How to Sleep Better in the Fall

You may have noticed that the changing of seasons can also bring on changes to your sleep pattern. As we transition from Summer to Fall, so do our habits. We trade long days for shorter days. Hot and humid weather for cooler weather. All of these changes can impact your sleep, for better or worse. Knowing how to adjust can be key in maintaining good, quality sleep.

Exposure to Sunlight

As the days get shorter, we are exposed to less sunlight during the Fall season. Since our main source of vitamin D is from the sun, this often means that we don’t get as much vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for sleep regulation due to its role in serotonin production. Vitamin D activates genes that release neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. These hormones affect brain function and development. Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked with depression, which is often associated with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

What to do: Try to get some exposure to sunshine in the morning by opening curtains or walking outside, if possible. According to the Vitamin D Council, the amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends on:

  • The time of day – your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
  • Where you live – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight all year round.
  • The color of your skin – pale skins make vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
  • The amount of skin you expose – the more skin your expose the more vitamin D your body will produce. 

Cooler Temps

Even though it is tempting to cuddle up and sleep by the fire, you’ll sleep better if you leave the heat turned down. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep—and the proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this. If your room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier to shut your eyes for the night.

What to do: Save some money on your heating bill and keep your thermostat between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stay Active

While it may seem counter-intuitive, daily exercise can actually help you sleep better. Our bodies were made to move and in today’s world of high-tech, computer-based jobs, it is important that we give our body the activity it needs. A research study published in 2010 looked at the relationship between sleep and exercise. The researchers randomly assigned people who had been diagnosed with insomnia to one of two groups: remain inactive or begin a moderate endurance exercise program. The results of the study showed that the exercise group slept about one hour longer than the inactive group. The exercise group also woke up less during the night and felt lower levels of sleepiness.

What to do: Ideally, you want to get the recommended amount of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training exercise each week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise in addition to muscle-strength training exercises on at least 2 days of the week. Remember, something is better than nothing. If you aren’t able to meet the CDC recommendations, start by taking a walk at lunch and continue improving from there. 

 

Healthy Tailgating

 

Football is in full swing this time of year… and with football comes tailgating! Whether you throw your own tailgate or attended someone else’s, it can be hard to stick to a healthy diet when surrounded with greasy burgers and homemade baked goods. The good news is that there’s no need to sacrifice your favorite flavors. There are ways you can still eat healthy, while reducing calories, sugar, and saturated (unhealthy) fat.

Bring Your Own Dish

Most people will gladly welcome more food at a tailgate. By bringing your own dish, you are ensuring that you have at least one healthy food to eat. This is especially great for those who have dietary restrictions and/or allergies. Try to avoid dishes that need to be refrigerated and remember to use containers you can throw away.

Lean Meats

Choosing leaner cuts of meat will help to reduce calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat. Substitute chicken breasts for chicken thighs. Use 93% lean ground beef or turkey instead of ground round beef. If wings are a must have, try a dry rubbed, grilled wing recipe, like this one. As always, watch your portion size. One portion of lean meat should be about the size of a deck of cards.

Watch the Fixings

Sauces, cheeses, and gigantic buns, oh my! This is where most people tend to really pack on the extra calories. Substitute whole grain buns for white buns. Whole grain buns are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Also, try to aim for hamburger buns that are about the size of a CD or around 80-150 calories per bun. Some of the larger buns can have up to 300 calories! Forgo the mayonnaise and stick to ketchup and mustard. Try to load up on low calorie toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions for burgers. When it comes to wings, ditch the ranch and blue cheese and grab some extra carrots and celery.  If you can’t live without the ranch or blue cheese, stick to a thumb-size portion.

Healthy Sides

In the land of potato salad, chips, and pretzels, it’s hard to find the “healthy” option. A good rule of thumb is to load up half your plate with salad, fruit, and/or vegetables. Allow ¼ of your plate to be lean meat and the other ¼ can have some traditional snack items. It’s all about moderation. If you go to the tailgate thinking “I will not have one single cookie or chip”, then you will probably end up caving in and having much more than you intended. Instead, go to the tailgate knowing you will fill up on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and salad. And that you will allow yourself to have a small portion of “snack” food.

Choose Your Beverage Wisely

Alcoholic drinks tend to be higher in calories and essentially offer no nutritional value. However, if you do plan to drink, there are some healthier options. Pre-made mixers (i.e. pina colada, bloody Mary, margarita) are often a source of unwanted calories and sugar. Try to avoid them. Stick to lighter options that combine only fresh juices with a spirit. Alternatively, light beer is another option. Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks is a great way to stay hydrated and to reduce the amount of extra calories you consume. 

 

APFT Prep from Guard Your Health

 

You know what it takes to physically prepare for the APFT, but have you thought about what you should be eating? Food is your fuel; what you eat affects your performance. Use these tips from Guard Your Health to find out what to eat and drink before and after the APFT, and use this infographic as a quick guide.

The Night Before

The food you eat the night before your APFT can be just as important as what you eat the morning of the test. Eat a simple, balanced dinner that includes carbohydrates and lean proteins. This will allow your muscles to feel energized in time for your big day.

Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, tortillas, and quinoa are all excellent carb choices. For a meal that won’t weigh you down, pair your healthy carbs with a lean protein, like fish or poultry, or high-protein vegetables, such as beans or dark leafy greens. Most importantly, stick to what you know. Eat what works well for your body in preparation for test day, and wait until after your APFT to try new foods.

The Morning Of

Eat a meal that’s high in complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal or whole wheat toast. Complex carbohydrates will keep you feeling full and provide you with long-lasting energy all morning long. To give your muscles a boost, fill up on a moderate amount of protein. Consider adding almonds to your oatmeal or having peanut butter on your toast. An omelet or hard-boiled egg are also great choices.

Preparing your breakfast and snacks the night before can help calm some of your pre-test anxiety. Lay out your ingredients before you go to bed and pack a “go-bag” with drinks and ready-to-eat snacks. Granola bars, low-sodium beef or turkey jerky, and dried fruit are nutritious and will provide a much needed energy boost throughout the day.

The Afternoon After

Filling up on protein after your APFT will help your muscles recover. Your muscles break down when you run; strength training exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups, also cause tiny tears in your muscles. Fill up on protein-packed snacks like a turkey sandwich, Greek yogurt, or a banana with peanut butter. Chocolate milk is not only delicious, but it’s been shown to have great post-workout benefits.  

Whether it’s before, during, or after your APFT, proper hydration is key. Prevent muscle cramps and fatigue by drinking plenty of water. Grab a sports drink or add lemon to your water to help replenish lost electrolytes. Find how much water you should be drinking with this hydration calculator.

Passing the APFT requires a daily commitment to personal health and fitness. Find more tips on how to prepare for the APFT here.

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Guard Your Health (www.guardyourhealth.com) is a health and medical readiness campaign for Army National Guard Soldiers and their families sponsored by the Army National Guard Chief Surgeon’s Office. Guard Your Health provides Army National Guard Soldiers with the information, motivation, and support to overcome challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families, and their units. To learn more about improving your health, visit the Guard Your Health website, like “Guard Your Health” on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ARNGHealth), and follow @ARNGHealth on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ARNGHealth). For more tips to max your APFT and stay mission ready, subscribe to FitText, Guard Your Health’s text message program, by texting FIT to 703-997-6747.

 

The Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT)

 

In an effort to implement more effective talent acquisition and management, and to improve combat readiness, the U.S. Army opened all occupations to qualified personnel, regardless of gender, per Executive Order 097-16 to the U.S. Army Implementation plan 2016-01. This change went into effect 1st April 2016.

Starting October 1st 2016, both new recruits and Soldiers who want to move into a more physically demanding military occupational specialty (MOS), will be required to take a new test. The Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) is an age/ gender neutral test that consists of four events: a medicine-ball throw, standing long jump, dead-lift and interval run. The events are designed to gauge a Soldier’s ability to meet job demands after leaving the training environment.

The Army’s Mission is to build a stronger Army through readiness.  The goal is to match the right Soldiers to the right jobs that best corresponds to their abilities.  The OPAT will measure each recruit’s physical aptitude against validated physical demands and tasks in each MOS to help ensure the Soldiers are being placed in the right job positions.

OPAT scores are divided into four categories, based off of physical demand: heavy (black), significant (gray), moderate (gold), and unprepared (white). Most MOSs will fall into the moderate/gold category. The Gold category is also the minimum that is required of all Soldiers. Soldiers who meet the standards for the heavy/black category will qualify for all MOSs.

Jobs such as infantry, armor, and combat engineer, are examples of the black category. Tank and helicopter mechanics would be included the gray category. Logistics- based jobs would be included in the gold category. The Army is continuing to further finalize which military occupational specialties fall under each tier.

Currently, Soldiers entering the Army will be tested in three areas: mental aptitude and ability, social (non-cognitive) skills, and physical fitness/health.  The OPAT will be used to test the physical fitness/health aptitude for each Soldier. 

Anticipated Strengths and Weakness

Some of the potential strengths of the OPAT include, but are not limited to, improved performance/training, job satisfaction, and overall health of Soldiers, as well as a greater retention rate, and reduced instances of injury.

As with implementing any new program, there are some areas of concern. One possible weakness of the OPAT is that Soldiers who exceed the standards of the OPAT may tend to be clustered together into more physically demanding MOSs. While at the same time, Soldiers who scored lower on the OPAT may dominate less physically challenging MOSs. This could lead to MOSs in the gold category (i.e. logistics based jobs) being less physically fit as a whole, when compared to MOSs in the black category.

The OPAT will now be used to determine a Soldier’s career path based on their individual fitness level. Soldiers who want to serve in a specific branch will have to be able to meet the standard or they would be recommended to a branch that better fits their capabilities. This could lead to fewer recruits for certain MOSs.

In Summary

The OPAT is designed to be gender-neutral, allowing for women to attain positions that were closed to them in the past. It is a test that will establish a baseline fitness profile for recruits that doesn’t discriminate based on age and gender.

For more information and guidance on how the OPAT will be conducted and scored, click here

 

News Roundup: Weight Stigma Awareness Week 2016

 

Weight Stigma Awareness Week is September 26-30. The annual online event is hosted by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). The 2016 theme, Teaching Kids the Truth, will revolve around kids’ perceptions of weight bias and body image, and include personal narratives from adults discussing why it’s important to model healthy behaviors around developing minds and bodies.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of blogs and articles related to Weight Stigma Awareness Week 2016.

3 Reasons Why You Should Never Comment On Someone’s Weight. Huffington Post. “Additionally, It’s sad to me that people will approach someone that they haven’t seen in a long time and the first comment that they think to make is about the individual’s weight. What if instead you asked them about their passions, their relationships, and how they are doing in general? There are so many more important and interesting things to focus on than a person’s weight or eating habits.”

Raising Body Positive Kids in a Body Negative World – WSAW 2016. BEDA. “Role modeling can be tough.  Often adults who have been raised and conditioned by society to have crappy self-esteem and body image are trying to raise kids with high self-esteem and body image, and that can be very difficult to do. I think that one of the best things that we can do for the kids in our lives is to work on ourselves, starting with the way that we talk about ourselves.”

What is Weight Stigma? BEDA. “How are individuals stigmatized? Comments regarding body size. Stereotypes leading to rejection, prejudice, and discrimination…”

Plenty to Lose in Discussion of Weight and Self-Esteem. The NY Times. “Make healthy food shopping and eating a family affair, not a punishment that singles out your overweight daughter. She will model your behavior. Same with exercise: a fun game of tag, for everyone, encourages physical activity without shaming her. You aren’t responsible for our weight-obsessed culture. But you do bear responsibility for how your child moves through the world.”

5 Ways to Move Past Body Hatred. Fitwoman.com. “Sometimes we unintentionally surround ourselves with people who mirror our inner critic. Being around people who constantly focus on what they, we, or others are lacking is a serious downer. Think about who makes you feel good, accepted and appreciated for WHO YOU ARE NOW.”