I'm sorry we broke up this morning.
I want you back.
Have you heard the joke about sleep? I finally got 8 hours. It took me 2 days, but whatever! Cute, but sleep is no joking matter. Sleep is foundational, essential ... and often elusive. Especially for women (lucky us!). Add stress and anxiety to the mix and it feels like we're navigating a sleep-deficit minefield. In honor of National Sleep Awareness Week which begins March 14 - the start of daylight savings time (when we lose an hour of sleep) - we're turning the blog over to our mind/body expert Michelle for a deep dive into this important subject.
We all know what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night tossing and turning, or to not be able to fall asleep at all. Thoughts boomerang off the walls. Some of us suffer from not getting enough sleep, while others complain about the quality of their sleep, or (yikes!) both.
Insomnia is defined as anything less than 7 hours - out of 24 - or an inability to initiate or maintain sleep. That includes the dreaded early morning waking. Since 1985 the percentage of adults sleeping less than 6 hours per night has nearly doubled, a statistic the CDC considers to be a public health epidemic. This has far reaching health implications including higher rates of cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, depression, metabolic syndrome, asthma and arthritis. Poor sleep also contributes to insulin resistance and increased sympathetic hunger which can lead us to make some pretty unhealthy choices the next morning and -- we all know where this is going -- excess weight gain.
Let's face it - this current global pandemic is one of the most turbulent, stressful periods of modern history. All of our usual stressors - finances, work, relationships, etc. - are amplified. There's no better time to focus on the quality of our sleep and sleep hygiene. It will reap a literal cascade of benefits - better health, better decision-making, better interactions with others, and much more.
Here are 6 tips for more (and better quality) sleep:
1. A sleep journal will help you better understand your sleep patterns. Keep a notebook by your bed with a log, noting roughly when you fell asleep and when you woke. Also include how many times you woke up during the night and how long it took you to fall back to sleep. Note what you ate that day including alcohol and caffeine, your general level of stress or any other info that may have been a factor. You should even ask your bed partner for their impressions - maybe you move around a lot and don’t even realize!
2. Collect data. To even better understand your sleep patterns, consider getting a device like Ouraring, which helps track your variable heart rate as you sleep and gives you a window into valuable physiological info that you can read the next morning. It's a bit of an investment, but it could help support you in other ways - your health, your productivity at work, and your ability to be more present in your relationships.
2. Drink less alcohol - It's a paradox. While alcohol is used by many to relieve stress, it seriously disrupts a healthy night's sleep. It may help with falling asleep but it makes it super difficult to maintain sleep. First it depresses neural activity (making you sleepy), but a few hours later it acts as a stimulant (waking you up!).
3. Create an inviting sleep environment - Yes we're saying it AGAIN: Take the electronics out of the bedroom!!! No laptops or cellular devices. Turn off all devices about an hour before your scheduled bedtime. Read a book - we have a few that can put you to sleep in a blink! Make your bedroom your sanctuary with a comfortable mattress, sheets, and pillows. Diffuse essential oils like lavender, cedar-wood and vetiver.
4. Turn down the temperature and the light - Believe it or not, optimal sleep temperature should be in the low to mid 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperature will help since your body naturally lowers your body temperature as you fall asleep. And full darkness is important to keep from throwing off your circadian rhythm. Try blackout curtains or sleep masks if darkness is hard to maintain in your space.
5. Nutritional Intervention - Supplements like ashwagandha and magnesium have been shown to be helpful with sleep disorders. Melatonin is one of the most popular supplements on the market for sleep intervention. Studies also show that B6 (a coenzyme that helps your body to metabolize melatonin) is often low in people with sleep disorders, so supplementation could be helpful. As with all supplements, check with your doctor or nutritionist first!
We're always striving to do more. This month, let's do a little less (for at least 7 - 8 hours a night)! You'll be surprised by how much you can accomplish with a good night's sleep. Managing your stressors - like money and legal stuff - will also help you snooze more soundly. For more, check out Woman’s Compass Forum to learn about our 3-month course and other online programs.
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