Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?” Excitement      According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” Sleeping_angel All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep!   For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html

The Science of the Brain During Sleep

Our brains account for only 2% of our body’s mass, yet they use approximately a quarter of our entire energy supply. How does the brain receive and then expel the vital nutrients needed for all that energy? New research suggests that sleep has some amazing impacts on the brain. This Ted Talks video features Jeff Iliff, a neuroscientist, who explores the unique functions of the brain during sleep.

It’s Cuddling Time!

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It’s that time of year when everyone is breaking out thicker blankets and cuddling up for warmth. But warmth isn’t the only reason why cuddling feels so great!

It turns out that when someone is engaged in intimate physical contact, such as hugging, kissing, cuddling, or even sex, the brain naturally produces a “love hormone” called oxytocin.

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Oxytocin promotes happiness and kind behaviors, such as friendliness, empathy, and supportiveness. When people don’t get enough physical bonding (especially as a child), the lack of oxytocin tends to make them behave despondently and feel depressed or alienated.

So remember, if you’re feeling down, grab a loved one (person or pet) and cuddle!

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To learn more about how oxytocin may be used to treat depression, read this article from Prevention News by Siobhan O’Conner called Can Cuddling Cure Depression?

10 Foods That Help You Sleep

There are so many different methods for falling asleep, from counting sheep to meditating. If you are looking for a delicious alternative to those methods here are some great suggestions for tasty snacks that you can have before bed to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

1. Cheese and Crackers

house_calls_enCheese is a protein-rich food that provides sleep-inducing tryptophan, while the carbohydrates in crackers assist the tryptophan in reaching your brain helping you fall asleep more quickly. Compare cheddar cheese to turkey and you will find that cheese contains more tryptophan than turkey!

2. Almonds

5081954872_021e68ccb7_zThese delicious and crunchy nuts contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep. Eating a tablespoon of almond butter or a handful of almonds before bed may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

3. Walnuts

walnut-328091_640Another nut that helps you catch your zzz’s are walnuts. Walnuts are a good source of melatonin, helping your body respond to stress and allowing you to relax.

4. Bananas

Banana_bunchBananas are full of tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep quality. They also offer a vast amount of magnesium and potassium that both help to relax muscles and ease pain such as a charley horse.

5. Cereal and Milk

3599466415_f2df29705c_bMilk also contains tryptophan. The brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote relaxation and control sleep cycles. While the carbohydrates in cereal make the tryptophan more available to the brain.

6. Cherries

cherries-390932_640Cherries are a great source of melatonin, a sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock.

7. Decaffeinated Green Tea

8151509619_f434aca966_bGreen tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

8. Hummus

Hummus_from_The_NileChickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are not only rich in tryptophan, but also folate and vitamin B-6. Folate helps to regulate sleep patterns, (especially in older people) and vitamin B-6 helps to regulate your body clock. So spread that hummus on a slice of bread for your pre-bed treat!

9. Pumpkin Seeds

1414256_20140128070420Pumpkin seeds are another snack that are packed with a variety of nutrients and tryptophan.

10. Lemon Balm Tea

peppermint-tea-1109_640Tea made from the herb lemon balm contains naturally occurring oils with terpenes, organic compounds that promote relaxation and better sleep.

So grab a snack and catch your zzz’s!

Organic Treats for Trick or Treaters

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It is time to prepare for all the adorable little trick or treaters that will be coming out for Halloween. Usually the preparations take us to the local market for some bags of over-sugared candies that we parents usually end up eating. Well, this year you might want to try something a little more healthy so you won’t feel so guilty about sneaking a few here and there. There are many great candy companies out there that offer healthier alternatives to the standard Snickers, M&M’s and more. Here are some truly yummy organic and sugar-free options that kids will love.

Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruity Snacks

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These fruit snacks may not be a traditional candy, but they are still sweet and delicious.

Unreal Candy Bars

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Unreal candy bars offer a wide variety of candies that are modeled after conventional candy bars such as Snickers, Peanut M&M’s, Peanut Butter Cups and more.

Bug Bites Organic Milk Chocolate

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Individual pieces of delicious milk chocolate that are perfect for passing out to all the kids in the neighborhood. Each square contains a fun and educational insect trading card.

Surf Sweets Organic Fruity Halloween Treats

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These tasty, fruity snacks are made with organic juice and no artificial colors or flavors.

Yum Earth Organic Pops

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Another great alternative to the standard lollipop are these organic and healthy pops in many different tasty flavors, from Pomegranate to Razzmatazz Berry.

Halloween Glee Gum Pops

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These gum pops are 100% natural, with a hard candy exterior and a delicious gummy middle. These gum pops come in 3 different flavors: Sweet Strawberry, Crisp Green Apple, and Juicy Orange.

Whatever you chose to hand out to the kiddos, make sure it is an “eek”-o-friendly option!

Why Do We Dream?

Dreams are a very mysterious nightly phenomenon. We can only speculate on the purpose of dreams, but they are usually extraordinary in nature and a bit confusing to analyze. Why is it that most of the time we forget what we dreamt about as soon as we wake? Why are our accounts of dreams often unreliable or distorted?

The following video delves into theories about REM sleep and how important it is for forming and storing memories. It also discusses lucid dreams, sleepwalking, and a theory behind why we have so many negative feelings like anxiety and anger while dreaming.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGzc3x9WJU