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Sleepless Nights

Q: We all suffer from insomnia or lack of quality sleep at one time or another, even with healthy lifestyles. Can you share your tips on getting a better night’s sleep?

A: A good night’s rest is essential to our health and well-being. Insomnia is known to be one of our nation’s silent health challenges with almost half of all adults reporting difficulties sleeping and only 10% consulting with their doctor.

Teri R. Gentes
Wellness and
Nutrition Consultant
Insomnia means habitual sleeplessness, repeated night after night. Sleep deficiency suppresses the immune system and the libido. It can also lead to health disorders such as depression, chronic fatigue, heart disease and headaches.

While some may tout proudly they can ‘get by’ on very little sleep, reports show mental function is best with eight hours of quality sleep. A lack of sufficient sleep results in numerous side effects such as daytime fatigue, poor productivity/ concentration, low energy levels, motivation challenges, irritability and accelerated aging. It also impairs hormonal balance, appetite control and fat loss, despite dietary and exercise regimes.

While occasional sleeplessness affects most of us, if you’re dealing with recurrent insomnia, consultation with your physician is advised. Knowing what causes insomnia may prove helpful in finding a solution.

Some causes include hypoglycemia, muscle aches, indigestion, breathing disorders, physical pain, anxiety, stress, grief, depression, jet lag, sugar and caffeine consumption, food allergies, digestion disorders, nutritional deficiencies (B12, iron, magnesium), hormonal changes, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, drugs, decongestants and medications.

Here are some suggestions to enable a better night’s rest:

√ Avoid caffeine including black tea, cola and chocolate, especially late in the day.

√ Avoid eating close to bedtime.

√ Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially before bedtime.

√ Exercise regularly during the day.

√ Practice yoga and meditation to help you relax and fall asleep.

√ Avoid exercise within three hours of bedtime.

√ Establish a regular wake-up and bedtime schedule.

√ Create a dark, cool, quiet, comfortable sleep environment.

√ Leave the bedroom for sleep and sex only. (No TV, computer etc…)

√ Use lavender oil in an aromatic diffuser in the bedroom.

√ Enjoy a hot bath an hour or two before bedtime.

√ Avoid foods such as bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, spinach, tomatoes and wine close to bedtime. These foods contain tyramine, which increases the release of the brain stimulant norepinephrine.

√ Choose foods high in tryptophan for your evening meals such as turkey, bananas, figs, almonds, dates, yogurt, milk, tuna, whole grain crackers and nut butter. Hot milk with a little unpasteurized honey at bedtime is also beneficial.

√ Enjoy an herbal tea before bed such as ‘Sleepy Time’ tea from Tradition.

√ Capsules, tinctures or teas of such herbs as Passionflower, lavender, chamomile, lindenflower, Valerian root, kava kava and catnip are helpful.

√ A well-balanced calcium/ magnesium supplement is also very effective.

If you continue to experience sleep difficulties there are natural sleep aids such as those listed below.

Over the counter sleep aids are not recommended. Besides the risk of numerous side effects including depression, confusion and dry mouth, they do not promote deep, restful sleep and they can be addictive. Consulting with your health care professional is always suggested before proceeding with any course of treatment.

GABA: Gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA) is a calming brain chemical. It’s well suited for individuals who experience anxiety, muscle tension or pain.

Ashwagandha: A tonifying herb that can be taken for insomnia, restlessness or when feeling overworked or stressed.

Relora: This natural herbal supplement is for those who tend to wake up during the night, for highly stressed individuals and for menopausal women who experience hot flashes that cause sleep disruption.

5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP) An amino acid (building block of protein) extracted from the seeds of the Griffonia simplicifolia. The body produces its own supply of 5-HTP from tryptophan, an amino acid found in high-protein foods such as poultry, fish, beef and dairy products.

Melatonin: A natural hormone secreted by the brain that promotes sound sleep. The amount produced may lessen with age impairing sleep quality.

You should definitely consultant your health care professional if you notice that you haven’t slept well or suffer from sluggishness, fatigue or irritability. Do not go weeks or months without seeking help as this will affect your overall physical and emotional health as well as productivity.

Teri R. Gentes is a Wellness and Nutrition Consultant and can be reached at Website:

Wardrobe Communication – Your Competitive Edge

Q: As we have numerous clients and vendors visiting our offices on a daily basis, I’ve been asked to send out a communiqué on appropriate business attire. What are your suggestions here?

A: In turbulent economic times, a strategy that is often underestimated that will give you a competitive edge is wardrobe communication.

Graham Bell
President of
PRIME Impressions
Studies show that people usually decide in two minutes whether or not to do business with you. Their decision is not based on your products or services, but on emotional visceral reactions that come from first impressions.

In the early 1980s, when John Malloy’s book Dress for Success was published, business attire was understood by all. Men wore navy blue suits, white shirts and classically patterned burgundy or red ties. Women opted for navy blue skirted suits, white or pastel blouses and pearls. In an effort to attract bright young talent in the 1990s, informational technology companies allowed casual clothing in the workplace.

Financial institutions followed with “casual Fridays” and soon many firms embraced business casual attire seven days a week.

Dress guidelines were no longer clear and people frequently arrived for work in inappropriate garments.

Managers struggled with impression management and how to convey to their staff what was expected. Some organizations reverted back to professional attire, while others hired image professionals to decipher “business casual.” Although formal business attire across the board will never be embraced again, in this competitive marketplace people are dressing up again.

These guidelines will help you decide how to use wardrobe communication to your advantage:

Dress for the Context

  • Clothing should be in sync with your industry and your clients’ attire.

  • When handling money, don’t dress down too far. Clients prefer to see staff in the financial sector dressed in formal business attire or at the very least, tailored business casual.

  • Staff that interacts with the public need to be dressed to impress even when dressing casually. If there is a chance that a client will have access to areas behind the front office, then all staff needs to be conveying the same message of quality.

  • If your clients span several social or business backgrounds, either book appointments with similar clients on the same day or learn to add or subtract clothing pieces to create different impressions.

  • When women dress down, they lose more authority than men do. Thus when more presence is required, wear a jacket. If you want to be less intimidating, combine a jacket of one colour with pants or a skirt of another.

    Dressing Down by Degrees

    These five variables affect your perceived formality:

  • The greater the number of pieces of clothing you wear, the more formal you will appear.

  • The darker the colour, the more powerful your image, especially when combined with highcontrasting colours. Mid-tones make you more approachable and bright colours are more casual.

  • The smoother and plainer the fabric, the more formal a garment will be. Textured and knitted fabrics are more casual as are prints. If you are a woman who needs to command attention, avoid fl orals and paisleys.

  • Consider the tailoring of your garments. A matched suit is more powerful than a blazer worn with a contrasting bottom. A collared shirt is more dressed up than a collarless one. Long sleeves are more formal than short ones. A suit has more impact than a dress

  • Wear fine accessories with tailored, professional attire. For business casual, they can be bolder and heavier

    Three Levels of Business Casual

    1) Tailored Business Casual is worn to communicate professionalism, especially if you wear a formal suit at most other times. The key element is a tailored jacket worn with a contrasting bottom and a shirt, blouse, polo shirt, mock turtleneck or full turtleneck.

    2) Smart Business Casual is favoured by most companies when dressing down or when you want to be approachable. The key element for men is a collared shirt (including mock turtlenecks and full turtlenecks). There is quite a range in this category with a dress shirt, trousers and tie at the top, and a polo shirt and cotton pants at the bottom. For women, a collared shirt is not essential, but preferred, and a monochromatic outfit will always convey quality when dressing casually.

    3) Relaxed Business Casual is common in information technology, artistic fields and the trades. It includes items that are not acceptable in the first two categories: denim (any colour), t-shirts and fleece (without slogans), sleeveless garments, running shoes, strappy sandals, shorts and tank tops.

    As you ponder your wardrobe, consider the message it will give to people meeting you for the first time. When in doubt, ask yourself these questions: What would my best client think of me? What message does this clothing communicate to someone that isn’t familiar with our excellent reputation? Is my appearance in line with my promise of value/the company brand? Will they trust my expertise or will my image send them to my competition?

    Good managers realize that a professional appearance is an essential strategy that can be used to attract and keep customers. As the competition increases, this becomes even more important. Here’s a final tip you can use when communicating to your staff how important wardrobe is to your company’s success: if it can be worn to the beach, the bar or bed, it should not be worn to work. When in doubt, dress up.

    Catherine Graham Bell, AICI CIP, President of PRIME Impressions,
is author of Managing Your Image Potential: Creating Good Impressions in Business, a dynamic international speaker, and one of only 14 Certified Image Professionals in Canada. She can be reached at

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