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Mountain Trek’s Guide To Great Sleep

a woman waking up and stretching her arms

Without having to commute to the office and run from the dentist to the bank to the hairdresser to the dry cleaner, you may find you have more time to sleep. But is that sleep actually sleep? Are you tossing and turning for hours? Are you waking up feeling foggy, irritable, and just as tired as when you went to bed? If so, 1. you’re not alone, and 2. we’re here to help.

Between COVID-19’s sneakiness and scariness, and having had a wrench thrown into your routine, it’s no wonder your anxiety levels have skyrocketed, while your sleep quality has done the polar opposite. You’re worrying not just about work, your kids, their school, their happiness, your happiness, but about how much (or little) toilet paper to use. Times are changing.

Pandemic or not, sleep is critical for our health. A bad night’s rest lands you in a fiery place, where a not-hot-enough coffee equates to THE END OF THE WORLD, but what we’ve really got to pay attention to is what happens to our bodies when we’re chronically sleep-deprived. In come heart disease, weight gain and diabetes, a weakened immune system, low sex drive, and mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior, and paranoia (this is why sleep deprivation is a highly-effective method of torture). Sleep deprivation is not something to sweep under the rug with a tall cup of frothy caffeine–it’s something to take seriously. Otherwise, your life’s at risk.

It’s now clear that it’s not just during developmental years that you need to clock the correct amount of sleep; for the sake of living longer, you need to make sure you get a good night’s rest at every age. But how do you do this? How, with all of today’s stressors, do you get that kind of sleep where you wake up feeling genuinely refreshed?

Just like anything worth pursuing, you need to work for it. Sleep is an essential component of Balanced Health, and something we need to put just as much effort into as our diet and exercise. Follow our guide below to give yourself a headstart on sleeping better tonight, and for the rest of your (now longer) life.

Step 1) Turn your room into a sleep sanctuary

Just like you’d struggle to read a book at a construction site, how can you expect to sleep well in a space filled with disturbances? Here are the basics for setting up your sleep sanctuary:

Never let your phone cross the threshold

Your phone is quickly becoming one of the main causes of your poor sleep. The entrancing blue light your screen emits has a similar wavelength to sunlight, a natural stimulant, they ping and ding throughout the night, and whether they wake you or not, they disturb your sleep. Curtail your spinning brain and fall off into a dream-world by not scrolling through social, news, or email feeds right before, during or after placing head to pillow.

Read Related Article: 9 Ways To Digital Detox

Your best bet is to make a hard and fast rule: never let your phone enter your room. Charge your phone on a table outside of your room, and make sure it is set to “silent” and/or “do not disturb” mode.

Install blackout shades

Humans are hardwired to get up when the sun rises, but that’s not always necessary, like in the summer months. This is where blackout shades, or curtains lined with blackout fabric, come in handy; as the name implies, they create a blackout effect, blocking light from streaming through your windows, and thus letting you clock in all the hours of sleep you need before waking. The summer’s sunlight aside, we also need to block light from street lights and cars; thanks to our semi-transparent eyelids, we register light from all sources even when our eyes are closed. If blackout shades are not an option, or if you are traveling, you can use an eye mask, but beware: eye masks are often uncomfortable.

Keep your room between 64-66°F/18-19°C

Your core temperature naturally decreases during sleep, so matching this cooler temperature with a cooler room promotes not only falling asleep faster, but staying asleep throughout the night. Don’t go wild and turn your room into a refrigerating chamber–your body will react to being cold by raising stress hormones (it thinks it’s in danger)–but strike a sleep-promoting balance by keeping it between 64-66°F/18-19°C paired with a warm and cozy bed.

Control room noise

The really loud noises that wake you up aren’t the only sounds that disrupt your sleep. Every random car driving by, ring, ping, hum, bang, and buzz—no matter how subtle—is processed by your brain and disrupts your sleep cycle. If you live in an area where there are a lot of disruptive sounds throughout the night, try a white noise machine or earplugs. Yes, white noise machines are sounds themselves, but they produce an even and consistent sound that your brain doesn’t react to, making them great options for drowning out the jarring, inconsistent sounds that do disturb your sleep. Earplugs are another option but tend to be uncomfortable if sleeping on your side. If you’d like to try earplugs, try silicone earplugs—they mold to your ear shape for maximum comfort.

Restrict your bed to only sleep and sex

Stop eating, watching, scrolling, and even reading in bed. These actions just train our brain that when we climb into bed, we’re not there for sleep. If you must read before bed, cozy up in your favorite chair, and use a dim, but not eye-straining, light.

Remove all other distractions

Take the TV out of your room—that’s the biggest distraction culprit–but we’re also calling out anything else you might spend time on that’s not to do with sleeping or having sex.

Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets, and duvet

The final piece of the sleep sanctuary puzzle is to invest in quality. Every person is different, so it’s hard for us to tell you exactly which mattress, pillow, sheets, and duvet to buy, but what we can tell you is this: you spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, so you might as well be as comfortable as possible. If you’re a side-sleeper, purchase an extra pillow so you can put it between your legs to improve spinal alignment and comfort.

Step 2) Start preparing for great sleep the moment you wake up

From the moment you wake up, everything you do affects how well you will sleep that night. And how well you sleep that night will affect how well you do the next day. It’s a cycle, and these days, it feels like more often than not, a negative one. Take the following steps during your day to right the ship and turn your cycle positive:

Soak in some sunshine immediately upon waking

A blast of sunlight first thing in the morning will stimulate your endocrine and central nervous system, reducing grogginess (and, consequently, our dependence on caffeine) and kick-starting your circadian rhythm, making it more likely that your body will cycle into sleep-mode earlier in the night when it’s best to fall asleep (~10 pm).

Exercise, and do it at the right time

Exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, which is when both our brain and our body repair themselves. Exercise is also positive for our mental health, reducing anxiety, and slowing down our thoughts; two cognitive processes that help sleep quality.

While it’s best to be active and move throughout the entire day, if your routine allows for only one dedicated daily exercise session, exercise after work, well before bedtime. Exercising immediately after work will help you decompress and will allow enough time for your body to return to a calmer state, where you don’t have endorphins and other hormones coursing through your body, making it harder to settle down into sleep.

Eat the right food, in the right portions, at the right time

Going to bed full is a recipe for bad sleep. Your body innately tries to metabolize whatever food is in your stomach, requiring energy and the attention of your autonomous nervous system in the process. This effectively keeps the “engine” running while you’re trying to do the exact opposite—power down and put things to sleep. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime to give yourself enough time to digest. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion, and eat magnesium-rich foods, like fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Magnesium is a vital mineral that regulates melatonin and the neurotransmitter GABA, which reduces activity in the central nervous system, calming us down and reducing stress.

Going to bed starving is no recipe for success, however. If your body is entering a state of starvation, it will release stress hormones that will prevent you from falling asleep (again, your body thinks it’s in danger). Eat a small calcium and magnesium-rich snack, like a bit of milk and some Seedy Trail Crackers with cheese, before bed.

Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to sleep

Coffee is the obvious perpetrator, but tea, soft drinks, and chocolate all have high levels of caffeine as well. A cup of black tea has about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee, while a cup of green tea, a can of coke, and a serving of 70% dark chocolate all have about one third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Step 3) Power down your brain, and body, properly

Get off all electronics at least 1 hour prior to sleep

Watching anything good on Netflix usually means there’s drama, emotion, action, or violence involved—all of which leave us in a heightened state. And, as mentioned before, the light emitted by the screens of your TV, tablet, laptop, or smartphone is in the blue spectrum, making it very stimulating. Pry yourself off of your devices at least one hour before sleep to give your body enough time to calm down. At the very minimum, reduce screen brightness and ensure you have night mode enabled on your devices so that you reduce the amount of blue light you’re taking in.

Take a warm bath 90 minutes before bed

In line with lowering your room’s temperature to mimic the process of your body cooling heading into sleep, a hot bath, while initially counterintuitive, has the same effect. Taking a 104-109°F/40-43°C bath will cause blood to go to your extremities (why we are red when we get out), and when blood is in your extremities, vs your core, you lose heat easily and your body temperature decreases. This cooling triggers your circadian rhythm, and your pineal gland kicks in, releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Add Epsom salts to your bath to promote natural detoxification and healing.

Add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath to increase relaxation and calm. Similarly to magnesium, lavender regulates the neurotransmitter GABA, calming the central nervous system and reducing anxiety.

Restorative yoga

Supporting your body weight with props and bolsters and holding poses for 5 minutes or more, restorative yoga calms the parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to fully relax and rest.  It’s a great practice for your pre-bed routine. Learn four poses you should try from Mountain Trek’s yoga instructor, Katya Campbell.

Physical stress release

Target acute areas of stress with spiky stress balls. Place these balls directly under knots and other tight and painful locations and just rest, allowing the ball to massage your myofascial tissues to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow, similar to how a deep massage works. Or actively roll out. Watch this video to see how to properly use the spiky ball.

Step 4) Employ techniques to fall asleep

The inability to fall asleep is usually caused by a spinning mind, which, in turn, is usually caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Anxiety is regretting the future; depression, regretting the past; stress, regretting the present. Regret is just a feeling elicited by thought. If we can teach ourselves to shift our thinking away from regret, we will be able to fall asleep faster. The techniques below are also great if you wake up during the night and find your mind spinning.

“Download” your thoughts into a journal

By the end of a long day, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Instead of climbing into bed and letting these thoughts bounce around inside your head, write them down first. The act of writing down what’s on your mind sends a signal to yourself that you won’t forget anything, allowing you to move on.

Meditate

Meditation, by definition, is the practice of intently focusing your attention on one single thing. Whether that be a candle, your breath, or feelings of gratitude, when you focus your attention, work, your anxiety, depression, and your stress are unable to possess your thoughts. There are thousands of guided meditations available that are specifically designed for sleep. Insight Timer is a great, free resource for meditations. You can easily filter by sleep. And practices such as Tong-Lin are excellent for ensuring your mind is focused on something positive.

Breathe

Often the most simple act holds the most power. Just drawing your attention to your breath and witnessing your inhales and exhales as closely as you can is often the best way to put yourself to sleep. Be specific in noticing where you feel your breath—is it the rising and falling of your chest, or at the tip of your nose—and follow your inhales and exhales in their entirety. Some people benefit from adding a layer and counting the seconds of their breath. This simple exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness and drift off into a great night’s sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Similar in purpose, progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique where you systematically tense, and then release your muscles. For instance, you might start with your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle as you go during a long, slow inhale, and releasing on the exhale. This is a good exercise for those who prefer more physical vs mental practices.

Step 5) Develop a routine

Your body craves routine. Routines reduce your cognitive load and energy requirements, which consequently reduces your stress levels, the linchpin to great sleep. It may take you a few weeks to find a routine that works, but when you do find that magic combination, stick to it. Your sleep will continue to improve as your routine becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle. Congratulations, you have just significantly decreased your risk of mortality.

If you’re still curious how to improve your sleep, contact us below, or come visit us for a week of unplugging, resetting, and sleeping deeply.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Bedtime Yoga

Bedtime Yoga

One of the reasons we have difficulty sleeping at night is because we are over stimulated. Our brains are wired to process all incoming information from our five senses to predict the appropriate state for our body’s systems. "Should I be ready? Or should I rest?" These two autonomic nervous system states are called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).

Staring at screens and/or hearing loud noises automatically puts us into a state of readiness. This is why it's so important to shut off our digital devices at least 30 minutes before bed and to follow the other "insomnia busters" we've detailed in previous posts. Another way to calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep is to use such tools as relaxation breathing or restorative yoga to promote our parasympathetic system, the state we need to obtain in order to sleep deeply.

For this instructive video, we enlisted the help of Mountain Trek's yoga teacher and fitness instructor Katya Hayes, who's been teaching yoga for 15 years. When not at Mountain Trek, Katya practices at her own studio and she studies yoga, Buddhism, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa.

 

Here are the four poses Katya recommends to do in order to prepare your body and mind for a perfect night's sleep.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall pose

Begin by sitting on the floor or the bed with one hip against the wall. Swing both of your legs up the wall as you lay down on your back; your body should form a 90-degree angle with the wall. For increased benefits, slide a firm pillow or yoga bolster beneath your hips. Relax and belly breathe for several minutes.

Supported forward twist

Supported Forward Twist

Sit on the floor and have a firm pillow or bolster nearby. Bend both knees and swing your feet to the left side of your body. Place the bolster to the outside of your right hip extending away from you. Lengthen your spine and twist to the right. Lay your torso along the bolster, resting on one cheek. Breath into the sides of your body for 10 deep breaths. Repeat rotating the opposite way.

Supported child's pose

Supported Child's Pose

Get onto all fours. Sit back on your heels, separating your knees so that they're about shoulder width apart. Place a firm pillow or bolster between your legs extending away from you. Fold forward from the hips, lengthening the belly along the bolster. Rest deeply as you breath into the back of your bbody for one minute.

Reclined butterfly pose

Supported-Forward-Twist

Sit on the ground or the bed with several firm pillows or a bolster propped up behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to fall outwards. Support the knees if you like with pillows. Lay back on the pillows so that you are at a 45-degree angle. Place a folded towel beneath your neck for support. Place an eye bag over your eyes if you'd like and belly breath for several minutes.

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4 Tips: How to Sleep On Airplanes

Tips for sleeping on an airplane

Many of our guests at Mountain Trek travel for work and spend a lot of time in hotels, at airports and on airplanes. Recently we had a few people complain to our sleep specialist Simon about the cross-continental flights they've endured and how they simply can't sleep on the planes. Simon spends a lot of his time at the lodge talking about the importance of sleep and with his help we did an article that shared "7 Tips To Help You Sleep Better." That story concentrated on your own bedroom though and so, for this piece, we asked Simon to share with us some tips to help those who travel a lot about how to sleep on planes.

Sleeping on a flight has its challenges, but there are a few best practices that can help you get some rest between runways. First, don’t force sleep if its the middle of the day and you aren’t changing timezones as it will disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to sleep that night. If you are on a night flight or are travelling through timezones here are some hints to get some shut-eye:

Get a good seat

Choose a window seat on your preferred side to sleep. If you book early and can choose the best option using this: helpful tool.

Don’t drink

Although booze is a muscle relaxant and depressant, it disrupts our rapid eye movement sleep and lowers the quality of our rest. Try a herbal tea instead.

Eye pillows and ear plugs

Come equipped with your own supply. Specialty ear plugs and a good eye pillow will block out the too most difficult environmental interruptions; light and noise.

Get Comfy 

The best position for your body, from a spinal perspective, is to have the seat reclined as there is less direct loading on the lumbar. Next bring something to pad the lumbar curve (like the extra sweater in your carry-on) and a neck pillow as it will total collapsing of the neck. Lastly, stow your carry-on above you to give your legs room to stretch out and avoid cramping.

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Why You Should Sleep Naked

simon-sleep-tips

What do bedclothes, pets, and your ex all have in common? They should all be kept away from your mattress!

The two main reasons for why you should sleep naked are to reduce elevated body heat and to minimize the toss and turn. We want to sleep slightly cooler, keeping our environment around 18C/65F. Our body’s temperature naturally fluctuates during our sleep cycles, and allowing this process will promote a quality sleep.

Bedclothes can hold the heat, disrupting this temperature variation and making sleep onset more difficult. Further, sleeping with bedclothes or pets can interrupt our sleep. Every time we toss and turn our sleep quality goes down.

For most of us, sleep involves at least some regular movement. Although we may be oblivious, when we readjust or roll over the chance of getting caught up in bedclothes is much higher than if we are naked. This lowers comfort, and in turn, the quality of our rest.

Beyond improving sleep, disrobing before bed can help with these health benefits as well: 

  • Look Younger: Ensuring our bedroom temperature hovers around 18°C (65°F) while we sleep allows our anti-aging hormones — melatonin and the growth hormone — to function properly. These hormones work better at lower temperatures and allow our cells to regenerate, which results in better-looking hair and skin.
  • Lose Weight: A good night’s sleep is an excellent way to fight stress, which is one of the reasons we gain belly fat. If we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we can wake up with high cortisol levels that can trigger our appetite for comfort foods and lead to overeating.
  • Protect Your Private Parts: Bacteria thrive in moist, warm environments. By ensuring more ventilation down there while sleeping naked, the probability of infection is reduced. And for men, sleeping naked increases fertility by keeping that area at cooler temperatures.
  • Enjoy Better Sex: You are naked after all. Sleeping in the nude with your partner increases skin-on-skin contact and helps stimulate the release of the “love” hormone oxytocin.

For more healthy sleeping tips, please watch the video below:

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7 Tips to Help You Sleep Better

Sleep. It’s Not Just a Guilty PleasureEdit Entry

There are few things that feel better than getting a good night’s sleep. And few things worse than lying in bed with insomnia when we have an early meeting the next day. In fact, as we get older, getting deep, restful sleeps begins to take priority over a night out of socializing.

There’s a good reason for this. Not the passive state many people once considered it to be, sleep is now known to be a highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored.

Sleep is an integral factor in living a well-balanced and healthy life— one full of vitality. Most studies show that the average human needs between 7 and 9 hours. And science is increasingly showing us that sleep deprivation and poor sleeping habits affect both our body’s AND our brain’s ability to function properly. You want to function at peak capacity? You want your memory to serve you? You want your sex life to be full of vitality? Then sleep better! Below is a list of common sleep problems and ways to fix them and sleep better. At Mountain Trek we call these tips “Insomnia Busters” and they are core to the success of the guests at our award-winning health retreat.

Common Sleep Problems

Snoring

Weight is usually the main cause of snoring so shedding excess fat around the neck will stop extra pressure being put on the airways.

Sleep Apnea

Apnea is caused by the same muscles that cause snoring. It occurs when the muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue and the uvula (the small fleshy piece of tissue hanging back of the throat) relax, partially blocking the opening of the airway. However, sleep apnea is more dangerous than snoring in that it alters normal breathing patterns.

Insomnia

A prolonged and usually abnormal inability to obtain adequate, uninterrupted sleep. Symptoms may include having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning, feeling unrefreshed. The consequences are unpleasant, leaving sufferers feeling exhausted, irritable and unable to concentrate on simple tasks.

Restless Leg Syndrome

a tingling, itching sensation and unexplained aches and pains in the lower limbs.

A recent study in the journal Sleep shows that one night of sleep deprivation is associated with signs of brain tissue loss. In addition, a brain imaging study from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that a night of sleep deprivation affected the brain’s decision-making and reward areas, and also led to study participants craving higher-calorie foods. Writing in the journal Science, University of Rochester scientist Maiken Nedergaard describes how during sleep, cerebral spinal fluid is pumped around the brain, flushing out waste products like a biological dishwasher. She believes that this cleaning process is more active during sleep because it takes too much energy to pump fluid around the brain when we’re awake.

7 Ways To Sleep Better, Naturally

1) Develop a routine

Regularly go to bed early (9 or 10 pm) and get up 8 hours later (even on weekends). This helps set your internal sleep-wake clock and reduces the amount of tossing and turning required to fall asleep. It also helps counteract the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2) Exercise

Doing some form of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week will improve your sleep. But make sure you do your exercise several hours before bedtime so you’re not revved up.

3) Change your diet

Cut out food and drinks that contain caffeine—such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate—by late afternoon. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion. Eat magnesium-rich foods like fish, nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

4) Cut out the nightcaps

Alcohol disrupts the pattern of sleep and brain waves that help you feel refreshed in the morning.

5) Turn down the heat

A temperate room gets you a better sleep than a tropical one, we recommend keeping the room temperature at 65°F or 18°C. Striking a balance between the thermostat, your blanket, and your sleeping attire will reduce your core body temperature and help you drift off to sleep.

6) Make your bed a No-Work-Zone

Your bed is for sleep and sex—not work, food, or TV. If you wake up during the night, skip turning on your computer or TV and do something soothing like meditating or reading until you feel sleepy again.

7) Cut out the gadgetry

Turn off your TV, computer, phone, iPad, and video game at least an hour before bedtime. Light from these devices stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down for sleep. You can also download the free software F.lux to your various devices and it makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day: warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

If you’re still curious how to improve your sleep, contact us below, or come visit us for a week of unplugging, resetting, and sleeping deeply.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Insomnia Busters – How To Sleep Better

Insomnia busters for better sleep

There are few things that feel better than getting a good night’s sleep. And few things worse than lying in bed with insomnia. At the Mountain Trek Health & Fitness retreat we spend time talking about the importance of sleep for every aspect of our lives – how it affects our belly fat to how it impacts our metabolism. In the copy and videos below, program director Kirkland Shave offers a small sampling of our “Insomnia Busters” lecture, which gives you tips for sleeping better.

As we get older, getting deep, restful sleeps begins to take priority over a night out of socializing and there’s a good reason for this. Not the passive state many people once considered it to be, sleep is now known to be a highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored.

Sleep is an integral factor in living a well-balanced, healthy life full of vitality. Most studies show that the average human needs between 7 and 9 hours. And science is increasingly showing us that sleep deprivation and poor sleeping habits affect both our body’s AND our brain’s ability to function properly. You want to function at peak capacity? You want your memory to serve you? You want to lose belly fat? You want your sex life to be full of vitality? Then sleep better! Here are three videos that describe exactly how to sleep better.

How to Sleep Better Around Electronics

In this video Kirkland discusses electronics and their impact on us, especially right before bedtime. It’s only been in the past 30 years we’ve been using personal computers, cellphones and other devices with displays that feature the white-blue colour spectrum. This light is similar to the daytime sky and by staring at them, our cortisol remains high. When the sun sets the colour spectrum changes to red/orange and our melatonin is prepared for release but by staring at our devices, our brains and our bodies are not ready for sleep.

How To Sleep Better Through Diet

Our diet is also related to Insomnia Busters. So often we see advertisements claiming that how to lose belly fat is simple because you can lose weight while you sleep. If that were truly the case, then we’d all just be sleeping and shedding off pounds. But we’re not. If we want to counteract weight gain and lose belly fat, then we want to examine what our diets are right before bed. If we are eating late at night, we’re keeping our bodies in the process of digestion and not letting our stomach, liver, pancreas and all the other digestive organs rest, which they need at the beginning of the night. So try to cut back on your food intake and try not to snack in the evenings because unless you’re going to be active, you’re just going to store that food anyway. And that is definitely not how to lose belly fat.

Another thing that affects our sleep is alcohol. As much as it’s delicious with a meal, it can impact our bodies negatively if consumed on its own and before bed. Firstly, alcohol is a muscle relaxant so it causes many people to snore. Secondly, the liver converts alcohol into acetate, which is a form of vinegar, and that process will disrupt our sleep about 2-3 hours in. Also, many people may not know this but all alcohol has calories (even the hard stuff) so, the more you consume, the more belly fat you have, unless you’re working out right before bed to counteract the weight gain.

Finally, let’s talk about caffeine. For about a third of the population, caffeine is a cortisol stimulant. (Cortisol is the hormone that awakens us.) We don’t want to increase cortisol in the evening because it will override the sleep beckoning hormone melatonin.

The last section of this “Insomnia Buster” mini-lecture discusses stress. To help with insomnia we have to do something about managing stress. Relentless stress day after day causes our hormone Cortisol to stay elevated and Cortisol will always override our sleep hormone – Melatonin. Some of our stress is a result of organizational thinking. Trying to remember what’s on your plate the next day – picking up the kids, getting to the board meeting on time, dinner party with the in-laws. All that’s orbiting around in your brain before bed and you’re not going to allow the unconscious part of your brain to drop until you deal with it. So get out your day timer or your phone and plug those things into your calendar and then your unconscious brain can let go of all those things orbiting around.

The other form of stressful thought is concern about our own self or others – it’s more of an emotional form of thinking. These too need to be released from the unconscious part of the brain through typing or writing in a journal. It may sound silly but the act allows our unconscious brain to let go of its vigilance and then cortisol will drop. You can empty your mind and allow Melatonin to seduce you into sleep.

For more about Insomnia Busters, read our “7 Tips to Help You Sleep Better” article. And to book a stay at Mountain Trek and enjoy deep, restful sleeps at our luxurious lodge, call 1-800-661-5161.

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Why Mountain Trek Is The Perfect Girls Getaway

Girls-Get-Away-2

Mountain Trek is just starting its season and what an incredible one it has been. The weather has been absolutely stunning: we’ve enjoyed lots of sunshine with clear blue skies and stunning views of the mountains, lakes and rivers in this beautiful area of British Columbia.

This is an excellent time of year for you to visit Mountain Trek because it’s a chance to really launch into recreation, relaxation and retreat. You work hard all year and now it’s time to consider taking some space for yourself: start thinking about leaving behind the stresses and worries of your job, your child-rearing, or whatever it is that occupies so much of your time, if even for a little while. It’s a great thing to reward yourself with a healthy vacation but imaging bringing along your girlfriends so you can all help support and encourage each other to get in shape and have fun!

Here are four reasons why you and your girlfriends should book a Girls Getaway to Mountain Trek:

#1. The kids are away. Time to play

Leave the children at home and enjoy this perfect opportunity to get away from your day-to-day and spend some much-needed time with your friends getting fit during the day and getting pampered at night with our massages, saunas and world-famous hot springs.

Girls-Get-Away-1

#2. Have the outdoors all to yourself

Can you imagine having the mountains all to yourself? The south-central region of B.C. is perfect because unlike areas such as Banff, Whistler and every national park in the United States there are fewer tourists around. We’ll go on such iconic hikes as Idaho Peak and Fry Creek and it will be just you, your friends and some of the most stunning mountainous views in the world.

Girls-Get-Away-3
#3. Get on track for the year

Take time out for yourself to learn healthy routines and indulge. What better way to get into a healthy mindset than to visit Mountain Trek and disover all the ways to shed stress and be healthy. Come to Mountain Trek, eat delicious meals, boost your vitality and metabolism, become more active and get your year back on track with all your closest friends by your side.

Girl's Get Away at Mountain Trek

#4. Have a guaranteed support network when you get home

Sometimes the hardest part about attending Mountain Trek is leaving. It can be difficult to incorporate the healthy aspects of the program when you get back to your day-to-day but if you and your friends all return from the fitness retreat at the same time, you’ll be there for each other and help each other through those moments when it’s tough to stay on track. You’ll have a fitness friend, a confidante and someone to share recipes with.

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14 Ways To Pamper Yourself This Valentine’s Day + How to Balance Work & Play

[wps_social_buttons] Happy Valentine's Day!

14 Ways To Pamper Yourself This Valentine’s Day

For some February 14 is an opportunity to prove to your significant other just how much you love them. For others, Valentine’s Day is more of a manufactured holiday that’s about selling cards and chocolates. For very few, however, the day is about celebrating themselves. This year, we invite you to pamper yourself on February 14th and reinvigorate your love of you. In the past we’ve talked about Self Soothing to Replace Emotional Eating and Christmas Holidays Gifts for Yourself but we’ve never really touched on ways to offer loving gestures to yourself on Valentine’s Day. So, without further ado, here are fourteen ways to pamper yourself this Valentine’s Day.

#1. Take a bubble bath

Take a bubble bath

#2. Buy yourself a colourful plant or flowers

Buy yourself colorful flowers

#3. Better yet, take a walk outside and enjoy some outdoor foliage

Take a walk outside

#4. Set aside time to read that good book or magazine

Read a good book

#5. Write a letter to yourself stipulating the things you love about you

Writer yourself a love letter

#6. Schedule a massage

Schedule a massage

#7. Enrol in a yoga, fitness or any type of class that offers a subject you’re interested in

Enroll in a yoga class

#8. Detoxify your body (see here for more details)

Detox

#9. Go to your favourite restaurant by yourself and order anything you want

Take yourself out for dinner

#10. Take a nap

Enjoy a restful nap

#11. Spend time with a puppy, kitten or pet, whether it’s yours or someone else’s

Play with a puppy or kitten

#12. Give yourself a facial, manicure, pedicure or foot bath

Pamper yourself with a pedicure

#13. Make a delicious meal just for you (we suggest it includes our Vegan Chocolate Mousse)

Spa Cuisine

#14. Book yourself a vacation

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How to Balance Your Work and Play

balance work and play

About 50 years ago many of us moved from work that involved standing and moving to desk jobs that require more sitting. Not only that, but our work hours have increased and, for some of us, we spend two-thirds of our day connected to our job in some capacity. This can make for an incredibly stressful lifestyle, one in which we spend all our time either working or sleeping (poorly) to recover from the work. This can take a toll not only on the mind but also on the body. After all, our system is designed to run after gazelles on the African savannah – it doesn’t feel good when we sit in front of a computer or TB screen for 14 hours a day. The good news is there are some easy things that you can do in order to better balance your work and play. In our opinion, the latter doesn’t get emphasized enough in our current work-obsessed society but it’s just as important (if not more so) for personal health and happiness.

The key to a good balance is not biting off more than you can chew at first. Remember, “Inch by inch is a cinch but yard by yard is hard.” The first thing you want to do is make a list of things that you consider fun and make you happy – even if the list is only one activity long. Perhaps you were a cross-country running champion in college but since starting in the workforce you haven’t found the time to get outside. The key is to not expect to get out everyday for a few hours right off the bat. But you can get outside, even if it’s just walking from your car to your office. For the first few days, park further away than you normally would and as your striding along, take deep breaths and remember what it was like to run freely through nature. Before entering your building, look up at the sky for 30 seconds and just enjoy the view. Then, when you’re in the office, follow these five steps:

  • Take 10 minutes out of your work day and relax, sit down and just clear your mind. (Recently we’ve been playing with the Buddhify app to achieve this and it’s very good.)
  • Drink lots of water. Not only will it cleanse your system but it will force you to get up and move when you need bathroom breaks. It will also allow you to step out of your work mode for a few moments to give you time to think of other activities.
  • Occasionally get up from your desk and stretch in a doorway or stare out the window at the sky. While you’re doing that, think about what makes you happy.
  • The next time you’re perusing Facebook or on some other social media site, stop what you’re doing and instead Google classes, courses, groups or apps that are related to the activity you love. Bookmark relevant sites. Even if you don’t sign up right then and there, it will be beneficial to have your mind dwell on it.
  • Mention to a friend or co-worker about your desire for better work/play balance and the activity you would like to get involved in. By putting it out there, you’ll enlist the help of acquaintances and it will become “real” as opposed to a “wish” that only exists in your mind.

Try and do the above things everyday and eventually you’ll find yourself setting aside more and more time for the activity you love.


Endurance Crackers Recipe

Endurance Cracker Recipe These crackers are a great alternative to bread when enjoying such dips as hummus or our famous Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing. The seeds in this recipe are packed full of protein (there’s a total of 2 ounces or 56 grams in one batch of these crackers) so they’ll provide longer-term energy for whatever activity you’re involved in. These amounts make enough for 22 large crackers but it can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup chia seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lage garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tsp grated sweet onion
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt
  • Herbamare/kelp or herbs of your choice

Directions:

Combine seeds together in a large bowl. In another bowl mix together water, garlic and onion. Pour water mixture into seeds and stir until thick. Let mixture sit for 15 minutes as the chia seeds will swell and this will help to bind the cracker. Add seasoning. Drop from teaspoon onto prepared baking sheet then spread with the back of a spoon until less than 1⁄4 inch thick. Bake at 325°F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and flip over carefully. Bake for another 30 minutes.


Suffering Some New Year Resolution Setbacks?

Not to Worry! Here’s How to Cope and Change

How are you doing with your resolutions?

How are those New Year’s Resolutions of yours going? Still on track or are you mired in self defeat? If it’s the latter then we’re here to help. Setbacks are just part of the process when we make big changes. Perhaps you vowed you’d eat breakfast 30 minutes after you wake up every morning and then fell back into the routine of consuming only three coffees before lunch. Or maybe you said you’d exercise three days a week and have only managed to go twice or once. Fear not! You are not failing! You’re doing everything right by just deciding to make the positive change in the first place.

Here are a six tips to prevent you from becoming discouraged and to help keep you on track with your changes in the coming months. Remember, it can take upwards of three months to create a healthy habit so continue to stick with it, even through the setbacks, and you’ll be increasing your overall vitality in no time!

  1. Firstly, if you’ve suffered a setback the key is don’t beat yourself up over it. Just acknowledge it, try to discern why you slipped and then immediately get back on track again.
  2. If you find yourself continually encountering setbacks, maybe the change you’re trying to implement is too big? Is it possible to make a smaller change that will lead to a healthier path. For example, if you wanted to hit the gym three times a week but are struggling to make it there even once, then just change the playing field, so to speak. Resolve to go to the gym once a week at the start and then work your way up from there.
  3. If you keep lapsing into a bad habit (such as snacking on potato chips and drinking soda pop throughout your workday) then simply swap out the context of the bad habit. Instead of potato chips, snack on baked kale chips and enjoy an herbal ice tea instead of pop.
  4. Get outside! There’s no better tonic than a walk through nature in the fresh air. If you find yourself lapsing into self-judgement and despair, just take a step outside and breath deeply. It seems like such a simple solution but you’ll be shocked at how it clears your mind and puts you in a better mood.
  5. Phone a friend! You are not in this alone. Engage a family member or friend and tell them about where you’re having difficulty. You’ll be amazed at how just talking about it to a good listener will help put you back on track.
  6. Travel! Nothing helps you break a bad habit faster than completely changing your environment. It’s so much easier to reinvent yourself when you’re not surrounded by the same-old, same-old. The trip doesn’t have to be an epic cross-country adventure – you could simply book a room at a local hotel, take a good book and relax away from the stresses of your regular life. That said, we believe joining us on our trip to the Amalfi Coast would definitely help reset your batteries and put you on a path to overall wellness!
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10+ Tips to Keep Well and Active as the Cold Weather Approaches

Autumn Hiking at Mountain Trek

Summer is officially over in many parts of the world and the cooler weather is upon us. The days are getting shorter, the thermometer is dropping and our bodies are entering into what was, traditionally, a time of dormancy. Before the industrial revolution, we humans would spend the winter months in a state of quiescence – there was very little farming, hunting or gathering to be done so we’d slow down and conserve our fat stores. These days, our bodies are still programmed to a certain amount of inaction during the colder months but, unlike the past, we now have plenty of fatty and processed foods to snack on during that time.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a lot of unhealthy snacking and remain well and active as winter rolls in.

#1. Avoid Drinking More Coffee

Morning Ginger Tea

With cooler temperatures comes the desire to drink hot drinks and the most prevalent, especially in the Western world, is coffee. However comforting that cup of Joe is on a cool day, however, one must remember the harmful effects of caffeine. There is a proven relationship between caffeine and weight gain. Continuous consumption of it leads to prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, which has a negative effect on metabolism, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Instead of drinking more coffee, consider other hot drink alternatives such as a detoxifying and energizing morning ginger tea.

#2. Avoid More Alcohol

Avoid Alcohol

As we enter months where the nights are longer, we as a species are driven to socialize more in the evenings. And in our modern world, that typically means there is more alcohol on offer. We at Mountain Trek are not abolitionists by any stretch but we think it’s important to stress alcohol’s relationship to weight gain. All alcohol has calories (even the ones marketed as being free of carbs) and so by consuming more, you’re adding to your fat stores. In the case of alcohol this is doubly taxing because it stresses your liver and impairs its ability to flush toxins. Imbibe in the occasional drink but considering capping of the evening with a nightcap of #3.

#3. Drink More Water

Drink More Water

Last year we wrote a post about water versus soda pop and one of the most interesting facts about lack of water was that it is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue. As we enter the longer, colder months, our bodies tend to want to slow down and lethargy is more prevalent – drinking a few glasses of water easily rectifies that. Plus it helps you flush toxins and curb hunger pangs.

#4. Get a Good Nights Sleep

Get a Good Night's Sleep

As the night’s get longer our bodies respond by desiring a bit more shut-eye. Although our bodies require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, there are many sleep problems that are preventing some of us from getting that. The good news is there are easy things you can do to ensure a good night’s rest. In this post we list seven tricks but the most important is to make your bedroom a work-free and gadget-free zone. Leave all electronic devices outside the bedroom and enjoy some shut-eye unhampered by bells, lights and agendas.

#5. Go For a Soak

Go for a Soak

This one is easy, especially as the colder months set in: find yourself a bathtub, hot tub or hot spring and just lie there. That’s it. There are many therapeutic benefits to a good soak but the main one is relaxation; the power of de-stressing is not to be underestimated, especially because balanced hormones lead to balanced health.

#6. Get Massaged

Massage

As with #5, this one isn’t that difficult either. There are reasons most cultures on earth have offered some form of massage for thousands of years: not only is it relaxing, it’s also good for your health. In fact, an evening massage is one of the best ways to relax after the day’s activities. It will help prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.

#7. Enlist the Help of a Friend

Enlist the help of a friend

In another blog post we listed seven reasons why you should work out with a friend and these apply that much more in the cooler months when it’s easy for us to justify sitting in front of the TV under a blanket instead of getting up and moving. A friend will help keep you accountable but will also make fitness that much more fun.

#8. Exercise – Even Just a Little

Exercise

It goes without saying that we here at Mountain Trek are big fans of exercise, no matter what time of year it is. We also appreciate, however, that when the cooler weather sets in, it can be harder to get motivated. That’s why we’ve compiled some tips to help beat sedentarism some of which are as easy as doing stretches in your office doorway. Remember, though, that to keep your metabolism up and your weight down, your body has to move for at least 40 minutes a day, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block.

#9. Show Yourself Some Love

Show Yourself Some Love

There are many ways to pamper yourself but the best is to do something you enjoy. It seems like such a simple thing and yet many of us work so hard, by the end of the day we only have energy to sit in front of the TV. Take time in the coming months to do something that recharges your batteries: read a good book by the fire, indulge in a hobby or attend a class. You’ll find you’ll be happier and have more energy to face the cooler weather and shorter days.

#10. Book a Stay with Mountain Trek

Book your stay at Mountain Trek

The best way to pamper yourself is to dedicate a vacation to you and your health. Join us at Rancho La Puerta in the beautiful Baja in November or February to revel in the sunshine. Or come out for a fun-filled time of winter activity at our gorgeous lodge in British Columbia where you’ll enjoy the pristine snowy environment and hang out with like-minded friends by the fire, in the natural hot springs or in our new spa.


How to Top up on Vitamin D Now That the Days are Shorter

Vitamin D

Now that the days are getting shorter, are you feeling a little low on energy? Could be that you’ve come to your ‘D-day’, a time in the year when Vitamin D gets scarcer. But the good news is it’s easy to top up with some delicious nutrient-rich foods and, of course, a visit to sunny Rancho La Puerta in the Baja with Mountain Trek!

In addition to being absolutely necessary for bone growth and repair, Vitamin D also aids calcium absorption in the gut, is responsible for the modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune system function, and reduction of inflammation. It also helps with depression prevention! There’s no question this Vitamin’s role is crucial to our body’s functioning health and there are two natural ways to get it: by the sun’s UV rays, and through our diet. Yet, in the months when the days get shorter, the sun is low in the sky and usually cloud covered and most of us aren’t getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. By the time spring rolls around, many of us are Vitamin D deficient. To help us stay topped up on this important player in the body’s functioning health, we’ve taken a look at two solutions: a sunny, healthy vacation and eating foods rich is this necessary nutrient.

Where Do I get my Vitamin D?

When UV rays from sunlight touch the skin, this triggers Vitamin D synthesis. But when sun exposure is at a minimum during the winter months, we can turn to diet to help with our vitamin D intake. Unfortunately, very few foods are high in Vitamin D naturally, and so it is not possible to get all the Vitamin D you need from diet alone. In conjunction with a high quality multi-vitamin, here are some of the best food sources of Vitamin D:

Fatty fish: So very nutritious for you for so many reasons, fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and even seafood such as oysters, contain some of the highest concentrations of Vitamin D in food.

Eggs: Not only high in protein and so many other nutrients (Vitamin B12), the sunshine yellow of egg yolks do contain a hearty helping of Vitamin D.

Beef liver: Not everyone’s favorite, but when mom said ‘eat up!’ to those liver and onions, she knew what she was talking about as far as Vitamin D’s concerned.

Mushrooms: Certain varieties of mushrooms, like white button, can provide Vitamin D among other nutrients (Vitamin B5) when lightly cooked.

Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D for the simple reason that we don’t get enough in our diet, or in general. Almost all milk (and baby formula) in the U.S. and Canada is fortified with Vitamin D as are some orange juices, soy products and cereals. But please use caution and check labels, as many of these products can contain refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, and other undesirables.

What About Sunny Vacations?

Sunny Vacations

Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing trip to a more sunny clime during the cooler fall and winter months? It’s important, though, to moderate your solar intake while on vacation. So many of us rush to the beach and neglect proper sun care in the quest for the perfect tan. This is definitely more harmful than not having any sun at all. Instead, stay out of the sun when it’s at its peak or cover up with loose-fitting, SPF-rated clothing, hat and sunglasses. In fact, the best way to monitor your sun intake while staying healthy is to join Mountain Trek on a retreat to the beautiful Rancho La Puerta property in Baja, Mexico, just a one-hour drive south of San Diego. Our guides will help you take care of your sunscreen needs while keeping you physically active outdoors. It’s the perfect way to get both a Vitamin D infusion and a health reboot at the same time. If a sun-filled, exercise-fueled vacation in the Baja sounds like something you’d be interested in, be sure to contact us soon as both the November and February spots are filling up!

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Featured Cool Weather Recipe

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