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Tips for a Balanced Summer (part 2)

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

The 3 S's: sugar, stress and sleep. When it comes to my top 3 recommendations for staying balanced this summer, avoiding excess refined sugar (check out my tips to keep sugar intake down this summer), finding healthy ways to cope with stress and getting good quality sleep are my top 3.

Between back to back weekends at the cottage, summer vacations, fitting in visits with friends, squeezing in time to work, organizing the kids camp schedule and making time for summer sports leagues, it can be hard to avoid feeling stressed and find time to get good quality sleep. Coping with stress and good quality sleep should be high on your list when it comes to staying balanced and healthy this summer.

Sugar, stress and sleep all affect each other. When we’re stressed, our body produces a hormone called cortisol, which dumps glucose into our cells to give us energy to manage the stressful situation (fight or flight reaction). This is useful, until we find ourselves stressed all the time. Too much cortisol affects blood sugar balance, blood pressure, can cause weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, mood disorders and sleep issues - too much cortisol disrupts our sleep-wake cycles (1).

Perhaps one way to look at it: stress is simply our response to situations. So how can we better cope with stress? It sounds cliche, but find time to participate in activities that lower cortisol levels such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, dancing, playing an instrument, having a bath, going for a long walk, or getting out in nature doing something that you enjoy like hiking, biking or kayaking and exercise classes like pilates or weight training (keep high intensity cardio classes to 2x per week as they can raise cortisol levels).

The cool thing is that when you reduce cortisol, your quality of sleep improves, which helps you cope better with daily stressors. Less stress and better sleep also help to keep blood sugar balanced, which reduces cravings for sugar. The 3 S’s are all connected (2).

Not only does getting good quality sleep help to lower cortisol, but can help balance hormones, which can result in weight loss, and improve mood and the ability to retain knowledge and memory, and strengthen the immune system.

What are some tips to improve the quality of sleep?

  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night

  • When possible, go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends

  • Move your body! Regular exercise is one of the best ways to ensure a good night sleep

  • Cool room - our body needs to drop it’s temperature by 2 or 3 degrees to initiate sleep

  • Try a sound machine or fan

  • Bed is for sleeping (and another fun activity that can also help to relieve stress), but avoid activities that you associate with being awake like watching TV or being on the phone - your body needs to associate your bed with sleeping, not being awake, plus,

  • Blue light from screens affects quality of sleep

  • Avoid food a minimum of 1 hour before bed so your body doesn’t spend energy digesting, when it should be resting

I hope you have an amazing summer filled with less sugar, less stress, and more sleep!

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