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What You Need to Know About Caffeine

By Henry Emmons, MD

“Life is short. Stay awake for it.” Caribou Coffee nailed it with that promotional tagline. It’s funny, memorable and a widely shared sentiment. If we want to get the most out of life, if we don’t want to miss anything, caffeine offers a safe, legal and increasingly pleasurable way to feel more enlivened.

I have nothing against caffeine. In fact, I personally love it. I’ve given it up several times over my life, thinking it might have negative health effects on me. But each time I’ve come back to it, finally accepting that I just plain enjoy it. I like the effect it has on me, the flavor, the ritual and the communal nature of sharing a cup of coffee with someone.

I believe that the research on the health effects from caffeine come out mostly on the side of it having an overall positive impact on health. It’s a legal stimulant. It can temporarily improve energy, focus, even mood. So long as it is not used in excess, it...

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What is Adrenal Fatigue?

By Henry Emmons, MD

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

Perhaps you feel unmotivated, have less interest in things, feel weakness, or an unrelenting achiness in your muscles. Maybe you want to sleep too much, or simply wake feeling unrested. Your mood might be sad or down, or perhaps it’s just flat. But your biggest concern? The one that never seems to go away? It’s this feeling of profound fatigue.

How is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed?

The Mainstream Medicine Approach

Adrenal fatigue is not a term accepted by mainstream medicine. Trying to care for symptoms like those above will usually start with routine blood tests that look for adrenal insufficiency (known as Addison’s disease). The result will likely be normal. Most doctors will then look for other causes of the fatigue, doing routine blood tests to rule out things like low iron, low hemoglobin, or a thyroid problem. After this series, symptoms will usually be attributed to untreated...

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Morning Routine for Better Sleep

 

Before you begin your routine, it's important that you set a bedtime and wake-up time. Aim to get to bed at about the same time each night. Getting up at the same time each day can also help you keep a regular bedtime. Remember to choose times that are realistic for you and that give you 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Goal: Complete These Practices Within Three Hours after Waking Up.

Wake Up On Time. Get up at the same time every day (or close to it). This is crucial to setting your circadian rhythm. Use alarms if you have to. It’s even more helpful to awaken with the light, either the natural sunrise or a dawn simulator.

Make Your Bed. Making your bed each morning improves the chances of a good night’s sleep by nearly 20% because it keeps you from using your bed for anything but sleep.

Eat Breakfast. Learn more from the Nourish practices in this Sleep section.

Get Some Sun. Get bright light in the morning, preferably within an hour or two of waking. That will...

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Adaptogens and Nervines for Resilience in Body and Mind

 By Tim Culbert, MD

Adaptogens and nervines can support resilience in body and mind. These substances are generally well-tolerated and can help your system adapt more skillfully when faced with stress. 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are typically plant-derived substances that work to balance your body and mind. You may also hear them called “adaptogenic herbs.” These substances can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, environmental, and emotional stress; and can also exert a normalizing effect on bodily processes.

Adaptogens Can Help

  • Increase blood flow in the central nervous system.
  • Increase the release of helpful brain chemicals such as nerve growth factor and BDNF.
  • Modulate brain waves.
  • Support neuroplasticity.
  • Boost the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Prevent cell damage.
  • Eliminate toxins.
  • Balance the stress response of the adrenal system.
  • Quiet the mind and body.

Common Adaptogens

  • Ginseng.
    • American ginseng (panax quinquefolius) can help...
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Evening Routine for Better Sleep

 

Before you begin your routine, it's important that you set a bedtime and wake-up time. Aim to get to bed at about the same time each night. Getting up at the same time each day can also help you keep a regular bedtime. Remember to choose times that are realistic for you and that give you 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

1-2 Hours Before Bed

Stop Work, Turn Off Devices, and Stay Away From the Bedroom. Stop any work-related tasks and turn off your electronics including the computer, iPad, and smart-phone. Keep the bedroom for sleep. Remove work-related items, TVs, or other electronic devices. Keep the room simple and uncluttered.

Dim the Lights. Keep your lights as low as you can, or even use candles. Darkness before bed will do amazing things for your natural sleepiness.

Practice at Least One Soothing Activity. Read a book, journal, color listen to light music, or spend time in prayer or meditation. If you like to take a warm bath or shower in the evening, do so at least one...

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Create a Sleep-Friendly Space

 

Your Sleeping Space Can Help You Sleep 

All of your daily movements and routines should be rewarded with the best sleep you can get. Simple changes to your bedroom can help make that happen.

Keep It for Sleep. Keep the bedroom for sleep. Remove work-related items, TVs, or other electronic devices. Keep the room simple and uncluttered.

Keep It Dark and Tech Free. Even small amounts of light can alter melatonin secretion, so shut out all possible lighting (including alarm clocks, cell phones and night lights). Get room-darkening shades for your windows if needed or consider using an eye mask at night.

Keep It Quiet. When you cycle into a lighter stage of sleep, even the slightest sound can wake you up. If your partner snores, consider using a white noise machine (e.g. a room air cleaner). If need be, consider sleeping in separate rooms—studies show that most couples sleep better in separate bedrooms.

Keep It Cool. You sleep best when your body is...

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Movements and Routines for Better Sleep

 

Moving your body in certain ways while you're awake can prepare it for better, longer sleep. Specifically, there are two powerful strategies that can help you sleep better: 

1. Exercise During the Day

Exercise during the day will likely help you sleep better. Just remember to try and finish moderate to high intensity exercise at least three hours before you go to bed to keep your stress hormones down and your body cool at bedtime.

Don't have an exercise plan yet? In order to help you find a movement routine that works for you, we have created three resilient movement plans: the Basic Movement Plan, the Even Better Movement Plan, and the Ideal Movement Plan. Learn more and find the plans here.>>>

2. Create Evening and Morning Routines

Incorporating more meaningful movement throughout your day can play a big role in the quality of your sleep. One way to accomplish this is to create morning and evening routines. These routines incorporate...

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Valerian for Anxiousness and Sleep

by Henry Emmons, MD

[adapted from The Chemistry of Calm]

p.s., You've read Part 1 of this series and the introductory article about balancing GABA and glutamate, right? If not, head to those posts first.

Valerian Benefits | Valerian and Anxiety

Valerian has been called “natural Valium.” It is not as effective as the prescription drugs, but it is also safer and non-addicting, and it may offer benefit for both anxiety and sleep. The plant contains some of the calming amino acids, like arginine and GABA, and it is believed to work via GABA and serotonin receptors.21 There was an older study combining valerian with St. John’s wort, and comparing that combination to the drug Valium for treatment of anxiety. The natural remedies actually came out on top.22

Valerian Dosage & Use*

I usually recommend valerian for sleep support, though sometimes for anxiousness. Calm Nights is a good option, take up to 3 or 4 times daily. If it's...

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Nourish Your Brain for Better Sleep

Nourish Your Brain for Better Sleep

What you eat--and when!--can have a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. This may be more obvious for things like coffee and energy drinks, but there are other food items and the timing of when you eat them that may be helpful or detrimental to your sleep. 

The nourishment steps and food list below can help you refine your diet so that it supports your sleep. Pair these resources with The Resilient Diet and you'll have nourishment that fuels a good night's sleep.

Three Nourishing Steps to Support Your Sleep

Use the three steps below to change your food habits and improve your sleep. Don't feel obligated to put all of them into action immediately. Go step by step, take some time, and put each into action with confidence and commitment. You can do it!

First: Timing Is Everything

While eating balanced and nutritious meals throughout the day will support your sleep, it's not just the content of...

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Sleep, Resilience, and Mental Health

 

Good Sleep Is Non-Negotiable

Your sleep, mood, and brain function are intimately related. Scientific studies tell us that our emotional states affect sleep and that sleep affects emotions. The good news is that you can create better sleep with fairly simple strategies.

How Well Do You Sleep?

Think about how you would honestly answer the following questions:

  1. How many hours do you sleep each night?
  2. How well do you sleep at night? Do you feel rested after you've slept a full night?

Did you know that your answers to these questions are intimately connected to your mood and brain function? Difficulty sleeping is sometimes the first symptom of a mood disorder; 15-20% of people diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression (1). Getting your sleep right is one of the best things you can do if you have a mood disorder. Studies show that improving insomnia boosts the chances of recovering from depression by a remarkable 50%! 

Recent studies have also...

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