier, happier lives than
those who do not.

These natural, healthy benefits can include:

  • Reduced risk for depression
  • Lower mortality rates
  • Increased longevity
  • Greater functional ability later in life
  • Increased sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • Less incidence of heart disease

Volunteering also allows you to stay connected with the community
while remaining active. Interested in volunteering but don’t know where
to start? There are a variety of websites that can help you get started.
Here are just a few:
liveunited.org (The United Way) volunteermatch.org & serve.gov.

We at NPT also contribute a lot of our time to local events and charities and we’d love for you to join us!

Manage Holiday Stress with these 3 Tips

Planning holiday meals, fighting crowds at the mall, and wrapping gifts can all make for a stressful holiday season! When we experience stress, whether we are conscious about it or not, our body releases stress hormones that can lead to tension, headaches, body aches and/or mental “fog.” Luckily, finding a healthy balance between hectic and peaceful is possible with a few simple techniques.

The first step in managing stress is simply to focus on awareness. Take several moments throughout the day to pause and observe your body. Are you clenching your teeth, holding your shoulders up toward your ears, locking your knees straight, or clawing your toes in your shoes?

Once you identify where in your body you are feeling stress, try these simple techniques.

Relax the shoulders, let your tongue rest gently at the top of your mouth, relax your toes, and let your knees bend just slightly to reduce tension.

Take a deep breath! Breathe in through your nose slowly and with LONG inspiration, followed by blowing out your mouth slowly and with LONG expiration. This allows proper oxygenation to your muscles, organs and brain.

Exercise and eat healthy. You may feel like you don’t have a second to spare, but it’s important to keep active (and racing around from store to store doesn’t count!) Even if you only have time for a brisk15-minute walk outside, do it. You will feel better and more relaxed later. Also opt for healthy foods with the right mix of protein and carbohydrates. Not only will it keep you energized, you won’t feel as guilty when it’s time to indulge in those yummy holiday treats.

Lastly, don’t forget to remind yourself of what’s really important during the holiday season. Taking time to give thanks, share with family and friends, and laugh can all instantly help you relax. Happy Holidays!