Author: IntraBalance

5 Tips to Build Emotional Fitness

5 Tips to Build Emotional Fitness

Building emotional fitness helps to improve mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep, focus, relationships, and more. In this week’s video, I’m sharing 5 tips to help you flex your emotional muscles and build emotional fitness.

To enhance your body’s own production of cannabis, try meditation

To enhance your body’s own production of cannabis, try meditation
  • Researchers found that participants in a meditation retreat had increased levels of endocannabinoids and BDNF after the program, along with improved mood and wellbeing.
  • Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances produced naturally by the body and help improve mood, pain, sleep, metabolism, and the immune system. BDNF is a protein essential for brain health.
  • Improvements in mood and wellbeing were sustained one month after the program ended.

When I arrived at the retreat in the mountains of Tennessee for a 4-day yoga and meditation program, I had no idea what to expect. Although I was pretty nervous going in, by the end of the program my anxiety had transformed into a glorious feeling of bliss that I had never before experienced. Since ancient times, countless others have described similar things, using words like joy, boundlessness, and even ecstasy to describe their inner experiences, and all without the use of external substances. Now, modern science is starting to learn why that might be.

Inspired by their own experiences of feeling more calm, compassionate, and blissful by practicing meditation, a team of researchers led by Dr. Senthil Sadhasivam MD from the Indiana University School of Medicine decided to investigate further. They studied 142 participants in the same intensive 4-day Isha yoga meditation retreat that I had attended (1). Levels of endocannabinoids and BDNF were measured in participants’ blood samples immediately before the program started and one day after it concluded. Endocannabinoids are cannabis-like substances produced naturally by the body, and BDNF is a protein that functions like fertilizer in the brain. Participants also filled out rating scales to measure mood at three time points: immediately before the program started, one day after the program ended, and again one month later.

The results were astounding. Within one day of completing the 4-day program, levels of endocannabinoids and BDNF had increased in every single participant. The rise in these levels were associated with increases in mindfulness, happiness, and positive wellbeing.
One month after the retreat, participants continued to report improvements in mindfulness, happiness, and wellbeing. Although blood levels were not measured at the one month mark, the results of the study suggest that increased endocannabinoids and BDNF may explain the improvements in happiness and other psychological benefits. In light of these results, it is not surprising that one of the endocannabinoids is called anandamide and got its name from the word “ananda”, meaning “bliss” in Sanskrit.

It is not necessary to attend a multi day retreat to prime your endocannabinoid system and increase BDNF. Practicing meditation for just a few minutes a day has a positive effect on health and mood. When I first started an Isha meditation practice at home, the benefits were noticeable within just a few weeks. Little did I know that I was enhancing my body’s own production of the bliss molecule, no substances required.


Misdiagnosing Sleep Disorders

Misdiagnosing Sleep Disorders

The quality of sleep we obtain during the night affects how we feel during the day, our mood, and our emotional and mental well-being. However, issues we may have during the day can be misdiagnosed as other conditions even though they may be caused by sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders are actually more common than people imagine. The American Sleep Association claims that between 50 and 70 million adults in the US are affected by sleep disorders. Unfortunately, many sleep disorders share symptoms with other more commonly known conditions. By learning more about specific sleep disorders, you’ll be in a better position to judge your symptoms accurately and address the root cause of the issues you encounter. And in a short period of time, you’ll be able to return to a healthy sleep schedule.

ADHD Could Actually Be Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by the blocking of breathing pathways in the body while someone is sleeping. They’re not blocked all the way, of course, but enough to cause an individual to snore, take breathing pauses, or even gasp for breath. Like many sleeping disorders, sleep apnea makes it difficult to have a good night’s sleep which then causes issues like mood swings, irritability, fatigue, and problems with attention and concentration. These last few symptoms are often confused with ADHD symptoms and can lead to a misdiagnosis.

Experts agree that ADHD is overdiagnosed. On the other hand, sleep apnea is underdiagnosed and can mimic symptoms of ADHD. There are some simple and advanced treatments available for sleep apnea, received after a diagnosis is obtained through a comprehensive examination.

Insomnia Could Actually Be Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Do you go to bed but stay awake for hours before falling asleep? Do you not feel tiredness set in until the early hours of the morning and then have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in time for work? Many people who report this issue to their doctors call it insomnia. However, there’s another sleep disorder that is very similar: Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) that may be left undetected.

With DSPS, a person does have issues falling asleep, but once they do, they find that they’re able to get normal, good-quality sleep. Usually, a person with DSPS has their circadian rhythm off or delayed, and this is what causes the issue with falling asleep. Doctors will tell you that your body is on time, it’s just not on time with everyone else!

The misdiagnosis comes in when it’s time to wake up. People with DSPS may still have to wake up early for work or school, and if they weren’t able to fall asleep when they went to bed, they probably didn’t get enough sleep, leading to the symptoms we know to associate with insomnia.

Anxiety Could Actually Be Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) causes strange feelings in the leg and sudden urges to move them. It’s classified as a sleep disorder because most people present with more extreme symptoms at night.

RLS can cause many symptoms similar to anxiety. It can affect your concentration, memory, mood, performance at work or school, and your personal relationships. Because anxiety is more well-known and easier to understand, RLS is often treated as anxiety, and the symptoms remain because the root cause is not properly addressed. One specific cause of RLS may be undiagnosed iron deficiency. While there’s no cure for RLS, there are therapies and treatments to minimize symptoms.

Mood Disorders Could Actually Be Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is characterized by heavy drowsiness during the day or overwhelming sleep attacks. It is thought to be an incurable sleep disorder, but due to its similar symptoms of drowsiness and weariness, oftentimes narcolepsy is misdiagnosed. Narcolepsy may present as fatigue and low motivation, which may be mistakenly diagnosed as depression or another mood disorder.

Another major misdiagnosis is between narcolepsy and epilepsy. The sudden paralysis that causes muscles to weaken and people to fall asleep during narcolepsy may be mistakenly diagnosed as seizures. The best way to find out if you have narcolepsy is to see a physician who specializes in sleep disorders, where a sleep study might be required.

Mental Health Issues Could Actually Be Poor Diet

Having read the entries above, it is no secret that many mental health issues and sleep disorders share symptoms. In other words, where a mental health issue may present itself, you may actually be experiencing a symptom of a sleep disorder. Furthermore, many mental health issues themselves could be products of poor nutrition and diet, and issues with the gut-brain axis.

Just like sleep, our diet is a major part of our lives. You are what you eat, as the old adage says, and it’s literally and figuratively true. Poor diets and problems with the gut can cause or increase symptoms of anxiety or depression, along with other mental health issues. However, an optimized diet and healthy digestion can do the opposite—it can relieve a person of those symptoms.

One of our specialties here at IntraBalance is treating sleep disorders as well as teaching our patients to align themselves with the core pillars of holistic health. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, call us to set up a consultation where we can give you more information about how to find the root cause of your discomfort.

Want to learn more about optimizing your sleep? Click here to get your FREE sleep guide.

3 Ways to Reset Your Body Clock

IntraBalance, Integrative Psychiatry & Sleep Specialist in San Francisco, California

In this video, I’m explaining what the body clock / circadian rhythm is, why it’s so important to have a regular routine, and sharing with a few clues to help you figure out if your clock is on time along with 3 easy steps to get it back on track.

Seven Ways Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

Seven Ways Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

1. Undiagnosed or Misdiagnosed Sleep Disorders

Sleep disturbance can be both a cause and a symptom of mental health problems. But this relationship does not imply that sleep problems are always symptoms of a larger mood disorder. They might be indicative of a standalone sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and more.

Because sleep patterns and mental health disorders are so intertwined, sleep disorders are often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as a myriad of other mental health conditions, such as ADHD in adults.

This also means that not all people who experience trouble sleeping have insomnia. What might look like insomnia might actually be delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). Those with DSPS complain of consistently falling asleep later than desired and difficulty waking up at the desired time. This delay in sleep onset can lead to significant distress or impairment in social and occupational functioning. However, when we’re able to regulate our sleep schedule, the quality of our sleep can improve.

2. Lost Routines

Our body keeps its own routine by regulating our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are biological clocks that regulate our sleep-wake cycle and other bodily functions like digestion and hormone release. Every living thing has a circadian rhythm, including plants, animals, and microbes.

While our body naturally regulates our circadian rhythm, it is strongly influenced by signals in our environment, like light. Most people’s circadian rhythm cycles with the sun: when there is more light, like during the day, we feel more awake. When there is less light, like at night, we feel drowsy.

But in our era of smartphones and easy access to digital information, this constant exposure to light can throw off our body’s natural sleep routine and affect our mental health. A lack of routine can lead us to feel stressed and disorganized.

However, we can structure our environment in ways that help our circadian rhythm do its job. Minimize blue light exposure by turning down your screen brightness, dim your light a few hours before bed, and stay in bright light during the day.

3. Lost Productivity

Understanding your body clock or chronotype can help maximize feelings of restfulness and productivity. Chronotypes are the behavioral manifestations of our natural circadian rhythms, which influences the likelihood that we’ll fall asleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period. Chronotypes depend on genetics, environmental influences, age, and more.

Chronotypes are generally separated into morning types and evening types, but there are variations. Our chronotype dictates when we like to wake up and when we have our greatest energy or feel the most productive.

A mismatch between our chronotype and environment can have detrimental effects and lead to a loss of productivity, which means our chronotype is important to consider when planning activities and tasks. If you know you’re an early riser and feel most productive before lunch, try to plan all your meetings and deadlines during that time, especially if you anticipate a crash in the afternoon. Ensuring a good fit between our chronotype and environment can help increase our productivity.

4. Memory Problems

Think back to when you were in school. Do you remember staying up late cramming for a test? You might have considered pulling an all-nighter, but then you remember someone told you to “just sleep on it” to ensure you remember the material.

During sleep, our brain organizes and consolidates information that we took in throughout the day. This is our brain’s way of making sense of what we’ve learned and influences three specific processes:

  • Acquisition – how our brain receives and learns information
  • Consolidation – the process by which our brain strengthens and extends connections to make our memories more stable and useful
  • Recall – how our brain accesses and uses stored information and memories

Poor sleep negatively affects all three processes. We’re less likely to retain and remember information. It’s almost as if all your teachers telling you not to pull all-nighters were onto something.

5. Decreased Creativity in Problem Solving

Similarly, “sleeping on it” allows us to brainstorm creative solutions to problems. Sleep facilitates creative problem solving by granting us an incubation period, or a period of time spent away from the problem at hand.

Some research on creative problem solving suggests our brain prunes misleading information and dead ends during sleep so that we can later return to the problem at hand with a clear mind.

6. Increased Tension and Irritability

Think about how you feel when you don’t get adequate sleep. Maybe you had trouble falling asleep, tossed and turned all night, or woke up much earlier than you’d like. Are you cheerful and ready to take on the day? Probably not. We’re often pretty cranky when we don’t get enough sleep.

Even small changes in the amount of sleep you’re getting can chip away at a normally cheerful exterior. In fact, the American Psychological Association recognizes a relationship between sleep and stress, whereby a decrease in quantity or quality of sleep can lead to problems with irritability and muscle tension. No wonder it feels like we’re waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

7. Increased Risk of Anxiety and Depression

Sleep disturbances can also increase our risk for developing anxiety and depression. People with insomnia are 10 times more likely to suffer from depression and 17 times more likely to suffer from anxiety. The hypervigilance characteristic of anxiety forces people to stay alert at all times, which makes it difficult to truly relax and have restful sleep. For depression, the relationship between poor sleep and this disorder is so clear that insomnia has long been considered a risk factor for depression.

The relationship between sleep and mental health is clearly complex, but understanding it can help us live better, healthier lives. And that’s something that will help anyone sleep well at night.

Understanding these seven principles and the importance of a good night’s sleep is just the beginning. Schedule a consultation or sign up for my upcoming online course where we will do a deep dive into the science behind a good night’s sleep and help you discover how to make it a regularity in your life.

Ready to optimize your sleep? Get our FREE holistic sleep guide!

5 Myths About Psychiatry

IntraBalance, Integrative Psychiatry & Sleep Specialist in San Francisco, California

In this video, I’ll be debunking 5 common myths about Psychiatry and I’ll be sharing an exciting new (but old!) paradigm in mental health that will help you sleep better, perform better, and achieve optimal wellbeing.