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Buffalo shop owner links sleep to good health

Nearly one in three Americans don’t get the recommended amount of nightly sleep – 7 to 9 hours for adults. The University at Buffalo ranks ninth in nation when it comes to sleep-deprived colleges. Women who sleep less than five hours a night have a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese and are five times more likely to develop dementia.

Poor sleep can impact chronic conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, fibromyalgia and depression.

These are among the eye-opening statistics Soda Kuczkowski has shared with others in health settings and at workshops in Western New York for more than a decade.

Kuczkowski, 40, a native of the Delaware District in Buffalo, walked into the sleep field almost a dozen years ago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and marketing from UB and a master’s in educational leadership and administration at Niagara University. She and her husband, Andrew, live in Depew and have a daughter, Ryan.

Kuczkowski calls herself a “sleep enthusiast.” She holds several certifications in sleep education and sleep health consultation for those across all ages, including women who are pregnant or families with children. She continues to consult with the East Amherst-based Sleep & Wellness Centers – where she worked in several roles for a decade – and serves in business development with UBMD Internal Medicine.

Earlier this year, she opened her own business, Start With Sleep, at 1211 Hertel Ave.

“I consider this an education resource center,” she said. “What I’m trying to do here is integrative sleep, connect all of the dots. There’s a lot of information out there but the information isn’t coming together in a way for people to put it practical use and resonate with what changes people can make.”

Q. You can connect your customers to a doctor, but many might not have to take that route, right?

There is a list of between 70 and 100 sleep disorders. The majority of them have to do with behavior. Sleep medicine deals primarily with sleep apnea. But it’s lack of sleep which is not addressed in the traditional sleep model, and that’s what the Centers for Disease Control declared a public epidemic back in 2014.

Q. Talk about your shop. What are the top products and services?

My mini-consultations. They’re $15. People come in and we have a conversation about their sleep challenges. We can decide whether behavior modifications need to be made or if it’s something that needs further evaluation with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist. My top products are magnesium chloride oil ($15), which comes in its purest form. This is among products that are stepping stones that inspire healthier changes. We have a product called Breathe Balm, that works as a natural vapor. I have all of these custom-made, so you can’t get them anywhere else. I have blue blocker glasses ($15) that block the blue light from computers, televisions, tablets before you go to sleep so you feel more relaxed because it’s helping produce melatonin naturally. You can wear them for an hour or two at night. It’s not about making all of these changes at once. You want to take one step at a time.

Q. Why don’t people sleep well?

Fatigue is the No. 1 symptom for any number of things. People don’t sleep well because of day-to-day lifestyle choices, their bedtime habits, their sleep routine. I talk to people, and it’s amazing how quickly they will see the red flags if they write things down, or you’re discussing or asking questions. They don’t realize the role that light plays in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Getting enough natural light in the morning and afternoon, and making sure you’re limiting artificial light, can go a long way in getting you to a place where you’re ready to relax and unwind and go to sleep at night.

Q. Who is most at risk for sleep challenges?

Sleep is most important for children, says "sleep enthusiast" Soda Kuczkowski, pictured with her husband, Andrew, and their daughter, Ryan, 2.

Sleep is most important for children, says "sleep enthusiast" Soda Kuczkowski, pictured with her husband, Andrew, and their daughter, Ryan, 2.

Sleep affects everybody. Everybody needs sleep. But I would say it’s important for our youth. As parents, we are the role models for sleep. Seventy percent of the growth hormone is developed while a child sleeps, so it’s important that they’re getting the recommended amount of sleep. It’s for a reason.

Q. What tend to be healthy sleep habits?

Regulation of artificial and natural light. Being in a cool, dark environment. Making sure that you’re blocking out light. Recognizing that falling asleep with the TV on is a big no-no. It’s partly because of the blue light – even when our eyelids are closed, we still filter light – but it has more to do with noise. Even though sleep is one of the most restorative function of the body, our brain is the most active when we sleep. That’s when we clear out those neurotoxins, so it’s very important that we go through all several sleep stages.

Sleep is such a broad topic. It affects everyone in different ways. There’s hormonal imbalance. Nutrition deficiency is a huge one. Upward of 80 percent of the population is magnesium deficient and magnesium helps sleep. Having a plant by your bedside helps. I’ve done a workshop on the best plants. NASA came out with a study. There’s a list of 13. The one I tell people is put aloe vera next to your bed. It emits extra amounts of oxygen at night and if you have sleep apnea, what a great plant to have in your bedroom.

Q. Does what you eat and when you eating have anything to do with sleep?

Oh yeah. I do a whole presentation on foods that promote and hinder sleep. Sweet potatoes or a Kashi cereal work if you’re a late-night snacker. Cherries and tart cherry juice have a natural source of melatonin. You want to avoid things like spicy foods because when we sleep, our digestion system is at work.

Q. Are most sleeping issues treatable without medication or C-PAP?

Most sleep disorders, regardless of whether they’re behavioral or medical, have a behavioral component to them. Even if it’s insomnia and a doctor recommends sleep aids, they will change it from 10 to 5 milligrams and you can only have it for 30 days before they re-evaluate. They might send you to a sleep study. It all comes down to a behavior. It’s still about keeping a consistent sleep routine, a consistent sleep plan, and the things you do throughout the day that affect your nightly sleep.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon


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