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So You Think Your Child Has a Learning Difficulty? Top 10 Things That You Should Do Next

So You Think Your Child Has a Learning Difficulty? Top 10 Things That You Should Do Next

You’ll always remember the day you brought your bundle of joy home for the first time. Your heart and your head were full of wonderment and delight at this whole new person, all shiny and new and full of the promise of the life he or she would lead and of the person he or she would become.  Brain surgeon, lawyer, artist, writer, comedienne, self-help guru extraordinaire.  All these things were possibilities for the amazing masterpiece you somehow managed to create.  Many parents will remember the first smile, the first step and the first real words uttered as this tiny little person makes his way in life.  There are literally thousands of moments that a parent can look back on with pride as their own little creation moves from baby to toddler to child and even on into adulthood.

But what happens when there is a glitch somewhere along the developmental trajectory? What happens if your little bundle of joy is not sailing through her early childhood development?  What happens when your child’s classmates are ahead in school while your little one struggles in the classroom?  What happens if he does not grow out of it? What happens if your child has a learning difficulty? This is no longer just about school systems or lofty ideals of a pedagogical nature.  This is no longer about medical discussions on brain health you read on some self improvement forum years ago.  This is not about government policy on educational funding you heard about in the news and only half listened to.  This is much closer to home now.  This is your baby we’re talking about.

Learning difficulties and learning disabilities in children can be neurological in origin and can make it very hard for kids in the educational arena as well as in learning new skills in other domains. Having such a difficulty does not just impact on intellectual development, but it can also have negative implications for social and emotional development. However, if you suspect that your child has a learning difficulty and even though this difficulty may be biological in nature, this is not a life sentence. Here are some top tips from educational professionals on some concrete things that you can do to help.

couple talking

    1. Talk to your partner

    Or other relevant family member who has known your child since birth.  Sound out your fears with someone who knows your child well and loves them as much as you do (if that’s possible).  Check out whether or not what you are seeing and worrying about is being noticed by the other carers in your child’s life.  Perspective is everything and you should get more than one.  And while these perspectives may be somewhat biased, they are long term and they reflect your child’s entire history, not just what is happening right now in the classroom or on the playground.

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    teacher and child

      2.Talk to your child’s teacher.

      While you may know your child better than any other person in the world, remember that your child’s teacher has a very unique perspective.  He or she may have as many as 20-30 same age peers to compare your child to.  And while you may not like some of the comparisons, it is useful to have this perspective too.  As parents, we may often compare our child to a sibling three years older or to a cousin whom you see at holidays or to a neighbor’s child who stands out for some reason or another.

      But we very rarely get to be a fly on the wall when our child is standing beside 20-30 kids his age being presented with a whole host of educational, social, moral or even athletic challenges which are pitched at his level.  Indeed, it is very likely that we only know what a child his age is ‘supposed’ to be able to do when he fails to do it and it seems that every other child on the planet did not.

      doctor button

        3.Talk to the experts.

        If you have engaged with your child’s teacher and if you have put in place some extra supports to remediate some difficulties and still your child is struggling, you may need to go one step further. You may need to book an appointment with the special education teacher at your child’s school.  If that is not sufficient, you may need to seek out an educational psychologist for consultation.

        IQ by raiseyourIQ

          4. Get all the facts.

          If you have had consultation with an educational specialist at your child’s school or with an educational psychologist, and still you are unsure of how to best support your child, you may need to go down the formal assessment route.  People think that getting a psycho-educational assessment or IQ testing done is scary, but it is not.  Getting an assessment done is extremely informative and it is not painful in any way, shape or form.

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          Many kids enjoy the assessment process as IQ tests are set up as a series of games and tasks which are broken up into short segments.  Many involve your child looking at puzzles or pictures and figuring out what goes with what or what comes next in a pattern.  Some items are verbal and some are spatial.  Some are tests of memory and some are more related to verbal comprehension or even to understanding of social and moral norms.  The IQ test is usually followed by some tests of attainment which will likely look at your child’s ability to read, write and do arithmetic, but may be restricted to only the area of concern.  But at the end of this testing process, you will find out where your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses lie.  You will find out if they are stronger visual or auditory learners.  You may find out what their spatial skills or receptive and expressive language skills are like.

          Remember that while an IQ score is just a number, it represents a composite of different skill sets that your child presents with and this number is ranked in relation to what would be expected for your child’s age group.  So knowing which areas your child is strong or weak in will enable you to help them to learn better.  In the same vein, knowing that your child’s decoding skills are much weaker or stronger than their reading comprehension skills are will enable you to tailor their literacy support, if indeed that is where the difficulty lies.  At the end of this process, you should also get a whole list of recommendations for what you should do next to best support your child’s needs. So my opinion is that this process is an empowering one, not a limiting one.

          man doing research on IQ

            5. Do your own research, but only use informed scientific sources.

            Your psychologist will often refer you to certain websites or literature based on the outcomes of the assessment.  So you may be looking at books on general intellectual difficulties or developmental disabilities.  Alternately, you may need to make contact with your local Dyslexia Association or other specific learning difficulty experts.  But the point is that you should only use informed scientific sources.  Googling your child’s diagnosis is fine, but there is no “weed out” process on people’s blogs and some of the stuff online is downright scary and often incorrect.

            Many other sites online may be aiming to sell you something and you need to be very careful to not get sucked in to hoaxes and promises of cures by pseudo-scientific self help gurus selling snake oil about improving your brain health without having any scientific support for their methods or products.  So do your research, but be careful. There are very real and powerful scientific innovations which can help your child to make progress.  Just make sure you can separate the scientists from the charlatans.

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            friends talking about IQ

              6. Talk to your friends for support, but remember, most of them are not clinicians.

              If your child has a genuine learning difficulty– whether that be related to, for example, weak general language comprehension, lower than average overall intellectual skills or a specific learning difficulty in some area of attainment—she will not grow out of it and it is not a phase.  No amount of hugs and love or equine therapy will make a learning difficulty disappear.

              That is of course, not to say that you don’t give plenty of hugs and love and have pets if you so choose, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people try to make their friends feel better by telling them that their child’s learning difficulty is not real or that the child will grow out of it.  Certainly the quality of education matters significantly, but without targeted intervention, there may be skills that your child will not learn incidentally.  So while you should always seek the emotional support of your friends and loved ones, please remember that most of them are not clinicians, specialist teachers or psychologists.  So do not let them make you feel guilty for accessing appropriate intervention and do not let them talk you into bizarre and unscientific strategies for “fixing” your child.

                7. Do not panic.

                There are hundreds of thousands of people walking around, leading meaningful lives, while having some level of learning difficulty.  Some of them may have borderline intellectual impairments.  Others may have severe reading or spelling difficulties.  Others may have social skills or working memory deficits.  But the fact of the matter is that many of them continue to go undiagnosed and many around them will never know the difference.  However, the damage that can be done to a person’s sense of self worth or self efficacy by thinking they are stupid is infinitely worse than knowing they have a language difficulty or a reading difficulty and importantly knowing that there is help out there. So don’t panic.  Get your facts straight first and then decide what you need to do next.

                woman planning

                  8. Come up with a plan of action.  

                  Once you have determined the nature of the difficulty, it is time to come up with a plan.  This plan of action should be informed by the teachers and by the educational psychologist.  The plan should identify your child’s areas of strength and weakness.  It should identify tangible goals and realistic time frames for meeting them.  It should contain concrete strategies for attaining those goals and these strategies should be evidence based.  So if it is Dyslexia support group or a brain training course you are sending your child on, make sure the strategy is evidence based, put it into your plan and make sure that it is consistent with the overall goals of the plan.  This plan should then be reviewed at regular intervals to determine which strategies are effective and which need to be amended/improved.

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                  teacher providing learning support

                    9. Get learning support.

                    Most modern schools have some level of learning support available within the school system.  So you may need to see a reading or a mathematics specialist teacher at the school.  You may also need to access various professional therapies like speech and language therapy if your child’s difficulty is related to weak expressive or receptive language difficulties.  You may have to see an occupational therapist if your child has some difficulties with fine or gross motor co-ordination.  You may need to seek follow-up support with an educational or clinical psychologist if your child has not yet acquired age appropriate social skills or emotional regulation skills.

                    picking peaches

                      10. Love your child anyway.

                      Irrespective of whether or not your child winds up with a diagnosis.  Irrespective of whether or not your child has a general learning difficulty, a specific learning difficulty or is just a little bit behind in some area of academic or social and emotional/development.  This is still your baby.  This is still the same bundle of joy that you first brought home and loved with all your heart and protected with with all your might.  So your expectations may have changed somewhat.

                      Well, I suspect you know by know that that was going to happen anyway, no matter where you live or who you are.  Life is never quite the way we imagined.  It is much more difficult, much less Hollywood, and infinitely more interesting and exciting than our parents ever told us about.

                      Featured photo credit: Shannon O’Brien via shannonrosephotography.weebly.com

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                      Last Updated on March 30, 2020

                      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

                      Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

                      Feeling tired all the time?

                      Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

                      I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

                      Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

                      If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

                      In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

                      What Happens When You’re Too Tired

                      If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

                      Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

                      • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
                      • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
                      • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
                      • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
                      • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
                      • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
                      • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

                      Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

                      Unfortunately, yes!

                      Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

                      Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

                      Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

                      Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

                      Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

                      Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

                      1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
                      2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
                      3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

                      The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

                      It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

                      Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

                      Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

                      If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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                      Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

                      Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

                      But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

                      Symptoms of fatigue include:

                      • Difficulty concentrating
                      • Low stamina
                      • Difficulty sleeping
                      • Anxiety
                      • Low motivation

                      These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

                      Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

                      How Much Sleep Is Enough?

                      The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

                      Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

                      So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

                      The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

                      Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

                      Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

                      If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

                      And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

                      It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

                      4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

                      Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

                      1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
                      2. Exercising regularly
                      3. Using stressbusters
                      4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

                      So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

                      After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

                      In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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                      I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

                      Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

                      • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
                      • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
                      • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
                      • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

                      The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

                      And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

                      But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

                      L — Living Healthy

                      Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

                      So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

                      In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

                      As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

                      Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

                      1. Unplug

                      Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

                      So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

                      2. Unwind

                      Do something to relax.

                      Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

                      3. Get Comfortable

                      Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

                      Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

                      Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

                      Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

                      If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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                      Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

                      This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

                      E — Exercise

                      Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

                      That’s what happened in my case.

                      But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

                      As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

                      My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

                      That made sense to me.

                      So, I decided to swim.

                      I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

                      Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

                      Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

                      So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

                      If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

                      A — Attitude

                      Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

                      When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

                      Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

                      Breathing.

                      But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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                      Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

                      1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
                      2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
                      3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
                      4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
                      5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
                      6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

                      This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

                      When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

                      Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

                      N — Nutrition

                      Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

                      If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

                      Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

                      For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

                      Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

                      Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

                      1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
                      2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
                      3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
                      4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
                      5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
                      6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
                      7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
                      8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
                      9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

                      Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

                      That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

                      Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

                      The Bottom Line

                      If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

                      If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

                      If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

                      • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
                      • Regular Exercise You Love
                      • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
                      • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

                      Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

                      More Tips to Help You Rest Better

                      Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
                      [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
                      [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
                      [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
                      [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
                      [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
                      [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
                      [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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