Jenna Blasi’s interest in natural medicine was sparked by an unlikely source: her college theater department. “We had no understudies for our performances, so if you were an actor, you could never get sick!” she remembers. “Our teachers would tell us about what vitamins to take, proper nutrition, and getting enough sleep, and I started to see a real change.” Inspired, Blasi sought out a naturopathic doctor to help with other issues, and experienced firsthand how “healthy living can change your life.” Today, Blasi is a naturopathic doctor herself, following years of education, clinical training, and a rotation as Senior Resident in Integrative Medicine at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. In addition to overseeing her own practice in Sedona, Arizona, the doctor works with guests of the Mii amo destination spa, leading sessions in nutrition, fitness, and “Good Sleep.” We caught up with the doc after a Red Rocks hike for her thoughts on sleep, stress, and “the mind dump.”
OSM: What stress or sleep issues are common with your patients?
JB: I see an alarmingly large number of people who don’t sleep well—who never feel refreshed when they wake up. There are different reasons for sleep issues, so it’s important to do a thorough diagnosis to rule out medical issues like sleep apnea. I ask things like, do they have trouble falling or staying asleep? Are they on any medications that might affect sleep? Was the insomnia triggered by something in their life, like a new job or a loss?
In general, though, today’s lifestyle is just not conducive to well-being—it’s a non-stop, Type A, work-driven life, and people do not take enough time to relax. With the constant connections we have, no one is shutting off, and our diets are getting further away from “real food.” Although we are living longer, I think our quality of living is decreased; there are many ailments that are now considered “normal” because they are so common, but we don’t have to live that way—it can be so much better!
OSM: What are some of the things you talk about in Mii amo’s “Good Sleep” sessions?
JB: Achieving quality sleep can involve lots of different components, so we look at things like a person’s weight (abdominal fat can lead to sleep issues), diet, and exercise routines. Do they drink caffeine and alcohol—and if so, at what time of the day? Even two glasses of alcohol can interfere with sleep, as it disturbs the liver and can cause you to wake-up in the early morning. And exercising is great, but not if done too close to bedtime. We also talk about meditation techniques, herbal supplements, and how to set up the bedroom for good sleep.
OSM: What are some of your top sleep tips?
JB: First, try going to bed earlier—some studies show the best sleep is achieved before midnight—and aim for a good seven-and-a-half to eight hours. Ideally, it’s good to eat dinner at least three hours before bed, and to make it a lighter meal so digestion isn’t troubled.
If you can’t shut off your mind, keep a notebook by the bed to write down everything that’s bothering you—I call it “the mind dump.” After getting all that out, next write down the things you are thankful for—have an “attitude of gratitude”—so that you are in that positive frame of mind when you enter sleep. Another technique is to try and book-end sleep with quiet time: Stop checking email, studying, or working one-to-two hours before bed, and in the morning, try for 10 or 15 minutes of quiet to prepare for the day.
It’s also key to prepare your space for good sleep, We are so attached to technology that the bedroom needs to be a safe haven. Keep rooms dark to encourage the natural production of melatonin—don’t put an alarm clock next to your head, and turn it so you can’t see the LED light. If you have to have a TV, be careful of what you watch before bedtime—avoid anything disturbing or stimulating, like the news! Try having “unplugged” time for a week and see how you feel. miiamo.com