Have you ever had a sleepless night?  You may vividly recall an agonizing evening of tossing, turning and checking the clock every five minutes. I admit when I was in my teens and twenties, sleep was not my top priority. These days are much different; sleep, like oxygen, is a necessity.

This past year with COVID-19 looming, many of my friends and coaching buddies (clients) have found sleep elusive. Between the pandemic, social unrest and feelings of uncertainty, many have counted sheep more than sawing ZZZZs. 

In their book, “The Alzheimer’s Solution,” Drs. Dean & Ayesha Sherzai discuss the power of sleep to restore the body and the mind. As neurologists, they examine brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) that can repair the brain at night. At the same time, cells and neurons are able to regenerate during sleep. But that is not all. In the Sherzais’ studies, they reveal how the brain can “…clear-out toxins during deep sleep, including those toxins that lead to amyloid buildup.” They also explain that less than adequate sleep, “…can negatively affect both the brain’s structure and function.”

It is hard to challenge the virtues of a good night’s rest after a night of sleepless tossing and turning. However, not everyone knows the many health benefits associated with “restorative sleep,” as the Sherzais explain. From enhanced immunity, sharper cognition, improved mood, to weight management and overall quality health, sleep provides a wide variety of physical advantages that will truly optimize our total wellbeing.

What can we do to improve our sleep? You may recall from the 01/01/2021 Phytofit newsletter, I recommended we develop Healthy Habits. These habits form our lifestyle and become part of our daily ritual. Check-out these recommended Healthy Habits (HH) we can develop to optimize our sleep, defog the brain and live more productive lives:

HH #1, Exercise: Exercise is truly the Fountain of Youth and if we want our brains and our bodies to feel young and vibrant, we must participate in regular physical activity. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep at night, but caution is recommended. Exercising 2-3 hours before bedtime can create too much adrenaline to fall asleep quickly. For the best sleep, try exercising earlier in the day.

HH #2, Enjoy the Sun: Sunlight or bright light during the day helps to reset our circadian rhythm—our eternal clock that tells us when to sleep and when to wake-up. Spending as little as 10 minutes in daylight exposure is all we need, and this may be a perfect time to take a little walk as well.

HH #3, Turn off Technology: Using smart phones and computers at night exposes us to blue lights, thus confusing our bodies to believing it is daytime. Experts recommend turning technology off at least one hour prior to sleep to allow the brain to properly prepare for slumber.

HH #4, Increase Melatonin: According to Dr. Michael Greger, www.Nutritionfacts.org, “Melatonin is a hormone secreted at night to help regulate the circadian rhythms.” Lucky for all of us, there are many plant-based sources of melatonin from which we can choose. Check-out this list of tasty melatonin-packed treats: 

  • Fruits: kiwi, tart cherries and tomatoes; 
  • Nuts: almonds and walnuts;
  • Seeds: mustard and fenugreek; and,
  • Berries: raspberries and goji 

Please note that the amount of melatonin found in each category increases as the list progresses, with raspberries and goji berries being superior. It is best to eat these foods at least one hour before bedtime to sleep tight! 

I hope these four healthy habits will result in better sleep. Improved immunity, sharper cognition, better weight management and overall quality-of-life…these are something to sleep on! Please see my upcoming Zoom class, Power Foods for the Brain, where I will not only dive into the protective factors of brain health, but also 

Recipe of the Week: 

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie 

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

2 cups of baby spinach

2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup frozen cherries

1 frozen banana chopped

1 cup pomegranate arils or blueberries

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

Instructions:
Add all ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth.

Upcoming events:

POWER FOODS FOR THE BRAIN:

Research shows how a plant-based diet and lifestyle practices can be beneficial to the brain, may prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function. Join an interactive cook-along and learn the best ways to prepare health-promoting meals that protect your brain and improve cognitive function.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

On ZOOM

10am – 1pm

Price: $20

To register, contact Debbie Zimmerman, Debbie@phyto-fit.life or call 863-660-8588

POWER FOODS FOR A HEALTHY HEART

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. Eating habits and other lifestyle factors play a key role in determining the risk of heart disease. Learn how a low-fat, plant-based diet, combined with regular exercise and a healthful overall lifestyle can prevent, delay and even reverse heart disease and other cardiovascular events. Hear how a plant-based diet can also help improve blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis. Lace up your walking shoes to participate in aerobic activities that will improve heart health, release stress and help burn those extra calories. Learn how to make guilt-free, plant-based chocolate desserts for your favorite Valentine packed with hidden nutrients, not hidden fat!

Saturday, February 6, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

$35 for members/$50 for Non-members

https://boktowergardens.org/calendar/power-foods-for-a-healthy-heart/

POWER FOODS FOR THE FITNESS ENTHUSIAST

For centuries, athletes have been following plant-based diets to achieve a competitive advantage. Recently, plant-based diets have gained popularity in a variety of sports. Perhaps that’s because vegan athletes are leading in endurance sports, weightlifting, and even Formula One racing. However, you do not have to be a professional athlete to benefit from a plant-based diet. A low-fat vegan diet comprising of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables provides the ideal fuel for any physical activity. It also demonstrates qualities for enhanced recovery over high-fat and animal-based diets. The Power Foods for the Fitness Enthusiast class aims to empower attendees with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare simple, nutritious meals that fuel optimal fitness and recovery. Enjoy a cooking demonstration and learn how to make five plant-based Smoothie Bowls for optimal nutrition and quick recovery.

Saturday, March 27, 2021
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

$35 members/$50 for Non-members

https://boktowergardens.org/calendar/power-foods-for-the-fitness-enthusiast/