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Post Concussion Syndrome Support Document: An Alternative Perspective to Tradition Treatment

“No head injury is too trivial to ignore” -Hippocrates 4th century BC

No doubt you or someone close to you has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  In New Zealand, 36,000 people suffer TBIs each year. After suffering a serious knock to the head you quickly realise they are nothing like a physical injury. Whether you lose consciousness or not, symptoms can remain from days, weeks, months to even years, this is known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS) when the symptoms last beyond 10 days. Symptoms can include; headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, nausea, ringing in the ears. All of which can be extremely debilitating. I have suffered many knocks to head from my years of rugby and extreme sports and thankfully concussions with minimal symptoms but after my most recent crash, I now have a new appreciation for the true impact of TBI’s.

It has truly blown me away from the number of people silently suffering with TBI. So many people have come out of the woodworks with unbelievable stories either referring to their own experience or one of their loved ones. Sadly so many people that I know yet I had no idea they were suffering or had suffered. It is truly the silent killer being so debilitating yet nobody sees or understands the true extent of the implications. We all present similar stories, told that there is not much you can do you just need to give it time. I don’t believe this is the case! Following this eye-opening experience into this dark world with little answers it has really driven me to help those in need and offer support as best I can.

Purpose of this Article

With the prevalence of TBI, sadly there is still very little in regards to assessment and treatment protocols. My goal with this article is to provide a resource for those also struggling, I want to keep this as simple and actionable as possible distilling the protocols and strategies I have applied. 

When suffering the last thing you want to be doing is reading literature or doing any kind of thinking at all so I hope this can help in guiding suffers towards finding the right tools and treatments for them. Again with the target of keeping things simple, I have linked in the exact products I have used. The great thing about many of the strategies used they will not only benefit TBI suffers but anyone looking to enhance your brains potential. 

My Goal:

Screw back to baseline, this incident is going to become my launching pad to optimal brain health and performance, surpassing pre-injury status.

Shotgun Approach:

In true scientific fashion, you should really stick to one treatment and track progress before adding another to see it’s effectiveness but at the end of the day who really cares as long as things are improving and moving the dial in the right direction. Plus as an A-Type personality, I don’t want to sit around and wait too long. As I write this I am over 3 months post-TBI and haven’t been able to train since and as an Ironman athlete who trains a couple of times a day this has been extremely tough. Along with this, I have had to pull the pin on my final two peak races for the year Ironman Malaysia & Taupo 70.3 which have now both been and gone. 

Sadly with a head injury, there is no telling how long recovery will take (weeks, months, years or ever…) but I am doing everything I can to create the optimal environment so that my brain can heal and repair itself. It may not be in time to race this season and I will face that as it comes but in the meantime I am going to give my brain/ body every opportunity to bounce back in time. Although, I am hitting this from all angles taking an intensive approach this doesn’t mean I am overdoing it. My key focus is still rest and recovery, keeping my overachieving mindset in check so the majority of strategies are around attaining deeper states of rest and recovery.

Tools & Strategies: Where to start

In my last post, I shared my incident and my initial treatment while still overseas with limited resources, I discussed what is vital in the initial stages post-TBI so if you haven’t read this I highly recommend checking this out. 

In this post, I want to shed light on what I have been implementing since returning to NZ. I will introduce a wide range of tools and strategies, many of which are alternative treatments that are not often suggested or provided to TBI suffers. My hope is that this highlights there is a lot more you can do than the common recommendation of waiting for it out feeling helpless. 

Reframe

With something as debilitating as a TBI it is easy to play the victim card but in doing so you are only crippling your recovery. Your recovery starts here! Shift your perspective from tragedy to opportunity, we are a makeup of how we perceive the world. There is no such thing as a positive or a negative situation, that can only be created from our own personal perception of a given situation. 

For example, it would be easy for me to take the crash negatively as I dedicated so much time, money and effort towards this one race, plus the aftermath to follow of still 3 months no training and missing my A race Ironman Malaysia and a few other smaller races. However, instead, I flipped it as a big believer that everything happens for a reason, this is where I realised first of all this was to teach me to slow down (Previously: Running Taylored Health & Performance, 3x Startup businesses, Studying Masters and Full-time Ironman training) and that I had the perfect foundation with academic background and now a TBI suffer to first help myself but in doing so learn what works and then use my story to help other people suffering from this silent killer.

Attaining this mindset is easier said than done and like any skill takes time to cultivate but is quite possibly the most important skill in the recovery of any injury! I am thankful to have a life coach as a mum so this was ingrained into me early on so lucky this is a great skill of mine. If this is a new skill it will take the time you want to ensure you have a support team to remind and keep you honest in cultivating this mindset. But if done right, I see time and time again in my practice those who frame things in a positive light always bounce back substantially quicker.

Floatation Therapy

I have been asked many times what is the one treatment that I believe is having the most impact. I have found that nothing comes close to floatation therapy especially initially but also ongoing as it puts you into a state of sensory deprivation which provides the perfect environment for your brain to rest and recover due to removal of stimuli (sound, feel, sight). Plus with the high concentration of magnesium in the water (something I discussed in my previous post around initial TBI Treatment) magnesium is not only important for inflammation but will also help you with sleep which is often a struggle with TBI suffers. If you would like to learn more around Floatation Therapy I wrote a dedicated post, please 

Application:

Palming/ Mindfulness

For those that can’t access or afford regular floats, don’t worry you can do your best to replicate at home with a blacked-out room and placing your palms over your eyes, this will remove all eye stimulation and provide them a chance to rest. 

Coupling this with some mindful meditation (discussed in the previous post) will enhance the benefits as you will also impact your parasympathetic nervous system (downregulation system) which will calm your system down and as a result aid in reducing inflammation and heart rate which can be the trigger to worsening symptoms.

Breathwork

Another practice I have been really doubling down on recently is my breathwork practice. I have been doing breathwork for a while now but again with the extra time and the healing power of our breath I put a greater focus on this. 

Lung injury often occurs shortly after brain damage, therefore, anything that helps in regaining or enhancing lung function will be beneficial. Besides this though breathwork is powerful in its ability to tap into the autonomic nervous system (responsible for the control of the bodily functions not consciously directed). The breath is the only autonomic nervous system function under your control. It allows you to either stimulate (Sympathetic nervous system) or down-regulate (Parasympathetic Nervous System). Obviously in the case of recovery and trying to regain control of an overstimulated system we are after the latter. 

Application:

  • A regular morning and evening practice and I also utilised it whenever overstimulated most the time alongside mediation

Sleep

Although floating has been most effective nothing is more important than sleep when it comes to brain recovery. It doesn’t matter what else you are doing if you are not getting the good quality sleep you are crippling your recovery. This is a bit of a double-edged sword as TBI often impacts the ability to sleep especially achieve Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is a critical restorative stage of sleep vital to promote recovery. With any injury, sleep should become primary focus but this is even more important for any brain injury because it was recently discovered that as we sleep our brain has a clearing and repairing system (Glymphatic System). Following a TBI your brain will see an influx in beta-amyloid and tau protein these are what will cause the long term impact if not removed because these two are also the key mechanism associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This is why following a TBI your chance of also suffering Alzheimer’s and Dementia skyrockets. This is one reason why TBI recovery is so vital. Therefore, the number one goal in TBI rehab should be to allow the body to do what it does best and flush out these via the glymphatic system while sleeping because if not sleeping the system is unable to work at the same capacity

A recent study shows that deep non-REM sleep, is where both the brain and cardiopulmonary activity slow down, is the perfect sleep stage for the glymphatic system to function properly.  This may be the reason why REM is often harder to achieve post-TBI as you body is naturally requesting more deep sleep to clear and repair the brain, this is just my insertion this is a very new area of science that will need to be validated. 

Application:

Now that I have presented the argument around why sleep is important post-TBI, how do you take charge of your sleep?

  • Prioritise: Nothing is more important
  • Sleep Consistency: Lock in a consistent time aim for a minimum of 8hrs (your brain needs more sleep than normal to repair itself)
  • Prime your sleep: Morning and Evening Routine that primes your circadian rhythm
  • Sleep Sanctuary: Develop a relaxing sleep environment
  • Track: I use: Oura Ring
  • Remove Stimulants:
    • Technology: No 1hr before bed and limit as much as possible elsewhere
    • Bluelight: After Sunset
    • Caffeine & Alcohol: Limit as much as possible, especially close to bedtime

Highly recommend a previous post of mine to explore further:

“The most Restorative Sleep you will ever have”

Cold Immersion

Ice bath at a breath workshop

This is another novel method of treatment although still in the early days of research most of which use a brain cooling device to impact deeper parts of the brain. However, I see it as low hanging fruit in my eyes that can not hurt and is something I have personally found extremely helpful. I have found cold exposure both the whole body and especially directly onto the injury site extremely beneficial. 

Coldwater immersion is nothing new to me I start each day with a cold shower or cold dip due to its physiological effects: 

  • Increase in Mitochondria health (Free energy ;))
  • Increase in weight loss/ management 
  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Improved lymphatic system
  • Improved immune system
  • Improved circulation
  • Mental toughness
  • Temperature regulation

Daily cold plunge while over in the mount

With this knowledge and experience around the impact of cold water immersion, I naturally started playing around with it as it has been pivotal in speeding up previous injuries. Anything that helps with the increase in circulation, decreases in inflammation and promotes mitochondria biogenesis (creation of mitochondria= more energy!) is going to be beneficial to an injury. Since then I have looked further into the research as mentioned early days with TBI specific treatments. However, there seems to be a clear correlation between brain temperature and recovery. Especially in the initial stages which I obviously didn’t address and most likely exacerbated my TBI with completing the remainder of my Half Ironman in hot humid 38degree conditions following my bike crash. In the research they are using specific brain cooling devices that a NASA spacesuit spinoff head-neck cooling technology is engineered to optimize conductive heat exchange with the brain, thereby reducing the physical temperature. Obviously I have not had access to anything like this but everyone has access to cold water so why not try cold water you won’t just be charged with more energy but you may find it helps your overall symptoms.

Application:

  • Daily cold showers: Full body and especially injury site and Ice Baths or winter lake and ocean swims (where possible)

    Work Retreat in Queenstown taking others through the process

Screen Time

Initially and throughout recovery, one of the worst things you can do is stare at a screen which is challenging in this day and age because when you not doing anything that is the first thing you do is pick up a screen and watch something or aimlessly scroll through social media. This was particularly hard for me while still overseas as I was travelling by myself I had to use screens to get around not to mention the unneeded stress of getting around. Regardless, early on you want to provide your brain with the best opportunity to rest so you want to stay clear from screens a much as possible. However, like anything sometimes you can’t avoid them if this is the case the next section is for you.

Application:

  • Avoid as much as possible. Turn down brightness and put on night mode or install a blue-blocking app to reduce stimulation (F.Lux or Iris)

Glasses

Rocking my blue blockers in my Qantas business class PJ’s on my home from Singapore

One of the most simple yet effective things I have implemented has been the application of glasses whether they be sunglass or blue-blocking glasses. I have found them both effective in allowing my eyes to rest. First of all, make sure you have some great polarized sunglasses, cheap glasses will actually make things worse! Take the celebrity look for a spin and wear them inside and outside as it will aid in reducing stimulation to the eyes and as a result your brain. 

As you progress or not keen on looking like a celebrity any more blue-blocking glasses are great for the times you can’t avoid screens or just need to reduce stimulation. You can now get these in clear lenses so you don’t have to stick with the horrific orange lenses anymore but worth getting a pair for when you are at home and things are bad because in my experience the clear lenses are great but the orange are definitely more effective. Added bonus put your blue-blocking glasses on at sunset to aid with you winding down for sleep, Learn more about this hack here

Application:

Get yourself some good quality polarized sunglasses and blue-blocking glasses. When it comes to sunglasses you have endless options but with blue blockers, there is a lot of cheap rip-offs on the market but I can recommend Ra Optics or Felix Gray

Near-infrared light

Although some light is damaging others are healing! I also stopped into Recharge Cryo for clinical-grade light therapy or photobiomodulation therapy (PBM). this is a passive non-invasive treatment which lasts approximately 15min where you lie under a lamp which emits deep penetrating and soothing light which is targeted deep into the skin cells to help heighten their internal functions, increase blood flow and help induce faster healing through the stimulation of ATP (the energy to your cells),

Application: 

  • 15min sessions more always better, I have struggled to find the time to get across town but would like to do 2x/week

Nutrition

Once home, I remained on a similar protocol to while I was in Singapore but now home I could access everything I needed to enhance the recovery. Lucky I had the majority of everything I was after already waiting in my cupboard back at home. 

Initially, I tried to remain as ketogenic as possible with my diet due to the positive impact of being in ketosis as it is the ideal environment for brain repair and performance (same reason I was taking keytone supplements). Although normally easy for me to do, this time it wasn’t! I found my brain was craving carbohydrates and calories and those that follow me know I am all about listening to the body. Instead of stressing my system and restricting carbohydrate I instead did my best to achieve ketosis through diet and time-restricted eating (14-18hrs) without stressing the system any more but when body was craving calories and/ or carbs I would give it what it was asking for. The last thing you want to do when recovering is to starve yourself and be in a calorie deficit as your body won’t be able to recover optimally. However, it is a fine line between boredom eating and actually cravings which has definitely been a struggle for me as I never had so much spare time….

Keytone Supplements:

Once home, I consulted a friend who is an expert in this space Cliff Harvey and he suggested to keep beta-hydroxybutyrate levels (keytones) high throughout the day to provide the required fuel to the brain. But instead of eating keto he suggested taking supplements to upregulate and aid my damaged brain.

Application:

Once home as per cliff suggestion for the initial 3 weeks:

  • MCT oil 3xday (breakfast, lunch, dinner) to aid with slow production of keytones 
  • 1-2x Exogenous keytone supplement (Pruvit) broken out across the day, to achieve deeper states of ketosis to prolong impact. 

I continued this for 5weeks and thanks to Ryan Stag another TBI suffer found Melrose MCT oil combined with DHA (Fish oil) which as mentioned in the previous post is extremely powerful in brain rehab so I began using this as my go-to MCT for this period.

Lions Mane (Mushroom):

You may not have heard about this one but it is something I have a deep knowledge of as I am currently doing my Masters around this amazing mushroom! Due to the high concentration of the Beta-Glucans in this fungus Lion’s mane is known for its neuroprotective and growth potential while reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) and bringing down the inflammation. Naturally the best thing for me right now! Also another recommendation from Cliff 

Application:

Coenzyme Q10

A naturally occurring antioxidant in the human body and if you recall I discussed the power of antioxidants in my last post. Following TBI Coenzyme Q10 has presented a positive effect on animals and their brian recovery, as it reduces neurodegeneration

(the death of brain cells) and increasing blood supply to the brain. Another supplement that won’t cause any more harm and with potential benefit I absolutely think it is worth taking

Application:

  • 2x BePure10 twice/ day (Morning and afternoon)

I choose to take a reasonable high but if not viable something is always better than nothing!

Exercise:

Throughout this process, I continued to keep active as best I could, which was very light probably better described as a movement not exercise. Lots of walking and stationary bike, however, focusing on staying symptom-free. The rule of thumb post-concussion syndrome rehab is to work at 80% of symptom threshold. This is best achieved by working out with a heart rate strap and working out until you reach symptoms. Once achieved symptoms calculate 80% of heart rate and aim to keep future workouts under this threshold eg. symptoms spike at Heart Rate of 100 beats/min, 80 beats/min is your new threshold. However, this can be challenging and requires regular testing as you recover because the goalposts will keep moving.

I have also used this as an opportunity to focus on areas that often get neglected and focused on more restorative movement practices such as Yin Yoga, and imbalance correction work. Too often when in the mix of intense training it can be hard to find the time and initially I had nothing but time…. However, due to the mental fatigue, I can’t say it always happened but did my best. I have also been putting a greater focus on getting out into nature for my movement due to the therapeutic standpoint as nature promotes so many positive health benefits. 

Application:

  • Don’t exceed 80% HR of symptom threshold. Use additional time to focus on the restorative types of training we often neglect eg imbalance correction and yoga etc 

Professional help

I know all advice up until now is a result of being frustrated by the current limitations of the system but by no means have I gone this alone. Regardless I highly recommend everyone wraps themselves around with practitioners to aid you on your journey. Also, in no way is this an attack on practitioners knowledge or services many of them were amazing! However, the practitioners are fighting an uphill battle especially in concussion treatment as it is a quickly growing body of research (American football is the key driver behind this) and due to the system they work within it often takes time to filter through to practice as it needs to be accepted as the scientific consensus prior to them being able to utilise as a practitioner, this sadly takes time. If they suggest something away from the consensus it is their head on the chopping board so it is in their best interest to stick to the tried and true. I believe it is the model not the practitioner’s fault, they have the patients best interests in heart, just fighting a limited model.

Below I have outlined the reasons behind each practitioner I saw to help guide my recovery:

  • Doctors: 

Saw both initially at the race venue, then at the hospital, to get properly checked out before flying home (ensure no brain bleed as it could be fatal if I flew home.) and GP once home as ACC requested it, too be honest I am not sure why. The doctor had minimal knowledge of concussions and I had just been and seen the sports doctor who specialises in cases like this.

 

  • Osteopath: 

This was extremely important early on in assisting with whiplash, physical injuries plus some osteos can perform cranial work which is minimal movements which is great in aid with releasing tension and taking the pressure off my head. However, Osteopaths can not diagnose post-concussion syndrome so if you think this is the case, you want your practitioner to refer you to someone like a sports doctor.

 

  • Chiropractor:

I also saw a Chiropractor to get some additional support. Personally I never really go to a Chiropractor so this was interesting I found myself and awesome practitioner who approached it from a variety of angles which I believe would be extremely helpful but sadly due to time constraints haven’t made it back yet but will be short to explore this further.

 

  • Sports Doctor 

This is where I obtained my official diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome and actually highlighted the extent of my situation with testing also providing baseline data to see how I my recovery tracks. For anyone suffering I would highly recommend getting here as early as possible, I personally didn’t get there until 1.5months post-crash. Early is important as they can create a claim with ACC and help guide you towards services that will help such as a concussion clinic.

 

  • Occupational Therapist (Concussion Clinic):

The sports doctor sent me to a concussion clinic to wrap some support around my recovery. The first session was with the OT who explored the impact of my injury and help design a plan accordingly. She referred me to the neuro/vestibular physio and neurologist for further testing and treatment and been there to aid me with any questions.

 

  • Physiotherapist (Concussion Clinic): 

Specifically, neuro/vestibular physio who specialises in cases like mine. This involved a lot of additional specific testing such as visual, balance, autonomic nervous system (treadmill test). Through this testing, we identified I had ‘Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo’ (BPPV) 

  • Benign – it is not life-threatening
  • Paroxysmal – it comes in sudden, brief spells
  • Positional – it gets triggered by certain head positions or movements
  • Vertigo – a false sense of rotational movement

BPPV is a mechanical problem in the inner ear that prompts vertigo as your brain is getting sent confusing messages from the inner ear which is often associated with head injuries. The identification of this was a pivotal moment for me as it is a quick treatment of head movements known as the ‘Epley Maneuver’ which corrects this problem. I instantly noticed an improvement in my eye-tracking. Previously my left eye had severe nystagmus “An involuntary eye movement which may cause the eye to rapidly move from side to side, up and down or in a circle, and may slightly blur vision.”- Mayo Clinic. This was cleared immediately after the manoeuvre, taking a lot of stress off my system. Quick note; I have now had the Epley Maneuver twice as when I came back the symptoms had returned. Keep in mind it may take more than one Epley Maneuver.

 

  • Neurologist (Concussion Clinic):

To ensure everything was on track and nothing was being missed I also had a meeting with Neurologist to discuss everything. This involved some further testing and was great from a peace of mind standpoint. I personally enjoyed this session as they have deep mechanistically understanding of what is going on so I could talk at a deeper level to get his perspectives on my recovery strategies etc. Plus I could discuss recovery timelines which were longer than I would have liked.

Thinking outside the box:

 

The next few are not a classical treatment but again I am interested in hitting it from all angles. 

  • Clinical Pharmacist & Mineral Therapist: 

This was fascinating as she discovered I had a potassium deficiency which is common post head injury due to biochemical response. She put me on a specific supplement to aid with this which I believe has been beneficial.

 

  • Auditory/ Visual Therapy: 

As someone who also has dyslexia, this was something I was already looking into and following the crash, it was clearly the right time to explore this. I have only done the testing so far but WOW! It provides powerful data to work with which really highlight my current deficiencies. The only difficulty is with no pre-crash baselines we have to try and determine between what is my dyslexia or a result on my brain injury. A chicken or egg problem but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what caused me to read at a grade 3 age etc (scary right!) I now know the mechanism I now need to train.

What are the specialist telling me now? 

(100+ days post-crash) 

Although I am not back to where I would like to be, the rate of my recovery is continually surprising the specialists. As I write this I saw the neurologist earlier this week and he was impressed about where I am but reminded me I still have a long way to go and said it will be at least another 3months until I am able to race again…. That was a tough pill to swallow! As this means I am only halfway… I will keep this in the back of my mind, however bringing back to my first tip it is all about perspective so I now see this 3-month window as a challenge. What does this mean for me? Keeping myself in check and gradually building over time because anytime I overdo this will just set me back and I don’t have the time for any setbacks. If i don’t beat the 3 months that is fine I will accept that when it comes but in the meantime I keeping things positive. 

Summary

This is only a snapshot of something I have been doing in all honesty but without getting too long in the tooth I wanted to provide what I have so far found the most impactful in my recovery. I hope that in this article you find something that can either help yourself or a loved one. Please if struggle feel free to get in contact as I understand the pain and I am here to help!

Hit the Reset Button: Tricks & Tips for the Holiday Season

The silly season is among us! With the extra time, it is the perfect opportunity to take the time to focus on your health and wellbeing.

Let’s not sweat the small stuff, indulge a little and relax – you all have earned it! Enjoy.

The holiday period also presents as a great opportunity capitalises on extra free time to develop key positive habits that can help set you up for an awesome 2019. In this post, you will find our top tips to focus on this holiday period to help reset yourself for a big 2019.

 

1. Hack your Sleep:

The holidays present a great to focus on establishing the habits and getting the restorative sleep you desire.

Top Sleep Hack:

  1. Design your own Sleep Sanctuary
  2. Ditch Technology
  3. Black it Out
  4. Airflow
  5. Plants
  6. Quality Mattress & Pillow
  7. Most of all, develop a routine and keep it consistent!

Learn More

2. Remove Toxins & Stimulants

The holiday season is a great opportunity to clear out all the unneeded toxins and stimulants from your life.

  • Plastic

Reduce your use of plastics as much as possible. The plastic leaches chemicals like pcb’s dioxins which are xeno-estrogenic and mimic estrogen in your body. This creates an estrogen dominance which develops an insulin resistance, making it extremely difficult to regulate and reduce fat.

Remove Plastic:

  • Ditch the plastic drink bottles: Replace with a metal bottle
  • Rethink Tupperware: The last thing you want to do is put hot food into a plastic container (or worse – to reheat it!). Replace with glass or bamboo.
  • Plastic Straws: Replace with metal or bamboo

 

Coffee is the greatest source of Polyphenols (Antioxidants) in the western diet! It is also well known that us Kiwis love our coffee per capita consumption ranks among the top 20 in the world, according to the statistics portal, Statista.com.

Can there be too much of a good thing? If you have become reliant on it and can’t survive a day without it. It is time for a detox! With no deadlines or time constraints with work, this is the perfect time for a detox! Remove caffeine from your life for 2 weeks to allow your body to reset.

Removing the stimulant for two weeks is extremely powerful as when reintroduced, you will once again notice the stimulant effects again, that have most likely been stunted due to overuse.

Quick note: If you currently exceed 3 coffees a day I wouldn’t suggest going cold turkey unless you are that way inclined. Gradually cut down!

Learn More

 

Light is a nutrient that plays a significant role in signalling your mitochondria (cellular powerhouses) to do things and when to do them. Different light frequencies trigger different signals in your cells. Blue light which mostly comes from LED lights places the body under a significant amount of stress.

Newer artificial light bulbs lack many of the sun’s frequencies that our bodies and brains need. Artificial lights, have eliminated most of the infrared, red, and violet light found in natural sunlight, and are amplifying the blue light beyond anything we have evolved to handle. Most LEDs and compact fluorescents emit about 5 times the blue light we’re used to.

Where to start:

Reduce blue light or what is now known as Junk light. Download a blue-light filter app like F.LUX for digital devices (Mobile & laptop) and switch all the lights in your house to halogen and incandescent. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better. Your white LEDs might be saving your power bill but they are sapping your personal energy levels!

Learn More

3. Hydrate

Too often we forget the simple things like hydration. Yet, hydration levels are one of the most important things to regulate.  Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical functioning, cognitive functioning and thermoregulation. Our body is made up of 60% water, so it is important that you achieve optimal water levels as it is essential for feeling good with optimal health and energy. With 1% of dehydration affects performance by up to 10%!

How much water should I drink?

0.033 litres per kg of body weight, which roughly equates to the following amounts:

  • 60 kg = 2 litres
  • 75 kg = 2.5 litres
  • 90 kg= 3 litres

Hydration Tips:

  • Carry a metal drink bottle with you everywhere.
  • Download Hydration app, to remind you to drink

 

4. Mindfulness

Slow Down: Too often while on holiday I see people stuck in the busy mode unable to slow down. On a mission racing around from place to place and not taking the time to relax and enjoy the present moment. It is easy to get stuck in old patterns but we need to be able to detach ourselves from these habits. I have caught myself in this very situation myself many times. This where it is great to include a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness Definition: A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness is all about detaching yourself from the past and the future and focusing on the present moment, as it is only the present moment that you can impact. The holiday period presents as a great opportunity to increase or introduce a mindfulness practice.

Where to start?

  • Download an amazing app like Headspace, that will help guide your mindfulness practice. The great thing about Headspace is its flexible nature, that allows you to design a practice around your needs such a length of session and specific focus points.
  • Walk slowly, sounds simple but can be especially tough for busy people to do.
  • Sit down and enjoy scenery eg. beach, park.

Learn More

5. Look after your Gut!

Our gut is now known as our second brain so it makes sense to look after it! Did you no 90% of your serotonin (feel-good hormone) is created in your gut. That means poor gut health can lead to depression.

A great way to start your day is with a lemon juice/apple cider vinegar to help stimulate digestion through stomach acid and bile production.

  • 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar (it has to be raw, unfiltered, with the mother)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt (antioxidant/electrolyte)
  • 1 Cup of warm water (Make it as a tea)

Aim to drink 30mins prior to breakfast for best results.

Why not throw in some bitter and fermented foods to aid digestive support this summer too.

Popular recommendations include: 


 

Bitter:

  • Turmeric, (turmeric lattes)
  • Cacao
  • Ginger
  • Good quality Organic sourced dark chocolate
  • Leafy greens like Spinach and Kale.

 

 

Fermented:

  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Natto
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles

 

 

6. Gratitude

The benefits of practising gratitude are nearly endless. By taking the time to notice and reflect on what you are thankful for, you experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

A great way to cultivate this practice is a Gratitude Journaling. Journaling works as it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. Shifting our focus away from the negatives and onto the positives. Journaling can be as simple as writing 3 things you are grateful each day.

7. Fear Setting

With the new year brings new year’s resolutions. University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Let’s not fall into this trap! This year instead of new year’s resolutions replace them with ‘Fear Setting’ (An exercise recently popularized by Tim Ferriss)

Fear setting is all about embracing your fears! A simple process in which you write down and quantify your fears. What is the worst-case scenario? (often it is not as bad as you think). Once identified work back from that scenario, how can you mitigate these consequences and then how could you recover from this scenario. You will be surprised how powerful this technique can be.

Follow these 3 steps to fear-setting:

Do an 80/20 analysis:

  • “Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?”
  • “Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?”
  • “Which 20% of sources are consuming 80% of my time?”

Write a to-do and not-to-do list:

  • “Why haven’t I done my most important to-do?”
  • “Why haven’t I stopped doing my most important not-to-do?”

Define your fears clearly (Once identified ask yourself this series of questions):

  • What is the worst-case scenario if I did what I’m considering?
  • What are all the things I could do to minimize that from happening?
  • If the worst-case scenario happened, what steps could I take to minimise repair the damage

Learn More

Most of All:

Have an amazing break, take the time to relax, unwind and get some quality time outdoors in the sun! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Taylored team

Re-United with My Sugar Addiction…..

Post-Holiday Addiction

I think we have all faced this at one time or another, you visit an amazing place with phenomenal food and you trying everything insite because, hey you’re on holiday.

Many of you will know I have just come back from Melbourne and to those that have been to Melbourne, you will know that is world renowned for amazing food. As a massive foodie, it is fair to say I went a little overboard…. But no regrets because that is what holidays are for, expanding your horizons to new things, just sometimes that also means expanding your waistline at the same time. There is nothing wrong with this and I think we should all live and experience life but I have noted since coming home the true danger lies in coming home reunited with my old friend my sugar addiction. As I have stated in many of my previous articles this is powerful as a cocaine addiction, as it reacts in the similar fashion in the brain.

In realising the trap for myself I quickly realised that I will not be alone in this struggle, so why not share the strategies I will implement to get myself back on track. This document is for anyone looking to cut sugar, it doesn’t matter if you have been on holiday or not, just coming out of winter can be hard enough, as we tend to drift towards comfort foods

Cold Turkey

Just like any addiction moderation is not a good idea as “just a little bit” ends up as a “big bit” or “another bit”

Time to be strict, no more sugar for me for at least two weeks, so goodbye to my beloved chocolate, although I eat 90% dark chocolate it does still have a small amount, so that will have to go as well.

Two weeks strict no leniency and following this I will reassess and most likely be more liberal with good quality sources eg my dark chocolate (90%). The key focus is to break the habits of snacking.

 

I’m going, Keto

Those who follow me know that I am an advocate for keto when done appropriately for the right person, I have written extensively on it

I traditionally cycle in and out of keto depending on my training and racing schedule, but it looks like it is time for another solid cycle of Keto, especially with race season around the corner now.

Keto is one of the quickest ways to kick the cravings to a curb. However, it is always harder going into with re-established sugar cravings. The induction period can be tough as for any detox you are removing an addictive stimulant that you currently rely on. Your body doesn’t know what hit it, naturally, you begin to crave those foods more and begin making elaborate explanations and justifications to why you “need sugar” or “This is a good source of sugar” All this does is draw out the induction period. If this sounds like you and something you have tried and failed with before, the next couple of steps may also be challenging for the same reasons but don’t worry we have a solution for you! Check out the Exogenous Ketone section.

There is no one fits all approach

Not everyone needs to go full keto, high fat low carbohydrate (HFLC) will be sufficient and keto maybe to extreme for many. You need to keep in mind my baseline of carbohydrate intake was previously very low and I know I personally function best in this state with my performance goals. Everyone will function off varying amounts of carbohydrate. It is what Cliff Harvey calls “carbohydrate appropriate” so don’t feel like you need to go all or nothing. I would personally suggest starting HFLC and see how you go, re-assess and decide if you want to take it a step further to keto.

 

No Snacking

While on holiday it is easy to snack and graze on food throughout the day. Although our bodies are not designed to graze, this places a greater demand on our digestive system which in turn our body neglects other key processors.

Back from holiday is a great time to establish my new routine so no more snacking instead focus on 2-3 key nourishing meals.

 

Intermittent Fasting

For those like me who like to take it a step further beyond restricting carbohydrate and snacking and want optimal benefits. Intermittent fasting should definitely be considered as it provides your digestive system a greater opportunity to rest placing less unneeded external stress on your system

There are wide-ranging fasting protocols, that you can select from and to learn more read my previous posts but I think the key to any of the protocols that is often missed is that you should never suffer! Fasting is not about starving yourself it is about listening to your body and eating when hungry. As you become less reliant on carbohydrate for fuel and your body shifts over to primarily utilising your fat stores, as this happens you will naturally be able to fast for longer, but you should never push this adaptation phase, listen to your body and gradually increase your fasted window.

 

This is too hard! I Need a Helping Hand

If you are struggling with the above steps and you need a helping hand or just want to stay feeling amazing, look no further than Exogenous ketones.

Exogenous Ketones

Cravings and hunger catch us all off guard at one point or another but what if you could remove these while putting yourself into a fat burning zone (ketosis) while increasing mental capacity and clarity.

Sound good?

Exogenous ketones are the answer with an extensive list of benefits they are phenomenal from a performance standpoint but also a sugar addicts best friend as they detox the sugar. They are my specialist trick and often refer to them as the “catalyst for ketosis”. There is nothing as powerful in getting you through the tough times of induction period of keto or kicking the sugar addiction. Firstly because they taste amazing (even sweet) but because they remove hunger, craving and keep you performing at your best. Plus they are high in electrolytes which keeps the dreadful keto flu at bay.  

 

Out of Site out of Mind

When struggling with willpower which you most likely will early on, hide your treats. For some, this is not enough so I suggest giving them away or throwing them out so that your house is clean with no treats.

Accountability

Get friends, family, flatmates onboard. Let them know your plan and why you are doing it, ask them to keep you honest and on track, because let’s be honest we can justify anything, at least this way you will get an unbiased accountability.

Brush your Teeth

Danger time for me is following dinner, normally when I reach for the dark chocolate or go for seconds and then thirds when I am not even hungry. Brushing your teeth straight after dinner is a great way to stop yourself from eating

Join in the Journey: Stay Tuned

Join me as I re-undergo this induction phase and ditch the sugar and carbohydrate. I have my exogenous ketones ready to go and looking forward to being addiction free and back full of energy with no spike or crashes.

 

7 Strategies to Structure Your Day for Nutritional Success

 I am extremely grateful that we were able to secure Cliff Harvey to come down to Hamilton and present in the Taylored studio last week.

Cliff is someone I have followed and highly respected throughout my academic career. As a lot of his work is in academia not too many had much knowledge of him, even though no doubt you have come across some of his work or products at some point or another. From Cliffs books to his the products he has helped create like Nuzest, Cliff is a wealth of knowledge and was great to bring him in and provide a stage for him to share his knowledge.

With so many nuggets of information from Cliff’s talk, I thought I would collate his thoughts for those who attended and those who missed out. Especially as he did so well to keep it simple and actionable and at Taylored Health & Performance that is what we are all about.

Cliff, like us at Taylored, is all about performance. Performance to us does not necessarily mean athletic performance, it is all about getting individuals performing at their best whatever that is. It could be as simple as more energy to be able to spend more quality time with your kids, through to athletic endeavors. Regardless, these foundational strategies listed below should be a part of everyone’s daily routine.

In this post I will be discussing Cliff’s strategies for success, I will highlight how I personally implement them to give you an idea of methods for applying these essential strategies.

  1. Hydration

Dehydration has a profound effect on performance and is one of the quickest and easiest to fix, yet it is so commonly neglected. It can be easy to think our bodies shut down at night although this is not the case. sleep is the time where our bodies are working hard to recover from the day before as we store memories and doing vital tasks such as detoxifying your liver etc.

With as little as 2% water loss of body weight, this causes noticeable decreases in physical and mental performance. Losses of 5% or more during physical activity may decrease the capacity of roughly 30%. Additionally, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems have also been associated with losses greater than 2%. You would be doing well to achieve this kind of dehydration through sleep but it is still important to understand the gravity or importance of dehydration.

Application: This one is as simple as starting your day with water. Ideally don’t skull it, gradually sip on the glass and for added absorption and retention you can add a pinch of mineral-rich salt (Colima or Pink Himalayan).

Personally: I place a glass of water with a pinch mineral-rich salt to drink as I wake up, I will also often have a freshly squeezed lemon and apple cider vinegar with mineral-rich salt as a lukewarm tea, to prime the gut and promote digestion. Don’t boil the water as it has the potential to denature the apple cider vinegar

 

2. Mindfulness

Kickstart your day being present.

What is mindfulness? The act of detaching yourself from the past and the future and being truly present at the moment, the truth is you can not change the past nor can you impact the future without being present. Being mindful and present you will begin to enjoy the small things and not stress the big stuff, all of which will increase levels of gratitude and a better way of life.

Not only will you see a direct impact in your life overall, but also, those who practice mindfulness increased levels of diet compliance, with reductions in binge eating, emotional eating, and weight and fat-loss, most likely due to the impact on the ability to be present and make better decisions.

Application: Everyone has a couple of spare minutes per day, we are habitual creatures by nature so start small to build the habit, even if it is 1-2 min per day that is great! As you find more time you can gradually increase this and take it as far as you wish.

Personally: I do a minimum of 10 min per day, 5 min of which is first thing lying along my roller doing postural rest (in the sun if possible) listening to Headspaces guided practices (Normally: Early Mornings, or Waking Up session). The other 5 min I will fit into the day somewhere when I need, and on top this I often throw another 10 min in to help unwind and put myself to sleep (Headspace: Sleeping, knocks me out every time!)

Find what works for you

Important to note you don’t have to have a dedicated guided mindfulness practice like me it could be as simple as sitting and counting your breaths or going for a short mindful focused walk.

Examples:

Breathing: Place your hands on the stomach to feel rising and falling with breath then count 1 for lift 2 for fall 3 lift 4 fall for 5 cycles to 10 and then begin the cycle again. Aim to complete at least 5 cycles of this with the intention of detaching yourself from your surroundings and focusing in on just the rising and falling of your breath

Mindful Walking: An old Buddhist practice, it is a way to practice mindfulness while moving without a goal or intention. Mindful walking simply means walking while being aware of each step and of our breath. Keep your steps slow, relaxed, and calm. There is no rush, no place to be and most importantly no need to hurry.

 

3. Move

This is not necessarily a time for high-intensity training, instead, it is a time to get the body moving. Simple movements that can be replicated each and every morning. From mobility, yoga, walking or a light jog. This is a great chance to either continue your mindfulness practice or if pushed for time combine the two together.

I completely agree with Cliff that this is a time for gentle movement, especially if you are about to head to a desk and sit down all day. First of all, it will put yourself in a stressed state (fight or flight), plus you are quite possibly fatiguing key postural muscles leading to poor posture throughout the day while you are at your desk, this eventually resulting in imbalances and injury, if not addressed.

Obviously, movement is something at Taylored Health we are especially passionate about and the sad truth is our twenty-first century lifestyles are having a significant impact on our bodies and the way we now move. As we spend too much time sitting and spending all our lives using our anterior chain (front of our body) and not our posterior chain (back of our body). We are seeing more and more anterior dominance such as anterior pelvic tilts (pelvis tilting forwards) and kyphotic postures (rounding of the shoulders). If you are not completing imbalance correction work for undoing this, you are setting yourself up for future injuries.

At Taylored we take a hierarchy approach to programming, we don’t believe in extensive 1-1.5hr long session every day. We understand the biggest commodity is time so we are all about efficiency, providing our clients with a 3 or 4 short but key exercises that will promote the greatest response for them, these will normally be completed within 5-10 mins a day. Following the key priority exercises, we provide secondary and additional focuses beyond these that can be done when your schedule allows.

Application: Similar to mindfulness, work with the time you have then gradually increase where possible but I would suggest aiming for 5-10 mins each morning of gentle movement.

Personally: I aim to get outside (Sun Vit D= Resetting circadian rhythm) for a light walk and mobility. However, not always possible especially in winter so stick to mobility inside but I always do my best to get outside because the sun is even more important in winter.

 

4. Don’t Snack

Contrary to the beliefs of most nutritionist advice, out with the intensive 6 meals per day plan of forcing food down when you are not hungry “to maintain a fast metabolism”. Instead, come to in tune with your bodies needs and eat when hungry not because it is a habit or you think or have been told that you should eat frequently. You need to become mindful of your body and what it is telling you.

Humans have functioned and evolved within feast and famine environment for the majority of our existence. It is how our bodies are used to functioning. Just because technology now allows us to regularly graze, binge and overeat at the click of a button doesn’t mean we should! Frequent eating just places greater demand on our digestive system to consistently digest food instead of completing a restorative process that aid in overall health and longevity.

Application: Simple! Ditch the snacks and instead focus on quality nutritional dense meals that will nourish your body with the nutrients and fuel they require.

1-3 Meals should be plenty for the majority of the population

Personally: I apply time restricting eating most days, something before ditching carbohydrate that would have never been possible for me as I was always hungry!

I normally fast from 7pm-11am ish. However, this window varies greatly as I listen to my body and just eat when hungry. Too many people get fixated on hitting the magical 16hr mark but we need to keep in mind everyone is different and our bodies don’t function as a switch. My fasted windows are sometimes shorter and longer, they personally range between 14-18 hrs per day for me.

My breakfast is normally around the time most are having lunch (11am), and for most people, they would get away with just one other meal at dinner around 6pm, I sometimes eat like this when not training. However, I personally still have 3 meals roughly around 11am, 3pm and 6pm. Why? As an Ironman athlete, I burn through a lot more energy than the general population. Just another example that there is no one size fits all approach, it will depend on your needs

 

6. Protein First

Why protein?

Protein is structure – it is the building blocks of the human body, plus it is the most satiating nutrient, keeping you full and satisfied for longer.

The great thing about the majority of quality protein sources, you will often find good fats, and plenty of micronutrients, making it a great base to build meals off.

Application:

2x Palms sized servings of protein every meal

Ensure the protein source is unprocessed and is as close to nature as possible to ensure it has not had all the nutrients stripped out from being processed and refined.

Personally:

Protein is especially important for me as an athlete to aid my recovery from my training and for building muscle so I ensure I include a wide variety of good quality protein sources.  

 

6. Vegetable’s second

Many people think leading high-fat lifestyle means vegetables are not important because there are carbohydrate based. However, due to the fiber associated they do not possess the same as most carbohydrates and the fact that they are action packed with micronutrients outweighs the minimal carbohydrate they possess any way.

Application:

3x fist size of vegetables

Strive for organic, home grown vegetables

Aim for a diverse vibrant range of vegetables on your plate. Produce rich in Antioxidant content have been associated with with the more vibrant coloured produce (blues, purples, reds) along with being proven to taste better. This is why your vegetable garden tastes 100x better than supermarket produce, they are not mass produced in nutrient deficient soils, plus they have no added substances to preserve the fruit.

Personally:

Every meal I have you will just about always see it combined with a large amount of dark leafy greens (spinach, kale etc) whether on a plate or in a smoothie. Packed full of nutrients and more recently have been identified to promote with gut health. Especially important for me as I have dealt with a Candida in the past. On top of this, as mentioned above, I try to vary the colours up and eat from my parents vegetable garden the majority of the time. I have tried making my own vegetable garden but that didn’t go to well so I outsourced to my dad who loves it.

 

7. Carbohydrate: Appropriate to your needs

Eat carbohydrate appropriate to your individuals needs.

Carbohydrate intake needs will be greatly varied from person to person. Some will possess the ability to breakdown and utilise carbohydrate better than others and also activity levels along with exercise intensity can impact the amount of carbohydrate one can consume. On top of these factors your goals can also determine the amount of carbohydrate you should consume.

Cliff is currently working on a study getting released in the next few months which has come up with an interesting discovering that your triglycerides may play a vital role in how much carbohydrate you tolerate and require to function optimally. By lowering your Triglycerides (fatty acids) you are more likely to be able to handle a higher amount of carbohydrate.

Application:

As mentioned above this will be extremely individual but something I would suggest limiting where possible or at least aim to remove the processed and refined carbohydrates (biscuits, pasta, bread, cereals etc).

Personally:

I limit my carbohydrates as much as possible.

Do I have any carbohydrates? Yes, I do but mostly in the evening.

Why?

I am all about performance, both mentally and physically, I want to stay sharp with mental clarity with focus and a steady flow of energy and I personally find the spikes and crashes associated with carbohydrate do not promote this state. This is why I stay clear of carbohydrate until the evening where I can refuel and replenish carbohydrate stores if I feel I need it. The amount of carbohydrate, if any, is dependant on how I feel and the needs from the day and of the coming day(have I had a big training day or do I have a big one coming up). I still stay clear of processed and refined carbohydrates and normally select something like kumara.

On top of this, I take it a step further as an athlete, as I have trained my body to be fat adapted (Metabolically flexible). This involves a fair bit of fasted training sessions, to further deplete carbohydrates stored and to teach my body to utilise fat as the primary fuel source, offering me the ability to train longer compared to most without the need for regular refueling and the gastrointestinal stress that is often associated with this.

 

References:

Jeukendrup, Asker, and Michael Gleeson. “Dehydration and Its Effects on Performance.” Humankinetics. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2015.

Katterman SN, Kleinman BM, Hood MM, Nackers LM, Corsica JA. Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: A systematic review. Eating behaviors. 2014 Apr 1;15(2):197-204.

Olson KL, Emery CF. Mindfulness and weight loss: a systematic review. Psychosomatic medicine. 2015 Jan 1;77(1):59-67.

Shirreffs, S. M., & Sawka, M. N. (2011). Fluid and electrolyte needs for training, competition, and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29 Suppl 1, S39-46. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2011.614269

 

The Most Restorative Sleep you will EVER have

Now it is time to bring sleep month all together. Over the last month we have discussed various factors and their effects on sleep. The final step now is to provide you with a resource full of tips, tricks and hacks to ensure you sleep like a baby again.

Design your Sleep Sanctuary

A bedroom should be a place to escape, unwind and sleep. It should not be your main ‘hangout’ place where you watch movies or get hooked on the latest netflix series. Even more importantly, your bedroom should not be another place where you do work.

The bedroom really is designed for two activities and should remain this way! The increase in leisure and work activities you do within your bedroom will promote a negative association with you, your bedroom and sleep. This combination will increase the likelihood of you having a poor night’s sleep. However, if you draw a line in the sand and keep the work, movies, social media at the door, you are setting yourself up for success and unbelievably good sleep.

My goal with this article is to outline the ultimate sleep sanctuary that everybody should strive for. The idea is to provide you with the tools and tricks to create your own sleep sanctuary at a low cost or higher cost if you really want to get serious. But these small changes and additions could be the most impactful investments you ever make to your sleep.

Creating the Perfect Sleep Sanctuary

The sleep sanctuary aka the bedroom, really the most important room in the house to get right. As mentioned above, you need to set yourself up for success. If it is not sleep or sex (sex has many positive sleep benefits) leave it out of the bedroom!

Below what you will find is a list of key things to include to promote a good night’s sleep.

 

Ditch Technology:

“BUT my phone is my alarm in the morning”

Simple buy an old school alarm clock (one that doesn’t emit light). There is no need for you to be surrounded by technology 24 hours a day. Try to make your bedroom a Tech-Free Zone! As discussed in an earlier post the EMF from your phone is causing more harm than good and is something you don’t want to deal with. Beside the EMF’s your body will have to deal with the bluelight from the phone screen.  This can be mediated with an app on the phone, such as FLux, which will extract bluelight from your devices (both laptop and phone). On top of this if you are really serious, like me, I would suggest changing your light to low blue light bulbs and investing in some blue blocking glasses to really full proof your exposure to blue light exposure at night.

 

Black it Out: Every sleep environment should be blacked out, there should be no light seeping through the window or the curtain. Obviously this is even more important if you are living in a city environment. There is some research that has shown that our skin is so sensitive to light that even if we wear an eye mask and shine a light the size of a pin prick on the back of the knee, it will disrupt/disturb our sleep.Therefore, any light seeping through the curtain or even a small flashing light from any form of technology (e.g. like a charging light or alarm clock) is going to greatly impact your sleep.

Target: Ideally you want to be able to extend your arm out in front of you and it should be dark enough that you should not see your hand.

 

Airflow: Crack the window!

First, check that your room is mold free and regularly stay on top of this! Nothing more important than this!

Stale air is the last thing you want in a bedroom, you want free flowing air. This free flowing air will promote the concentration of negative ions within your bedroom especially if you live close to nature. However, if this is not possible or ideal due to temperature or pollution from living within a city you want to look at investing in an ioniser. This will work to produce negative ions within your sleep environment and will help get you bouncing out of bed in the morning.

 

Essential oils

Essential oils are a great way to really create that sleep sanctuary with some sleep aiding scents. Aromatherapy has been used for years and is well recognised for its sleep aiding benefits. There are a wide variety of different oils associated with promoting sleep.

Sleep Aiding Oils: Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Clary sage, Jasmine

Don’t have a diffuser, no worries mix essential oils with a carrier oil (eg coconut oil) to topically apply to skin. Don’t apply directly as concentration is to high for skin and as for anything there can be too much of a good thing.

 

Plants

Plant are natural air purifiers and a great addition to any sleep sanctuary not only will they keep the air fresh they will also aid in decorating and livening up your room.

Examples Include: Aloe vera, English Ivy, & Sansevieria trifasciata (commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue). All of which are very low maintenance.

 

 

 

Mattress & Pillow

When talking about a sleep sanctuary the Mattress & Pillow combination cannot be skipped over. These two elements are  key component as discussed in previous post. In my opinion you can not go past the ECOSA mattress and pillow as it caters to all sleep positions and body types.

 

 

 

Sleep Aiding Gadgets and Strategies

If you really want to improve your sleep, then this next section is for you! I will provide some powerful sleep tracking and hacking tools, that will take your sleep to the next level.

 

Sleep and Performance Tracking:

Are you rested and recovered? What is quantifiable is measurable.

HRV has been shown to be one of the most powerful measures in identify and tracking excessive stress. It could be used to track mental stress or training stress such as overtraining etc. It measures this by calculating the time variation between heart beats.

Majority of tracking tools now utilise HRV and the tracking tool you choose to use is up to you and your budget. Like anything in this domain the more you spend the more you get. But you also don’t have to spend a fortune to get HRV tracking benefits.

HRV4 Training is a perfect option for the price sensitive person as all you need is the app (small cost: $15.99) and a newish mobile phone that has the capability to track through camera lense (most phones these days). This app is great as it combines with with subjective measures to get a well rounded picture. The app offers a pro-version with even more capabilities (less than: $50/Year). In my opinion whether go go on pro-version or not HRV is an essential measure for any high performing athlete or worker.

If you want to get serious, the Oura Ring in my opinion is the best personal sleep tracking device on the market! This company has managed to compress everything in to a ring! No, not a watch but a ring! The light sensor of the ring capture 250 samples per second for a constant flow of reliable data. The ring detects the pulse waveform and amplitude variation, and exact time between heartbeats. It is also equipped with a precise 3D accelerometer and gyroscope to track activity and it’s intensity. Finally, it also records body temperature and tracks it to the minute. These combined measurements provide a high power measure for tracking your current health status. It has phenomenal capabilities for such a small device and the new model coming out next month is now even smaller and more powerful. If you are passionate about sleep this is a device you need to check out! Also they have offered a discount of $50 US at check out with code “Taylored”

 

Body Temperature Regulation:

If the breathability of your new ECOSA mattress is not regulating your temperature enough and you run hot temperature like me, you can take it a step further and get yourself a Chili Pad. This will offer you the ability to set the temperature of your bed for optimal sleep quality. It even gives you the ability to individualise the temperatures to each partner’s needs. This has been referenced by many Kelly Starrett & Tim Ferriss as one of the most powerful sleep hacks you can implement.

 

 

My favorite Downregulation Sleep Aid:

When wired and tired with plenty on the mind and you can not seem to downregulate, that is when I use the Headspace Mindfulness App. This app not only aids in meditation practice and mindfulness but offers a great selection of sleep aiding sessions include my favorite 10 min sleep session that knocks me out everytime.

 

Noisy environment:

For those trying to get to sleep in noisy environments. Get yourself an app or device that plays White Noise or Water Noise both of which have been clinically shown to help you get to sleep.

 

Grounding:

Grounding or Earthing is the connection to the Earth’s natural negatively charged energy. Known to increase mood, decrease inflammation & stress, it is simple and powerful. The hallmark of grounding is its ability to achieve alpha brain wave state, which is seen in deep meditative states and in healing sleep states. There are many ways to do this, but the simple version involves you getting into nature and kicking off your shoes.

But with technology we can now produce this energy through PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) Therapy & Electrical Stimulation. These are some of the most powerful biohacking tools with proven benefits. The Earthpulse, a grounding mat or grounding bedspread, is a PEMF therapy device that provides better sleep & recovery than ever before. It is not a cheap device but if you are serious about your sleep it is money well spent!

 

Wake up Fresh & Ready to Go:

Bounce out of bed with a Sunrise Alarm Clock. The Natural light alarm clock was designed for a more natural wake-up. The lamp emits natural light as an alarm to improve your ability to function in the morning.

Other alternative is phone apps such as Sleep as Android that wakes you up in lighter stage of your sleep cycle by tracking movement and noise, helping you wake up fresh in the morning. I am sure we have all felt the effects of the alarm going off while we are in a deep sleep, and well it really isn’t fun. This app also allows you to rate and track your sleep. Plus it is great if you want to see if you snore as it offers a recording function.  

 

Circadian Rhythm Hack

One of the most powerful things you can do for priming your circadian rhythm is morning exposure to sun (No sunglasses or sun protection if possible). This coupled with light movement such as yoga, some mobility or a walk. You will not only be energised for the day ahead but syncing the body clock to the sun.

But what if this is not an option?

Treat Winter Blues

We have discussed the powerful effects of bluelight in affecting your sleep, if utilised smartly it can be a great tool in establishing circadian rhythm especially when access to natural light isn’t easy. The Re-Timer is a tool that you can wear either in the morning or evening, depending on how you want to change your sleep. The light is UV-free and has been independently tested for eye safety to the international standard.

 

 

Sleep Enhancing Supplement

Magnesium is an important mineral and is necessary for overall health. Every cell and organ in your body requires this mineral to function properly. It contributes to bone health, along with brain, heart and muscle function. Magnesium is found in foods such as; green vegetables, nuts, cereals, meat, fish and fruit, so it is important that you aim to eat these foods regularly.

Magnesium is often the first supplement to be suggested for sleep, due to magnesium ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (down-regulation system). Therefore, deficiency in magnesium can lead to poor sleep and even insomnia.

Certain populations are at a higher risk of magnesium deficiency, including those people with digestive diseases. Issues with your digestive tract can cause your body to not absorb vitamins and minerals properly, resulting in various micronutrient (vitamins and mineral) deficiencies. Other people affected by this deficiency include diabetics, individuals with an alcohol dependence, older adults (many factors could affect this including current inflammatory state, disease, quantity of food intake) and athletes. It is recommended that athletes get sufficient magnesium to assist in recovery from large training loads

Dose:

Oral:

The Institute of Medicine suggests a daily oral dietary intake of 310–360 mg of magnesium for adult women and 400–420 mg for adult men.

Transdermal (absorbed through skin):

Often not thought of when it comes to supplementing magnesium but an Epson salt bath or a Float, which has a high concentration of magnesium, can be absorbed through the skin and bypass the gastrointestinal track. Therefore, these are great alternative methods if you struggle with oral supplementation. Additionally, you can get magnesium sprays, which are great to apply prior to jumping into bed.

What is the best option?

Yet to be conclusively defined. Transdermal does seemingly offer great potential but I think a combination of both may be best! Oral is easy to comply to on a routine basis where booking in for a float is often less frequent. My routine is a weekly Float coupled with daily supplementation of BePure new Magnesium.

 

Summary:

The ability to hack your sleep is endless and this is a quickly growing industry as we learn more about the power of sleep. Above is a my favorite sleep hacks and if implemented you will achieve the best most restorative sleep possible and feel amazing for it!