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Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep

The impact of sleep deprivation can affect you instantly, or over time and can raise your risk for chronic health problems. 

 

Getting enough sleep is vital for maintaining your health and well-being. Contrary to belief, sleep is just as important as exercise and nutrition. Developing a natural sleep routine for you or your family is important for short- and long-term health. 

 

Read our 15 tips to sleep better naturally, and start feeling better today!

1. MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY

If you currently have sleep issues, or you are wanting to optimize your sleep, making it a priority is the first place to start.

Make it a priority to make time to sleep. This means putting up work early, or finishing your Netflix show up tomorrow. The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, but research states the average is seven to nine hours per night.

2. AVOID TECHNOLOGY BEFORE BEDTIME

Avoid or minimize being on your computer, phone, tablet or watching TV, one to two hours before bedtime.

3. TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS

Artificial lights disrupt our bodies natural sleep-wake cycles. When it starts to get dark outside, our brains are triggered to make melatonin, a sleep hormone. Exposure to artificial light (ceiling lights, kitchen lights, light from electronics), decreases melatonin production, making it hard for our body to know when it is time to sleep.

  • Close the curtains, blinds, or shades to omit any light.
  • Dim, cover, or remove anything that emits light in your bedroom before bed, like alarm clocks.

4. MAKE SURE TO GET SUNLIGHT DURING THE DAY

Getting sunlight during the day, specifically in the morning, is so important in keeping your sleep regulated.

Take a short walk with your dog, partner, or with a podcast/music in your ears. 

5. MOVE!

Physical exercise is one of the most important factors for proper sleep. Pay attention to how sedentary you are throughout the day. How many hours of the day do you sit?

Walk, walk, walk! If you have access, walk in the mornings, in the middle of the day (maybe on your lunch break), and in the evenings before or after dinner.

Lifting weights, going for a run, or working out at the gym is also a great option!

If you have a desk job and are very sedentary, opt for a standing desk, or treadmill desk.

If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise during the day, start with simple practices. Park far away in the parking lot at the grocery store, take the stairs at work or chase your kids around at the playground.

6. ESTABLISH YOUR SLEEP NUTRITION

Some people do well with eating a small dinner and avoiding any snacks before bed (those with digestive issues), whereas other people need a bedtime snack (those with low blood sugar).

Don’t go to bed too full, or too hungry. Find your sweet spot on whether you should avoid food before bed, or have a snack before bed. 

It’s also important to cut down on water 2-3 hours before bed, so that you aren’t up going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

7. LIMIT CAFFEINE & ALCOHOL

Caffeine and alcohol can really affect your sleep in a negative way, and are best left out if you do have sleep problems.

If you are a coffee drinker, it is best to quit drinking before 12pm. Drink water the rest of the day, and stay hydrated.

When drinking alcohol, the closer you drink to bedtime, the more impact it will have on your sleep. Stop drinking and switch to hydrating when you feel like you will be getting  within a few hours of bedtime.

8. BETTER STRESS MANAGEMENT

Going to bed with anxiety and stress? Have an argument with your spouse right before bed? It is very important to manage your stress before bed. Otherwise, you might find yourself lying awake, staring at the ceiling, instead of sleeping.

  • Read a paperback book. Reading an interesting book can help you keep your mind off things you may be stressing over.
  • Implement deep breathing, yoga, or meditation before bed.
  • Diffuse or roll on some essential oils such as lavender or chamomile

9. SET THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE

Set a cool temperature on the thermostat 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Most people sleep best in a temperature ranging from 65 to 70 degrees.

10. GET COMFORTABLE BEDDING

You aren’t going to sleep well if you have an uncomfortable bed. Invest in some new comfortable bedding if you find yours difficult to get comfortable or fall asleep in.

11. CREATE A RELAXING BEDROOM ENVIRONMENT

Creating stress and distraction-free bedroom is extremely important for a good night’s sleep. Create a room that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

12. WAKE UP & GO TO SLEEP AT CONSISTENT TIMES

Waking up at the same time every day can not only regulate your sleep cycle but also sustain healthy habits.

If you wake up at the same time every day, your body will prompt you to also go to sleep at the same time every night.

Avoid sleeping in even on the weekends, if you want to keep your sleep cycle on track.

13. CUT OUT THE NOISE

Avoid disruptive noises like house creaks, or highway traffic with a sound machine. You can also use a loud bedroom fan, or a relaxing sleep sound app.

14. PRIORITIZE SAFETY

If you don’t feel safe in your house, then you probably won’t be sleeping optimally.

Remembering to lock your house up at night so that you feel safe and secure. For extra safety measures, get a security system. This really helps feeling safe while sleeping.

15. REMOVE TECHNOLOGY FROM THE BEDROOM

Most people are sleeping with their phones either in their beds or right on the nightstand beside them. This interferes with sleep.

Keep your phone out of the bedroom at night, and find a place to charge it outside of the bedroom. If you are going to keep it on your nightstand, or in the bedroom, put the phone on do not disturb mode.

Best Songs for Your Next Run

Best Songs for Your Next Run

run music

On days I don’t have a running buddy or group to train with or running just seems a little more daunting than usual, I treat myself to bringing along my trusty headphones with my pre-made playlists and jam whichever one goes with my workout for that day. It puts a massive smile on my face as I zoom, or trot, down the road, singing away and having a grand old time. 

What better way to get you through that challenging speed workout, 3-hour-long run, or hill sprint session (the local runners reading this know what we mean #HillsdaleRepeats or headed to St. Fran) than an awesome pump-you-up playlist of the best running songs out there? 

True, we all have different tastes in music, and not everyone is going to love every song on these lists. Still, I hope to help get you through some of those workouts by singing along to these fun tunes!

In this article, we break up our running songs into a few different categories depending on the type of workouts, such as speedwork or hills, or drills to improve form or cadence. We also have included some recovery run songs as well.

Note: Remember to always have your headphones turned down low enough, or only running with one in to be able to hear the traffic and noise around you. #SafteyFirst

 

THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING WITH MUSIC:

For most of us, we know that listening to music while running pumps us up and makes us feel good, right? But why is that? What can music actually do for us?

Music can help improve running performance: According to studies, music can help regulate mood and enhance a runner’s motivation and inspiration while running, resulting in a better workout outcome. 

Music improves mood by boosting the brain’s dopamine production: Haven’t you ever listened to a song that just puts a smile on your face immediately? A song can turn your mood around and cheer you up on a dime. 

  • Music can reduce stress and distract you: Distraction sounds like a pretty significant benefit when you are trying to push through those last few 400-meter repetitions at top speed or suffering through the last few kilometers of a peak-week long run. Get lost in the lyrics and finish up those final laps.
  • Music can help reduce pain: This statement will vary depending on the study you read, but some state that by reducing stress and anxiety, you can also feel a reduction in pain. Therefore, music helps reduce our stress levels, which will result in less pain.
  • Music can change up the routine: I know I like to run to the sound of silence or my own thoughts 80% of the time, but on those days when getting out the door seems more daunting than usual, a quick playlist can make all the difference on your perspective.

Just be sure and take precautions when listening to music on busy roads and ensure you are always aware of your surroundings. We want to use music as a distraction as an advantage to training, but not completely zone out to the point where the workout can become a risk.

 

GOOD SONGS FOR YOUR NEXT LONG RUN:

  1. Shivers – Ed Sheeran 
  2. There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back – Shawn Mendes
  3. Take You Dancing – Jason Derulo 
  4. Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5 & Cristina Aguilera 
  5. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift 
  6. Bang Bang – Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj 
  7. Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars 
  8. Time Of Our Lives – Pitbull & Ne-Yo
  9. Raise Your Glass – Pink 
  10. Don’t Stop The Music – Rhianna 
  11. SexyBack – Justin Timberlake & Timbaland 
  12. Kiss You- One Direction 
  13. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson 
  14. Boom Boom Pow – Black Eyed Peas 
  15. Like Sugar – Chaka Khan 
  16. On Top Of The World – Imagine Dragons
  17. Cake By The Ocean – DNCE
  18. Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake 
  19. High Hopes – Panic! At The Disco
  20. Good As Hell – Lizzo

GOOD SONGS FOR HILL WORK:

  1. The Phoenix – Fall Out Boy 
  2. Sabotage – Beastie Boys
  3. Bulls On Parade – Rage Against the Machine 
  4. Somebody Told Me – The Killers 
  5. Come Out and Play – Offspring
  6. Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  7. Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor 
  8. Survivor – Destiny’s Child 
  9. Reptilia – The Strokes 
  10. Misery Business – Paramore
  11. ‘Till I Collapse – Eminem 
  12. Numb – Jay-Z & Linkin Park 
  13. Last One Standing – Bon Jovi 
  14. Music Make You Lose Control – Missy Elliot 
  15. Pump It – Black Eyed Peas 

SONGS FOR RECOVERY RUNS:

  1. Trumpets – Jason Derulo 
  2. Drops Of Jupiter – Train 
  3. Lucky – Jason Mraz
  4. Demons – Imagine Dragons
  5. Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits 
  6. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  7. Wake Me Up – Avicii
  8. Budapest – George Ezra 
  9. Lego House – Ed Sheeran 
  10. Sunday Morning – Maroon 5 
  11. Life Is A Highway – Rascal Flats 
  12. Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something 
  13. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing – Jack Johnson
  14. 3 AM – Matchbox Twenty 
  15. It’s A Great Day To Be Alive – Travis Tritt

BEST SONGS TO IMPROVE CANDENCE:

  1. Hawái – Maluma 
  2. Despacito – Luis Fonsi 
  3. La Bicicleta – Carlos Vives & Shakira 
  4. Burn – Ellie Goulding 
  5. No Diggity – Blackstreet 
  6. Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers 
  7. Demons – Imagine Dragons
  8. Roar – Katy Perry 
  9. Jumpin’ Jumpin’ – Destiny’s Child 
  10. Cheap Thrills – Sia
  11. Bailando – Enrique Iglesias 
  12. Thrift Shop – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis 
  13. Get Right – Jennifer Lopez
  14. Beautiful Liar – Beyoncé & Shakira 
  15. Con Calma – Daddy Yankee & Snow 
  16. Hey DJ – CNCO 
  17. Drive – Incubus 
  18. Renegades – X Ambassadors 
  19. Say Something – Justin Timberlake 
  20. Súbame La Radio – Enrique Iglesias

There you have it! Take a good listen to my best running songs and see if they are right up your alley or if you need to make some changes. The important thing is that the songs you choose to run motivate you, inspire you, and put a smile on your face. If you start jamming out the lyrics during your run, even better! 

Eating Healthy at Home

Eating Healthy at Home

Your kids will love eating healthy foods in no time if you take these simple steps at home. It is also proven that kids who eat healthier at home are the ones that are likely to make better food choices outside of the home.

Of course, we all care about our family’s health, but it’s hard enough just to get a meal on the table most days, let alone having to worry about making it nutritious, too. Remember, it’s okay to start small. Simply switching to whole grains or replacing soda and sports drinks with water will help you become more conscious of the foods and beverages you and your kids are putting into your bodies. Before you know it, making healthier choices will be second nature. You’ve got this—and we’ve got your back!

MyPlate is a great place to start educating yourself about healthy eating. The site uses visuals to help your family make healthy food and beverage choices from all five food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

Start with a few of these small changes:

  • Make half your plate fruits and veggies.
  • Focus on whole fruits.
  • Vary your veggies, with a rotating cast of dark-green, red, and orange vegetables at dinner.
  • Make half your grains whole grains (think whole-wheat pasta and tortillas, brown rice and quinoa, whole-grain bread).
  • Change up your protein routine, with an emphasis on chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of pork, beef, bison, or game meats, trimmed of fat. Beans are a great plant-based protein source to include in your diet as well.
  • Offer water, low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk, or 100% fruit juice instead of juice drinks, sports drinks, or soda.

You may be wondering, “How am I ever going to incorporate enough fruits and veggies into our meals to make them half the plate?”

It’s not as hard as you think. Chances are, your kids are already eating a good amount of fruit. Make sure you’re offering fruit with breakfast, lunch, and snacks. If you still think they’re not getting enough, smoothies are a delicious (and efficient) way to pack in one or more servings. And don’t forget dessert! Try berry parfaits with Greek yogurt; halved peaches or sliced pineapple, grilled and drizzled with a little honey; homemade fruit popsicles; blueberry crumbles; and baked apples or poached pears with cinnamon.

We’ll admit, you might have to get a little more creative with veggies. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw away all your existing recipes and start from scratch. Simply find ways to incorporate more vegetables into the meals your family already loves. Here are a few of our go-to tricks:

  • Wraps: Step up your standard turkey-and-cheese by adding extras like baby spinach, red pepper, cucumber, avocado, tomato, shredded carrots and sprouts.
  • Pizza: Top whole-grain crust or dough with any combination of mushrooms, peppers, onion, fennel, zucchini, tomatoes, Brussels sprout leaves (trust us, it works), arugula, spinach, and fresh herbs. Create a pizza bar of options for DIY pizza night.
  • Quesadillas or Bean Burritos: Stuff with corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, avocado, spinach, or cilantro, and serve with salsa.
  • Soups and Stews: Gazpacho, minestrone and chili are all so easy to upgrade! Throw in whatever extra veggies and beans will work best with your recipes.
  • Pasta: You can add nearly anything to this dish! Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, peppers, snow peas, mushrooms, onions, leeks, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, kale, escarole, herbs—and, of course, tomatoes—are all perfect partners for whole-grain noodles. If you’re willing to mess with your recipe, carrots, zucchini, and onion make nutritious additions to your Sunday sauce.
  • Smoothies: Not just for fruit. Try adding carrots, beets, cucumber, ginger, avocado, spinach, or kale to your smoothies, and have your kids guess the mystery ingredient!
  • Salad Bar: Set out small bowls of broccoli, shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, raisins, cherry tomatoes, and other ingredients for kids to create their own leafy masterpiece.

Get Kids in on the Act

You’ve heard it a million times, but that’s because it works! The more involved kids are in planning and cooking meals, the more likely they are to eat them.

  1. Include your kids when planning the weekly family menu so they feel like they have a say in what they’re eating.
  2. Look at your school’s website together to see what’s being served, and decide if you’ll make breakfast and lunch at home or buy it at school.
  3. Shop for groceries together. Make a list before you go to the store and only buy foods on the list. Once in the store, let your kids help you find items on the list. Read food labels out loud and talk about the choices you’re making.
  4. Cook with your kids. It’s a great opportunity to teach them measurements, conversions, and cooking skills, and it gives them a vested interest in the finished product.
  5. Hold family taste tests. Buy different brands of a healthy food (whole-grain pasta, for example) and let family members decide which one they like best.

Eating healthy outside of home is important for kids growth too. Do you pack your kids a healthy lunch box for school? Or do they pack your own? Check out our E-Book of 100+ healthy lunches for kid lunchboxes.

These lunch box recipes are set-up to accommodate a busy schedule, variety of preferences, without holding down to specific ingredients or recipes.

 
  • Get 7 Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch & Preparation How To templates
  • Learn the lunchbox recommendations to meet your child’s nutritional needs
  • Learn how to stock-up your kitchen to make quick, easy and flavorful meals
  • Learn PRO tips & tricks to cook more flavorful meals with little extra effort that kids will enjoy
The Lessons We Learn From Sports

The Lessons We Learn From Sports

This summer, my sons have been training with a semi-retired pole vaulting coach, who is nothing short of a legend in our small town, Mumford Leake. We meet once per week and he works with them on the techniques associated with pole vaulting. He’s also introduced them to the shot put, discus and hurdles during our time together. These weekly workouts have been the highlight of my summer. This may seem a little odd, that the highlight of my summer wasn’t some epic adventure or grand vacation. However, watching Coach Mumford instill in my kids the same love and passion he has for track and field has brought a lot to all of us on those early Monday mornings. 

As our summer of field event training has come to as close, and I think back on what they’ve learned, it’s some of the most basic lessons that sports can teach you. How to overcome adversity, literally… and how to be brave enough to try new things, even if you aren’t good at them. Each of the boys have gravitated to one field event more than the other. Brooks really likes doing the pole vault, and while Ridge thinks vaulting is fun, he seems more engaged in the throwing events. While my hope is that they continue learning these sports and participate in track in the spring season, (they are baseballers at heart… so fingers crossed), I will always be grateful for this summer mornings at the track and the lessons they’ve learned. 

I’ve always told them that we put them in sports so they can learn important life lessons, like how to be a good teammate, how to overcome adversity, and how to win and lose with grace. While they’ve learned a bit of these things on their own this summer, we also got to watch these lessons play out on the world stage at The World Athletics Championships for 10 days in July. Nightly, we’d watch the events which were full of incredible feats of athleticism, speed, and strength that were capped off with victorious moments of athletes draped in their country’s flags being celebrated by all in attendance. However, the moments that stood out the most, were the moments of defeat, specifically in the pole vaulting finals. As the bar rose higher and higher, the number of athletes started dwindling and as each athlete missed their final attempt, they graciously bowed and waved to the crowd. Each one took a moment to literally “bow out” of the competition and they did so with dignity and grace, which left a lasting impression upon all of us.

In sports as in life, we can’t always win, and having a gracious attitude in those moments that don’t go our way, says so much about our character.