Tag: productivity

Sleep: The Ultimate Biohack

If you are experiencing memory loss, low energy, irritability, weight gain and loss of cognitive function, you could have a medical condition. Or, you could just need more sleep.

In our society we wear our sleep deprivation like a badge. Its proof that we have it all – we work harder than anyone we know, we party hard into the wee hours of the night because of our busy social life…we have made it, and we have the bags under our eyes to prove it.  We also have excess weight,  a short temper, and an in ability to make good decisions, along with several other not so nice side effects of not enough sleep. We are, to put it simply, a mess, but we look good on paper, don’t we?

Sleep is the most underrated biohack there is. It is not glamorous or cutting edge. In fact, you have probably heard that you need to get more sleep since you were in your teens.  If you are anything like I was,  you feel like you are fine on 6 hours. Why is that we accept this lifestyle when we know we shouldn’t?

Sleep deprivation is no joke. When we don’t get enough hours, not only do we drag around with dark circles under our eyes, but we can’t hold conversations, we can’t concentrate, and we are irritable. We all know this first hand, but did you also know that it can impair your judgement when it comes to tasks like driving and your decision-making abilities at work? Not to mention that you experience a decreased ability to handle stress, increased anxiety, slowed reaction time, and significant memory impairment, as well an overall loss of cognitive ability.  Long term sleep deprivation can have serious effects, like depression, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, decreased sex drive and diabetes.

The benefits of getting enough sleep are simple:  you don’t experience the above.

Most people are sleep deprived and do not realize it. We operate in such fast paced, high stress, overstimulated world that we don’t even notice the effect is having on us anymore. If we could decompress a bit and get adequate rest, the benefits to our system would be noticeable.

If you are noticing any of the symptoms noted above, try adding an hour of rest to your day and see if you notice a difference. Just an hour can increase your energy level, help you think better and add more patience to your day.  If you can’t sleep in a bit or go to bed earlier, try adding a short nap at lunch or when you get home. Every little bit helps.

With all the stimulation in our daily lives, it can be hard to find the time to go to bed earlier, and when you do get into bed, its hard to calm down enough to get to sleep. There are a number of things you can try to help with that.

First, try getting into a bedtime routine. It tells your mind that its time to shut down, and by the time your head hits the pillow, you should be ready for sleep. Your routine will be personal to you. It can include putting on pajamas, reading, relaxing with a cup of decaf herbal tea, or even cleaning up the kitchen and getting coffee ready for the morning.  Whatever your routine is, you will notice after a week or so that your body will start to feel relaxed and ready to shut down.  My bedtime routine includes turning everything off, cleaning up anything that remains in the kitchen, getting my coffee pot ready for the morning and getting into my Athlete Recovery pajamas (I am not affiliated with them but I swear by these). Once in bed, I use California Poppy Seed Extract (this is the one I use; again not affiliated with it, it’s just the one I use) for a natural way to help me wind down a little faster.

Next, try a digital downtime. Turn off the television, put your phone in the charger and not next to your bed, and out away the i-pad. If you want to read, read an actual book instead of a Kindle. The blue light from our devices disrupts your brainwaves and adds to the inability to fall asleep. Some people watch t.v. to fall asleep, and while I understand that (I am one of those), it is important to listen to your body cues and turn it off when you feel yourself getting ready to sleep.

Another thing to try is a specific sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even weekends. It allows your body to get into a rhythm Make bedtime a priority. Set an alarm and consider it an appointment you have to keep. When the alarm goes off, no more to do list, no more emails, no more conversation with spouses. It’s an appointment, and you keep it. You will notice you start to get tired on cue when you have gotten into the routine, and you will start to wake up on your own.

In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington recommends a sleep experiment to see how much sleep you really need. You will need an extended vacation to try this, but go to sleep at the same time every night, and track when you wake up. After the first few days you will recover from some of your exhaustion and get into a rhythm, and your natural waking time will show you how much sleep is optimal for you. Be careful though, because this can be deceiving.  If you are in a chronic state of stress, anxiety or depression, this will affect your sleep pattern and could have you waking up earlier than you should.

When I was married, I was constantly stressed and anxious. Living in fear of someone’s every move doesn’t do much for your sleep habits, and I thought I only needed 6.5 hours for years. As soon we split up and I moved out, my natural rhythm kicked in and I found myself sleeping 8 hours consistently within a few weeks. This was after a solid week of 10 hour nights, so don’t let yourself be fooled by a body in recovery mode.

Remember that you will need more sleep in recovery, whether its emotional or physical recovery. This is because sleep is when your body repairs itself. If you do not get enough sleep, your body cannot repair itself adequately, which can contribute to injuries as well as exhaustion. This is true even if you are not injured but do strenuous workouts. Any athlete will tell you that it is very important to allow your body to sleep as much as it needs while in recovery.  You may need to adjust your schedule to accomplish this, especially if you have an office job.

What makes sleep the ultimate biohack is that it is something we can all do, it costs us nothing to do, and it has a significant impact on all facets of our life. It has no side effects. It instantly enhances mood, performance and cognitive function. You don’t have to buy it. You can’t run out of it, and you can do it everyday to get all of these great effects.

So, let me ask you… is it nap time? Are you ready to make sleep your favorite biohack this year?

I would love to hear from you! What is your favorite way to wind down or your sleep ritual?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biohacking Stress to Power Through Everyday

We all know that stress wreaks havoc on the body, but did you know that there are other ways to deal with stress than pummeling a punching bag or screaming into a pillow? Biohackers do, and they employ these alternative techniques to help them handle the every day stressors, which makes them better equipped to handle it when major stressors occur.

MCT oil is pretty much the answer to life, as far as I am concerned. When it comes to battling stress, the two major benefits are energy and cognitive function. Stress wreaks havoc on your brain. When you are stressed, your brain produces hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. While an occasional adrenaline rush can be fun, a consistent overproduction of these hormones can lead to problems like fatigue, memory issues, confusion, the inability to concentrate and impaired decision-making. When you are experiencing stress, it is important to feed your brain what it needs to continual to function. MCT oil is exactly that. This high quality, low carb fat will provide your brain a readily accessible and easy to process form of energy that your brain needs continue functioning optimally, even when bombarded with stress hormones. It also feeds your body with a healthy source of energy, which can keep you from feeling the fatigue that often comes with the stress hormones.

Exercise is a powerful mood booster and stress reliever. Not only does it allow you to work out your frustrations doing something productive, but it gives more energy following your workout, which can help you battle the fatigue and brain fog you may feel.It also provides a strong dose of endorphins, and thanks to Elle Woods, we already know that endorphins make you happy.

Supplements like GABA, 5-htp, and fish oil can also help combat the effects of stress. GABA is a neurotransmitter that is inhibited by cortisol and adrenaline. It promotes a feeling of calm, so adding a GABA supplement when stressed can help you maintain your sanity. 5-htp is a neurotransmitter with a similar function, but it can make you drowsy to best to use this one at night. Omega 3 or fish oil is another quality fat that provides energy to your brain and helps with cognitive function.

If these aren’t your thing, a trip to the local day spa can melt away all of your cares. There you will usually find a sauna, you can get a massage, and get a good dose of aromatherapy.

I have mentioned  infrared sauna in multiple posts. There is a reason I go twice a week – it is good for the body and the soul. It promotes healing at the cellular level, meaning it cleanses old cell tissue and allows reproduction of new, healthy cells. It eliminates toxins and promotes a general feeling of relaxation and well-being.  For an added bonus, I meditate in the sauna. I am stuck in there for 30 minutes, might as well, right?

If your local spa doesn’t have an infrared sauna, you can still benefit from infrared technology by using Athlete Recovery sleep wear. Created by Tom Brady for Under Armour, this sleepwear is bio-ceramic and has infrared technology woven into the fabric. While you sleep, the infrared waves promote healing and regeneration. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. I have several pairs now and have seen a huge benefit from wearing them. I sleep much better, and better sleep means a more resilient brain to handle the stress of the day. I also wake up less sore than I used to (even while in training for a Spartan race) and it helps to keep night sweats at bay.  (Side note – the line also includes some day wear as well. More updates on the track suit to come.)

Essential oils are also a very underrated way to combat the effects of stress. Lavender is a very soothing scent and it helps to induce a calm feeling. It also acts as a sleep aid and relieves muscle soreness, which can follow the adrenaline boost you get with stress. It can also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent, which you will need if the stress becomes chronic. Peppermint acts as a mood booster and energizes you. It can also aid in relief of sore muscles, but is best used in the morning or when you need a pick me up due to its energizing properties.

Getting a massage feels great but it can also relax even the angriest of minds. Releasing tense muscles reduces overall tension. As you release the trapped lactic acid from tight muscles, you can feel the tension melting away and being cleared from your system. When your system cleanses, so does your mind and with it goes some of the stress. The spa atmosphere is designed to relax you as well.  I don’t know about you, but I have never left a massage feeling anxious.

In summary, go for a run, get a massage after, and then run your diffuser while sipping a Bulletproof Coffee and wearing your Athlete Recovery track suit. Life will be good again.

How to Beat Brain Fog

Do you ever find yourself in a room with no idea why you were there? Waking up sluggish? Drinking a third cup of coffee and still not feeling like the brain has turned on? That has been me the last few weeks. I have been experiencing some serious brain fog and even though I am certain it is because I am juggling multiple things right now, I need to take control.

If you are not familiar with the term brain fog, it is loss of focus, inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and memory issues. It’s that feeling you have when your brain is “tired” but not at a time that it should be.

Some of the main things that can cause brain fog are stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes. diet, medications, and medical conditions. I am going to stay away from the latter two, as these are things you should be discussing with your doctor. Aging is another one, which is considered a medical condition, but I will touch on that today.

Chronic stress is a biggie. Not only does it wreak havoc on your brain, but it can cause a number of issues affecting the entire body.  It can also lead to lack of sleep and cause hormonal changes – both of which increase brain fog.

Diet is one of the main factors of brain fog. Allergies, food sensitivities, an overload of carbohydrates or sugar can all trigger that foggy feeling.  Vitamin deficiencies, specifically B-12, will give you brain fog as well. And, unfortunately, if you are past the age of 40, you know all too well that you are just not the same cognitively anymore. Years of stress and dietary miscalculations create the perfect recipe for brain fog.

So what can we do? Fortunately there are several things.

Hands down my favorite, Bulletproof Coffee is one. Your brain needs fat to function optimally, and the combination of grass-fed butter and MCT oil give it exactly what it needs. The caffeine gives you a little boost and gets the neurons firing on all cylinders as well. If you want to skip the caffeine, you can make a sugar-free bulletproof hot cocoa with water, a scoop of cacao, grass fed butter, MCT oil and stevia. (I have a recipe if you want it). It also works well with tea. Fat bombs are also a great way to give your brain a quick hit of the fat it needs.

Another way to quickly banish the fog is with B-12. If you are not able or willing to have B-12 shots on hand, you can get a liquid that goes under the tongue. It isn’t quite as effective, but you will still notice the effect. You will feel the fog melt away pretty quickly with this. You can get B-12 injections over the counter in some countries, but in the USA it is prescription only. You can also get them at the local med spa. Liquids are available online and in most health food stores. Quality is key, and remember that you get what you pay for.  I don’t recommend relying on multi-vitamins for B-12, as you don’t absorb much of what is in them. The exception is a live vitamin like Sport Formula.

If you have read anything I have posted, you probably know what is coming next… exercise. Get up from your desk. Take a walk. Run the stairs a few times. Even doing  some stretching at your desk can help stave off that feeling. A morning workout can rid yourself of brain fog for the entire day, and an after work session will banish the stress and anxiety that builds during the day.

And of course, get some sleep. If sleep doesn’t come easily to you, check my bog post on sleep. My current favorite is California Poppy Seed Extract, followed by Brandon Burchard’s Release Meditation. This combination has finally allowed me to stop falling asleep to old television shows and sleep in the dark like a normal human.

As I wrote this I literally took my own advice. It is too late for coffee so I chose a B-12 shot and a fat bomb. Feeling better already!

 

My Favorite Productivity Hack

OK, no judging…I am sharing my favorite productivity hack with you because I love you and want the best for you. Even if it means sharing something I am slightly ashamed of!

 

 

For more productivity hacks, check out the podcast from BioTrust Radio,

titled 7 Steps to Be More Productive:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/biotrust-radio/id1307215363?mt=2&i=1000417452066