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Sleep Hygiene Checklist

a woman wakes up and stretches her arms

Our sleep hygiene checklist will ensure you get a great night’s sleep

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? Or, are you tossing and turning for hours, waking up feeling foggy, irritable, and just as tired as when you went to bed? If so, you’re not alone, but don’t worry, you can use our sleep hygiene checklist to ensure you get a great night’s sleep!

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 both hard work and a good strategy to see results. Sleep is an essential component of our health, and something we need to put just as much effort into as our diet and exercise. Follow our sleep hygiene checklist below to give yourself a framework that will help you sleep better tonight, and for the rest of your (now longer) life.

Checklist Item 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.

Checklist Item 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. Movement 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.

Checklist Item 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. Similar 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.

Checklist Item 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.

Checklist Item 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.

Now that you have this sleep hygiene checklist, you can make sure that you’re doing everything possible to get a great night’s sleep. If you’re still curious about 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:

18 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health When Working From Home

While working from home certainly has its perks; no commute, no dress code, a more flexible schedule—it also blurs the line between work and personal life, disrupting the sensitive balance that exists between the two. Incidences of depression due to working from home are on the rise. So is anxiety. We haven’t yet been taught how to maintain our mental health as our work and personal lives inexorably intertwine. As more companies continue to move their workforce remote, it’s time we learn this newly important skill.

Below are 18 ways you can improve your mental health while working from home, listed in chronological order so you can follow along as your day progresses.

Gift Yourself Your Old Commute Time

Stick to your old routine where you had to commute to work. Only now, instead of spending that 30-45 minutes in your car or in transit, use your “commute time” just for you. The next few tips will give you ideas about what to do with this new-found self-care time.

Break Your Fast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for our physical and mental health. Skipping breakfast mimics famine which increases our stress levels. Inversely, eating breakfast will reduce cortisol (stress hormone) production. Additionally, eating breakfast sets up our energy levels for the day and has been proven to boost anabolic hormone levels by 15%. Make a smoothie or simple sprouted grain avocado tahini toast and eat within 30 minutes of getting up to break your intermittent fast from the night before. Not hungry when you wake up? Make sure to eat your last calorie at least 12 hours before you plan to wake up. This allows our body’s autophagy process for cellular recycling and reducing inflammation to occur, and ensures we will be hungry when we wake up.

Take a Morning (Sun) Bath

In the correct situation, the cortisol hormone we mentioned above can be your friend as it’s what perks you up like a natural cup of coffee. Eat your breakfast near a window to allow the early morning light to set your circadian clock for a productive morning. Encourage other family members to join you.

Own Your Morning

It’s too easy to immediately turn to watching the news or checking emails upon waking. However, this starts our minds spinning. Instead, consider reading something inspiring or pleasurable immediately upon waking, or go for a 20-minute walk outdoors, noticing as much of the natural world from as many of your senses as possible (the sky, the snow or rain, the breeze, space between branches, the sound of a bird). This practice of presence will bathe your brain in neurotransmitter feel-good hormones. Paying attention to the details and richness of the world we live in adds more beauty and gratefulness to our day.

Get A Pre-Work Fat Flush

If you can wake up 90 minutes before work, consider walking briskly (between 6.5 and 8.5 perceived rate of exertion out of 10) for 40 minutes to get a cardio fat flush, or alternate walk days with online HIIT workouts, or an online yoga class. Getting a full workout in before has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety and the effects of depression, starting your day on the right foot, literally.

Channel Your Inner Wim Hof

Take a hot shower and end with a cold rinse to increase your circulation and support your elimination system in its ongoing detoxification process.

Dress For Success

Dress for work not sleep to boost your commitment and confidence.

Setup Your Workspace for Success

Situate your computer in front of a window for natural light (if possible, use an adjustable standing desk and alternate between sitting and standing to promote circulation). Consider some greenery, house plants, fresh flowers, and photos of nature all of which help balance constant screen time. Quiet background music (classical, meditative instrumentals, or binaural beats) can help promote calm and concentration and override sounds coming from family members in the house.

Optimize Your Concentration

Too often our productivity is sabotaged at home by distractions. This can lead to a sense of failure for the day. Instead, check your daily calendar for the priority list you set at the end of yesterday’s workday—ask yourself if the items are still relevant. Then organize your day into 90-minute concentrated segments where you work on just one thing. Give yourself 10 minutes between these concentrated work sessions to resource yourself while giving your eyes a break from the screen. After experimenting in 90/10 time segments you may wish to try the Pomodoro Method of 25/5 and notice which time period works best with your concentration levels. You will accomplish more while still giving yourself necessary breaks, resulting in a satisfying day of work.

Reboot 10 Minutes At A Time

Our happiness is intrinsically tied to our productivity. Creating feels good. It gives us confidence and purpose. In order to be as productive as possible, we must take breaks to recharge and refocus, but a longer lunch is not the solution. We’re better off working hard for 90 minutes then taking 10-minute breaks. Consider these 10 min reboot sessions:

Posture stretches to avoid rounded computer shoulders, text neck, and lower back pain.

8-minute guided mindfulness meditation

Keep Your Blood Sugar Level

Blood sugar spikes and plummets contribute immensely to our mood. Leveling out your blood sugar by eating the right food in the right portions at the right time will avoid any “hanger” or the need for an afternoon jolt of caffeine, which for more than a third of the population causes cortisol levels (that pesky stress hormone) to increase. Spread your calories across your day, eating 6 times; break-the-fast morning smoothie or toast, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. For your mid-morning snack, have a piece of fruit and 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, and for a mid-afternoon snack, a few veggie slices with 2 tablespoons of golden almond butter protein dip. Remember to stay hydrated throughout your day, as well!

Batch Cook Lunch Ahead Of Time

Take the stress out of eating lunch at home by premaking a couple of soups on the weekend. This ensures you don’t stress over lunch prep or cleanup. Here are some of our favorite easy “warm-up” soup recipes:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Greek Chicken & Feta Soup

Black Bean Soup

Wrap It Up

Don’t just up and leave when the whistle blows. Save the last 30 minutes of your workday to review the day with a dedicated work journal, and then plan and calendar your priorities for tomorrow. Finally, clean and clear your workspace so you can start tomorrow fresh. We can never finish all of our work, but by segmenting your day into periods of resourced and fueled concentration we can be confident in our efficacy. Bonus: end your workday at the same time every day to introduce consistency.

Reward Yourself For A Hard Day’s Work

At the end of a hard, stressful workday, we are craving release. Too often, however, we seek release in the form of wine or salty, fatty, carby snacks. Instead, lower your stress hormones at the end of the day and bathe your hard-working brain with serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine with a more productive option. Try a 5-minute meditation, petting your pet, or 20 minutes of yoga, Tai Chi, creativity, or forest bathing. These are all healthy ‘happy hour’ alternatives that will still satiate our need to feel good.

Go For A Post-Dinner Walk

After eating a healthy dinner, get up from the table and go for a 20-minute walk with yourself, family or pet around the neighborhood to use those calories, rather than store them. This will help set you up for a good night’s sleep and prevent you from waking up groggy.

Power Down 1 Hour before Bed

Power down all electronics at least 1 hour before bed to physically reduce exposure to stimulating blue-light and emotionally reduce exposure to stimulating content like social media, news, and work email. Consider soft lighting, a warm bath (add Epsom salts for an added detox), 10 minutes of gentle and slow yoga stretches, a 5-minute breathing meditation, trading a shoulder massage with your mate, or reading a novel all to invoke the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to prepare for deep sleep.

Reflect and review

Review your day in a journal. Bring your awareness into noticing how any of these tips are affecting your mental clarity, positive emotions and moods, energy levels, productivity, sense of owning your day and life, and feelings of gratitude. Finally, write down and thoughts bouncing around in your head. Simply putting them down on paper allows us to rest assured that we won’t forget them.

Sleep

Easier said than done, but this last tip is just as important as the rest. Sleep is when we heal, physically and mentally, and recharge our batteries for the next day. Ensure you’re fully charged by following our comprehensive Guide To Great Sleep.

Your mental health and resiliency are vital to a long and happy life. Do your best not to try and implement all of the above at one time. Instead, start by choosing two that interest you and try to implement them just twice this coming week. Once you’ve had success with that seemingly easy task, increase the frequency to three times a week, and then eventually add a third and fourth action. Trying to do it all right off the bat is one of our most common pitfalls when trying to accomplish goals. Read our article How To Build A Healthy Habit in 6 Steps.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

How Stress Contributes To Diabetes

older woman with diabetes checking blood sugar levels

While it’s widely known that a poor diet and low levels of exercise increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, we are now learning that chronic stress also contributes to the disease that affects 1 in 10 Americans. Today’s fast-paced lifestyles, which feature modern medical syndromes like burnout, are even more prone to stress, and it’s causing a domino effect not only on our emotional and mental health but our physical health as well.

Understanding Diabetes

Terms like “diabetes”, “type 2 diabetes”, and “adult-onset diabetes” are now common in our vocabulary, but the fundamentals of the disease are confusing, and therefore often overlooked.

If we know nothing else, we need to understand that our bodies run off a sugar molecule called glucose—the gasoline to our combustion engine. The food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is then carried off by our blood to the places that need energy, such as our brain, muscles, and organs. We refer to the amount of glucose in our bloodstream at any given time as our blood-sugar level (remember, glucose is sugar).

Once at its destination, glucose isn’t able to enter our cells without the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin binds to glucose and allows it to actually cross the cell wall. Insulin is like the nozzle of the fuel pump. Without the nozzle, gas can’t actually enter your fuel tank. Instead, it just sits in the hose. Without insulin, sugar cannot enter our cells. Instead, it just sits in our bloodstream.

The problem with our bodies, unlike a fuel pump, is that if extra gas sits in our hose for too long, aka extra sugar in our bloodstream, all sorts of issues occur, such as slowed healing, hearing loss, nerve damage, sleep apnea, heart and blood vessel disease, kidney damage, eye damage, and Alzheimer’s.

This permanent state of elevated blood sugar is diabetes. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes is caused by a genetic condition developed primarily during childhood or adolescence where your pancreas naturally produces little or no insulin, and it cannot be avoided; Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when our blood sugar levels are so frequently elevated due to our lifestyle that either our pancreas begins to slow down the production of insulin, or our cells begin to resist insulin. In either case, the result is permanently elevated blood sugar levels.

It’s easy to believe this resistance is due to overuse, but think about Olympic athletes for a second. They typically consume between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day, constantly adding sugar to their blood. The difference is, they use up this sugar through their rigorous, all-day training, preventing their blood sugar levels from ever getting too high. It’s extremely rare that an Olympic athlete, someone who cycles through an enormous amount of sugar, gets type 2 diabetes. So something else is going on.

While the very science of why our cells begin to refuse insulin in type 2 diabetes is still being fully developed, the leading assumption is that an increased level of fat in our blood and chronic inflammation are the two primary culprits.

Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent insulin resistance. The key lies in stopping ourselves from too frequently entering a state of elevated blood sugar—a state known as hyperglycemia. What’s widely obvious, today, is that reducing the amount of sugar we take in and increasing the amount of sugar we burn is a great way to accomplish this. In other words, eating healthier (the correct portions at the correct times) and moving more. What’s less known, however, but quickly coming into the spotlight as a contributing factor to our elevated blood sugar levels, is that stress contributes to insulin resistance.

Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

The short answer is that chronic stress does contribute to type 2 diabetes. Whether or not stress outright causes diabetes is still to be discovered, but we started understanding how stress plays a role in the development of the disease back in 2010, with a review from the European Depression in Diabetes Research Consortium. They discovered, “Depression, general emotional stress and anxiety, sleeping problems, anger, and hostility are associated with an increased risk for the development of Type 2 Diabetes.”

Now, more than a decade later, we continue to understand how chronic stress disrupts our pancreas and liver from managing blood sugar levels properly, leading to periods of hyperglycemia, which ultimately leads to diabetes.

Stress and Blood Sugar Levels

When under physical, mental, or emotional stress, blood sugar levels naturally rise to supply energy to our muscles. Physiologically, this occurs to support our primitive fight-or-flight response, which once allowed us to survive stressful situations, such as an attack from a saber-tooth tiger. In an instant, our liver dumps stored glucose, aka sugar, into our bloodstream. Simultaneously, our pancreas produces insulin which allows that sugar to be used by our muscles. Running away from the tiger or fighting uses up the sugar in our bloodstream, and, after a short while, levels return to normal.

Today, however, our situation has evolved, and we rarely utilize the increased sugar in our bloodstream immediately following a stressful event. Think back to the last time you got cut off in traffic or got into an argument with a colleague. Or even the last time you felt a spell of anxiety. Did you go “walk it off”? Most likely not. More realistically, following a stressful event, we stay stagnant in our seats or on our couch. Even worse, we may decide to eat something salty, fatty, or sugary to settle our emotions.

Stress Eating Leads to Increased Blood Sugar Levels

Coping with chronic stressors—whether mental, emotional, or physical—often leads to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Our natural instinct is to then make choices that evoke our “feel-good hormones” to avoid the weight of these feelings. Unfortunately, we are genetically wired to crave certain foods to elicit the brain’s soothing hormones serotonin, and dopamine, so we often head for the pantry or the freezer when feeling bad.

Consuming any of the three main cravings—salt, fat, and carbs—will make us feel better momentarily, but it won’t support the lowering of blood sugar. Stress eating and alcohol drinking are common coping mechanisms, and, unfortunately, they both spike our blood sugar levels.

Additionally, research has shown that under chronic stress we sleep less. Less sleep stimulates our hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, causing us to subconsciously eat even more.

Stress Affects Insulin Resistance

Stress contributes to elevated blood sugar levels by both dumping stored glucose into our bloodstream due to our natural flight or fight response, and by us turning to food as a stress-coping mechanism. While these chronically elevated blood sugar levels have been proven to contribute to insulin resistance, this is not the only way stress plays a role in affecting insulin resistance.

Thanks to a research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, we now know that chronic psychological stress also prevents our body from being able to regulate inflammation levels. Their findings state, “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and, consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.

Stress-induced inflammation is also a major contributing factor to our cells becoming insulin resistant.

A healthy lifestyle will prevent diabetes

It’s more important than ever to achieve balance in our health. A healthy diet and plenty of movement are a good foundation, but now, more than ever, stress management is vital to hormone balance, healthy blood sugar levels, sleep depth, maintaining an active anabolic metabolism, and lowering inflammation. Focus on balancing all aspects of physical, mental, and emotional health to lessen the proclivity of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as minimize the effects if diagnosed with the disease.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

What’s so hot about hot springs? 5 Reasons to go for a soak

Hot springs are full-steam ahead on being the #1 luxury that vacationers prioritize when picking their holiday destination. Why? Not only are they great for post-ski socializing, they work wonders for your body, physically and mentally. Japan and Europe have known about the healing powers of hot springs for thousands of years, but Canada is also home to some of the best sources of balneotherapy–the therapeutic use of water for relieving pain, stress, skin woes and more.

Our lodge in British Columbia is fortunate enough to be located in Ainsworth, home of a large healing hot spring pool that was first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples, who recuperated in the hot water after a long day of hunting, fishing, and gathering roots and berries. Mountain Trek guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay, and here’s why it’s important to take advantage of soaking in the hot mineral waters.

What is a hot spring?

A hot spring is an all-natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring depends on the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth.

Therapeutic Benefits

Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means they contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. In other words, they’re a multivitamin for the skin. The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, stimulating certain bodily processes.

Here’s how the combination of these minerals and the hot water help us:

Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.

Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching and redness.

Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water, combined with sulphur, makes for a winning way to combat nasal congestion caused by the common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.

Circulation: Sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lowering blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps improve circulation.

Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, our hormones are thrown off balance, which affects our mood, immune system and metabolism. Long story short, if you’d like a faster metabolism and the ability to shed those pesky pounds, you’ve got to make sure your hormones are balanced.

In regards to the different minerals in hot springs and how they help our health, here’s the lowdown:

  • Magnesium: aids with clear complexion, and healthy-looking skin
  • Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
  • Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
  • Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations

Don’t hesitate another moment–hurry over to a healing hot spring; the rewards you’ll reap are thoroughly worth it. Or, come visit us and use ours!

What’s so hot about Hot Springs? Reasons to go for a soak

woman sitting in a Hot Spring Canada

It’s been coming up more and more in our day-to-day reading, for tourism, spa facilities, or general health and wellness; steam from Hot Springs’ benefits is fogging up general discussion. It seems as though our original spa encounter is making an encore to the centre stage for a healthy, enjoyable activity.

Our British Columbia location, besides having that spectacular view out over Kootenay Lake and to the Purcell Mountain Range, has the added bonus of the all-natural soak: hot springs are featured literally just a stone’s throw from our lodge, and guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay at the Mountain Trek Alpine Lodge. For this reason, and the surge in hot springs popularity, we wanted to know: just what is so hot about hot springs, anyway?

What is a hot spring?

A hot spring is an all-natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring is dependent on a few different factors; the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth. This being the case, there are hot springs all over the world; USA, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Canada, including even right here in our own backyard at our British Columbia location.

Therapeutic Benefits

Due to the folklore and health benefits of hot springs, it is no wonder they are a popular tourist destination, and increasingly more so these days, as well as being used regularly as a form of therapy or for rehabilitation.

Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means a given hot spring can contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. Like a multivitamin for the skin! Sulphur, in particular, explains that pleasant aroma springs can sometimes have – dissolved sulphur in the water is converted to hydrogen sulphide by way of bacteria, explaining this harmless but undesirable ‘rotten egg’ smell that some hot springs are blessed with.

The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, and stimulate certain bodily processes. So how exactly do the combination of these minerals and this hot water, help us?

Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.

Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching, redness, and cover.

Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water combined with sulphur makes for a winning combination to combat nasal congestion, whether this is due to the common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.

Circulation: Specifically, sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lower blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps for good circulation.

Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When Cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, this can mess with our hormonal balance, which in turn, unfortunately, affects just about everything, including our mood, our immune system, and our metabolism. As in, the key to a faster metabolism and being able to shed those pounds, is having balanced hormones, not stressed, unbalanced hormones. So whatever your method of choice, whether you relax with hot springs, a good book, or both, make sure you do invest in yourself through stress reduction and relaxation.

Conversely, let’s look at it from the perspective of the different minerals present in hot springs, and how they help our health:

  • Magnesium: aids with a clear complexion, and healthy-looking skin
  • Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
  • Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
  • Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations

And depending on the hot spring you are visiting, there are likely many more minerals present in the water. As a word of caution, hot springs can sometimes be too hot for those with very high blood pressure, certain heart conditions, and less robust immune systems, such as pregnant women, seniors, and kids. These people should take special precaution if they choose to delight in one of nature’s most sacred playgrounds.

Something we have been enjoying for thousands of years, hot springs have made it to the top of our activity, relaxation and health list for a reason! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to go for a soak…


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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 | Best Restorative Poses to Promote Sleep

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.

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 breathe into the back of your body 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.


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:

Easy Ways to Digital Detox

close up of a group of people holding their phones around a table

“Digital detox” is a buzz phrase we’re hearing more of lately but what exactly is it and why should we do it? After all, isn’t technology meant to improve our lives, helping us keep more connected and freeing up time so we can concentrate on other things?

It is true that technology has vastly improved certain aspects of our day-to-day. But our relationship to digital devices is changing at a rapid pace and it’s important to notice the specific impacts on your life. And to do this, we need to take a step back and discuss toxins, detoxifying, and the role of digital media and devices in all of this.

What is Toxic Load?

A toxin isn’t just a form of poison that enters your body. Toxic-load can also be mental or emotional. It is the result of stagnation through repetition. When there is a build-up of patterns that block energy, we become inflamed and constricted – we lose the natural flow state of expansion and contraction. This could be the increasing interruptions from the constant repetitive information signals to our brain from our digital devices. It could be the build-up of bio-waste and chemical compounds in our body due to the repetitive sitting we do, which limits circulation and elimination. Even our social world can become stagnant if we are not going deeper than social media for our heartfelt interactions.

Why is Detoxifying Important?

Detoxifying is the process of supporting a flow state in our whole being. When we take a break from ongoing patterns and habits, we recalibrate and become “lighter of being.” Our mind, body, and emotional states are interconnected. By taking a break from incessant incoming notifications, not only does our mind get a break from vigilance, but our stress hormone cortisol gets a chance to lower; which in turn supports sleep, appetite, and energy levels. When we move our body (ideally 10,000 steps a day), our circulation, lymph drainage and elimination organs (liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and sweat glands) release waste and unhealthy chemicals. And on an emotional level, having an intimate conversation with someone we trust allows the weight of our concerns to be released.

What’s the Best Way to Digital Detox?

Digital detox goes beyond just spending less time in front of a screen. There are other aspects that can be incorporated to ensure a full detox experience. Here are three easy ways to do it:

  1. Electronic Devices: Shut all electronics down one hour before bed. This will allow your Cortisol to drop and will support better sleep. Take that hour to do some restorative yoga, have an Epsom salt bath, or give and receive a massage, all of which aid in toxin release and deep regenerative sleep.
  2. Move More: It’s not enough to be away from your devices for a while and then just sit there waiting for the chance to check them again. Get up! Dance, walk, skate, swim. Keep the blood pumping, Breath deep. All of this will help your elimination system, decrease inflammation and increase a flow state.
  3. Eat Veggies: It may seem odd to mention food when discussing digital detox but the fact is by eating more vegetables, which contain more fiber and antioxidants, you’re helping your elimination system and supporting a lean and clean body. In other words, the more veggies you eat, the more you’ll want to move around, meet friends in person, get outside, and generally enjoy a fuller life.

Of course, the best way to digital detox is to take a break from your day-to-day life and immerse yourself in nature. Click here to learn more about how Mountain Trek supports digital detox through its program.


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:

How to Reduce Stress With Meditation

Mountain Trek’s program director Kirkland Shave says more often he’s meeting guests at the lodge who are struggling with stress. Whether it’s their work, family life, or personal troubles, he says that many people come to the lodge to escape their daily stresses, immerse themselves in nature, get a good night’s sleep, and, ultimately relax. However, when their stay at the lodge nears its end, their stress levels begin amping up again as they consider returning to their regular day-to-day.

As part of the educational component of the program, Kirkland spends time sharing various tips for how to reduce stress. For example, in this video below, he discusses the causes of stressors and what you can do to alleviate them and relax, and, ultimately enjoy a more fulfilling life free of chronic worry.

Kirkland also recommends meditation as a great form of relaxation. It used to be that meditation was viewed as something only “old hippies” did. But now its benefits are being touted by the likes of Oprah, Hugh Jackman, and Arianna Huffington.

Related Article: The Rise of Forest Bathing

There is so much new research available since brain imaging equipment came into existence 20 years ago that its benefits are proving it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and slow Alzheimer’s. Also, in a recent study by John Hopkins University, it was proven that mindfulness meditation can be just as effective as antidepressants for treating anxiety symptoms. It also boosts our feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine), lowers our stress hormone (cortisol), lowers our blood pressure, alleviates pain and inflammation and it invokes our parasympathetic nervous system to help balance our digestive and elimination systems.

If you’re considering trying meditation for the first time, my recommendation would be to start simple.

Steps to Begin Your Meditation Practice:

  • Find a quiet space and remove all devices such as your smartphone
  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine
  • Breathe slowly and fully while concentrating on a candle flame, or the sound of ocean waves, or the sensations of your breath as it passes through your nostrils
  • Notice how your concentration gets interrupted by your thoughts. Don’t worry though as this is the normal function of our mind to generate thoughts.
  • Gently (and without judgment of the content) come back to concentrating on your focus of attention.
  • Practice increases the power of concentration so start with just 5 minutes a day and then build from there.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

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 nights of sleep 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. Want to function at peak capacity and 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 color 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 about 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: