Thinking about Sleep.

 “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Irish Proverb

Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years, no one had a good answer. 

What we do know is that our body needs sleep to be healthy. Sleep is as necessary to our health as good nutrition and exercise.  We know that sleep impacts our emotional health and behaviour and can influence our choices.  As an educator, the topic of sleep has often been at the forefront. When my students (or my own kids) are NOT getting enough of it, learning is hampered. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, can support learning, processing of information, decision making and problem-solving.

This is why I am often asking, “How are you? How was your sleep?”.  It is rather fun talking about dreams or sharing sleep strategies. One student shared a mindfulness technique that she uses to help her get between the first and second stage of sleep,

“I’m walking on a soft pine needle covered path in a brightly lit forest. I can sense the tingling feeling of the needless on the bottoms of my feet and through my toes.  I wiggle them. I feel the cool air on my skin. I stop and look up and see the sun beaming through the leaves and can hear the trees dancing, making that shhhhhhh…..sound  in the wind….I keep walking…

I do something similar and imagine myself running. I use run as a natural remedy for stress and anxiety, so this works well for me.

I lace up my shoes and step out in front of my house. I think of a familiar route and start slowly. I run to the end of the street and make a right. I notice the house on the corner is still for sale and the cat in the window. I cross the street and head down the zig-zag path toward the waterfront…

I usually drift off before I get to the second kilometre.

While not all used in the order you see them, these slides were a useful tool to engage students in the inquiry and discussion about sleep. Where did it lead?

    • Sleep and the impact on health
    • Sleep and our lifespan
    • How much sleep do we get in our lifetime?
    • What is Melatonin, and why do we need it?
    • What happens to us when we don’t sleep?
    • What factors contribute to a good night’s sleep?
    • Do income and demographics influence our sleep? Why?
    • How do poverty and hunger impact sleep?

Link to the SLIDE DECK:–f9GKM0LL6UrlCBLpTK7LScNtfic/copy



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Resolutions – Finding a new focus – A Year dedicated to a Plant-Based diet


Being Vegan

My top 10 outcomes after one year


On January 1, 2012 I made a typical New Years Resolution – to exercise more and loose weight.  I also decided that I would run a Marathon (although this was pretty far fetched for me!) Like many people do when setting specific goals, I immersed myself in literature, magazines, movies and podcasts – not only for motivation, but to truly understand the science behind nutrition, fitness and health.  During this year, I adopted a vegetarian diet that included fish and dairy. I moderately exercised and I lost weight (about 20 pounds). In October 2012, I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon at a time of 4:26. At the time, I didn’t know that this was only the tip of the iceberg of reaching my potential.


vegan runner

On January 1, 2013, I decided (along with my husband Brad) to try a Vegan diet. This decision came after reading books (to name a few) by Brendan Brazier (Thrive), Scott Jurek (Eat and Run), Christopher McDougall (Born to Run), Rich Roll (Finding Ultra), all which make clear connections between fitness, running and plant-based diets. I stopped focusing on weight loss and decided to become mindful of my food consumption and exercise. No more processed foods, no more refined sugars, no more saturated or trans fats and oils, no more dairy, cheese, eggs or any animal products including fish. I would decrease salt and sugar intake by 90% and I would begin a new exercise regime that included cycling and swimming. Over the following 12 months, I ran three more marathons and a road race. Both Brad and I would improve our marathon times by more than 25 minutes both achieving personal bests. I also lost 20 more pounds.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 7.31.00 PM

There is no doubt that the overall benefits to my health decisions out weight the drawbacks by a million to one. I am  healthier, happier and stronger in every way possible.

The hardest part about becoming a vegan was trying to explain it to other people. In some ways, we became social outcasts with friends, colleagues and even our families.  Our awareness of how much our culture revolves around food became heightened. It was often quite stressful trying to respect the decisions of others knowing the harmful effects – the consequences. (like smoking).  It has been difficult trying to share our new knowledge, experience and understanding of this lifestyle with others without seeming like we are preaching or appearing “above” others in some way. This was/is not our intention.

The science and research is clear: Plant-based, low sodium and low sugar diets will not only enhance one’s daily life, but will increase our lifespan and can not only prevent diseases (including cancer), but can reverse diseases that relate to high blood pressure and cholesterol. Diets that are consistently low in processed foods and high in whole foods can enhance brain function, ability to learn, clarity, happiness and physical fitness not to mention energy levels. This comes not only from research and stories from others but from my own changes which have given me a completely new way of looking at life and a deepened understanding of health and fitness. I strive to model these choices to my own children and to my students. I am convinced more than ever before that Fitness and Nutrition Literacy is the most important learning skill and fluency that we can model and teach our children.

We tell our story at:


#10 Clarity in Thinking about Health Literacy

Deeper understanding and mindfulness of impact that nutrition and fitness has in one’s quality of life. By fully and completely accepting the real and undeniable truth that fitness and nutrition will and can impact every area in life, I have changed how I approach my role as a friend, partner, parent and teacher.

I am sharp and clear about my choices and I stay true to my decisions – those that are based on outcomes, results and research. Together, with Brad, we have changed our thinking about Veganism as ominous or daunting or even as ‘hippy food’, and instead as a focused and mindful lifestyle choice. This has brought us certainty, confidence and the ability to strive for and endure more. No longer are we pressured and lured by a sensation of taste or social pressure, but instead but what we know will impact our well-being and future.

#9 Sound Sleep

With this type of diet, rarely (almost never) do I struggle to sleep (like I once did).  There is less caffeine and sugar in my diet.  There is an level of excitement and satisfaction after getting such sound sleep and the result is beautiful –  clarity and focus and ability to work harder and more efficient each day.

# 8 Positive and stronger Mental Health

My 20’s and 30’s were filled with ups and downs of depression and anxiety. I attribute this to the normal woes of growing up (adult worries, having children, financial struggles, job changes, hormonal). But still, I struggled with self-esteem issues and confidence and worried about pleasing others more than myself.  Adapting a plant-based diet at 40 has dramatically improved my emotional and mental well-being.

I feel happy and content most of the time. I am rarely impacted by hormonal changes and my ability to recognize and manage stress, and balance my life is strong. I believe that educating others about how food and nutrition can impact ones mental health should be a priority.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 7.31.14 PM#7 Cravings and Food Repertoire

At first, I had cravings. I craved cheese, fish, and of course, chocolate – some of my favourite foods and the most difficulty to give up.  After one year in, my cravings did not go away-  they changed. Now I crave foods that are rich in Chlorophyll – kale, artichoke, cucumber, melon, green onions, and green (ginger) smoothies.

My repertoire of all food has grown exponentially.  I eat more kinds of vegetables and legumes – cooked and prepared in more ways then ever before. I have gained tastes for foods that I didn’t know I had.  I enjoy Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian flavours the most and I have found a true love for pizza, panini’s, and pastas – all without the oils, the salt, and the cheese and yet, delicious.

#6 Stronger nails, skin, hair and eyes

I learned a long time ago, that healthy skin and hair is a great determinant of health. It is the last place that the good (or bad) nutrients show themselves.   Since being a Vegan, those calcium spots have disappeared. My skin is clear. My nails are longer, thicker and stronger and with the exception of a few undesirable grey’s, my hair is shiny, smooth, full and grows rapidly. It almost seems magical. No need for expensive creams here.

#5 Overall Health – No bloating, stomach issues, or heartburn – ever

Since being a dedicated vegan,  I have not had a single stomach ache,  heart burn, or nausia (unless I have accidently come in contact with dairy, meats or shell fish). Even when I leave a meal with that “too full” sort of feeling (yes, I still get there), I recover quickly and rarely feel that ‘tired’ feeling that I once experienced after that big meal.

Even with small bouts of illness (common cold, chest infection), I recover fast. Oddly fast. My body and mind is strong and filled with nutrients that provide immunity and vitamins that help not only prevent illness but speed recovery.

#4 Migraine Headaches

My only prescribed medication was for migraine headaches, which have completely disappeared after adopting a plant-based diet.

#3 Weight Loss

While this wasn’t my main focus for 2013, during the last year, I lost 20 more pounds and yet I eat more often and more food then ever before…and I never ever skip breakfast…ever.

#2 Recovery and Repair

My body’s ability to repair itself is another benefit. Prior to living on a solely plant based diet, I endured injury after injury.  While these injuries where minor ones, they still required recovery time, breaks and physical therapy. But, in the last year, my diet caused my body to endure more and last longer resulting in no injuries and allowed me to push myself to new limits. My body’s recovery speed has completely baffled me. After my last two marathons, I was ready and eager to run again after only a couple of days, unlike in the past where I might feel sluggish or tired and required days (or weeks) to recover. I fully attribute this change to my plant-based diet in which is constantly oxygenating and detoxifying my blood and that which is rich in enzymes and high in amino acids and has natural anti-inflammatory agents.

#1 Physical endurance and fitness

I was not expecting to be as physically strong as I have been in the last year, as a Vegan. This was not an outcome that I predicted that would be so explicit and strong. Prior to 2013, I had never run more than 5km’s at one time. I assumed that my journey toward health and fitness would take more time. But in one year, after a complete change in diet, I have run four Marathons and one 30km road race, all without injury and with fast recovery times. It almost seems like magic.

What is next?

2014 :

Continue to focus on nutrition and fitness and continue to educate others about the power that food can (or can’t) have on personal well-being, including in teaching and learning environments. This means a fully plant-based diet. Continue to blog at:

Continue to incorporate this lifestyle into my own philosophy of education, both as a teacher, leader and parent.

I will continue to run. I look forward to the Barcelona Marathon in March and (possibly?) the  New York  Marathon in October. I hope to improve my PB by at least 12 minutes, which will give me a Boston Qualifying time. 

Cross-train to improve swimming and cycling and endeavor to complete a Triathlon (half Ironman) by the end of the year (dare I say).


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