Ask a Health Coach: Sleep Deprivation, Cortisol Spikes, and Living With a Twinkie Eater

Hi Guys! In this week’s issue of Ask a Health Coach, Erin answers your questions about how to offset the effects of a poor sleep routine when dealing with a difficult partner, and what’s more important for optimal health: low stress or a basic diet. Thank you for all of your questions. Keep her updated in the comments or on our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.

Christopher asked:

Are there strategies to counteract the harmful effects of insufficient sleep? Preferably those that do not contain caffeine. My work schedule and family responsibilities make it difficult, mostly impossible, to get enough sleep during the week and sometimes at the weekend. I also have to wake up hours before sunrise to prepare for work, and napping during the day is not practical.

The short answer is, you can’t make up for it. No amount of deep breathing, fasting, cold showers, or B3 supplements can fool your body into believing that if you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, you will have a wonderful, uninterrupted night with your eyes closed.

These approaches only mask the damage. The body is wonderful and can adjust to a night or two of staying up late, working, parenting, or even * gasping for breath * to have fun, but a steady stream of sleep deprivation prepares you for more problems :

Long-term effects of insufficient sleep:

  • Memory loss
  • Weight gain
  • Depression / anxiety
  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • Compromised immune system

The list goes on. And really, you don’t want to see where it’s going. Instead of trying to skew your sub-optimal sleep schedule, work on improving it – even if it means taking small steps at first. And since it sounds like the amount of sleep you get each night is non-negotiable, going to bed early or sleeping in it is completely off the table. That said, instead of focusing on quantity, you need to focus on the quality of your sleep.

You are not alone in dealing with exhaustion on a daily basis. Most of my clients are busy dealing with working mothers and fathers who barely have time to think clearly, let alone have a leisurely routine outside of business hours. But there are some things you can do to keep the needle moving on your sleep quality. Here are three practices I swear by, both for my clients and for myself:

  1. Turn off the devices 1-2 hours before going to bed. If you can’t swing that, wear blue light goggles. These glasses filter out the blue-violet rays of light that emanate from digital screens and cause eye strain, headaches and disturbances in the sleep cycle. And keeping your phone near your bed (which I don’t recommend) shouldn’t be tempted to check emails in the middle of the night when you wake up.
  2. Remove or cover up any light sources in your bedroom. Even small ones can affect your sleep. So use blackout blinds over your windows and tape over flashing lights in the room. If that is not possible, get a sleep mask.
  3. Keep the temperature low, ideally around 15.6 to 19.4 ° C. When your body warms up at night (whatever it does), it disrupts your sleep. So turn down the thermostat before bed or consider buying a ChiliPAD – one of my favorite health devices ever!

PS The Primal Health Coach Institute team is hosting a live Q&A webinar with Mark next week: 3 Things To Look For In A Health Coaching Program What are the three things 1) Health Science & Nutritional Education; 2) Health Coaching and the Art of Behavior Change, and; 3) Business building and entrepreneurship skills. Visit us on Thursday, April 15th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Mark and my colleague Laura Rupsis (PHCI Admissions Director) will delve into each of these three topics and discuss how health coaching education should go beyond just teaching students the basics of nutrition. You will also take a few questions and answers with Mark! We hope you will join us.

Norbert asked:

I’m starting to realize that keeping stress low is just as important as eating right, but everyone seems to be focused on diet more than anything. I ate right and was stressed; but felt better with less stress and didn’t eat so well. Thoughts?

I like where you’re going with it, Norbert. We spend a lot of time talking about how food and exercise affect biochemistry. And by “we” I mean all of us here at Marks Daily Apple and every other health-related website. A solid, real-food diet and daily exercise routine are never a wasted effort, but as you’ve noticed, chronic stress (and chronic cortisol levels) can seriously affect the benefits you get from it.

So yes, it makes sense that less stress will make you feel better. But let me ask you this: why does it have to be one or the other? Can You Have Less Stress and Better Eating Habits?

Watching your macros carefully, counting calories, and rethinking everything that gets into your mouth is really stressful. I’m not saying you do, but if you are, you might stop. Diet culture tells us that there are rules that must be followed in order to “eat right”. And to be honest, I’m over it.

What if you decided to stop buying some of the “not-so-good” foods you eat and replace them with better options? What’s one simple thing that you can substitute in your day to move to the real food category?

Maybe it will trade soda for seltzer water. Or just start your day with a protein meal that will affect how your whole day goes.

Obviously, high stress and poor diet are a recipe for disaster (I’m talking from digestive problems and memory disorders to a lifelong imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters). However, this doesn’t have to be one or the other situation. Start small and make simple changes that can improve your diet without actively adding to your stress levels.

Anna asked:

I am looking for advice and tips for dealing with loved ones (especially romantic ones) who do not understand and / or do not follow an original lifestyle. I’ve been with an amazing person for about half a year now, and she’s receptive and outgoing, but I can’t stop myself from wincing as I watch him eat certain foods. I find it difficult to know when and how to say something and when to say nothing. I know I can’t get anyone to change anything, and neither do I want to. I hope that my main inspiration is as a role model, but that drives me crazy inside. I don’t know what the balance is. Do you have any advice

One of the biggest challenges in pursuing a pristine lifestyle, or really anything that is against the standard of the American Standard Diet, is dealing with loved ones who are not on the same page. As you know, there have been tons of studies on the consequences of consuming processed snacks, industrial oils, and non-food foods, but that doesn’t stop people from consuming them. It is clear that living with someone who agrees to this science does not either.

And you are right. You can’t change someone’s behavior. Acting as a role model is a much more sensible way to go. But that too has its challenges. If you expect your actions to affect your partner’s habits and they don’t, you will get disappointed, angry, or even angry.

You might say to yourself, “Can’t you see how good I feel when I eat this way ?!” and totally expect them to follow suit. Everyone has their own relationship with food. Your significant other has the right to decide whether a basic food is suitable for him – even if he can see how good you feel when you eat like this.

Look, I have a lot of customers in your shoes. Half a couple decide they’re ready to feel foggy and tired and ready to change something. The other half have no interest in it.

I’m going to tell you the same two things that I usually tell you:

  1. This is YOUR health journey. You are the one who chose to eat this way, not your partner. Sure, it would be great if everyone in your household were to eat the same thing as you, but that’s not realistic, it’s not fair to them, and frankly, it’s not necessary for you to be successful. Someone can choose not to live a pristine lifestyle and still be loving and supportive.
  2. Find common ground. Take a step back (and try to remove the judgment for a second if you can) and find out what foods you both enjoy eating. I’m sure they don’t eat Twinkies and Mac-n-Cheese all day. So find a favorite food that you share and start there. You may find that the tension you feel between you is not as strong as you thought it would be.

What else would you add? Tell me in the comments.

About the author

Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish loving and trusting relationships with their bodies – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.

If you are passionate about health and wellness and want to help people like Erin for their clients every day, you should consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. In this special information session hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson, you will learn the three simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in a maximum of 6 months.

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