Cathy Cooke And Ashley James
From a diagnosis of narcolepsy to 10 years of sleep deprivation–this 180-shift in sleep quality led integrative health coach Cathy Cooke to “go down the rabbit hole of studying everything [she] could possibly learn about sleep.” She’s back on the show to share what she has discovered and done and how that benefited her sleep. Listen and learn, and if you’re lucky, win a free one-hour health coaching consult with Cathy.
[00:00:01] Ashley James: Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. Today’s episode is all about sleep—deep, restful, restorative, glorious sleep.
After listening to this episode, we will have empowered you with all the tools that you need to shift the quality of your sleep so that you sleep deeply through the night, and you wake up feeling so refreshed. Even if you think you have good sleep now, there’s always room for improvement. I know you’re going to get some amazing pointers today.
Cathy Cooke comes back on the show to share with us all the things that she’s done with herself and with her clients to gain exceptional asleep. I myself have gone through quite a transformation in my sleep back when we recorded this interview in March. I was hunting for an organic bed. I’ve been hunting for it for months, and finally I came upon a company that I thought was very interesting because they had the most third-party studies and science related to a mattress. I didn’t realize how much science could go into a mattress. And so I talked to some of the experts that I refer to, my mentors that I go to, and they all have the same mattress. I thought, “Wow, what am I missing? Everyone I talked to seems to have this mattress.”
So I called up the company. I started talking to them. They sent me many emails filled with the research and the studies and all the science. In fact, they even gave me the ingredient list because some people want to make sure that anything that goes into making it is 100% organic, non-toxic, doesn’t off gas.
I learned through the literature they gave me that memory foam has nine carcinogenic chemicals linked to sudden infant death syndrome. My mind was blown. It kept expanding. It was like coming out of the Matrix when it came to mattresses. I knew that you could have a good mattress and get better sleep, but I had no idea.
So I jumped in, I got this brand new mattress. I’ve been sleeping on it for 34 nights now. So I can definitely say, I definitely have some experience. I’m really shocked that a mattress could have this much of a difference in my sleep quality. Everything we talk about in this interview, I’ve already incorporated in my life and seen some really great results. So I didn’t know that I could get better sleep. Even though with all the good things I was doing, I was still turning and tossing through the night because my old mattress created pressure points. So I’d wake up a few times in the night to roll over. That would disrupt the depth of my sleep.
With this new mattress, I sleep solid through the night without moving because it creates no pressure points. If you sleep on your side, you’ll wake up on your side. You feel totally refreshed. If I fall asleep on my back, I’ll wake up on my back. I don’t roll around in the night. I sleep solid. I’m now waking up an hour earlier than I usually do with way more energy because instead of disrupted sleep, I have solid sleep, and that’s really cool. Considering I have a four-year-old that sleeps in the same bedroom as us, that is saying something.
Between having a husband, a kid, and a cat and everything, you’d think I’d be waking up all night, which I was, and I kept blaming my family thinking that I was waking up all night long because I have a cat and a four-year-old and a husband. But we changed our mattress and I sleep solidly through the night, and we all do, which is really exciting.
I wanted to wait to have a significant amount of time experiencing this mattress before I introduced it to you. It’s been 34 days sleeping on the mattress. I’ve invited the founder of this company. He’s going to be coming on the show in about a month. He put together an educational webinar. I said, “I feel that what you offer is the best of the best for my listeners. I want you guys to give my listeners a discount.”
It’s like a group buy, and I’ve seen some other holistic experts do this for their followers. They’re going to give us a discount. Should you happen to be shopping for a new mattress or want an organic mattress that is the best sleep you’ll ever have, they’re going to give you a discount. They’re going to give you a free mattress protector, and they’re going to give you these pillows that are outstanding. They’re hypoallergenic. They’re my favorite. I said, “I love your pillows. Can you also give my listeners free pillows?” I think they’re like $100 each these pillows, so they’re going to throw in two of their pillows, which is the biggest difference I’ve seen.
I used to go to my chiropractor every week, sometimes twice or three times a week because I’d wake up in pain. You ever had that where you’re like, “How did I injure myself while sleeping?” I’m not getting that old and that’s exactly what kept happening to me. I have not seen my chiropractor in over a month. I’d have not needed to see my chiropractor, and I love him. I love visiting him. He’s great. I have not needed to see him once since getting this new mattress. That’s how powerful this technology is.
It also, for me, solidifies how damaging my old mattress was, and it was a newer mattress. We’d gotten it in 2011, so it wasn’t that old. It was kind of middle of the line, like $2,200. I thought it would last us 10 years, and it started falling apart within two years, which I was really upset about. This new company that I got, the new mattress that I’ve had for the last just over a month, they have a 10-year or 20-year warranty—some crazy warranty that they absolutely guarantee if the mattress becomes warped in any way, they replace it immediately.
Really cool stuff. But I want you to check out the webinar they created. The founder of the company created this educational webinar—really blew my mind, lots of great information. There are two videos that he created, and they’ve put it on a website with the discount for my listeners—for you guys.
You can go to learntruehealth.com/bed, go watch the video, go get the information. Their staff is amazing. I have asked them so many questions about everything they put into making the bed. It is 100% nontoxic. It doesn’t off-gas. In fact, when we received delivery, we immediately slept on it. You don’t have to air it out like memory foam where it creates a toxic gas. It does not. This bed is amazing—the most enjoyable sleep I’ve ever had.
So go to learntruehealth.com/bed and check it out. Watch their videos. I am so thrilled to bring this information to you. It’s life-changing because if you’ve tried everything and you still toss and turn, if you’re in pain, if you wake up with an injury of the neck or lower back and you’re like, “What’s going on?” It’s your mattress.
Our mattresses can damage us. They can prevent us from healing, from fully going into a deep healing sleep, so that we stay inflamed, so that we sustain pain longer, create stiffness and pain. That affects our hormones because if we don’t get deep, restful sleep, it affects everything. It affects our brain health, our immune health—everything. Even blood sugar and weight loss can be impacted by poor sleep. Every system of the body needs deep, restful sleep.
That’s why I’m really excited for you to check this out. Go watch that webinar on that page: learntruehealth.com/bed, look into it, and see what you think. Take in the information, see what you think because I am so excited to bring this to you.
If you have any friends or family, they’re looking for a good bed, please send them to learntruehealth.com/bed because this information is wonderful, and the bed is absolutely amazing. I’m so impressed with this company. I actually tried a few other “organic mattresses” before coming upon this one. So I took advantage of the other companies’ return policies. All these companies now have return policies. and this one has a 90-day one. I’m 34 days in, you cannot take this mattress away from me. I will not give it back. This is the mattress I will be sleeping on for the rest of my life. That’s how good it is.
I’m really glad that I could share this with you. I know it’s going to make a big difference in everyone’s lives. Enjoy today’s interview. It’s wonderful information about everything we can do to improve sleep, and of course, your mattress is very important. Go to learntruehealth.com/bed to check out all that great information.
[00:09:59] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is Episode 352.
I am very excited to have back on the show, Cathy Cooke. She’s a building biologist and a health coach. She was on our show, Episode 323. It was very interesting. I highly recommend going back and listening to that episode. Today is a continuation because we decided in that first episode we wanted to talk about the importance of sleep and how to create a lifestyle that allows you to have the deepest and restorative healing sleep possible.
So welcome, Cathy, back to the show. It is fantastic to have you here again.
[00:10:51] Cathy Cooke: Thanks so much, Ashley. I had so much fun the first time. I’m super excited to be back.
[00:10:56] Ashley James: Absolutely. I know a lot of listeners reached out. They had questions for you after our first interview. Listeners can go to your website, which is wholehomeandbodyhealth.com. Of course, the links to everything that Cathy Cooke does is going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com.
Cathy has also very graciously offered to give to one lucky listener a free one-hour health coaching consult. We’re going to do that in the Facebook group. After this episode goes live, please join the Learn True Health Facebook group, and we’re going to have a post there for about a week, and everyone can comment what they love learning about today from Cathy in today’s show. And then, we’ll do a random draw, Learn True Health Facebook group and roll the dice, and a lucky listener will get a hook-up with health coach Cathy Cooke.
Let’s dive right in. Since the last episode, the first episode, episode 323, you went into your story and you shared about everything that led to you becoming an expert in not only helping people heal their bodies, but also organizing their environment in a way that’s optimally supportive of their health. We’re going to dive right into this concept of sleep. Did something happen to you in your life that made you want to go down this rabbit hole and learn more about how to correct your sleep or how to help others sleep? What happened that made you want to become an expert in this subject?
[00:12:34] Cathy Cooke: Great question. For the first 30 years of my life, I slept like a champ. I slept actually way too much. At one point, I was actually diagnosed as being narcoleptic. That diagnosis was since rescinded, but I could sleep anywhere, anytime so much. I was falling asleep in class, pretty much every single class from high school and college. It was pretty severe.
And then something happened around the age of 30, and there was a complete shift. It went from this severe narcoleptic-like symptoms to insomnia, and it kind of fascinated me. It was super frustrating, but it was like, “Why would I have this 180 shift from one extreme to the other?” And then for many years, I struggled to sleep through the night and to get restful sound, sleep—the kind of sleep that we need every night.
And so I just went down the rabbit hole of studying everything I could possibly learn about sleep to identify what I was doing wrong, what the underlying issues might be for why I was having these sleeping issues. Fourteen years later, I’ve just learned so much about sleep that I had to put this out there for other people because I know so many people suffer from sleeping issues.
[00:14:19] Ashley James: Absolutely. You just jogged my memory . In high school and college, I really had a hard time staying awake. Even though in college I found every class fascinating—neurology, biology, pathology, anatomy—ugh! I love that stuff. But I could not stay awake, especially later in the day. It didn’t matter how much sleep I got at night, and it took me years to realize that that was because I had an underlying blood sugar problem. I had prediabetes, and it was gearing up to become full-blown type 2 diabetes. But that was my problem. I had no idea that is an early symptom of the blood sugar problems.
[00:15:06] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, that’s a great story. Blood sugar is hugely impactful on sleep, and most people do not ever make that connection. For me, I think that was a very large issue in my first 30 years with sleeping excessively because I was not aware of how to balance your blood sugar. In hindsight looking back, this was in the era of everything needs to be low fat. I was hardly eating any protein. If it said low fat on the box, I was going to eat it.
Clearly, it was getting a lot of sugar because that’s how the low-fat products taste good. They just pump them up with sugar, and I was getting very little nutrients. I wasn’t getting vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients from whole foods, so my body was just exhausted, which sounds was probably a lot like what you experienced.
[00:16:07] Ashley James: Did you fall asleep while you’re driving or talking to people?
[00:16:12] Cathy Cooke: Oh, my gosh. Yes, I hate to admit that. Not necessarily while I was conversing with people, but I had a little system down, and I can’t believe I’m going to admit this to you and your listeners, but I would be at a red light, and I would press my foot really hard on the brake, and I would literally pass out for 20-30 seconds, and then cars would start moving, and I would wake up and drive. It was insane.
[00:16:38] Ashley James: Oh, my Gosh.
[00:16:39] Cathy Cooke: I know. It was horrible.
[00:16:42] Ashley James: Did you ever figure out what caused the narcolepsy? Was it blood sugar? Do you know why you had it?
[00:16:50] Cathy Cooke: It’s interesting because when we talked last time, I had mentioned that I had been bit by a tick when I was 12, and then I had never been the same since. It was probably about a year after. Looking back, I’ve done a lot of hindsight investigating into when all of these symptoms began, and it was about a year after that tick bite that this hypersomnia started.
Looking back, I feel like that bacterial infection that we get from tick bites triggered something in me. I don’t know if it was something along the lines of gene expression or if it was just the bacteria itself or how that happened, but it all started from there. I hear that a lot from people when they’ve had some of these infections that you might get acute symptoms for a little bit, and then nothing happens for several months to a year, and then the chronic symptoms really kick in. And so I think it stemmed from there, but additionally, my diet played a huge role.
[00:18:07] Ashley James: Right. I’ve had several people in the show who have reversed Lyme disease, and they all say that the environment of the body creates this perfect space for the spirochete, that infection from the Lyme, plus the co-infections that tend to come with it. Those co-infections will settle. It’s like a garden that is perfect for weeds, and it’s like the perfect environment that’s set up. You start with one weed, and there’s 10 different varieties of weeds. It’s like the perfect environment for the body to then have all these co-infections. And so like you said, you even though you were bitten by the tick, the environment to your body was undernourished—too much junk food, too much sugar, too much processed food. It was creating a perfect environment for the other parasites to thrive.
[00:19:17] Cathy Cooke: That’s very well said, and I would completely agree. You often have to question why some people get bit by ticks all summer long, and they never have a symptom. Why does one person become affected with all of these symptoms and another person doesn’t? I think you bring up a great point. It’s all about the terrain inside the body. I think that we also want to give consideration to our emotional environment, how is our mental health, because those ACES or adverse childhood events and emotional trauma that we have can really wreck havoc on our internal terrain, and a lot of us don’t make that connection either.
[00:20:08] Ashley James: So all of a sudden it flipped. You went from too much sleep to no sleep or very little sleep. Were you having problems falling asleep or staying asleep or both?
[00:20:21] Cathy Cooke: It was definitely both. It was not consistent. It was kind of all over the place.
[00:20:29] Ashley James: How long were you having sleep deprivation for?
[00:20:33] Cathy Cooke: I’d say that this went on pretty severely for about 10 years.
[00:20:42] Ashley James: Wow.
[00:20:43] Cathy Cooke: Yes, it was a very long time. I’ll just backtrack a little bit. This happened around the time, one, I had just spent a month in Siberia and did some traveling in some underdeveloped countries, so the idea of microbes was heavy in my mind. And two, I started to really jump on some of these health fad, and I started to detox aggressively. I started to juice a lot, and I went on a raw diet. I was actually living in Alaska at the time, which is the silliest thing to do—a raw diet in a cold place like that. So I created the perfect storm of being really aggressive and saying, “I’m going to be the healthiest person in the world and I’m going raw, and I’m going to start juicing.” And then I had horrible, horrible, horrible symptoms of this.
A few months after a lot of these symptoms started, I had a naturopathic doctor look in my mouth, and he was like, “We need to run a heavy metals test on you,” because I had a number of amalgam fillings in my mouth from when I was a child. We ran a heavy metals test and my mercury levels, in his words, they’re the highest he’d ever seen. They were so off the charts. What I believe had happened is I was aggressively trying to clean up my body, and I liberated all of these heavy metals and probably some microbes, and it was too overwhelming for my body to be able to process.
So this is the reason why I always caution people when they want to jump into these colon cleanses or these fasts or whatever aggressive “detoxes” are, you really need to be very cautious and know what you’re doing because if you’re somebody like me who didn’t have any idea what I was doing at the time, and you liberate all of this stuff that the body can’t handle, you can have severe health symptoms like I did, which manifested in 10 years of insomnia, feeling hung over a lot, muscle weakness, and a number of other issues.
But the benefit of this is what I learned, and over the years was able to piece together and I worked with some excellent practitioners who helped me to understand the big picture, and then we could peel the onion back one layer at a time and address all of the underlying issues until I got to the point where I am today, which is significantly better and almost symptom free.
[00:23:50] Ashley James: Right. And this struggle has led you to become a holistic nutritionist and integrative health coach and building biologist. You dedicated your life not only to healing your body, but to healing other people. It’s such a common theme—the best healers in the world suffered for years. That’s what led them down that path.
I would rather see a healer who has been sick than one who cannot relate to me—who’s never been sick. So you have learned so much. You have to put on that detective cap. You have to advocate for yourself and listen to your intuition. There’s so many tools that you need to hone in order to not only heal your body, but then to go on to help others heal
So there you are, 10 years have gone by, what happened? Was there an aha moment? Was there a light bulb? Did you make some changes and noticed that you could sleep perfectly or was there a bunch of things that you had to have fall into place to start to slowly get better sleep?
[00:25:08] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, it was really a process. It was one thing at a time. There are multiple issues that I had to address, including the heavy metals, lyme and addressing or managing the microbial infections, and of course the EMS and the blood sugar balancing and blue light exposure. It was just kind of one thing helped a little bit. And then I learned about another thing, and then I added that in, so it was very cumulative, and it was multiple pieces put together.
[00:25:48] Ashley James: Did you have an Aha moment? Was there any one time when you went, “Oh, my gosh. It’s working. There’s hope.”
[00:25:57] Cathy Cooke: Well, yeah, I would say with each of these issues that I identified, it gave me more and more hope each time. For example, once I learned about blood sugar balancing—oh my gosh—it was dramatically impactful when I started to add in more healthy proteins, and cut back on the processed foods. That was a huge shift, and that piece of it really helped me with the sleep maintenance, with sleeping through the night.
But I still had a lot of issues with falling asleep. I kept hearing about these blue light blocking glasses and this exposure to artificial light at night. I really didn’t understand it, but I bought just a cheap pair of orange safety glasses off of Amazon for $10, and the first night I wore those, I put them on and about five minutes later I was a little dizzy and out of it. And I was like, “Whoa, what’s that about?” I went to bed shortly after, maybe 30 minutes after because I just kind of got tired all of a sudden, and I fell asleep right away. It was like, “Oh, my gosh. That was incredibly impactful.”
There were still times when I wasn’t falling asleep right away. Then I got into the EMS and then I realized, “I’m sitting here watching a show at the end of the day on this couch and my router is plugged in right behind me. That’s probably not a good idea.” And so I unplugged the router, and then I saw even more improvement. My sleep was so bad in the beginning that I made huge improvements with each of these. Each time was like, “Wow, that’s intense. That was so impactful.” And just with each mitigation that I made, the better everything became.
[00:28:05] Ashley James: Very cool. How is your sleep now?
[00:28:08] Cathy Cooke: It’s great. It’s so much better than it’s been before. I do have to take a lot of precautions. Everything with my sleep, it starts the moment I get up till the time that I lay my head down at the end of the day. All of the decisions I’m making through the day in some respect are helping me to optimize my sleep at the end of the day. I have to work hard at it, but it’s fine because those things that I do to ensure that I get better sleep are very important for overall health in a variety of ways. Light exposure first thing in the morning, the blood sugar balancing, stress management, inflammatory foods—everything.
[00:28:57] Ashley James: Can you walk us through your day? Let’s say we just woke up. Do you wake up to an alarm clock or do you let your body wake up naturally? Walk us through your day and explain each thing you do throughout the day to optimize your circadian rhythm and your sleep at night.
[00:29:15] Cathy Cooke: Sure. I wake up naturally, which is definitely what I prefer. There are certainly times when you have to use an alarm clock if you’ve got an early morning meeting or early morning flight or something like that. But I definitely prefer to wake up naturally because when we’re waking up with an alarm clock, if we’re in a certain deep sleep or REM sleep or a certain stage that we’re jolted out of, that can really start our day off on the wrong foot. So I prefer to wake up without an alarm clock, and I usually get up between say 7 and 8 A.M., which is kind of late for some people, but I’ve always been a person that needs about 9-10 hours of sleep, which I wish I didn’t, but that’s just the way my body has always been, and I have to respect that.
So I wake up between seven and eight, and the very first thing I do is drink a lot of water, drink some lemon water. If I’m taking supplements at the time, I take my supplements, and then I put my shoes on and head outside.
[00:30:28] Ashley James: So let’s back it up. Why drink lemon water first thing in the morning?
[00:30:32] Cathy Cooke: Great question. I like the lemon water first thing in the morning, one reason is it can stimulate the liver a little bit so it can help to detoxify some of what’s happened in the middle of the night because your liver is very active in the middle of the night. That’s where it does a lot of its detoxification. And then the lemon water also helps to stimulate stomach acid and prepares you for digestion for the rest of the day. And it’s a little bit alkalinizing as well, which can be helpful for some of us.
[00:31:04] Ashley James: Some people can’t tolerate lemon water first thing in the morning. Would you suggest that they try sipping vinegar or like an apple cider vinegar instead mixed with a little water?
[00:31:15] Cathy Cooke: Sure. That would be fine. I have to be honest, there’s not a plethora of science backing up that lemon water or apple cider vinegar is the best thing in the world for us. There’s a little bit, but I do it mostly because I like the flavor, and I like stimulating that digestion. It’s not something that everybody necessarily has to do, but if you want a little extra of a boost, apple cider vinegar could be fine. Even a bit of orange essence from an orange peelm I find to be really nice. You can infuse your water with lemon rinds or orange rinds, basil, mint—that kind of thing. That can be really helpful. Sometimes the flavor of those things will encourage you to drink more water, which is important in the morning because we haven’t had any liquids for eight hours, so we can tend to be a little bit dehydrated in the morning.
[00:32:22] Ashley James: The number one thing is to get some hydration. I have heard that some people really resonate with a pinch of Himalayan sea salt in their water. Some people prefer room temperature or even slightly warm water as opposed to drinking cold water first thing in the morning.
So we have to play with it, dial it in. But the most important thing is that we’re getting that hydration first thing in the morning, so getting 8-16 ounces. I drink about 20 ounces first thing in the morning, so depending on your needs. I notice I’m definitely thirsty first thing in the morning.
It’s priming the pump. When we drink water first thing in the morning, we tend to drink more throughout the day and continue the hydration. Especially a lot of people go for the caffeine in the morning, which dehydrate us. We want to get on top of the hydration before we start pumping ourselves full of coffee.
[00:33:24] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great tip about the salt, too. I actually do that exact thing. I use Celtic Sea salt for the minerals, and put a little of that in my water for a variety of reasons, and the electrolyte balances great.
[00:33:40] Ashley James: There’s a big fad right now with juicing celery first thing in the morning. That contains some electrolytes. People could use some celery if they want it, but the whole point is get the water in, and you’ll get the hydration.
So you get some water and some lemon water in you, you throw on your sneakers, and you go outside. Why are you doing that first thing in the morning especially if it’s cold?
[00:34:03] Cathy Cooke: A number of reasons. The most important for me is that sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. When we get sunlight on our eyeballs and on our skin, our circadian rhythm is taking a really important cue that it’s morning. That helps to train our circadian rhythm over the course of the day of what time it is—”My cortisol should be high right now. I should be circulating my blood. I should be moving. I’m getting energetic to prepare for the day.” It’s just a important cue to our body to set our circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. So getting that sunlight exposure, even if it’s cloudy, the sunlight that you’re getting even through the clouds is still very impactful.
Even when it’s cold, even when it’s raining, snowing, I go out pretty much no matter what. If it’s a torrential downpour, I might not, but even if it’s very cold, that cold weather exposure is actually really good for us. Humans aren’t supposed to be in 72 degrees, 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. We’re not meant to be comfortable all the time. Our body actually wants these cues that it’s really hot or it’s really cold because that’s information for us about what time of day it is, about what time of year it is. Our DNA really thrives on having this information so that it knows where it’s at in space, and where it’s at in the time of day and the time of year.
So that cold exposure—because we’re in March, it’s still pretty cold here in Idaho—it’s actually very invigorating to me in the morning. And then the movement that I’m getting just from walking, that circulation, the lymph flow, just getting energetic and I’m prepared for the day, it’s all very important.
[00:36:17] Ashley James: I’ve also heard that when direct sunlight—I mean not staring at the sun, but sunlight and you’re outside. You can’t get this if you’re just looking out your window, if you’re in your car looking out the window. You actually have to be outside with sunlight and it can be through clouds. But when you’re outside in the sunlight in the morning, it burns off the melatonin through the circulation in your eyeballs. I’ve heard that’s how the body is burning off the rest of the melatonin. That’s why we feel so awake and perky after a few minutes outside first thing in the morning.
[00:37:06] Cathy Cooke: Interesting. I don’t know specifically what the mechanism is there. But it definitely makes a lot of sense because as our hormones shift through the night, melatonin is highest at night of course, and then we see it decline, and so it should be very low in the morning. Where’s the opposite curve with our cortisol? It should be very low at night, and then it rises first thing in the morning. So that makes a lot of sense, and the cortisol, of course, is very energizing.
[00:37:39] Ashley James: So there you are, you spend a few minutes outside after your hydration. Now what do you do?
[00:37:47] Cathy Cooke: After that, it depends on my schedule for the day. Generally, I like to block out between 30 minutes to an hour after a brief morning walk to do some kind of movement. That’s usually yoga. It could be some kind of cardiovascular or weightlifting, but yoga is my preferred method because you can get a big cardiovascular workout from yoga as well as strength training.
But I like the mindfulness piece of yoga, and I like that, while I’m getting a good workout often with the yoga routine that I choose, I’m also getting the mindfulness piece. So that helps me to set my day off with good intentions and in a good mental health capacity.
Sometimes it’s not vigorous. Sometimes it’s like, “Ugh, I’m exhausted today.” It just turns out to be more of a relaxing, stretching routine and that’s just fine. But anything that I can do to move my body and prepare my mind for the workday. Sometimes I don’t have time for that, but that’s preferred. And then after I get some movement in, I jump right into the workday.
[00:39:10] Ashley James: What about breakfast? How important is your breakfast for your sleep?
[00:39:14] Cathy Cooke: It’s interesting. We’ve talked a lot about blood sugar balancing already, and what I have found is that if I have to get out of the house, go to work right away, or I’ve got a really intensive day as far as my mental capacity—I have to use a lot of brain power—that eating first thing in the morning is helpful for me. But when I’m working from home and I don’t need quite as much energy in that regard, I find that intermittent fasting works much better.
And so it’s something that I’ve played with over the years, and certain times of the year might be different than other times, so it’s not a hard and fast rule for me. But I would say over the last six months, I probably don’t eat breakfast. I have maybe some warm herbal teas, or I’ll have more lemon water. But I’m usually eating about 12 or 1:00 PM for my first meal of the day. And that works really well for me right now. It changes. Sometimes it doesn’t. But that seems to be where my blood sugar really likes that.
[00:40:27] Ashley James: So you’re listening to your body. I think a lot of people do intermittent fasting without really listening to their body, and the one pitfall that people can get tripped up by is that if they skip breakfast, they’ll eat a second dinner late at night. We have to remember that intermittent fasting is not just skipping breakfast, it’s also narrowing the eating window.
If we’re going to eat our first meal around 11 or noon, then we need to make sure that we eat our last meal around six or seven and eight at the very latest, but that’s getting too late because we want to be on an empty stomach going to bed, and a lot of people overeat before going to bed, and so they’re not sleeping and healing throughout the night. They’re digesting throughout the night.
[00:41:22] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, that’s a good point.
[00:41:23] Ashley James: I thought it was really fascinating to find out that 30% of our energy goes towards digesting. So if we’re doing that in our sleep, we’re not restoring. We’re not healing, and we’re not going to feel revitalized the next day. Also, we don’t really need calories at night. Our body can use up the stores in the liver and in the muscles or the energy stores. We don’t really need to consume calories. So the calories that we consume late at night will end up getting processed and stored as fat cause we’re not exercising in our sleep.
So that’s a big problem that we have is that people will skip breakfast because they’ve heard intermittent fasting is good, or they just drink a coffee and they skip breakfast because they have created a bad habit. But then they’ll eat most of their calories after the sun has set.
[00:42:14] Cathy Cooke: That’s a really good consideration. I’m glad you brought that up. That’s one of the reasons why I mentioned it, that this is what’s working for me right now. It doesn’t always work for me, and it’s definitely not for everybody. I would say in my experience, the more thyroid and adrenal issues that you might have, the harder it is for someone to be effective with intermittent fasting. And you’re absolutely right—I see that exact thing happening where somebody skips breakfast and then they just overdo it the rest of the day.
You really got to pay attention to, is this something that seems manageable and seems intuitively okay for the habits that come out the rest of the day for you? So yeah, it’s really important to monitor what’s happening in your body.
[00:43:10] Ashley James: Because you have found that creating healthy blood sugar, optimizing healthy blood sugar is so important for sleep. Can you give some examples of what you eat for lunch?
[00:43:23] Cathy Cooke: Sure. I like to consider Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine principles, which means that I try to eat with the seasons. So what I eat for my first meal of the day or any meal will often vary by the seasons. So right now it’s March, and pretty soon we’re going to start having things like sprouts and young vegetables and real bitter foods that are going to prepare us for springtime and kind of that shedding of the extra weight or the heaviness that we’ve carried through the winter, which provided warmth and installation for us.
We’re coming into the time where we’re going to start shutting that. So I’ve been adding a little bit of greens and a little bit of sprouts into my meals. But I don’t go real heavy on the raw vegetables because I find that my digestion isn’t really strong enough for a lot of raw foods. Like today, I had a couple of pasture-based eggs, which are excellent, and I had a little bit of pasture-based bacon, which I understand is not for everybody, and I don’t do that often, but that just happened to be what I had today. And then I had some big squash with that and a little bit of some of these micro greens and sprouts that I had mentioned. So that was my meal for today.
[00:45:02] Ashley James: Yummy. Since we’re sharing our meals, I had a quinoa with a vegetable stew that I made with my husband. We took every vegetable known to man and we put it through our veggie bullet food processor to basically make it shaved. So make little shavings of carrot, beet, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, celery, kale and red peppers. So we just basically picked every vegetable, everything we had in the fridge, and we made a big pot of it, and just a little bit of water because so much water gets released from the vegetables as we simmered it. And then we added a bunch of different kinds of beans, and we added some chili spices. We made a huge batch of it, and it’s been feeding us for days, but we recently added a bunch of quinoa to it, so it came out like a delicious stew, and it’s plant based and affordable. It’s all organic, and it tastes amazing.
It’s really funny. When we get into the kitchen, my husband and I, we make some recipes together. We always say, “Why do we ever eat out?” We’re always disappointed. We overpay. We’re disappointed because of the food contamination because we have so many allergies in our house that it’s like a Russian roulette. Our son is allergic to garlic. Try to go to a restaurant and not have garlic on something. My husband is vegan. We’re allergic to dairy, wheat and eggs.
And so when we do go out, it is definitely Russian roulette, but we’re always disappointed. We ended up more and more and more cooking at home, but doing these large batches of food, so that we can eat it for days. People say, “Isn’t that boring, eating the same thing?” And I tell you, it tastes different every day because it’s marinating. And so every time we heat it up, sometimes we’ll add other stuff to it, but we’ve just made this giant pot, and it’s lasted almost a week. We even brought over a bunch to a friend’s house yesterday cause she’s feeling sick.
It’s just one of those things where you can eat super healthy on a budget and save a lot of time. You just have to find the right recipes. But what I love about what we ate, even though there wasn’t any meat in it, it was still very high in plant-based protein because of the beans and the quinoa, and all the carbs that were in it were low-glycemic, and so it doesn’t create a blood sugar spike. So those are two examples—your example and my example of some blood sugar responsible meals that we can have for lunch.
So what happens the rest of the day? What other habits have you created to support healthy sleep?
[00:48:16] Cathy Cooke: I’m working the rest of the day usually. So my EMF environment is a big piece of this. I’m fortunate in that I work from home, so I don’t have to have WiFi or other people’s cell phones or Bluetooth or whatever it is out in thec world that is going to impact me. My computer is plugged in via an ethernet. My phone is off. And it’s a very low EMF environment in my home.
I do notice that, in the past, when I’ve been working for people and I’m working in an office environment or in a building, that my sleep does suffer because you can’t go anywhere without the building having WiFi and multiple people having their phones. It’s everywhere.
The choice for me to work on my own has been partly because of that, so that I can avoid all of that EMF exposure that I would get working for somebody else in a group setting. So I’m at home and my EMF environment is very low. While I am working, I make sure to move often. I mentioned that I do exercise earlier in the day, but I also try to make sure that I get little spurts of exercise during the rest of the day, and that’s usually between 5-10 minutes. Keeping the circulation going, keeping the lymph moving because people don’t realize that our lymph has no pump. If we don’t move, our lymph doesn’t move.
So keeping the circulation and the lymph movement going throughout the day is really important, and also getting outside. So even though I get sun exposure first thing in the morning, really human beings are meant to be outside 24 hours a day. So I try to go outside at least three times a day, preferably more. But just so I get the different intensity of sunlight because again, the bright light in the morning versus the light at noon versus the light in the evening, they’re all different. They’re different intensities. They’re different colors. And those are all cues, again, to our circadian rhythm about where we are in the day. So getting outside throughout the workday, moving throughout the workday is also very important to me.
[00:51:03] Ashley James: I want to go back to the low EMF discussion. For those who didn’t listen to your Episode 323, why does EMF impact sleep?
[00:51:18] Cathy Cooke: Great question. What we know about EMF—that stands for electromagnetic fields. So this is the radiation that we’re getting from our wireless devices, as well as the wiring in our walls, as well as our electronics that have motors, and all of this stuff is putting off electricity in a certain form.
So what we know from the science is that the EMF affect our voltage gated calcium channels. So that means that our body is electric, our body works off of electric signaling, and that’s why we have electrolytes. Hence the name–e electrolytes. It helps signals within our cells communicate with each other. So our voltage gated calcium channels, this means that our cells are not supposed to have a lot of calcium inside the cell. It’s supposed to be on the outside.
And when we get exposure to these frequencies from EMFs that are different than our bodies— our bodies usually run on 60 hertz—and all these other frequencies are just all over the place, way different magnitudes than our own bodies. So this electrical interference is very confusing to the body. We have found through a lot of scientific research that the calcium channels are opened because they work on voltage. They’re opened and calcium can flood into the cell. And when calcium floods into the cell, we get reactive oxygen species, which you can consider as oxidative stress. And that oxidative stress, as you probably know, Ashley, is the beginning of any chronic health symptom or a health condition that you can name. I mean all of our modern health conditions can stem from this kind of oxidative stress because it can manifest in many, many different ways.
So what symptoms do we see from that? All of the symptoms that I mentioned earlier, and then we’ve got this whole nervous system disruption happening. And when you think about the body being compromised on the nervous system, clearly that’s not setting up a stage for rest for our body. Our nervous system is overburdened, the communication is all confused, neurotransmitters are affected. The brain doesn’t know—is it day? Is it night, what’s going on? And it just doesn’t set an environment for the body to be able to rest and to calm down.
[00:54:12] Ashley James: Very interesting, and interesting that you noticed a difference between when you’re in office buildings versus in your own home, which you being a building biologist, that’s a service you offer. You teach people in their offices and in their homes, how to lower exposure to things that are harming them such as EMFs.
Ty Bollinger, the creator of the Truth About Cancer and the Truth About Vaccines, he was on my show and he said that he was in New York City to be on—I can’t remember what TV show—CNN or something big like that. He couldn’t sleep that night, and it was almost painful. He’s used to living out like you—low EMF. He’s not surrounded by it. And when you are in a major city and you turn on the WiFi and your cell phone or your laptop and you see all the routers that you’re be exposed to, you’re being exposed to sometimes 200 different WiFi signals.
And he said he could feel it. He couldn’t sleep that night. It just bombarded his cells. He really, really could tell the difference. And then there’s a specialist here, a doctor local to me, I’ve had him on the show, Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, he’s world renowned for helping people to reverse these mystery diseases, and he’s really good at helping to reverse autism.
The first thing he does with children of autism is he has the parents completely remove the child from all WiFi because he sees that it damages their brains because he sees that the those with autism have trouble detoxing. There’s heavy metal accumulation in their nervous tissue, and the heavy metals inside the brain will vibrate at the 60 hertz from the exposure to the WiFi signal, for example, and to other EMFs.
And so he has them immediately changed their environment to be incredibly low EMF and then start them on a very gentle detox. He gets incredible results. He’s had people go from nonverbal to be able to go to college. That level of shift because we’re just supporting the body’s ability to heal itself, to detox correctly, safely, efficiently again, nutrify the body again, nitrify the cells.
Now you brought up lymph, and this is I think a really important topic. I don’t want to pass up an opportunity for those to learn about it. So you mentioned that the lymph system doesn’t have a pump, but people may not know what the lymph system is. So can you explain the absolute importance of what is lymph, why is it really important to move your body in order to make lymph flow through the body?
[00:57:29] Cathy Cooke: Good question. The lymph system is essentially the network of tissues in the body that help rid the body of toxins and waste or unwanted materials. We’ve got lymph everywhere, all throughout the body. Think of the blood vessels throughout your body, and it’s everywhere, and so is the lymph.
Oftentimes people think of lympth being kind of in their neck because when you get sick and you’ve got a sore throat, your lymph nodes in your neck will kind of get swollen. And that’s a really tangible way to think about what’s happening there because the immune system is being activated there to help the lymph get rid of what it doesn’t want, which is in this case, the microbes or whatever it is that’s making you sick.
So that lymph system, the importance there, we want to remove the accumulated waste. Unlike the heart, which pumps and pumps blood all throughout the body, that lymph will essentially just sit there unless we contract our muscles throughout the day. So muscle movement and circulation are what helps the lymph to actually move, and we can actually do this manually too. You can go to a massage therapist who specializes in lymph drainage or lymph massage, and it’s basically gentle touches throughout the body to encourage the lymph to move. Exercise, of course, is going to be the most accessible way that we get lymph movement throughout the day.
But it’s really important because people who are not moving a lot or not exercising, or even if they exercise once in the morning and then they sit for the rest of the day, while you may have exercise in the morning, but that sitting for the next 10 hours that you do is not good. You’re not getting lymph movement and you’re not getting circulation, so things just kind of become stagnant. Of course, that’s not what we want. We want movement, circulation and drainage happening.
[00:59:55] Ashley James: I like to illustrate the lymph system as I think about the individual cell as a water balloon. So individual cells are enclosed and they have their own system going on, and they have all these amazing processes happening inside the cell, and they’re making waste like a car. It’s making exhaust. It has all this waste it needs to get rid of, and we need to get rid of the waste in order to bring in more nutrition, so the cell can continue being healthy.
And so the cell poops out the waste, and some waste is pooped out into the lymph fluid that bathes each cell. Some of our waste does get carried away by the venous blood flow. But a lot of this waste is pooped out from the cell into the lymph, and it’ll just sit there. All this waste, this junk, this material, possible pathogens like mold and bacteria and viruses is just sitting there and stagnating around, surrounding our swamp water, surrounding our 37.2 trillion cells in our body.
And the only thing that’s going to make that lymph fluid move back into the liver, because it all collects and come back up and flows back into the liver for the liver to process, for the body to filter and process, it will only move when we move or deep breathe. Deep breathing is really good for moving lymph as well because it creates this negative cavity in the chest and that pulls it up.
But like you said, someone who’s sick could just do range of motion exercises where they’re just bending their ankles, bending their toes, bending their knees. Because every time we bend any appendage, any joint, the second we bend it to its full extent, then bend it back, you are pumping the lymph because all the lymph nodes are surrounding each joint.
It’s really amazing. When you start to study how the body was created, there’s such intelligence behind it. It really fascinates me that they have the religious people on one sidem and we have the scientists on the other. One says there’s no god. The other one says there is God.
When you start to study the body, it is so complex and so brilliant, and it makes so much sense when you start to understand how the body works. You start to see there’s this world that we don’t understand where we came from. We have ideas. We can all argue about where we came from, but we can all agree that the body is amazing and brilliant, and there’s so much intelligence.
And so if we can just support the body by coming back to nature, like when you said, “Get up and move your body. We were never meant to sit at a chair.” In fact, we really didn’t have chairs growing up as cavemen or whatever. We would squat. We used to be able to squat all the time, and we would move. Our bodies are just meant to move often. The more that we sit at our desks, the more we’re developing problems with our neck like stenosis. We’re having these chronic conditions come up from lack of movement, which is really interesting that we’re developing. It’s purely from lifestyle.
So you’re saying, “Get up, maybe set a timer or have a routine.” If you drink enough water, you’ll need to pee throughout the day. So there’s get up and do some movement. But do you have any suggestions? Let’s say someone has a desk job, but they have the freedom to get up. They’re not chained to their desks like a factory where they have to stay there, but they can get up and move around. Do you have any suggestions for how do we create this habit or when we do get up to go pee and grab a glass of water, do you have some suggestions where we can do for a few minutes just to maximize that movement before we clear the cobwebs and then go back to work?
[01:04:26] Cathy Cooke: Sure. I think that the motivation is going to be different for everyone. I find that for some people, setting an alarm works well. There are several apps that you can download, and there are numerous ones. I don’t have a favorite one to recommend, but they’d be worth looking into and playing with, but different apps that will remind you to get up every 45 minutes or every hour or 20 minutes or whatever it is that works for you. And then they can prompt you to do a different exercise. Say you have to get up and do 10 push-ups or 20 squats or 20 jumping jacks or whatever it is.
I find that people find that really helpful or it’s just, “Okay, I’ve been sitting for an hour, I have to go outside for 10 minutes.” There’s a number of different ways to do this. I found that there’s not one recommendation that works for everybody because some people don’t want to go outside, or they don’t want to do push-ups, or they’re better off with, “At 10 o’clock, I get up and go visit my co-worker who’s down the hall or on the second floor.”
I think people just have to be creative and identify what works best for them and then stick to it, of course. That’s where I find that the apps help a lot because the apps are an outside influence to say, “Hey, you got to stop. You got to do this now.” We just have to take accountability for our actions and actually do it.
[01:06:10] Ashley James: For those who say, “Oh, I just don’t have time to take all this free time out of my work,” my counter to that is that we find that when people do take breaks, even just five minutes every hour to stretch, breathe, move, drink more water, and then get back to it, that break cleared the cobwebs, and now you’re even more efficient at work for the next hour. You’re moral alert, more awake.
Because when we’re in stress mode, our body shunts blood away from logic centers of the brain, and we really end up in this brain fog where we don’t have the full access to our cognitive abilities. Taking those breaks throughout the day are going to re-energize us, restore us, boost our immune system, help us with sleep at night, help us to move the sludge out of our body and detoxify, and then come back empowered to be more efficient at work.
[01:07:10] Cathy Cooke: Great point. I find that you make less mistakes too, so you spend less time in the future going back and fixing your mistakes. I also wanted to mention another one that I just thought of. Have you ever heard of the website called Fitness Blender?
[01:07:26] Ashley James: No, I don’t think I have.
[01:07:29] Cathy Cooke: It’s fantastic. This is something that I recommend to almost all the clients I work with. Fitness Blender is a website by a younger, married couple that it’s just all about fitness, and they’ve got something like over 400 exercise videos and they’re totally free. You can choose anywhere from like four minutes to over an hour. You can narrow down your search. So you say, I’ve got four minutes, I want to do cardio, or I want to do strength training or I want to do stretching. You plug that in, and all the videos come up that meet that criteria.
[01:08:07] Ashley James: Very cool.
[01:08:09] Cathy Cooke: It’s really cool. I find that it’s really effective for that person that’s like, “I don’t have time to work out. I can’t do it.” It’s like, “Okay, got four minutes to do this exercise, and you can do it right in your office.” They don’t take up a lot of space. They are designed just for this purpose—for somebody that’s busy and just needs to get something really quick. I have found huge benefits for people doing this throughout the day because again, everything we just talked about, that lymph movement, that oxygenation, moving your joints around, becoming more productive. So that’s another great tip for people.
[01:08:46] Ashley James: Awesome. So you work in a low EMF environment, and you move your body throughout the day. Now it is getting close to when you go outside throughout the day, at least a few times during the day, so that your eyeballs get sunlight filtering through, so you get that signal to your brain, hey, it’s now later in the day, so the brain starts lowering the cortisol, getting ready to make some melatonin. So now you’re coming up towards dinner. What health habits do you have in the late afternoon/evening for improving sleep?
[01:09:22] Cathy Cooke: Late afternoon/evening, I start to consider toning back the liquids a little bit. One, I don’t like to have a lot of fluids in me when I’m eating my meals because I find that it really dilutes your stomach acid quite a bit. I noticed that significantly, so I try to not eat or not drink anything at least about a half an hour before I’m going to eat, especially dinner, because it just really affects my digestion.
As well as we’re starting to get to the time where if you’re drinking liquids later in the evening, you could get up in the middle of the night to have to pee, and we don’t want that to happen either. Of course, I don’t actually drink any caffeine. My body just does not like it. It does not metabolize it well. But for people that do drink caffeine, be it coffee or tea or, God forbid, sodas or whatever it is. We’re hoping that you stop that before noon or at least earlier in the day, especially if you’re someone that has sleeping issues. You really need to be careful about the caffeine intake, and you also need to consider things like cocoa that have naturally occurring caffeine.
So having chocolate later in the day, I try not to do because that little bit of caffeine can keep me up. And then when I’m making the choice of what to eat for dinner—we’ve talked a lot about blood sugar, and I have found over the past year, so I’ve really been toying with if I reduce my protein intake in the evening and increase some of my complex carbohydrates, how does that impact my sleep? I have found that it improves my sleep, that if I keep the protein, specifically if I’m doing things like animal products, if I keep them to the earlier meal of the day and focus more on a plant based meal or plant based protein in the evening, that actually helps me. I found that to actually be the case for a lot of people.
All of the amino acids in the protein can actually be a little bit too stimulating for us at night, and the carbohydrates for that serotonin is effective and important for sleep. It’s not going to be for everybody, but I found a significant amount of people actually do benefit from being a bit cognizant of that. Choosing what I have for my dinner is going to impact that quite a bit. So if I was going to go out and have a big steak for dinner, it’s almost always that I’m not going to have good deep sleep that night. So that’s a consideration.
Of course, keeping in mind foods that are inflammatory in and of themselves. As a nutritionist, I’m not eating a lot of processed foods. I’m sure you’re not either. But some of your listeners might be saying, “Oh, well, if I have a little pasta, what’s that going to hurt, or if I throw a little cheese on that pasta? It’s just a little bit, it’s not going to be that big of a deal.”
But if you’re somebody that has an inflammatory response to wheat or to dairy or whatever the food is, you got to be cognizant of that, and be kind to your body. You got to remember that that bite of cheese or that pasta lasts about 20 seconds, and then you’re up the rest of the night. Is that really worth it? It wouldn’t be worth it to me.
So keeping in your mind about what those trigger foods are for you or what those foods that are inflammatory are for you—all processed, packaged foods are going to be inflammatory for everybody, so we need to reduce that. We need to consider a whole food diet especially in the evening. Keep in mind what those trigger foods are for you, and keep it a whole food based approach. That’s kind of what dinner and late evening looks like.
[01:13:56] Ashley James: Very cool. My husband, when I met him and he’s originally from Seattle, which is like the caffeine capitol of the world, and he would brag that he could drink a venti coffee and fall asleep. Now I have always been sensitive to caffeine, so if I drink caffeine past 1:00 PM, I am up all night. It just wrecks me.
And so it really surprised me that he would opt to drink coffee at night, or do you know if you watch those TV shows where they’re getting together for coffee, and I’m like, “What are you doing? Who does that? Who drinks coffee at night?” Or someone’s like, “Let’s have some tea,” and you know, it’s black tea, and you’re just like,”What’s going on? In what world do people caffeinate at night? This is crazy.”
But, yeah, sure enough he can drink a venti and fall asleep. Now we’re coming up on our 11 years together, and we’ve discovered in the last year through playing with cutting out coffee, which was something very big for someone from Seattle to do, that he used to wake up about four or five in the morning, very early in the morning, regardless of whether he went to bed at 10 or one in the morning. He would always wake up, and he rarely could go back to sleep. And so he would just start his day that way with some more coffee.
But when he took coffee out of his life, he was sleeping in. For him, sleeping in is like, “Oh, my gosh!” The sun has risen, it’s seven in the morning, and he would roll over and be well rested—he couldn’t believe it. I did some digging and discovered that caffeine has a half-life that lasts about 18 hours. It’ll stay in our body for that long. And for some people it doesn’t affect them falling asleep. Like he said, he never really felt energized from coffee, whereas I get very jittery and very energized. He didn’t really feel like a lot of energy from it.
But what it does for some people is it disrupts them on the other end of sleep. So it disrupts them from falling into the second wave of deep sleep, and it disrupts them late at night or really early in the morning, and so they’ll wake up. Some people can fall asleep with caffeine in their system, but it will make them have a lot later sleep that’s less restorative, and then they’ll wake up earlier feeling not 100% restored.
It was bad. It took him over a week. It felt like about two weeks to be able to get coffee out of his system. He had caffeine headaches for days because if you’ve been on caffeine for many years and then you get off of it, suddenly it actually inflames the blood vessels in the brain. So you feel almost like a migraine. Caffeine headaches are pretty severe, and so it’s best to slowly reduce the coffee down over time, and then wean yourself off of it.
But he was hardcore. He just said, “Okay, that’s it. Let’s try it without.” And so that was very interesting that he now can get very deep, healing, restorative sleep because he doesn’t drink coffee throughout the day. For me, that chocolate thing, if I had even one piece of chocolate at night, I would notice that my sleep was disrupted. That’s really frustrating because I eat organic vegan Stevia sweetened, no sugar added chocolate. It seems to be the healthiest dark chocolate in the world, but it’s still very stimulating.
Alcohol is another thing. I’ve had an HPATH on the show share that there’s a way in which you can monitor your body’s stress levels called heart rate variability, and they find that when you even drink one serving of alcohol, for 24 hours, our stress levels are heightened. Our body is in a state of stress for 24 hours after even consuming just one alcoholic beverage. Some people think that they need to unwind and drink alcohol to help them sleep, but it in fact severely disrupts their sleep.
So alcohol, chocolate, sugar, caffeine. Another thing which I found really interesting—an old school naturopath taught me that white rice consumed after noon or in the evenings can cause nightmares.
[01:18:55] Cathy Cooke: Interesting.
[01:18:57] Ashley James: Yeah. So really being responsible for choosing the glycemic-friendly foods. If you’re going to eat starches, like if you’re going to eat rice, make sure it’s brown rice, for example. It has more fiber. It breaks down slower in the body. Choosing the least amount of processed things possible because the second you process something into a flour to make pasta, for example, you’re removing fiber and thus it converts quickly to sugar.
I like that you talked about eating those complex carbs in the evening to help with the serotonin. Some people find that if they eat some sweet potato, for example, in the evening it helps them sleep. And some people find that if they eat some scrambled eggs as an evening snack, like one or two scrambled eggs, that the fat and the protein helped them sleep. So you have to play around and figure out which one is going to be more supportive for you.
[01:20:03] Cathy Cooke: Right. That’s why it’s really hard to make blanket recommendations across the board because everybody responds differently. For me, adding protein into my diet when I was a hypersomniac back in the day was very, very helpful to help me be more energized. But I also went to the extreme end and was just eating protein all the time and found that that wasn’t helpful either.
It’s going take a lot of trial and error for everybody individually to find out what the best macro nutrient balance is. I often do suggest that people get a blood sugar monitor for themselves, and oftentimes your doctor will give you one for free because the strips are actually what’s so expensive, as you probably know. That’s where they get you. But you can get a blood sugar monitor, and then use it for a couple of weeks just to get a sense of how your body is responding to different foods in different macronutrient combinations. It can be really insightful. Something that you’ve been doing forever, like a piece of chicken and some broccoli and some rice at dinner, checking your blood sugar 30 minutes, an hour, two hours afterwards to see what kind of fluctuations you get will really help you dial in the certain foods that work for you and the certain macronutrient combinations that are going to be the best for you regarding sleep and everything else, too.
[01:21:42] Ashley James: And that’s why hiring a health coach like yourself or like me helps people. Because sometimes this is too much. Like, “Oh, my gosh. You want me to figure out the way food combinations are going to support my sleep and my blood sugar?” If you talk to a health coach, especially if it’s so overwhelming, they help you to bring it back down into something that’s manageable and fun and easy to make these little adjustments over time, so that you can really see big results.
I interviewed Dr. William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly—that was Episode 167, highly recommend listening to it. He’s a cardiologist that reverses heart disease naturally with diet and some supplementation and lifestyle, and that’s his suggestion as well, exactly what you said. He said 100% of the population should own a glucometer, we should take this out of this idea that only diabetics need one—everyone needs one because if we could monitor ourselves like an hour or two hours after eating each meal, we could see how our body is responding to that meal. “Oh, wow. I really am not responding well to that gluten-free pizza. Maybe that shouldn’t be something that I eat on a regular basis,” or “Oh, wow. I can’t believe how well I’m responding to those sweet potatoes and baked beans.”
So you play around with it, but it’s in addition to how you’re feeling. That’s why we want to create a food mood journal and see “How was my sleep? How am I feeling?” But then getting some tests and something that you can do at home that allows you outside of yourself to go, “Wow, this is really affirming how I’m feeling about these meals.” I think that sometimes we talk ourselves or we stop listening to our bodies if we really want to keep the caffeine or alcohol or sugar. Like, “I really like that chocolate fudge sundae.” And we justify it like you said—“Oh, it’s just a little bit of cheese and pasta. It doesn’t really matter.”
But then our sleep keeps suffering. And if we use a glucometer to see how we’re doing, then it’ll really be that great reality check that allows us to go, “You know what, I’m not going to make excuses anymore because my sleep is more important than that 30 seconds of the food in my mouth.”
And then another great thing you can do with the glucometer is if you have a disrupted sleep in the middle of the night, take your blood sugar in the middle night and see what’s going on because some people have really low blood sugar or really high blood sugar, which on both ends can wake us up in the middle of the night.
Taking blood sugar right before bed, in the middle night if we do wake up, and first thing in the morning really allows us to get that great picture of what’s going on beause we might discover we have an underlying blood sugar problem that we can catch really early on and then correct before it manifests as a disease.
[01:24:48] Cathy Cooke: Great points. I totally agree. And I oftentimes, with somebody who’s got some really severe sleeping problems and they’re waking up in the middle of the night, I suggest that they often will have a snack right by their bed so that they can eat that in the middle of the night. Of course that sounds maybe counter intuitive. We shouldn’t be eating in the middle of the night, and we shouldn’t have to eat in the middle of the night. But until we can, peel back all those layers of the onion and address each underlying issue. You might just need some band-aids right now, and that’s okay. We want you to sleep through the night.
In my work, what I do with clients, sleep is number one. You can have hormonal issues. You can have diabetes. You can have lupus. You can have whatever it is. But we have to get you sleeping before anything else can happen, before anything else can start to repair in the body, because if you’re not sleeping, the body is going to be unable to address everything else that’s happening.
So in the meantime, when somebody is having some chronic sleep issues, they might have to have a little bit of snack in the middle of the night. That might mean a little bit of collagen and a tiny bit of diluted orange juice or a handful of nuts—there’s many different options. To have that available so that somebody can fall back asleep when they’re having that blood sugar crash, and then over time, we are addressing all the rest of the issues, so that we don’t need that anymore.
[01:26:31] Ashley James: Brilliant. I love it. During my pregnancy, my naturopath said I needed to eat some protein in the middle of the night, and that did seem to help, so I like it. We need to figure out what’s going on right now and then address it, and know that in the long term, we’re going to get ourselves back to a place where we won’t need it anymore.
That’s the thing with these broad health statements—never go to bed on a full stomach, or never eat food before bed. I know a naturopath that says people with blood sugar issues should eat some scrambled eggs right before bed. That really helps some people, but some people, it doesn’t. So we have to experiment. That’s where working with someone like you comes in, where we can experiment, but at the same time bring the science and the experience.
So it’s the evening time for you. You’ve eaten a meal that’s more plant-based, more complex carbohydrates, that you choose not to have the animal protein because you find that that works best for you. When do you put on your blue blocking glasses?
[01:27:46] Cathy Cooke: Great question. Perfect segue. When the sun goes down, they’re usually on, but of course, that’s going to depend on where you live. I used to live in Alaska and that wouldn’t work because it’s 24 hours of daylight during the summer, and the sun goes down at about 4:00 PM in the winter.
So typically, if we live in more southern latitudes, it’s a good rule of thumb to have the bluelight blocking glasses on when the sun goes down. Otherwise we say about two hours before you want to be asleep is a good rule of thumb. There are more research happening out there about just filtering the bluelight from any of our artificial lighting, any of our light bulbs whatsoever, or our screens because this is what we call junk light.
It’s just like junk food. It’s junk light. It’s predominantly blue. It’s not the full spectrum that we get from the sun. This does have a lot of impact on our mitochondria, which can result in a number of health symptoms. Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Jack Kruse?
[01:29:01] Ashley James: I am not.
[01:29:02] Cathy Cooke: Fascinating individual. He’s a neurosurgeon. He’s heavily into light, bluelight, and EMF exposure. That could be a good resource for your listeners to check out. He can be very overwhelming because, of course, he’s a neurosurgeon, and some of the terminology he uses can be really daunting and over your head. But he’s done a significant amount of research into the topic of the mitochondria and how the mitochondria is affected by our light, bluelight and EMF exposure. When you see interviews with him, for example, anytime he’s on a computer or a screen or under artificial light, he’s at least wearing glasses that filter out the blue component even if it’s in the middle of the day.
I have actually found that to be pretty effective. Dr. Mercola does a similar thing. When you’re working on the computer and having not full on bluelight blocking glasses , but some tent to block out the blue light no matter what time of day it is. And then in the evening, we put on the darker ones that are going to filter much more of that light. If you want to go outside, of course, you can go outside anytime of the day and not have any glasses whatsoever because, of course, you’re getting that natural light, and you’re getting the full spectrum—all of the colors that are in sun.
So even though the sun does have blue, it’s got green and yellow and violet and red and orange, and those are all excellent. So you can be outside any time of day and you don’t need the glasses, but pretty much any time you’re inside, the lights are on, the computers are on, having some kind of protection for your eyes, and then the darker glasses about two hours before you want it to be asleep is what I’ve found to be the most effective thing for most people.
[01:30:57] Ashley James: I had an interview with a guy, James Swanwick. He produces blue blocking glasses that look really cool. Of course, you could buy them, like you said, for $10 or $20 on Amazon, but they look like safety goggles and no one wants to look goofy when they’re in downtown L.A. He was living in downtown L.A., and he would basically wear ski goggles. He’s like, “I need a better solution than ski goggles,” so he invented Swanwick’s blue blocking glasses, and they just look really cool.
He sent me a pair and I thought, “This is complete rubbish. You’re telling me that I’m going to wear some yellow glasses, and it’s going to help me with my sleep.” I just thought this was such poopoo. I put them on about 9:00 PM, and by 9:30, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I went to bed at 9:30. I was like, “I am done.” They’re more effective than some sleep aid. I was really impressed. I think it’s going to be a few more years then we’re going to see everyone wearing them. It’s going to really catch on because they work.
[01:32:11] Cathy Cooke: They do work. I’ll tell you a quick story. My sister got married back in December, and so I was at home in Kansas City for her wedding, and it was an evening wedding. And then, we had the reception afterwards, and I was at the reception, and thankfully I was a bridesmaid and my dress was red, so I pulled out my red glasses at the reception. I was like, “I don’t care. I want to sleep tonight. We’re going to have fun. I can still have fun with my red glasses on.” So I put them on and everyone’s like, “You’re such a dork. What are you doing?” And I was like, “I don’t care. My sleep is more important.” And then, I was able to educate everybody about it, and they’re like, “Oh, interesting.”
We sometimes do look like big dorks when we’re doing this stuff, but I don’t care. I want to feel good the next day, so I’m okay with it.
[01:33:03] Ashley James: How was your sleep that night?
[01:33:05] Cathy Cooke: Oh, it was great. Well, I was out a little bit later than I normally would be, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely considerably better than had I not been wearing the glasses.
[01:33:16] Ashley James: That’s actually something really important to bring up. I learned this from Dr. Molly Niedermeyer. She’s a naturopathic physician here in Seattle. She used to be the dean of the Naturopathic College in Bastyr, and she’s been a naturopath for over 30 years. She’s delivered over a thousand babies, and she told me that if you’re awake after 10:00 P.M., somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30, our body hits a second wind.
So if you’re awake, you’re cleaning the kitchen or watching TV on your computer, whatever you’re doing, if you’re awake at 10:00 PM and the lights are on and you’re staring at screens, you’re telling your body that it is noon. You’re getting basically noonday sunlight being mimicked from the lights being on, and your body will reset and go, “Okay, you’re getting a whole bunch of cortisol right now. We are stopping the production of melatonin.”
And so people noticed that if they stay up late, “I’m just going to watch one more episode,” and so now it’s 10:30 and now they’re wide awake. “Geez, I don’t even feel tired. I’m not going to go to bed. I’m going to watch another episode and watch another episode and watch another episode.” Now it’s two in the morning, and we wonder why we can’t fall asleep.
I really did notice a big correlation between being on my computer in the evening—I tried not to go. I often do not go into the office after dinner because if I do even a little bit of computer work, I am up to like two in the morning. So that’s the blue blocking glasses aspect. But also if it’s like 10:00 PM, and I’m still getting some laundry done or just doing some late-night stuff, if I’m not winding down in bed reading and just starting that descent down into sleep then I’m awake till one or two because it hit that second wind.
That’s another reason why we all need to shift our biological or [inaudible 01:35:15] our biological clocks back a few hours and say to ourselves, “We need to be in bed with lights off by 10,” and really we need to be in bed at 9:30, winding it down, reading a book or something with low lights, so that we prevent getting that second wind, that second spike of cortisol where the brain goes, “We’re not going to produce melatonin right now. We’re just going to produce more energy,” which is really disruptive for healing. It increases inflammation in the body. It makes us exhausted the next day. It makes us cranky. And it can just be this downward spiral where it takes sometimes days to recover.
[01:35:59] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, I agree completely. I always tell everybody, it comes back to that circadian rhythm and you need to be in bed by 10—exactly what you’re saying. In traditional Chinese medicine, they say every hour of sleep that you get before midnight is worth two hours more than the hours that you get after midnight. So that sleep before midnight between 10 and 12 is really important.
I’ve worked with a lot of people that are like, “There’s no way. I can’t do it. I go to bed at 2:00 AM,” and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why you’re here working with me because you feel like crap. You got to get this dialed in.” Part of it is, we’ve extended our days to be infinite with the advent of the light bulb. And now we’ve got social media 24 hours a day, and all of these things that are stimulating to us at the end of the day.
But I really liked what you said about the winding down. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s 10, turn the lights of, go to bed.” You need to take a lot of time for the body to mentally prepare to wind down. That’s why I also talk a lot about sleep hygiene and winding down is part of that. So going through a nightly routine that you do every day, because again, we’re getting those signals—”Oh, I’m brushing my teeth. Oh, I’m washing my face. Oh, I’m preparing a hot water bottle for my bed. Oh, I’m closing the blinds.” All of those little routines that we go through each night are more signals to “Oh, it’s bedtime. I need to be calming down. I need to be producing more melatonin.” It’s really helpful for us to wind down, so that when we do lie down, that we can fall asleep quicker rather than lying awake for another hour.
[01:38:09] Ashley James: I had a really hard time getting our son to sleep as a baby and as a toddler. It was pretty ridiculous how much he would fight us. It took us sometimes two hours to get him to fall asleep, and he would just be fighting us, and then there will be times that we just let him stay awake. We’re like, “Okay, let’s just see. Maybe his body will tell us when he wants to fall asleep.” He’d be two years old, midnight, totally awake, and we’re like, “Okay, that experiment did not work. This kid will not go to sleep.”
And then I discovered this magnesium soak. I’m sure you’ve heard of it—the Living the Good Life Naturally Magnesium Soak. Kristen Bowen, who I’m going to have on the show again soon, I discovered her through a friend of mine who invited me to go to her health lecture when she was here in Seattle. And so I brought home a jug and you can put kids in it in the bathtub and it was a miracle. Our son doesn’t eat sugar. We don’t feed him processed food. We don’t feed him stimulants like chocolate or caffeine. He already had everything set up in his life that should give him—and he gets plenty of exercise throughout the day. So he should fall asleep at night, but why is he fighting us?
But for us, I believe it was a mineral deficiency. He was deficient in magnesium, and so he started to soak every night in nice warm bath with magnesium and he wouldn’t fight us. He would actually tell us, “Okay, it’s time to go to sleep. Can I go to bed now?” We’re like, “Oh, my gosh. He wouldn’t even say because we had this routine where we’d read five books before going to bed because it took us about five books to get him—
[01:40:01] Cathy Cooke: Oh, my gosh. That’s a lot.
[01:40:01] Ashley James: It was a two-hour bedtime routine to get him to go to sleep. It would take us five books before he was even willing to lie in bed. And lying in bed, he would fight us and fight us and fight us. It went from five books down to he would say, “Okay, I only want one book tonight.” We were just like, “Oh, my gosh, this is a miracle.”
So this magnesium soak is really great. There’s a bunch out there in the market, but my understanding is that this one is very specifically is highly absorbed by the body, highly bioavailable. I noticed that I felt really relaxed and calm after starting to use it. So we use it in our baths, our foot soaks, or we put it in his bath. It’s livingthegoodlifenaturally.com, their magnesium foot soak, and then she gives the listeners a discount. The coupon code is LTH, as in Learn True Health. That was life-changing for our son, and it was great for our whole family because we all just noticed we’re calmer. But for him, it went from fighting us to sleep to actually just being really cool about winding it down, going to bed. He falls asleep fast now. That was the missing link for us.
Sometimes it could be a mineral deficiency or nutrient deficiency. I’ve heard that even B vitamins, sometimes it’s hormonal. So there’s some kind of a biochemistry aspect going on that if there’s one thing missing, it could be that missing link that when you find it, everything falls into place. But you have to have everything else, like you said, sleep hygiene. We have to have the environment. We have to have all the habits set up throughout the day to support that amazing restful healing sleep.
So can you unpack what sleep hygiene is and that checklist of things that we should make sure we have to create good sleep hygiene in our bedroom?
[01:42:14] Cathy Cooke: The routine is great, like I mentioned. And then also just having a really conducive sleeping sanctuary as we like to say, and building biology. But your bedroom should be a place free of distractions. Don’t have your bedroom and your office be in the same room because that association with, “Ugh, I got to do this and this and this, and seeing your file cabinet and seeing your notepad, and seeing your computer or whatever it is, that’s stimulating, that’s thinking work.
The bedroom should not be used for anything besides sleep and sex and that’s it. We should not bring other work-related things into the bedroom or computers, or even your phone, or your computer or iPads like I mentioned. People love to bring their phones into their bedroom and get on Facebook as they’re falling asleep, which is about the worst thing you can do because, for one, for the blue light; two, for the EMS; and 3, the mental stimulation from whatever it is that you’re viewing on Facebook, those are all very stimulating.
So the bedroom should be completely free of electronics. Even, I’m an alarm clock, I do not recommend because alarm clocks give off significant magnetic fields, which can disrupt your sleep. If you have to use an alarm clock to wake up, you at least want to put the alarm clock on the other side of the room. Some people use their phones for an alarm clock, and that’s okay. But keep the phone in airplane mode. Do not have it sending out a radio frequency signal throughout the night. Keep an airplane mode and make sure that you turn off the Bluetooth and the Wifi so everything is off. But your alarm will still work when it’s an airplane mode like that. So if that is your alarm clock and you have to have it, then that’s okay. But I would also recommend to put the screen in a night mode.
Different phones have different settings where you can dim the blue light on the phone. So I mean, I would recommend just don’t look at it at night or you can look at it if you’re wearing bluelight blocking glasses . But otherwise, you can install free software like Iris or iflux. I’m not sure if iflux is available for phones, but I believe Iris is, and that will automatically dim the blueness of the screen at night. So that’s a good idea.
And then we want the bedroom to be very comfortable and cozy. Of course you have a mattress that works for you—not too firm, not too soft. You have comfortable bedding. I can’t believe sometimes when I am visiting family or friends and I’m sleeping in a bed with really stiff, scratchy sheets or uncomfortable comforters. I’m like, “How do you guys sleep like this? This is so uncomfortable for me.” And it sounds simple, but they’re important factors because if you’re not really comfortable in your bed, you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night, and we don’t want that.
Whatever that looks like for you, silk sheets or satin sheets, or down comforters or whatever, you just want to make it as pleasing and as comfortable for you as possible. You also want to keep the bedroom nice and cool. Plenty of research out there is showing that we sleep better when the body is just slightly cool. Any excess heat will cause disruptions in sleep. Anybody who lives in a hot climate or has summer has experienced this. When it’s blazing hot outside, our sleep really suffers, so do your best to keep the bedroom cool.
Again, I don’t have a set temperature to recommend because everybody’s tolerance is a little bit different on that. I like to make sure that there is a window open always all year round. It doesn’t have to be wide open, but you do want just a little bit of circulation of fresh air coming in through the window. You’re going to have to play with your preferences on that, but that fresh air is critical to keep ventilation happening. Even just the smells of the environment, it’s another little connection to nature, which is an important signal again for our DNA. We really like to be in nature, so that can be very calming to our nervous system.
There’s even some science showing that some of the scents from pine trees can reduce cortisol. So having that little bit of fresh air can be very helpful. And then, of course, some of the basics like the light, having blackout curtains if you need it, depending on where you’re at. If you’re in the city, you may need blackout curtains. If you’re in the country, it might not be necessary. You could maybe just have regular blinds or whatever it is. But you don’t want any light coming in through the windows at all.
I wear an eye mask because even sometimes the moonlight can be a little bit too much for me just because I’m that sensitive. So I wear an eye mask and I also wear earplugs. We’re in an environment in the middle of the city. We’re in a suburb. There are dogs, and dogs bark at night, and cars drive past. Little noises like that can actually interrupt my sleep, so earplugs and an ear mask are essential for me. Took me a little bit of time to get used to doing that, but now I am in a total panic if I find myself somewhere, and I don’t have earplugs because I know my sleep is going to suffer.
Paying attention to all of those things in the environment and creating a conducive bedroom for your sleep, focusing on that sleeping sanctuary, and of course, we’ve already talked about the EMF, so making sure that there are no EMFs penetrating into the bedroom, and you can get a lot of tips from the previous episode that I was on about that, like turning off the breakers and not having your Internet on and those kinds of things. Those are pretty much the basics.
There are other things you can do like taking a warm shower before bed or a warm bath, which can be really nice, doing a magnesium foot soak like you mentioned, having that as part of your nightly routine can be really helpful. There are a few other things, but those are the basics, I would say.
[01:49:19] Ashley James: Wonderful. I started learning about sleep hygiene and implementing one thing at a time, and it really does make a difference. We got blackout curtains for our bedroom, and we have an Austin Air filter, so it creates that white noise, and so we don’t hear cars going by or the coyotes that we have in our neighborhood because they all get together and howl. We’re out there in the country a little bit, so we have bears, coyotes, woodpeckers, owls, and all kinds of things that could keep us up.
Before the air filter, we would hear everything. I’d hear the coyotes, I’d hear the owls, and I would stay awake. But yeah, we turn the air filter on, and it has a nice little white noise that blocks everything out. The curtains that block out most of the light—it’s pretty dark in the bedroom now. So we have to watch out about the tripping hazards and make sure it’s a comfortable bed. Like you said, bamboo sheets are amazing. They’re antimicrobial, they breathe, and they also are a wonderful for feeling soft.
And then also considering the vacuuming—if you have carpet, vacuum daily. Get out the vacuum and vacuum your bedroom every day to minimize the dust mites because the dust mites, we basically are constantly breathing in their poop. When we’re breathing that in, it will lower our immune system. What we can do is take our pillows and put them in the freezer because that kills the dust mites as well. Wash your sheets often, wash your comforter, put stuffed animals and put pillows in the freezer for as long as you can, 12-24 hours, to kill the dust mites and do that on a regular basis.
But I noticed that the noise from the Austin Air filter helps us sleep now. When it’s not on, I really now notice how every little noise can wake me up or disrupt my sleep.
In terms of the EMFs—I’ve shared this before on the podcast—think back to the last time you had a blackout in your neighborhood. If you don’t remember, keep it in mind for the next time. The sleep you get when there’s a power outage is the most deep restful sleep. Unless of course you’re worried that you won’t hear your alarm clock in the morning because worry can keep you awake.
But no EMFs, like I cannot believe—I first noticed it. We were living in an apartment building, and we were surrounded by over 30 different WiFi signals all the time, and all the EMFs from everyone else’s apartment.
When there were power outages, it was amazing—the sleep I’d get, the depth of that sleep. I feel so restored in the morning. That was the only difference. You can’t see it. You can’t hear it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. You can’t touch it. It’s invisible to us, but the EMF really does disrupt sleep.
Since learning about that and now living in our house, we’re fortunate enough that we cannot see anyone else’s WiFi signal. We’re that far away from neighbors, and we only turn our modem on when we absolutely need it. Other than that, we don’t have any WiFi in the house. We have almost nothing plugged in the entire bedroom, so that we lower the EMF as much as possible, and it really made a difference.
In fact, recently I plugged something in, and then I forgot to unplug it, and it was near our bed. That night, that was a few nights ago, I had really bad sleep. I woke up in the morning going, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe I forgot to unplug that thing.” It really does make a difference.
[01:53:30] Cathy Cooke: Yeah, you’d be so surprised. I was doing an EMF assessment in a home just a couple of days ago, and they had their phone charger in the outlet right next to their bed. And they’re like, “Well, the phone is not plugged in, so it’s not that big of a deal.” I put my meter on there, and the electric field was off the charts. And so I’m like, “This is right by your head, and this is voltage. This is all the voltage that you’re sleeping right next to your head.” You’ve got to consider those little things because clearly you’re not going to sleep really well with voltage running right next to your head, right?
[01:54:08] Ashley James: Absolutely. It’s just amazing. You’ve given us so many points today that we can implement immediately and run with. Is there anything left unsaid about your evening routine or your bedtime routine, or going to sleep at night? Do you take any supplements? Do you recommend melatonin?
[01:54:33] Cathy Cooke: I just wanted to touch real quickly on the dust mites that you mentioned. I’m really glad you brought that up because allergies play a big role in sleep. If you’re inflamed from allergies, you’re not going to sleep that well. So another tip is to have your ducts cleaned. A lot of people are like, “Oh, right. I’ve been living here for seven years and I’ve never had the ducts cleaned.” They’re just not thinking about it, but that’s an important consideration.
I like to recommend people have their ducts cleaned every two years. I think the EPA recommends maybe every two to three, but just think about all the air that’s circulating through those ducts, and all the dust that settles in there, and all of the microbes, and the bacteria, and the mold. Having your ducts cleaned is a really important piece.
And then I’ve also got a post on my website about not making your bed—that’s what we recommend from a building biology standpoint because of the dust and the dust mites that you just mentioned. When you think about the fact that you’re sleeping at night and a lot of us will perspire in the middle of the night, we’re creating this really nice warm, moist environment, and then we get out of bed and we pull the covers over that and we’re creating just the perfect little nest for microbes for dust and bacteria to flourish. You actually want to leave your bed unmade or the covers off the bed so that you can air it out, and that will actually help to cut back a little bit on the dust, the dust mites and the microbes.
But I do want to address your comment about the supplements. I think that’s a really important topic because so many people are taking supplements and melatonin, and all of these sleeping aids. Of course, none of your listeners will be surprised to hear that I’m not a fan of pharmaceutical sleep aids. I’m sure you’re not either. Insomnia is not an immunodeficiency, so we don’t need to be taking sleeping pills to sleep at night.
But along those same lines, people want to take Valerian or Hops or all of these different formulas or combination of sleeping herbs. While those can be helpful for some people sometimes, they’re not something that you want to depend on for the rest of your life. So if you say, “I just can’t sleep without Valerian,” then I say, “There’s an underlying issue that still has not been addressed.”
You shouldn’t need to take Valerian in order to sleep. Even though it’s natural, even though it’s an herb, we still want to identify what the underlying issue is. Along those same lines, you mentioned magnesium. So magnesium is a great sleep aid, and when you take magnesium and it helps you to sleep, that’s probably indicative of a mineral deficiency like you mentioned.
Some supplements like a magnesium or different minerals can be very important, and that is something that we want to pay attention to. We want to get our minerals in balance. Of course, we want to start with food, maybe eat some magnesium-rich foods. If that’s not quite cutting it, we can go to a mineral supplement.
But when it comes to things like herbs, maybe passion flower or so many different sleeping aids, we need to be careful about that because we don’t want to become dependent on them in the same fashion that we can become dependent on a pharmaceutical sleep aid. We still need to identify what the underlying issue is. They can be helpful in certain times. You’re traveling, you’re in a very stressful circumstance—fine, it’s okay once in a while. But we still want to address all of these other lifestyle habits.
And then as far as the melatonin goes, melatonin is not something that we want to take long term. Melatonin is a hormone, and when we take a hormone like that exogenously, we can disrupt the body’s own production of melatonin. So if we take it every day and we’ve been taking it every day for a year, the body is not going to do a good job in making it on its own because it’s like, “You’re giving it to me in a pill, so why do I need to create it?”
So I caution people with melatonin. It can be helpful in certain circumstances, like if you’re traveling over a number of time zones, it can kind of help you to reset your circadian rhythm. But I don’t generally recommend that people take it for longer than two weeks. The shorter amount of time, the better. And if you absolutely can’t sleep without melatonin, then again, there’s an underlying issue that we need to address. I have found that those bluelight blocking glasses are what’s the most impactful for that melatonin release at the end of the day.
And then lastly, we can put all of these pieces into place and yet there are some people that are still going to have some issues. When that happens, we need to consider a more advanced or more complicated situations. That would be an area where you would work with someone like yourself or someone like me to identify, “Maybe I’ve got hormonal imbalance, maybe I have an infection, maybe I have SIBOs—small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, maybe I have a parasite, maybe I have heavy metals.” Those are a little bit more complicated, and where functional lab testing can shed a significant amount of light on the piece that we’re missing.
So for people that are putting all these steps into place and just not quite getting it, sometimes we have to dig a bit deeper. Of course, I mentioned the emotional piece of it prior. Sometimes people really need to work with a trained professional, a mental health professional to address some of their emotional issues, their emotional traumas that are still left undealt with. That’s an important consideration as well.
And then lastly, I have actually a pretty comprehensive e-book on my website and it’s all about sleep. It’s called “Sleep Like You Mean It.” It’s about 30 pages, and it covers a lot of what we talked about today, but it goes into a little bit more depth, and it’s got resources and the science behind a lot of this.
That’s totally free. If anybody wants to go to my website and download that, please do. I got over 10 years of information packed into there that I’ve learned over the years and I’ve uncovered from some of the best researchers across the country. So yes, download that. If you need a little bit more help and, of course, always reach out to someone like Ashley or someone like myself that can help you if you’re just still struggling because nobody should be struggling. We all deserve to feel really well.
[02:01:59] Ashley James: Absolutely. Your website is wholehomeandbodyhealth.com.
[02:02:03] Cathy Cooke: Yep, that’s right.
[02:02:05] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your wonderful health tips. This has been enlightening. Is there anything that you’d like to say to the listeners to wrap up today’s show?
[02:02:16] Cathy Cooke: Oh, gosh, we covered a lot. I guess I would just say to somebody that has listened, and they do have sleeping issues or other health challenges, don’t get overwhelmed. We presented a ton of information today. It’s all about baby steps. It’s all about picking out that one thing that’s manageable for you and doing one thing at a time. You don’t have to do all of this immediately. Sit with it, think about what resonates for you, try to tackle one little piece at a time, and over time you will start to see big benefits. Don’t get overwhelmed, and again, we are here to support you, so reach out to one of us if you need a little bit more guidance and help.
[02:03:06] Ashley James: Beautiful. So great having you back on the show.
[02:03:09] Cathy Cooke: Thanks Ashley. I’m so happy that we were able to do it again, and this has been really fun.
[02:03:14] Ashley James: Are you going to optimize your health? Are you looking to get the best supplements at the lowest price for high quality supplements? And to talk to someone about what supplements are best for you? Go to take your supplements.com and one of our fantastic true health coaches will help you pick out the right supplements for you that are the highest quality and the best price that’s takeyoursupplements.com takeyour supplements.com that’s takeyour supplements.com be sure to ask about free shipping and our awesome referral program.
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Nourishing Traditions – Sally Fallon