A happy, healthier 2023? Focus on sleep and ‘bio-individuality foods’ says expert

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As the year 2023 rolls into view, embracing healthy lifestyles will once again be at the forefront of many people’s New Year resolutions.

From sleeping to eating, working out to maintaining a healthy weight, and staying away from stress, there is multitude of ways to feel healthier in the new year.

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Luke Coutinho, a holistic lifestyle coach and author, spoke to Al Arabiya English about some of the lifestyle changes UAE residents should heed next year.

Create the ideal sleep environment

Most people are sick today because they are not sleeping well enough, said Coutinho.

“A lot has been spoken about the health benefits of sleep.”

“Research after research is establishing the link between chronic sleep deprivation and lifestyle diseases like - diabetes, high blood pressure, sudden cardiac arrests, depression, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, obesity, cancer, and every single health condition that exists.

“And all of this is enough motivation for us to prioritize this very important phase in our day for prevention as well as recovery. In the new year, focus on getting sleep right, even if it means improving it by 15 minutes week on week.”

Employees walk to work on the first working Friday in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on January 7, 2022. (File photo: AFP)
Employees walk to work on the first working Friday in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on January 7, 2022. (File photo: AFP)

The gap, said Coutinho, lies between knowledge and action.

“What action can everyone take to improve their sleep next year? One is creating an environment conducive to sleep since it is a light-sensitive process. Everyone should ask themselves if their bedroom is pitch dark when then sleep?”

“Studies show that even light emitting from LEDs can interfere with the production of melatonin, a powerful hormone for sleep, immunity, and cancer and a potent antioxidant too. Everyone needs to secrete enough of melatonin for the sleep process to occur, and unfortunately, the bright artificial lights we are exposed to are taking us far away from that.”

For the best sleep, people should create an environment so dark that they aren't even able to see their hand, advises Coutinho.

“I would recommend going to the extent of using a sleeping mask. And if the elastic around your head hurts, roll a t-shirt or towel and place it over your eyes. Allow yourself to drift off to sleep this way. It's amazing how deep the sleep is.”

Focus on emotional wellness

Coutinho said, while nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medicines work to a certain extent, what completes the circle of a healthy lifestyle is a person’s ability “to tap into their inner peace and joy.”

“When we are constantly anxious, struggling to feel happy or good, even though things may seem going great for us on the surface, it creates disharmony within us. It affects us at a deep cellular level.”

“So, in 2023, if there is one change you could make to strengthen your emotional wellness then it is to reclaim your power and peace back.”

“Take out the time to sit back and reflect on who you are renting your heart and mind space to and learn to let go of what you need to, accept when you can, and forgive what you should. Most of our stressors are not problems, situations, or people, but our resistance towards accepting what it is. Our resistance towards accepting the truth creates our suffering and the day we realize that, is when we start to dissolve the disharmony within us.”

Emirati men walk along the empty beachside boulevard of Jumeirah Beach Residence which is usually crowded, in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on March 12, 2020. (File photo: AFP)
Emirati men walk along the empty beachside boulevard of Jumeirah Beach Residence which is usually crowded, in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on March 12, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

New rules of eating

The new year isn't going to be about trying the new superfood on the block, said Coutinho.

Instead, it is going to be about - bio-individuality and personalization.

“It isn't going to be any more about going low carb or high protein. It is going to be about what suits you. Is your body fat-efficient or carb efficient?”

“Everyone is different and we must respect the uniqueness. So many people are so busy trying to copy others, follow trends and fads, and yet are confused about what is working for them. Successful health is about to keep understanding what works for you, and doing that. Stop allowing society and social media to put you in a fixed box when the body is dynamic and unique.”

Be caffeine smart in 2023

Coutinho said 2023 is the year where people should be caffeine smart.

“No food is bad, including caffeine,” he said. “It all depends on the person consuming it, in what quantity, time, and combinations.”

‘Caffeine consumed in the form of coffee or tea has scientifically proven health benefits, but that same beverage can have detrimental effects on your gut, sleep, anxiety, adrenals, and hydration at a cellular level.”

“Avoid consuming it first thing in the morning, never during a fasted state or right after a meal, or close to bedtime, use good quality tea and coffee, and avoid all creamers, sweetening syrups, and refined sugar.”

Also, caffeine users should be mindful of its consumption if they are sensitive to it or feel jittery upon its consumption, said Coutinho.

“Caffeine is medically classified as a stimulant drug, and like any drug, it promotes the secretion of adrenaline from the adrenal glands situated atop the kidneys. Too much of adrenal stimulation can lead to adrenal fatigue, a real problem that so many are already experiencing today.”

Ultimately, Coutinho says it's never to early to embrace healthier habits.

“We have a choice to either start today or January 1st,” he said. “Your body and health don't care about new year's resolutions. It needs care and attention every day.”

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