The Importance of Sleep
Natural sleep is one of the most powerful immune system boosters, aiding in our ability to ward off illness and infection. Quality sleep is necessary for injury recovery, forming new memories, maintaining a healthy body weight and managing stress and anxiety.
Your Personal Habits
• Fix a regular and consistent bedtime and wake time, even if you are retired or not working.
• Avoid napping during the day as this will affect your sleep drive – your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
• Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later, as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
• Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks, pop, as well as chocolate, ice cream and many pain relievers.
• Open the blinds first thing in the morning or get outside in natural light. This helps to set your internal clock and promotes melatonin production (the sleepy hormone) at bedtime.
• Exercise every day to help build your drive to sleep.
Your Sleeping Environment
• Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.
• Room should be dark, cool (19-21 °C) and well ventilated.
• Ensure your room is calm and quiet (use a noise machine to block out all distracting noise).
Consistent Bedtime Routine
• Eat a light snack with a protein and a complex carbohydrate. Low blood sugar can lead to night waking. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, can help promote sleepiness.
• Establish a pre-sleep ritual, such as a warm bath (your body needs to drop in temperature to help sleep process), a cup of chamomile tea or a few minutes of reading.
• Practice relaxation techniques before bed, such as yoga, light stretching, deep breathing or meditation (check out guided meditation apps – Calm, Insight Timer, Yoga Nidra, 10 % Happier)
• Don’t take your worries to bed. Try journaling or doing a ‘brain dump’ to see the worries on paper. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to process these issues.
• Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.
• If you find wake in the middle of night and cannot get back to sleep within 20-30 minutes, then leave the bed. Read, do a calming and quiet activity, or take a bath. *Avoid screens as light disrupts melatonin production.
Weekly Sleep Diary
Use this to track your progress, putting a checkmark beside the strategy you used and rating your sleep quality for that night.
Runners, coaches, medical professionals, and now parents, are all realizing the benefits of allowing children to have proper natural foot motion. According to the experts, parents should think twice before putting their kids in a pair of “good sturdy shoes.” It seems that the smartest design that will ever be developed for injury free activity is the human foot itself. Our feet are sensory organs that allow us to interact with our environment and to develop natural movement patterns. Studies suggest that shoes can interfere with that development. “Balance, stride length and stride width are all influenced by our ability to sense the surface we are landing on. The more “stuff ” between the foot and the ground the less ability we have to sense the landing surface.” says Paul Langer, D.P.M., chair of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine’s Shoe Committee.
Rob Conenello, D.P.M., international lecturer on podiatric sports medicine, advises putting children in the “most minimal shoe possible, and adding support if necessary.”The level of minimal that is possible will vary with the child and may vary as the child ages.”
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARENTS: (Jonathan Beverly, Running Times Magazine, April 2010)
1) Encourage kids to go barefoot whenever possible: in the house, yard, parks, on the beach.
2) Buy the most minimal shoes appropriate for your child. Look for shoes that are flat, with low heels, little cushioning, flexible in all directions, light weight with lots of toe room. In early development, a child’s foot is widest across the toes.
3) Ensure all of your kids’ shoes are running-friendly. Kids don’t change into running shoes to run, they do it naturally throughout the day.
4) Add support only if necessary. Get an evaluation from a physiotherapist or podiatrist if your child shows signs of needing structural support.
5) Allow and encourage kids to run more like they do when they are very little: short bursts that end when fatigued, with a relaxed stride, at a variety of paces.
6) Encourage kids to participate in a wide variety of physical activities that build strength and flexibility.
7) Help kids stay at an appropriate weight through diet and activity.
Given what we’re learning about how minimal shoes can be beneficial to an adult’s running technique, efficiency and injury prevention, it makes sense that we should be starting our kids off on the right foot.
Sue Underhill is a registered physiotherapist and owner of Maximum Physiotherapy. She offers running assessments using video analysis and treadmill running and gives technique and footwear advice. To book a running assessment at Maximum call 705-444-3600.
When we have a sore muscle from physical activity, we assume the muscle must be tight and that we need to stretch it. Often though, especially if we’ve been participating in a repetitive activity/sport for many years, a sore muscle may indicate a relative weakness in the muscle.
To recover from a muscle strain or to prevent one altogether, it’s important to strengthen your muscles “eccentrically”.
An eccentric muscle contraction occurs as the muscle fibres lengthen. This happens when we do things such as lowering a weight by controlling it through a muscle’s full range of motion. Eccentric training, often referred to as “negatives”, focuses on slowing down the elongation of the muscle. This type of training allows for the greatest muscle forces at relatively low energy costs.
Many muscles cross two joints: hamstrings and hip flexors cross the hip and knee, the gastrocs cross the knee and ankle, and the long head of biceps crosses the shoulder and elbow. So to strengthen these particular muscles, we need to look at the position of both joints to make sure the muscle is being contracted throughout its full length. For example, to strengthen the bicep muscle eccentrically, lie on your back on a bench with your arm over the edge, and slowly lower a weight by extending the elbow and also extending the shoulder.
To get the biggest return on your investment, make sure to include eccentric strength training throughout a muscle’s full length.
Sue Underhill, Owner/Physiotherapist