No Snooze--You Lose!
Since I was a teenager, I have suffered with bouts of insomnia that have worsened with age and the hormonal changes that accompany it. Lately, between night sweats, higher than average anxiety levels (thanks Covid-19), and a dog that snores loudly, falling and staying asleep are once again an issue. Like clockwork, I’ve been waking up around 3:00 a.m., tossing and turning hopelessly while my brain decides to play “this is your life.” I relive conversations, texts, or e-mail exchanges. I worry about sending my oldest child off to college in a few weeks. If I’m really lucky, I’ll come up with an idea for a chapter of a book that I’ve been flirting with writing, which will require me to jump up and jot it down before I forget. Finally, around 5a.m., I’ll doze back off, only to awaken grumpy and groggy when my alarm goes off an hour later.
When you add this lack of sleep to the fact that I am a very physically active person, then you can see where the crash and burn is inevitable—which may explain why, by the time Friday rolls around, I can barely make it to 7 p.m. before I pass out. It’s a vicious cycle with implications that go beyond the inconvenient—and I know I am not alone. In fact, many women my age share this same problem.
In today’s world, sleep is seen as a luxury—not a necessity. There is even a certain amount of pride around how well one can function on very little sleep. But the truth is that, whether you feel fine after 4 hours or not, lack of sleep will take a toll on your body.
Getting enough sleep is as important to a healthy lifestyle as diet and exercise. Why? Well for starters, people tend to make poor choices when they’re tired. Don’t believe it? Think about how many times you’ve hit the snooze button instead of the gym because you were short on shut-eye. Or all those times you’ve supersized that sugary coffee drink to help you power through your day after a long night.
On a deeper level, lack of sleep has been shown to increase the levels of ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain that you want to eat. It also causes a drop in leptin, the hormone that lets your brain know that you’re full. Put these two factors together and you have a recipe for overeating. To make matters worse, sleep deprivation causes a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone that tells your body to conserve energy. So now not only are you more prone to overeating, you are also more likely to hang on to fat.
If those aren’t enough reasons to get to bed early, studies show that there are some of the pretty amazing things that happen while you snooze (and no we aren’t just talking about the occasional Chris Pratt dream). Everything from your muscles to your immune system, memory and even complexion get a boost (hey—they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing).
So how can you get more and better sleep? As someone who recently logged 10 (!) solid hours---here are a few things I’ve been doing that are helping me hit the hay. Sweet Dreams!
First, ladies get your hormones checked. As we get older and our hormone levels begin to drop, things like night sweats and sleeplessness occur. These can all happen prior to full-blown menopause so ask your doctor to check your levels and discuss your options.
Do a brain dump. Lately, I’ve been writing down the things that are stressing me out prior to going to bed. Something about physically putting them on paper seems to help take them out of my subconscious for a few hours. I have no idea if there is scientific proof of this—but it works for meJ
Create a bedtime ritual. Mine is soaking in a warm bubble bath while reading a book. Then I use a yummy lotion to moisturize from head to toe before crawling into bed.
Keep your room dark and cool. Try black out shades, sleep masks, and lightweight, sweat wicking pjs.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine several hours before bedtime. Try relaxing with a cup of herbal tea instead of that glass of wine. I like SleepyTime Tea from Celestial Seasonings.
Finally, turn off your electronics about an hour before bedtime, and put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. This one was hard for me, but it made a big difference. The last thing I need to do is get myself worked up over a text message or social media post moments before my head hits the pillow.
While these tips are in no way foolproof, they are a great place to start. Let me know your tips and tricks too and cheers to a great night's sleep!