Archive for health

How much sleep do you need?

Eat right, move every joint every day, sleep enough

In two previous posts, I’ve talked about eating right and moving every joint as necessary for the maintenance of good health. Today, the topic covers a third component of maintaining good health that once again, most Americans fail to do. We need to sleep enough. Not too little and not too much, but enough.

How sleep is enough for you? I can’t tell you. But I know very few people who can function well on four or five hours of sleep a night. Neither do I know very many people who function well on twelve hours of sleep every night. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep as you view the most recent research on the subject.

How much sleep do you need?

So how do you figure out how much sleep you need? I would like to tell you there is a great formula that tells you the magic number, but there’s not. It’s a little bit of trial and error. I’ve found the best way most people discover their best sleep is to try the same number of hours a week at a time and keep a diary of how you function with that number of hours.

sleep, healthA few rules to remember as you go through the process, however. Go to bed at the same time every night. That doesn’t mean 10:00 every night except Friday and Saturday when you stay up until 2:00am. The problem most of us get into with our sleep comes from our failure to follow a routine. When our body knows we will go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, it appreciates it. An occasional late nighter will not kill your pattern, but continuously changing your wake up and bed time will.

As you add or subtract time during your experiment, add or subtract not more than thirty minutes at a time. Then stick with that sleep cycle until you’ve tried it for at least a week. It will take you a few weeks, maybe even a few months to figure out your peak number of hours to sleep, but when you consider you’re setting yourself up to function well for a lifetime, it’s well worth the investment.

Quality is as important as quantity

Equally important, though, is not only the duration of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep. We manage today to go to bed with the television blaring, or earbuds plugged in playing the latest hits, or some other light and noise interference that keeps our bodies from realizing it’s time to shut down and go to sleep. Our bodies build a circadian rhythm based on light and noise levels around us. When we never shut out those two things, we confuse the brain and never give it a chance to shut down and replenish our system.

When you sleep, turn everything off. Don’t leave lights on. Don’t listen to the radio. Don’t watch the television. Don’t have distractions when you go sleep. Only two things happen in bed, one of them is sleep. The other we won’t talk about here. Do all those other things somewhere else and concentrate on sleeping when you go to bed.

Unfortunately, some must work night shifts and must suffer sleeping during the day. Now matter how long one tries to get used to it, it’s never quite the same as sleeping at night. Unless, of course, you practice sleeping at night as describe above with television, radio, flashing lights, and all the other sleep disrupters around you. If you must sleep during the day, I would advise getting the room as dark as possible with room darkening shades or blinds, using an eye mask, and creating white noise to shut out the distractions around you.

What a difference sleep makes!

When you find you’re peak sleep time (for most adults between seven and nine hours), you’ll probably wake up without an alarm clock at that same time every day. You’ll probably have little trouble going to sleep if the follow the rules above. You’ll probably feel better and function better than you have in a long time. Sleep allows your body to recover from the stress and strain of the day. It’s how your body heals from the minor events of the day. You need it!

So there you have it. Three simple things you can do for better health that don’t cost anything, but can make dramatic improvements in your daily health. Eat right, move every joint every day, and sleep enough. Sounds simple doesn’t it. So why do so many Americans do so poorly in all three areas? Let’s start a new fad and just do these three things well to begin a growing trend toward a healthier America.


Eating right and eating less improves health

The first place a lot of people look for help when trying to change seems to center around weight and fitness. In the last post, I talked about fitness, “You don’t have to be a jock to be healthy!” All we really need to do to stay fit is move every joint every day and walk a lot more than we do.

We have grown around not up since the 1950’s

Before I talk about our eating habits, I have to tell you about some classic radio programs I’ve listened to on satellite radio lately. One series titled “The Fat Man,” follows the investigations of a private detective known by the moniker of the series title. The interesting thing about this 1950’s radio program, the six-foot fat man tips the scale at a “rotund” 220 pounds! Fat? Not in today’s society. He’d be considered normal on the streets of any of our cities.

Few adult men in the fifties weighed 200 pounds. Now half the adult men push the scales past the 200 mark. What’s happened?

The issue is quantity (calories) as much as quality (junk food)

The issue usually isn’t the quality of food as much as the quantity of food, although both play a huge part in the overall demise of our nation’s health. Everywhere you go to eat in both fast food and sit down restaurants, proprietors want to make sure you get a bargain and come back. Consequently, super-sized orders are the norm rather than the exception.

Many of the meals we eat out in restaurants have more calories in a single meal than we should consume in a day, yet we eat three or four of those every day. It’s no wonder we keep growing around instead of up. We consume more sugar in the United States than the rest of the world combined. Maybe that means we’re affluent, but it also means we’re killing ourselves through a multitude of long-term debilitating diseases.

So how do we fix it? First, quantity IS important. Calories count! If you think about the body as a machine, it needs fuel to operate, but if it doesn’t burn all the fuel (calories) you put into it every day, it stores it as fat. Some of you might think exercise will burn off whatever you eat. Think again. Exercise does change your metabolism a little, but only a little. That Oreo you eat after you walk a brisk mile will talk you another four or five miles to walk off. So what you just gained by walking, you destroyed with the Oreo.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Oreo’s, but their calories must go into the calorie count. From a simple math perspective, just sitting around doing whatever you do to live and breathe takes about 1200 – 1500 calories a day. Anything you eat more than that, you got to burn off through increased exercise (which doesn’t count for much when you look at the tables).

So the only effective way to lose weight is to learn to do push ups well – that is, push up from the table after eating just enough to satisfy your caloric requirements and no more.

What you eat gives you more or less energy, keeps the body tuned up, increases or decreases immediate availability of glucose in the bloodstream, keeps arteries from getting clogged, and all sorts of other things. Eating right puts the right nutrients and minerals in your system so you stay as healthy as you can.

Diets don’t work long term

nutrition, food, diets, So what does a good diet look like? Not like Atkins, or the Beach, LA Diet, or Mary Jane’s chocolate syrup diet, or anything else that deprives you of a balanced meal. The place to go for guidance is the food pyramid provided by the USDA at http://www.choosemyplate.gov. Other good sources can be found at the American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org or the American Heart Association at http://www.heart.org. Anyone would do well to use those two nutrition plans, particularly if a family history of diabetes or cardiac conditions exist.

Good nutrition isn’t hard, just something to pay attention to every day. Especially when it comes to eating more than we should. Start thinking about those second helpings as second hurtings! Count those calories and burn more than you eat if you really want to drop pounds. It really is the only way to lose weight. There’s just no fad diet or secret pill or even any amount of exercise that will make you lose without dropping calories at the same time.

So that’s the end of lesson number two on staying healthy. Two simple things so far. Move – not necessarily fast, but move every joint every day and walk whenever it’s practical instead of riding. Second, eat right and eat less than the normal American.

Simple stuff, we just need to discipline ourselves to do it. No one can make us. We have to find the intestinal fortitude to do it for ourselves.


Physical Dimension Means Secure, Too

Physical Security and Health

When I talk to my clients about the physical dimension of life and life balance, I talk about three things. First, the security that comes from good health. I mentioned the three components Americans don’t do well in my last post, Physical Dimension of Life Balance, nutrition, sleep, and activity. When we maintain our health, we feel more secure about ourselves and our future. Illness pulls us into depressed states and makes it much more difficult to feel secure about other aspect of life.

Physical Security and Job, Career, or Purpose

physical security_career best adviceThe second aspect of security I share with clients centers around career, job, finance, knowing you have some kind of wealth to fall back on as you face increased responsibilities, grow older, and come closer to the end of life. At twenty, losing everything you own is not such a big deal. My first moves were in the back of my car. Most of you can remember those days. In my mid-thirties, it was a very different story. I had a wife and two kids to consider. It was okay if I was destitute, but I could never allow them to be destitute. I needed an income, a place for them to feel safe, clothes and food for them. I wanted more for them than just necessities. In my forties, it was about college bills, getting my kids into the right schools, establish their own skills and career patterns so they could succeed themselves (and move out of the house!). Now in my late fifties, it’s a question of whether I can build the right retirement portfolio before I quit working or reach a point when I can no longer work. And when I hit the magic age when I cannot work, I’m sure the security questions will revolve around what home will my kids put us in and is there enough money to pay for it.

Physical security in this second meaning, then, ties closely to two other dimensions, family and spiritual. Let me explain. It ties to family because financial security is never about how much you earn, but rather about how much you spend and that involves family spending habits and expectations. The problem with most families in financial trouble is not how much they make, but how much they spend. When you spend more than you make, you never catch up. That’s the problem with the current administration’s “get out of debt” concept. You can never spend your way out of debt!

Physical security ties to the spiritual dimension because it’s in that dimension that you find purpose for your life. When you know why you are here, you can do more than just find a job that puts food on the table. The reason 65% of workers are unhappy in their jobs is because they never match purpose with career and job. They pick up the paper or search the internet, apply for something they think they can do, get a job and get stuck. They never figure out their purpose in life and never pursue a career in which they will truly be happy.

Security is important. A job can make you feel secure, but it cannot make you happy. A career can make you feel more secure than a job, but again, you may not be happy in your career if it doesn’t make your purpose in life. By matching your purpose, career, and job. You will enjoy what you do, make money doing it, and feel secure in it because you know you are made for that purpose.

Physical Security and Safety

A third part of physical security is safety. I mention it briefly because if safety is an issue, it must be dealt with swiftly and is really out of the purview of life coaches. If you do not feel physically safe where you are, do something about it…now. Whether it involves police, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, carpenters or construction workers, marital counselors, or some other specialty to intervene, take care of the safety issues in your life immediately. You cannot continue to live in what you perceive is an unsafe environment.