LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Tips on eating well to sleep well

EatingWellThis article originally ran in the LiveWell newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

The notion that in order to be fit and healthy, your body needs good nutrition applies to more than your waking hours.

“To prepare your body for a good night’s sleep, what you eat throughout the day can have a positive impact on overall energy, mood and the ability to achieve a restorative sleep,” said integrative nutritionist Jeannie Paris, RD, LD. “Good nutrition and good sleep go hand in hand.”

Tips on eating well to sleep well

  • Be careful with alcohol. Alcohol can disrupt sleep and cause fatigue the next day. Limiting alcohol may improve sleep. If you do have an alcoholic beverage, follow it with a glass of water to help rehydrate the body.
  • Serotonin is important to sleep. Serotonin is the “deep sleep neurotransmitter.” It is depleted in the body by alcohol, sugar, stress, caffeine and processed foods. If you are having trouble with sleep, try avoiding caffeinated beverages after lunch. Also try boosting intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Magnesium is necessary for the body to process serotonin. Vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folic acid are also needed to synthesize serotonin.
  • Incorporate nutrient-rich foods to help achieve a healthy, restorative sleep. Along with avoiding foods that deplete serotonin, try incorporating foods that give your body tryptophan—an essential amino acid and a precursor of serotonin. These include: cheese, yogurt, eggs, poultry, meat and fish, and also nuts such as pecans, almonds or walnuts. In order to boost serotonin levels, tryptophan needs the help of a complex carbohydrate, such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, barley or yams.
  • Fight fatigue with food. There are many hidden causes to fatigue. Don’t ignore it. It’s important to have chronic fatigue checked out in order to rule out any medical causes. When the body is deficient in certain nutrients, it loses its ability to fight fatigue. These include vitamin D, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron and magnesium. Seek professional help from a nutritionist to learn more about incorporating these nutrients into your diet.
  • Try natural remedies to help with sleep. Certain teas such as chamomile before bedtime or scents such as lavender may help calm the body. Melatonin supplement may also be helpful for falling asleep, however be sure to talk with a health care professional before taking any supplements.
  • Know that sleep challenge changes as you age. Many people experience sleep issues during their 40s or 50s. For women, menopause and perimenopause are often factors. Hormonal fluctuations may cause sleep disruptions or hot flashes during sleep. Good nutrition plays an important role in dealing with these changes. The recommendations on how to address these issues are so individualized that it’s important to talk to a health profession.

To make an appointment with Paris, call the LiveWell Fitness Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital at 612-863-5178 or the Penny George Institute – Unity Hospital at 763-236-5656.


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Exercise tips for sleeping well

SleepPhoto.StockImage.pngThis article originally ran in the LiveWell newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

According to Sue Masemer, MS, sleep is usually not the primary reason that leads people to seek out exercise programs at the LiveWell Fitness Center, but that doesn’t mean that sleep isn’t related to overall fitness.

“Our clients often aren’t aware of the significant connection between quality sleep and exercise, and how great of an impact poor sleep may be playing in derailing their fitness efforts,” said Masemer.

Although the science of how exercise helps you sleep better is not fully understood, researchers do believe that it may have to do with temperature changes in the body that occur during and following exercise. The body’s temperature normally increases slightly as the day progresses and starts to decreases in the evening. It is assumed that this decrease in temperature may signal the body that it is time to sleep.

“The idea of exercising to gain more energy is somewhat counter-intuitive to people,” said Masemer. “After becoming more active, people often find that they have more energy throughout the day and actually feel more sluggish when they aren’t physically active. Consistent exercise has been shown to lengthen, deepen and improve the overall quality of sleep.”

Tips on how to incorporate exercise into your day to achieve a better night’s sleep

  • Figure out what suits your body best. As a general rule, people are usually encouraged to avoid high-intensity exercise within two to four hours of going to bed. This may make it more difficult to sleep as well as not allow the body enough time to cool itself down. Research suggests that for most people exercise in the late afternoon or early evening may work best for sleep enhancement. The key is to remember that exercise at any time is better than not exercising at all and you need to determine what works best for you with your sleep schedule.
  • Give yourself time. For people with significant sleep issues, it may take months to establish a quality sleep pattern. The benefits of exercise may not be seen right away, but they are there. Work with an exercise professional to determine the type and intensity level of an exercise program that works best for you.
  • If you can’t sleep, try gentle movement. If you suffer from insomnia and restlessness, you can try getting up and doing some light stretches, gentle yoga, or movement such as tai chi or qigong. Try this in a dimly lit place so that you don’t over stimulate your body.
  • Winter months are difficult for many. Really listen to your body. Try to think in terms of 10- to 20-minute blocks of exercise instead of half-hour or hour-long timeframes. Know that the benefits of exercise are cumulative. Research has shown that three, 10-minute activity sessions spread throughout your day are as effective as one 30-minute session.
  • Discover the hidden benefits of exercise through a fitness profile. At the LiveWell Fitness Center, a fitness profile includes a health history including complete muscular strength, flexibility, body fat and muscular endurance tests, along with a cardiovascular fitness assessment to establish ideal exercise levels and heart rate. The power of exercise is evident even during the assessment, as many people will discover that it is much easier to meet their goals and health needs when it is approached safely and is customized to meet your lifestyle. The results from a fitness profile are helpful to determine the best fitness plan for you, which may help you with sleep issues.

Sue Masemer, MS, is an exercise physiologist and manager of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. To make an appointment or learn more about the programs and services offered by the LiveWell Fitness Center, call 612-863-5178.


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Invitation to dream

by Ann Peyton, MA, RN, Nurse Clinician

peytonblogAs an integrative wellness nurse clinician, I help patients take a holistic approach to addressing a wide variety of wellness goals or health issues, such as managing stress, improving sleep and eating healthy.  Many times individuals are searching for ways to bring balance and joy into their lives.

In our time together, I may ask my patients to consider these questions:

  • What kinds of thoughts come up when you day dream about what truly fills you with a sense of purpose and meaning?
  • Which thoughts feel most in sync with your core values and interests?

I believe that generally the daydreams that we have most frequently and with the most intensity are the ones that gently nudge us towards actualizing our dreams. They tap into our innate abilities or gifts.

As in many things, it’s easier said than done to connect with these visions and dreams to help them become a reality. I believe the first step to doing so is mindfulness ― basically paying attention to your present thoughts and senses without judgment, and with an open mind and heart.

We at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing give much consideration to the practice of mindfulness. It is for us a “household word.” It is core to preparing ourselves to be present with our patients, and it is what we strive to demonstrate in our own lives.

I recently followed a dream of my own.  My dream was to keep in my family a farm that my late grandparents whittled from the prairie more than a century ago. I wanted to keep the house they lovingly carved from hand-sawed wood and cared for their entire lives. Spending time there brings me joy and energizes me. Caring for this land is core to my value of nurturing the land and my soul, and to balancing work with play.

The vision seemed very “out there” at first, but now this dream is slowly becoming a reality as I move to secure this farm for my family and future generations.

Here at the Penny George Institute, we encourage each other and our patients to look at ourselves and our lives holistically. What are the thoughts, actions, pursuits, relationships, occupations, and daily habits that are in sync with the vision we have for our lives?

I invite you to indulge in a daydream of your own.

Ann Peyton


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The power of sleep

by Molly Ellefson, MS, NCC

iStock_000007134013XSmallWhen I was a child, I fought bed time like a warrior nearly every night.  I have memories of making my sister stay up and play games with me and of reading under the covers with a flashlight. This pattern stayed with me into my college and young adult years. I worked part-time at a bakery, and there were many mornings I went to work without any sleep at all.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I understand the importance of sleep.  When I haven’t had enough, it’s harder for me to focus, and I’m more likely to catch a bug. I even struggle to eat healthfully and exercise.

As a wellness coach, I see my clients struggle with this as well.  They often feel overwhelmed by all the responsibilities in their lives: child rearing, aging parents, work, community obligations and financial strain. Sleep is often the first thing that gets sacrificed to fit in everything else.

What many people don’t understand is that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.  It isn’t something we can postpone or ignore.  Inadequate sleep has been linked to everything from cancer to strokes.  When we don’t get enough, it stresses our bodies.  Over time, being in this chronic state of stress has serious implications.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep?  Here are six things that help me:

  1. Take 30 to 60 minutes to wind down before going to bed. I use that time to read.
  2. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed, including cell phones, iPads and laptops.  These electronics emit “blue light,” a light similar to day light, which tells your brain it’s time to be awake.
  3. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  This can be hard, especially on the weekends.  But you can help your body’s rhythm become more regulated. This makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up.
  4. Invest in a quality bed and bedding.  It can seem daunting to invest a lot of money in this, but we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping.  Think how much we spend on our cars, where we spend a lot less time.
  5. If you cannot fall asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something else. Your bed should be a place of calm, not cause anxiety.
  6. Try some integrative health therapies.  Try aromatherapy. Lavender oil is known for its relaxation properties.  Just put a drop on a tissue near your pillow. You can also try deep breathing, guided imagery or another relaxation technique.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  It is good to remember that everyone has trouble sleeping at times.  However, if it happens more often than not and affects your daily activities, it might be time to speak to your physician or inquire about a sleep study.