Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleepy young man with pillow on light background

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

We often relate health with a healthy diet, physical activity, mental and emotional health but sleep is in some ways neglected in health conversations today. Sleep is the foundation of good health and it is important for every facet of life. Sleep deprivation affects every aspect of life whether it is physical wellness, mental wellness, job performance or social relationships. 

Why do you need to sleep?

  1. To improve your energy levels
  2. Boosts your immune system
  3. Improves heart health 
  4. Improves brain function 
  5. Good for memory 
  6. Better cognitive functions
  7. For the emotional well being
  8. For better weight management
  9. For better mental health 

Canada and the USA are the third and fourth most sleep-deprived countries respectively. One in three Canadians isn’t getting enough sleep and almost half of Canadians do not find their sleep refreshing.  

Recommended healthy sleep hours by the sleep foundation are as followed:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours 
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours 

Both too little and too much sleep can have poor health impacts.

Effects of too little sleep :

  • Poor concentration, memory and vigilance
  • Sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, irritability and weariness
  • Increased risk-taking, suggestibility
  • Weight-gain
  • Depression
  • Poor immune system
  • Increased risk of diabetes and morbidity 
  • Increased mortality
  • Early ageing

Effects of too much sleep:

  • Obesity
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Depression 

Sleep is a basic physiological need. The less good-quality sleep you have, the greater your sleepiness will be, not only when you’re about to go to bed, but at other times as well. According to Dr. Chris Idzikowski (an expert on sleep and its disorders), the three main factors that affect daytime sleepiness are:

  1. The duration of your nighttime sleep (how long you’ve slept during the night)
  2. The quality of your nighttime sleep (how well you’ve slept)
  3. The circadian time (the time of the day)

Restful Sleep – Reachable Dream

Your sleeping space

Your bedroom must only be used for sleep and intimacy. Make some ‘keep out’ rules.

Keep out TV – Television is one of the greatest reasons for ignoring the urge to fall asleep. Television acts as a stimulant and keeps the brain active. Moreover keeping the TV on while getting ready for bed and then keeping it on when you are in the bed may make you overlook your body’s sleep signals. So place your TV out of the bedroom. 

Keep out work – Your bedroom is not an office where you need to check your emails, texts or read papers. Keep your notifications on silent for the night and your phone’s screen light to a minimum. Do not bring your laptop by your bedside. Your brain links work to being alert and focused, work is not conducive to sleep.

Bedroom Ambience

Create your sleep paradise!

The temperature, light and noise levels, and your bed are crucial factors that make the bedroom a perfect place to sleep. The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to create a perfect bedroom environment. 

  • Turn off the lights, turn your alarm clock to face away from you, your phone must be away and on silent
  • Close the drapes or curtains or use a sleep mask
  • You can use earplugs to keep noise out or keep windows closed to block heavy traffic noise out
  • Consider double or triple glazing your bedroom to block the noise out
  • The mattress soft or hard must be according to your comfort
  • The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67degree Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.

You can also consider the colours in your bedroom. Studies show that peaceful whites, pale blues, and calming greens make it easier for us to fall asleep. Another way to make your bedroom feel calm is to cut down on the clutter. If you do not have much time to clean up and declutter simply spend 15 minutes cleaning up what bothers you the most. Feng Shi consultants and Zen practitioners insist that free flow of energy in your physical environment brings peace, prosperity and love.

Undo your stress

Limit your exposure to stressful situations and take frequent breaks during the day and learn to say no to any additional projects. Jot down your thoughts in a diary before going to bed. It will help empty your mind and help you relax and sleep better.  Use music as therapy for relaxing. The calm music such as zen music or wave sounds can calm your mind and help you sleep. For some people, aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender or jasmine is also beneficial. A gratitude journal before sleep can also help you feel better and promote sleep and meditation before bedtime also has a calming effect. Healthy eating, physical exercise and connecting with friends and family can help reduce stress and help you get better sleep.

Eat well and right for better sleep 

Caffeine and alcohol are sleep thieves!!

Limit your caffeine intake, reduce the amount of caffeine consumed in the afternoon and evenings. Caffeine stimulates the brain by blocking the action of hormones that makes you feel sleepy. The effects of caffeine might persist for up to 4-6 hours after consumption – always avoid caffeine consumption right before bedtime.

Energy Drinks are more of a hype than help as they contain lots of sugar. Caffeine hampers the normal mechanisms in the body (i.e. the sleep/wake cycle). The only way to rest the body is by getting a good night’s sleep.

Alcohol sedates you but does not put you to sleep – instead, it fragments your sleep all night. Beer, wine, etc. are poor sleep aids, as they stop your brain from entering the deeper stages of sleep, making you feel less rested and tired the next day. This is another reason why hangovers occur. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM or dream sleep.

Avoid eating dinner right before bed as it is hard to fall asleep with a fuller stomach, considering it keeps your body active and delays sleep. You must try to finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime for easy sleep.

Think your way to a good night’s rest

Develop a sleep ritual like brushing your teeth or a warm shower right before bed every day, as these can signal your brain for sleep. Reading a few pages of a book while in bed can also help put you to sleep. This practice is conducive to sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body clock and is helpful in getting good quality sleep. If you need to reset your sleep cycle in one day, stop eating for the 16 hours before the time you want to wake up.

Sleep is crucial for living a healthy life. Sleep deprivation triggers both physical and mental illness and may also bring social isolation and despair. If you struggle with sleep, have sleep anxiety or sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, please speak with your physician and take measures to get a better sleep today.

Improve your sleep to enhance the quality of your life.

Employees who sleep better work better. 

Sleep Deprivation negatively impacts the energy levels and productivity of the employees and the company. Sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation are linked to various physical and mental health issues and increased risk of workplace injury leading to more disability claims in the company thereby increasing the health cost for the employer. Here’s how employers can improve the sleep of their employees:

  • Promote the importance of sleep in their company culture

When employers talk to their employees about the importance of sleep they are more likely to influence their employees into sleeping better. Employers can circulate monthly newsletters stressing on a healthy lifestyle and some tips to improve sleep to help employees improve the quality of their life.

  • On-site napping

Employers can have on-site nap stations to facilitate 10-30 minutes of power naps for their employees. It improves the energy and productivity levels of the employees and reduces work-related stress.

  • Workplace wellness programs

Smoking cessation programs, onsite fitness facilities, meditation, mindfulness and yoga as wellness programs in an organization can help improve the general health of employees. The programs on healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality and quantity in employees.

Optimity can help you improve your sleep and health through various activities and challenges. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for more information on how Optimity can help you.

 

Adapted from Sound Asleep – The expert guide to sleeping well by Dr. Idzikowski C; Ten natural ways to a good night’s sleep by Dr. Linardakis N.

Let’s Talk Depression

Mental health image. Various emotion and mind. Waste paper and head silhouette.

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health and well-being. It is crucial for you to be aware and accept your emotions, feelings and struggles. The everyday struggle to show up with a smile when you are not doing well is devastating and the pain behind that smile is unbearable. You don’t have to wear a mask and pretend to be happy when in reality your depression is choking the life out of you.

Let’s talk about depression and how it can make your world look grey and bleak.

Mayo Clinic defines depression as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how an individual feels, thinks and behaves often leading to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression manifests in different forms and can be defined differently by people who have experienced depression or are still living with it each day.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression or major depressive disorder, the symptoms must be present for more than two weeks. You can also take the Beck Depression Inventory(BDI), a psychometric test to measure the characteristic attitudes and symptoms of depression. 

The terms Smiling Depression, high functioning depression or perfectly hidden depression (PHD) are not recognized as conditions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) because the symptoms of these conditions are atypical and in most circumstances, the person himself fails to recognize depression.

The smiling depression or perfectly hidden depression is dangerous because people with these conditions are capable of perfectly hiding their despair, hopelessness and pain. They live perfect lives for the outer world and never communicate their sadness to others and in worse case scenarios this sadness has a tight grip on the person, driving them to end their life.

Dr. Margret Rutherford Robinson describes in her book, perfectly hidden depression is a type of depression that may not fit the criteria or description for minor or major depression but is a depression that lays silently beneath the lifetime of acting as if everything is going perfectly well. The characteristics of perfectly hidden depression enable a person to hide or detach from emotional pain. Just because we cannot see the pain does not mean it’s not there and it is not affecting the individual.

Dr. Margret Rutherford enlists the 10 characteristics of perfectly hidden depression in her book and suggests that an individual is more likely to experience PHD, if…

  1. You are highly perfectionistic and have a constant, critical and shaming inner voice
  2. Demonstrate a heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
  3. Detach from painful emotions by staying in your head and actively shutting them off
  4. Worry or need to control yourself and your environment
  5. Intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment to feel valuable 
  6. Focus on the well-being of others but don’t allow them into your inner world
  7. Discount personal hurt or sorrow and struggle with self-compassion
  8. May have an accompanying mental health issue, such as an eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or addiction
  9. Believe strongly in counting your blessings as the foundation of well-being
  10. May enjoy success within the professional structure but struggle with emotional intimacy in relationships

Most often the psychiatrists or psychologist fails to identify people with perfectly hidden depression because they ask wrong questions. A person with PHD will never disclose how he feels even when they are the point of self-harm. Talk to your therapist or someone you trust, seek help. How can your therapist know what’s wrong if you don’t tell him?

To know if you are going through perfectly hidden depression click here for a questionnaire created by Dr. Margret Rutherford.

 

Join Life

Some measures for healing:

  • To accept your diagnosis or current emotional state
  • Practice mindfulness, dance in the present moment without being focused on the past or future
  • Recognize that change is a slow process and patience is required
  • Set some realistic goals, try to avoid your perfects inner voice here
  • Work in small steps to achieve these goals
  • Acknowledge success no matter how small it is
  • Connect with your inner self, journal every day
  • Develop a self-care routine
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Ask for help whenever needed

If professional help is needed contact a qualified psychiatrist or therapist.

It is very important to identify and accept your diagnosis and this particularly takes tremendous amounts of courage to confront your emotions. But hiding your feelings is not getting you anywhere but towards misery and despair. The loneliness that you feel is heart-wrenching.

When someone suddenly commits suicide, it often bothers us and we keep thinking of what might have happened, as to us everything was perfectly normal in his or her life.  

Edwin Shneidman defines psychache as the hurt, anguish, soreness, aching, and psychological pain in the mind that can drive a person to suicide.

If you ever feel like driving away from the pressure of your perfect life just know that killing yourself is never going to do any good to you and to people you love. You don’t have to go through psychache alone. It’s never too late to ask for help!

Some help resources are enlisted below.

Crisis services Canada (help available 24/7)

text-us

Call-us

Canadian Mental Health Association

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Self-help Tools for Mental Wellness

 

Mental Health at Workplaces

As per the data from CAMH, 30% of disability claims in Canada are due to mental illness and 70% of all disability costs are due to mental illness.

CAMH suggests the following mental health strategies for workplaces:

  1. Create a long term organization-wide Mental Health Strategy
  2. Institute mandatory mental health training for leadership
  3. Develop tailored Mental Health Supports
  4. Prioritize and optimize your  Return-to-Work process checklist
  5. Track your progress

Be there for your co-workers.

Identify signs of distress → Show you care for them → Connect them to help.

Does mental health have symptoms?

brooke-cagle-609873-unsplash

Mental health is recognized as a fundamental factor in our overall health – since it’s clear that it has a great influence both physically and mentally. As human beings, we want to understand the problem at hand and the precautions needed to reduce the problems it could cause. There is no guarantee that mental health disorders can be avoided – disorders that affect the mind, mood and behaviour, different beings react differently in life. However, several questions come attached to this topic when trying to attempt a solution.

How would you know if you have a mental health illness? Is there a guide book that allows you to check off each symptom? Most importantly, what are the symptoms, if any?

The cause of any mental health disorder or illness can vary on several factors, but when assessing the state of mind of a being – here are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Major changes in eating / physical activity habits
  • Substantial alteration in energy/productivity
  • Withdrawal from social life (friends & family)
  • Detachment from reality
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mental Health Symptoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When any of these symptoms above occur, finding support will resort to great value. Whether it is professional medical care or referring to a friend/family member, the help that you seek can allow you to control the situation and positively adapt. In most cases, many of the mental health illnesses do not cure by themselves – so this is where the ones around you can boost you up before you even fall.

Each symptom attached to the person or mental illness can react accordingly to the environment or condition of the person. The first step is always to understand that there is an issue, and this would be followed by creating a plan that is ideal for the situation. There can be several risk factors and complications that can alter a lifestyle, so understanding when and how to react can have a crucial impact.

6 Tips on Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

1823694Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for a decline in cognitive ability severe enough to limit daily functionality. It is no secret that as people age, their memory tends to get a bit funky but the key differentiator here is speed. Alzheimer’s is a progessive disease, meaning that symptoms grow worse and worse over time. In its early stages, impairment is mild and the individual is still largely aware of their surroundings. By the late stage, the person is unable to communicate or move, requires 24 hour supervision, and will inevitably die from complications.  

The thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be an extremely frightening. Although current treatments are able to slow the pace at which the symptoms progress, scientists are still looking for a definitive cure. Like cancer, preventative measures are still by far the most effective strategy. By identifying the certain risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and making the necessary adjustments, you will be able to maximize your chances for a life-long healthy brain.

Although some genetic factors such as a family history of Alzheimer’s are uncontrollable, here are six pillars you can follow that are entirely within your reach.

 

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent while slowing the progression of cognitive problems in those already with the disease.  The reason why is because exercise stimulates the brain into maintaining old connections and creating new ones. Try aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week with a balance between cardio and strength training.

 

Social Engagement

As humans, we are highly social creatures who do not fare well in isolation, and neither do our brains. Research has shown that having a strong network of friends can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. You don’t need to be the biggest extrovert on the block, but do make sure to regularly connect face-to-face with people you care about.

Healthy Diet

When an individual has Alzheimer’s, inflammation and insulin resistance can injure neurons and hinder communication. Often described as “diabetes of the brain”, there is a strong relationship between metabolic disorders and neuron communication. However, if you make some small tweaks to your current diet, you can protect your brain. Examples include adopting a Mediterranean diet, drinking 2-4 cups of tea everyday, and cooking at home more!

Mental Stimulation

In an astonishing NIH ACTIVE study, elders who received 10 mental training sessions not only showed immediate improvements in cognitive function, but also as far as 10 years later. Similar to a language, if you don’t use for prolonged periods, you will start to lose it. The best advice is to set aside some time every day to engage in mentally-demanding activities (e.g. sudoku, playing a new musical instrument) to stimulate the brain.

Quality Sleep

New research has indicated that poor sleep can lead to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that interferes with memory formation. If you happen to be struggling to get a good night’s sleep, be sure to be screened for sleep apnea and establish a regular sleep schedule.

Stress Management

Repetitive stress leads to negative effects on the brain including reduced neuron growth, shrinkage of a key memory area, and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, the answer is so simple – don’t stress so much! Some stress management tools you can use include restorative breathing throughout the day, scheduling relaxing activities, and keeping a sense of humour.

Here at Optimity, we recognize that satisfying all six pillars on a daily basis is an extremely difficult task. People are occupied throughout the day with work and other commitments, meaning that they either don’t have the time or simply forget about these crucial exercises. That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, designed to stimulate your brain and prevent Alzheimer’s disease! If you would like to learn more about us, feel free to visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Simple Ways to Help Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Written by: Maxwell Li

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event such as a serious accident, or military. Traditionally, PTSD has always been associated among the combat veteran community but it can affect individuals of any nationality, race or age. According to the National Center for PTSD, it is estimated that seven out of every 100 North American will encounter the disorder in their lifetime.  

Individuals with PTSD often have intrusive thoughts that come in the form of repeated, uncontrollable flashbacks and dreams. They can be so vivid at times that the individual feels like they are reliving the very moment before their eyes. As a result, they try their best to avoid people, situations or objects that remind them of their tragedy. If they fail to do so, something as ordinary as a balloon popping can cause them to panic and possibly have a flashback.

It is still unclear how some people go on to develop PTSD while others don’t. However, certain risk factors such as a prior history of mental health problems and/or lack of social support following the event, can greatly increase the odds of PTSD. Also, physical and genetic factors such as brain structure, stress tolerance and gender play a significant role.

If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, here are some daily habits that can help:

 

Meditation

 

Take 15 minutes out of your daily routine to sit down and meditate! Research has shown it to be very effective in reducing avoidance and negative self-confidence in individuals with PTSD.

 

Physical activity

 

Exercise works your muscles, improves sleep, and boosts energy. Getting that blood flowing can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Try to get in a minimum of 15-30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, and gradually up those minutes!

 

Aromatherapy

 

Numerous individuals diagnosed with PTSD have advocated for aromatherapy when it comes to lowering stress levels. Try rubbing any relaxing oil (e.g. lavender, peppermint, sage) between the eyebrows and on pulse points for the best experience!

 

Keep a journal

 

Buy a personal journal and take a few minutes every day to write down whatever is on your mind! Research has found that this routine can reduce stress and improve mental health.

 

Connect with friends and family

 

Often times when an individual goes through a trauma, they tend to isolate themselves and thereby make their situation worse. Studies have shown that establishing healthy relationships with family and friends has an immensely positive impact on self-esteem and mental health. Try to talk with loved ones as much as you can, and preferably in-person!

 

At Optimity, we believe that prevention is always the best medicine! That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and in turn, excellent mental health. To find out more about what we do, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Does Physical Activity have an Impact on your Mental Health or is it just a Myth? 

Written by Turja Chowdury 

It’s not a surprise that exercise helps to reduce several health risks, but is it all talk or is there truly science behind it all? Exercising in any form can have tremendous impact on your mental health and this does not mean that you need to be a gym fanatic to receive the benefits.

By staying active, you are giving your body the chance to become stronger and combat the issues that may come your way. There are countless ways that exercise can profit your mental well-being and here are a few:

  • Decreases Depression
  • Reduces signs & symptoms of postnatal depression
  • Improves self-esteem & cognitive function in young people
  • Reduces psychological distress

In recent years, mental health is a topic that has gained enormous traction because of its valued importance. We have begun to acknowledge the value of mental health and its correlation to our overall health.  The issues that arise from the psychological and emotional well-being can be caused by several factors depending on the person. This means that everyone has their own battles in life and we constantly seek ways to adapt and reduce the issues that may arise. This is why we search for the kryptonite.

Let’s make it clear that it isn’t easy – especially if you’re not an active person. But the first step is always the hardest, so you have to trust the process. Exercise will help to shrink the negativity and give you the strength to develop. But the question remains – where’s the science and how much exercise are we talking?

Physical activity has a direct relationship with the brain as it improves neuronal health, increases neurotrophic factors and neurohormones – an overall boost to the brain. These positive changes lead to improvement in your mood, self-acceptance and many more. The body will gladly accept the increase in dopamine – a neurotransmitter and hormone. This increase is only unique to you and your happiness, so your brain will understand when you’re physically active and how to react to it.

The amount of exercise depends on you and your personal goals. It’s up to you to decide the activity you want to do and how you want to approach it. However, its crucial to show up. Consistency of your physical activity can guarantee that positive benefits are extended throughout your journey.

Optimity understands the value of mental health and we want to encourage personal growth. Engage in your community by posting your workouts and meals, track your progress over the weeks and gain rewards for your accomplishments.

Establishing New Habits can be difficult and lengthy. However, small lifestyle changes and being persistent with your goals can have the biggest positive impact on your health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Food for Thought: The Link Between Food and Mental Health

Written by Maxwell Li 

Your brain works around the clock to perform vital bodily functions to keep you alive. Similar to a sports car, our brains require constant premium fuel, in the form of nutrients from food for peak performance and in turn, good mental health.

The reason behind this lies in Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Around 95% of its production takes place in your gastrointestinal tract, which happens to be filled with over a hundred million neurons. Furthermore, neuron functionality along with serotonin production are highly dependent on the presence of “good bacteria” in the gut. These bacteria protect your intestinal linings against toxins and inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and activate direct neural pathways to your brain.

In short, the types of food you choose to eat have a profound impact on your short-term mental health!

A study conducted by flagship medical journal, BMC Medicine, found that depressed individuals assigned to a Mediterranean diet experienced substantial improvements to personal mental health. This is because “traditional” diets (e.g. Mediterranean) are high in unprocessed vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains, which tend to be fermented and thereby promote growth of “good bacteria” in the gut.

Here are five nutrient-rich foods that will do wonders when it comes to improving your mental health:

1. Salmon

This pink fish is rich in Omega-3 and anti-inflammatory acids that protect brain cell membrane. It also contains Vitamin D, which helps manage depression and protect immune function.

2. Lentils

Lentils are rich in the B vitamin folate which is vital in the production of serotonin. They also allow your blood sugar levels to rise more gradually, for a consistent energy level throughout the day.

3. Bananas

Bananas affects tryptophan, another important amino acid that helps with serotonin production.

4. Kefir

Often described as a drinkable yogurt, Kefir is high in the “good gut bacteria”, more commonly known as probiotics.

5. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which protects against damage to brain cells and oxidative stress on DNA. Both processes have been linked to depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

 

Here at Optimity, we recognize that a sudden dietary change is painful and often short-lived. That is why we have created a way to pursue a healthier lifestyle at the office or on the go, that is both effortless and rewarding for our users, through personalized daily health challenges!

 

To find out more about Optimity solutions, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution