Don’t Let Pregnancy Deprive You: 6 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

When it comes to pregnancy and sleep, it’s safe to say you’re fighting an uphill battle. During the first trimester pregnant women are faced with ridiculous hormones causing the worst fatigue they’ve felt in their entire life, and once the baby starts moving, they can forget about sleeping soundly any time soon. As bellies continue to grow, it just gets worse and worse.

If you feel like your lack of sleep is just a mean joke to prepare you for when your baby arrives, think again. There are actually plenty of ways to improve your quality of sleep naturally, keeping you and your baby healthy and happy.

Avoid Light

It is no secret that light inhibits melatonin production, making it harder to sleep. You should create an environment that blocks out all of the light so you have the highest odds of actually sleeping (blackout curtains are worth every penny). For those multiple-times-per-night pee breaks, suggests the use of a dim night-light to avoid having to expose yourself to full lights that may wake your body up.

Drink Water Early

You know that you have to drink a lot of water while you are pregnant, and you also know that when you do this you have to pee every five minutes (or so it feels like). To help yourself sleep for longer stretches, try to drink the majority of the water your body needs in the morning and afternoon.


As your belly grows, every body part is affected, especially your legs. Restless leg syndrome is very real during pregnancy, and so are leg cramps. If you stretch before hitting the sack, these problems may be eliminated or at least lessened.

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

When you are trying to get comfortable at night, it all comes down to how many pillows you have. suggests getting a pillow to rest underneath your stomach when lying on your side (the only way you can rest once your stomach reaches a certain diameter). Place another one between your knees, and another behind your back. If this seems like too many pillows to try to coordinate every time you switch sides, you can always get a body pillow or pregnancy pillow.

Get a New Mattress

Still not comfortable? Maybe your mattress is to blame. It would be a wise investment to get a high-quality mattress that will conform to every curve of your body. If you can’t afford a new mattress, you can always look for a topper mattress for any size bed. If your significant other enjoys your firm mattress and you need a soft one, just look for a nice twin-size topper to keep you both happy.

Watch What You Eat

It is true that you are eating for two, but you are also eating to keep your body happy. Heartburn is another culprit when it comes to lack of sleep. To help eliminate it, suggests that you do not eat for 2-3 hours before bed — unless you suffer from morning sickness — to give your stomach time to digest the food. You should also avoid spicy, acidic or high-fat foods if heartburn is an issue.

Slumber Tricks: 8 Ways to Catch Better Z's

Your need for an afternoon pick-me-up in the form of a strong espresso may be the result of a lack of sleep the night prior, yet ironically, that afternoon jolt of caffeine is what hinders you from falling asleep later. The National Sleep Foundation reports that more than 20 percent of adults have difficulty concentrating on tasks due to sleep deprivation. If you’re having a hard time focusing on your work or struggle not to nod-off during a drive, read these eight tips to get you out of the Starbuck’s drive-thru and into a restful slumber.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol will put you to sleep for a short time, but leave you sleepless a few hours later. Caffeine’s effects last long after you consume, meaning even your afternoon latte could prevent you from getting enough shuteye come nightfall. If you can’t avoid these, at least avoid them in the evening whenever possible.

Reserve Your Room for ‘SoS’

Sleep or sex. These are the only things you should be doing in your bedroom if you want it to be a restful. Remove the television, ban the laptop and resist using cell phones as alarm clocks if you can’t fight the urge to stay off of them.

Create a Blackout

Darkness promotes good sleep, so invest in curtains that create a blackout effect so you aren’t forced to drift off to the sight of the neighbor’s high-wattage Christmas decorations or wake as soon as the sun slivers over the horizon. Keep lights off at night and shut your bedroom door so no other light can be seen.

Prepare Your Bed for Sleep

Having a comfortable mattress and bedding are key to sleeping well. You can check out dozens of mattress options online to find the one that best fits your personal needs. For bedding, go feel the different fibers of sheets such as Egyptian cotton, cotton-polyester blends, jersey and silk. New pillows — less than two years old — are essential since they offer more support and won’t contain allergens that can be found in used ones.

Don’t Save Exercise for Last

Getting your exercise done by 7 p.m., presuming you don’t go to bed before 10 p.m., will sufficiently tire you so you can sleep soundly. Just remember to avoid exercising within two hours of sleeping or else your “workout high” will interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

Get a Good Soak

A leisurely bath will soothe your tired muscles and help lower your temperature, which will tell your body that it’s time for bed. Add a drop or two of lavender oil for added relaxation.

Eat a Protein-Rich Snack

Enjoy a piece of lunch meat and slice of cheese or a glass of milk and some nuts to give your body some sleep-inducing protein. One of the amino acids in milk promotes the production of melatonin and serotonin, two hormones that are needed to get high-quality sleep.

Get there by 10, No Excuses!

Psychology Today notes that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, believe that the two hours between 10 p.m. and midnight are the most valuable and one of these hours is equal to two hours of sleep later in the night.

Pick a few of these tips to start with and follow them regularly. As you have time, add in more until you feel like you’re getting the amazing sleep your body so desperately craves.

Tomato Leaf Blights: The Bane of the Tomato Grower

by Brian Hudelson, Senior Outreach Specialist and Director University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic

If you have ever grown tomatoes, you may have had your plants dry up and lose their leaves beginning in mid-summer. You are left with the tomato equivalent of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, with a few tomato “ornaments” clinging to bare branches and stems. If this has happened to you, you have personal experience with one of the fungal tomato leaf blights.

Common tomato leaf blights include Septoria leaf spot and early blight. These diseases first appear on lower leaves. Septoria leaf spot begins as necrotic (i.e., dead) spots that are roughly ¼ inch in diameter and have a light-colored center, a dark edge, and sometimes a yellow halo. Early blight forms larger necrotic spots (up to approximately 1 inch in diameter), with concentric rings, giving the spots a target-like look. Spots of both Septoria leaf spot and early blight subsequently merge, causing leaves to collapse and plants to eventually defoliate.

Tomato leaf blights typically occur every summer but are more common during rainy seasons or in gardens where plants are watered with overhead sprinklers. Moisture provided by rain and overhead watering wets leaves and provides the perfect environment for infections to occur.

The best strategies for managing tomato leaf blights are preventative ones. Once symptoms are present, management options are limited. To help reduce the impact of tomato leaf blights:

• Remove old tomato debris
Leaf blight fungi survive in dead tomato tissue (and potato tissue as well). Removing and destroying last year’s plants will reduce the amount of tomato blight fungi in your garden. Debris can be buried, burned, or composted. When composting, the pile temperature must reach 140°F or more, and the pile contents must be turned routinely so that the pile heats evenly. The combination of heat and decay of plant tissue helps eliminate disease-causing fungi.

• Decontaminate items used in your garden
Bits of tomato debris harboring leaf blight fungi can cling to tomato cages, stakes or other items that you use when gardening. A thirty second or longer treatment of these items with 10 percent bleach or 70 percent alcohol can help kill these fungi. Spray disinfectants containing approximately 70 percent alcohol also can be used. Spray items until they drip and then allow them to air dry.

• Use leaf blight resistant tomatoes
While resistant varieties are available and an option for management, such varieties are not common, and oftentimes have bland-tasting fruit.

Septoria leaf spot is a common leaf disease that can defoliate tomato plants.

• Space tomatoes plants appropriately
Plants should be spaced so that at their mature size, leaves on adjacent plants do not overlap. Providing sufficient space allows good air flow between plants that can reduce drying time when leaves get wet.

• Mulch
Use approximately 1 inch of a high-quality mulch over this year’s and last year’s tomato-growing areas. Mulch provides a physical barrier that prevents spores of leaf blight fungi from blowing or splashing from small bits of tomato debris in the soil onto this year’s tomato plants. When mulching, avoid using old tomato or potato debris, wood chip mulches of unknown composition, or grass clippings from herbicide-treated lawns, as these materials can lead to disease issues or problems with chemical toxicities.

• Thin plants
Like proper plant spacing (see above), removing lower leaves (as well as branches here and there) as tomato plants grow can help promote better air flow and more rapid leaf drying, thus leading to a less favorable environment for infections to occur.

• Do not overhead water
Use a soaker or drip hose instead. These hoses apply water directly to the soil and help keep leaves dry.

• Use preventative fungicide sprays
Use this option only when you have had a leaf blight problem for many years and other control strategies have failed. In home gardens, fungicides labeled for use on tomatoes and containing copper are the products of choice. Applications must be started before symptoms are observed, and continued approximately every seven to fourteen days. Uniform coverage of upper and lower leaf surfaces and stems is critical for fungicides to be effective.

• Buy your tomatoes
As much as you like growing tomatoes, sometimes when leaf blights are chronic and severe, your best option may be to simply forgo the frustration of battling disease, and find local fresh market growers whom you can support by buying their produce.

Having problems with tomato leaf blights (or any other plant diseases)?  Consider submitting a sample to the UW-Madison/Extension Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) for a diagnosis. Details on sample submission are available through your county UW-Extension office, at, by calling 608-262-2863 or by emailing

Meet Your Friendly Farmers

Grampa Glenn’s Organic Strawberries

1. How and when did you get involved in farming?
After military service, college, and six years working for the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis, Glenn knew being inside all day was not for him. We purchased a run-down dairy farm near Glenn’s home town, worked up to 400 acres of crop land and as many as 80 milking cows. After twenty-five years, we sold the cows (that was NOT a sad day!) and Glenn worked as a civilian employee at Fort McCoy for seven years, retiring in 2006. In 1998 Glenn decided that it was time to cease using chemicals on our cropland, and we qualified for certified organic status a couple years later. We sold a lot of our cropland but retained about 60 acres for soybeans, corn—this year it’s winter wheat—and 2.5 acres for strawberries.

2. What are some of your biggest challenges and how do you approach them?
Our biggest challenge as certified organic farmers: weeds! We don’t use sprays/pesticides, so it takes old-fashioned elbow grease to get those guys out of the ground! Glenn spends hours on his hands and knees pulling weeds from the strawberries. There is proof we are organic when you look down some of the rows! We’ve also had problems with the tarnished plant beetle/lygus bug. That nasty little guy burrows into the blossoms and causes stunted berries, not appealing to look at or eat! This year Glenn has put white stakes throughout the rows and spread Tanglefoot on them. The white color attracts the bug, and they get stuck to the stake!

3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area?
We are one of the few growers in Wisconsin that offer certified organic strawberries. Glenn’s family grew strawberries when he was a boy, and he was frustrated that berries we purchased didn’t have the same flavor. Though we can’t say that certified organic strawberries taste better than conventional ones, our repeat customers all talk positively about the delicious flavor of Grandpa Glenn’s berries. We are open for U-Pick customers dawn to dusk during the season and especially enjoy having families come. There is lots of room for the kids to run. We have quart boxes or you may bring your own containers.

4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products?
We are not a CSA. Grandpa Glenn’s berries can be purchased at Just Local Foods in Eau Claire anytime and in the Indianhead parking lot (by Rogan’s Shoes) weekdays and Saturday 11 to 2.

5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when?
YES! We welcome people to come and pick their own berries. You may have to fight with some weeds (Grandpa Glenn is working hard to eliminate them and can prove it by the calluses on his knees!). We enjoy seeing our repeat customers and hearing their stories about eating/freezing/canning berries. Probably our favorite story is about the little boy who loved his grandma’s strawberry jam but developed a reaction to chemicals and couldn’t eat conventional berries. His grandpa “discovered” our berries and purchased some so that his grandson could once again enjoy his grandma’s jam. Many of our customers say their kids hadn’t eaten fresh strawberries because they didn’t want them ingesting the chemicals. We are proud of our berries and suggest you come and sample some before you buy. We encourage pickers to sample as they pick. Our berries are “fertilized” with God’s rain and sunshine. Taste and see that The LORD is good.

Sunbow Farm

1. How and when did you get involved in farming?
I grew up gardening with my family, which sparked my interest in plants and led me, eventually, to a PhD in plant ecology. I got involved in farming in 2003 when my husband and I purchased the farm. In fact the day we came to look at the farm and were deciding whether to buy or not, a gorgeous sunset set in the west and to the east a double rainbow framed the farm! That was the sign we needed to move forward. Originally we planned to farm it out, however, one thing led to another and that winter we stepped up and advertised the CSA. The following spring we were growing and supplying beautiful organic produce to twenty members. Now in our tenth year, we have over fifty families that participate. While I love most parts of the farm, my favorite part of the CSA is that our members come to help on the farm. Our mission is to connect people to the land and each other. Working together to raise the crops cultivates not just great food but great friends. Also because we are just a CSA farm all our produce goes to our members and nothing is wasted!

2. What are some of your biggest challenges & how do you approach them?
Now that we are in our tenth year we are past the “beginner’s challenges” that we faced in the early years. Our biggest challenge now is the uncertainty of what each year will bring. Each year brings a new test. Last year it was cutworms, this year it’s flea beetles. Last year we had an early spring, and this year … well, it was a slow start. Acceptance of what is, is how we approach this. There’s always going to be more than you can do, so you just do your best each day. Having members who participate and understand is key. Together we share the bounty and together we share the dearth.

3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area?
One thing that makes Sunbow Farm unique is our commitment to member support. We offer a family-friendly, educational atmosphere where families can learn about and participate in organic food production. Another unique aspect to Sunbow is the herbal component which is in its third year. We grow over fifty different medicinal herbs: 25 percent wild-crafted, 75 percent cultivated, all certified organic. We produce over fifty different medicinal herbal products that are made on site in our state-licensed commercial kitchen and sell these directly to people through our farm memberships and at six stores throughout Wisconsin. We also offer a monthly seminar series and herbal plant walks. In addition to all of the plants, we raise 100 percent grass-fed lamb. I consider myself a plant person, but once I began farming, I very quickly realized it is difficult to maintain soil fertility without animals and their composted manure. Having animals adds a richness to the experience … literally and figuratively!

4. Can people visit your farm? If so, when?
Yes! Folks are always welcome to come and visit the farm. We are open to the public but please phone first: 715-379-7284. Please visit our website for more information:

Breezy Knoll Farm

1. How and when did you get involved in farming?
We purchased our farm in 2009. Bill had dreamed of being a farmer as a child but until now had not had an opportunity to make his dream come true. While pondering what we could grow, Judy attended the Beginning Market Gardening class at UW-Madison, and community supported agriculture was right in line with her and Bill’s social/political leanings. Both Bill and Judy have years of gardening experience, and Bill studied horticulture in college. It is sad to see so many family farms disappearing from Wisconsin and equally tragic is seeing our neighbors near and far eating food grown with herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals being trucked to supermarkets from thousands of miles away. Community supported agriculture addresses these issues as well as gives people a sense of stewardship over the land. Our CSA members are members not customers.

2. What are some of your biggest challenges and how do you approach them?
Our biggest challenge has been finding help. We believe anyone we hire should be paid a living wage, but Bill and I have limited resources. We have seen the demand for our naturally grown produce triple in the past year and we would love to expand to meet the current as well as future predicted growth. More and more people are becoming conscious of what they eat and how it is produced and want to support local agriculture.

3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area?
We are a community-supported agriculture farm. People purchase shares of the harvest in the spring, providing us with needed funds to plant. As CSA members, they are buying their food locally and helping to create a sustainable food supply here in the Chippewa Valley region. Members understand that there are inherent risks in farming that may affect the availability of products. They learn to eat seasonally and to try different vegetables. We grow our produce naturally with no herbicides or pesticides and use sustainable farming methods. Our produce is what I call “handcrafted with love.”  CSA members receive a ¾ bushel box of just picked, clean vegetables and herbs every week at a pick-up site convenient to them. Included with each box is a newsletter with recipes and farm news.

4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products?
Go to our website:

5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when?
Certainly! Sunday afternoons work best for us. Please call ahead so I can put our four dogs in the house.

Sylvan Hills

1. How and when did you get involved in farming?
We have both gardened all our lives. We bought the farm in 2000 and began Sylvan Hills in 2003 with our first farm market in Eau Claire. We have continued since then with the CSA and also a few grocery sales in addition to 2 farm markets in the twin cities and new this year we will be at Menomonies Farmers Market.

2. What are some of your biggest challenges & how do you approach them?
Our biggest challenge is having enough help at the critical time when things are ready to go. For example, garlic harvest requires many people to help clean the garlic. On our own, this can take a couple of weeks with no time for anything else.

3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area?
Unique offerings that are vine ripened, fresh picked, and delivered twenty-four hours within picking the produce. We grow over ninety varieties, many of them heirloom and traditional. We also have watermelons and strawberries. Work shares are available. We contribute produce regularly to local food shelves.

4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products?
People may become members of Sylvan Hills CSA. We limit it to fifty members. Our carrots, garlic, and other miscellaneous produce is delivered to three coops: Menomonie Market Coop and both Mississippi Markets in St. Paul.

5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when?
Yes, members may visit the farm for two events. These include the Garlic Harvests to help clean the garlic, which occur the following Sunday after the 4th of July and two weeks later. The Harvest Bounty Feast is a gathering of CSA members for dinner on the farm, where we enjoy ratatouille and salads with grilled vegetarian and additional pork brats and beef burgers locally raised. Other customers may arrange for a visit at least a month in advance by contacting us via our website at We plan to have open house in May beginning next year (2014).

Do you support local agriculture (market farms and/or CSA)? We’d love to hear from you and ask you a few questions. Email

Welcome to the World of Germs

by Heather Rothbauer Wanish

When a baby comes into the world, many new mothers and family members try to prohibit anything dangerous from reaching the new baby. In addition, most people don’t want a new baby to get sick or be exposed to a wide variety of germs and illnesses. However, did you know that germs can be a good thing? In fact, being exposed to germs may lead to a healthier lifestyle for both babies and adults.

Since 1989, there has been something called the “hygiene hypothesis,” a proposal that an increase in certain conditions, such as asthma and other inflammatory diseases, is due to a reduced exposure to bacteria, germs, and other microbes. Exposure to germs starts at a young age, including during the birthing process. According to Time Magazine Health and Family, babies born vaginally are exposed to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens as they pass through the birth canal. These bacteria are swallowed by the newborn as they are being born; the bacteria travel through the stomach and colonize the upper and lower intestine. This exposure serves as a sort of immunization against germs and other bugs they may encounter as their developing immune system adjusts to their new environment.

When the babies pass through the birth canal, they are able to pick up the microbial content of their mother’s gut. Science News reported that babies born vaginally were colonized predominantly by Lactobacillus, microbes that aid in milk digestion. After childbirth, the baby’s immune system begins to distinguish between good and bad bacteria in the microbial world, leading to attacks on harmful bugs while leaving beneficial ones alone.

While babies delivered vaginally have an advantage by receiving these “good” germs, babies that are delivered by Cesarean section may be missing out on this valuable part of the birth process. According to Time Magazine Health and Family, those babies born via c-section have fewer colonies of Escherichia and Shigella bacteria. These types of bacteria are critical to forming the newborn’s immune system. Several studies have shown that babies born via c-section may be more likely to develop allergies, asthma, and other immune system-related conditions than babies born vaginally.

After the baby is born, there are other ways the new mother can help provide good bacteria to her child. As many studies have illustrated, breast milk is optimal for both babies and mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the baby’s life. A mother’s milk can help protect the baby from infections and reduce health problems later in life.

So, what is in a mother’s breast milk that makes it the ultimate source of nutrition? The following information from the American Pregnancy Association showcases the primary benefits of breast milk:

• Lactoferrin inhibits the growth of iron-dependent bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This inhibits certain organisms, such as coliforms and yeast, that require iron.

• Secretory IgA also works to protect the infant from viruses and bacteria, specifically those that the baby, mom, and family are exposed to. It also helps to protect against E. Coli and possibly allergies. Other immunoglobulins, including IgG and IgM, in breast milk also help protect against bacterial and viral infections. Eating fish can help increase the amount of these proteins in your breast milk.

• Lysozyme is an enzyme that protects the infant against E. Coli and Salmonella. It also promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora and has anti-inflammatory functions.

• Bifidus factor supports the growth of lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a beneficial bacteria that protects the baby against harmful bacteria by creating an acidic environment where it cannot survive.

Breast milk carries important proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates that all promote the overall health of your baby. As children get older, and even as adults, germs are still important.

For most families, much time and energy is focused on staying germ-free. However, research has shown that early exposure to germs may offer a greater protection from illnesses later in life. According to WebMD, children with older siblings, those who grew up on a farm, or those that attended daycare from an early time tend to show lower rates of allergies. Young immune systems are even strengthened by exposure to everyday germs so that the system can learn to adapt and regulate itself.
In today’s environment, most germs are harmless and have been with us for many years. However, because of human behavioral changes over the past fifty years, many microbes, especially those that are good, are disappearing. While parents are definitely encouraged to keep their children and families healthy, a balance is always necessary. When trying to keep children’s environment germ-free, it is important to utilize common sense.

While it seems to be a common parental understanding that children should be kept clean, neat, and dirt-free, new research is showing that this may not be the best avenue for future health. There is no need to obsess over being completely germ-free, as it may actually be detrimental to your child’s health. Supporting the right amount of germs and bacteria can result in a variety of healthy benefits, including fewer ear infections, urinary-tract infections, and food allergies. Allowing kids to get dirty and to be exposed to germs is a good thing. At the end of the day, it is okay for kids to be kids.