Better Sleep Blog

How To Welcome The Sandman Into Your Room At Night. A Love Affair Gone Right.

Work hard.”

Play hard.”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Keep up that attitude and that third mantra may manifest itself sooner than it should.

If only there was a pause button with a magical timer we could press at bedtime to ensure we awaken refreshed when time was up.  Alas, there is not.  And there are sleep vampires everywhere that keep us in sleep debt for the majority of our lives.  (After that brief stint as teenagers that is.)

The cost of lousy sleep…

Since we are wired during pretty much all waking moments of the day, getting restful sleep is becoming more and more of a luxury these days.  This is the proverbial straw to your camel’s back.  And if you don’t actively work to change it, your health will suffer.  Corporal, mental,  and spiritual (AKA body, mind and spirit).

Not getting enough rest will affect…well, pretty much every chemical coursing through your veins.  One of the more notable is cortisol.  Cortisol is your stress hormone.  And when she’s in charge, you are not.  

Stress & The Modern Midlife Woman

Reaction times, memory and the ability to focus are not the only things affected by inadequate sleep.  Lack of sleep is responsible for many a naughty food choice, binging and therefore upping your risk for being overweight, developing diabetes, heart disease, depression or substance abuse.  How’s that for a winning combination?

Sheesh…any other “great news” Doc? 

Why yes…in fact I have some great news for you right now.

How to get the Sandman into bed…

If you want to entice the Sandman and his many grains of slumber into your bedroom on the regular, here’s what you do…

  1. Make sleep a daily priority. I’m talking about a line-in-the-cement kind of non-negotiable. Not the “when everything else is done” priority you’ve got it slated as, right next to taking all those old documents to the shredding company.  (Wait…that’s me…carry on, nothing to see here!)
  2. Choose a consistent time to be in bed and a consistent time to awaken. Every single day.
  3. Determine what time you need to wake up in the morning, allow yourself 7-9 hours of sleep and another hour to participate in a relaxing bedtime routine. Set an alarm one hour prior to bedtime to get yourself in the habit of taking time to prepare for sleep.
  4. Create a restful sanctuary that welcomes your slumber, i.e. dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable.
  5. Exercise during the day. If doing a strenuous workout, as I hope you are, do a minimum of 4 days per week.  Aim to finish your workout 8 hours before your bedtime.  Some women do just fine working out in the evening; others are too wired to sleep or wake up after a few hours of sleep as a result of exercising less than 8 hours before bedtime.  Try different times for getting in your exercise.  Track and note how you perform along with how you feel during and after your exercise session. 
  6. Avoid eating and drinking (especially caffeine and alcohol) close to your scheduled sleepy time. Aim for finishing your meal (drinks included) 4 hours before your scheduled bedtime.  Avoiding caffeine is a no brainer, but alcohol is a trickier evening beverage.  True, it may help you relax a little and eventually zonk out.  The flip side is the all-too-common side effect of waking up about 5 hours into your slumber.  This happens in response to the breakdown of the alcohol and sugars.  (I know from experience, especially with white wine, so I switched to red on the weekends.  It does affect my sleep.  Therefore it may be back to the “dry” status in my not-too-distant future.)
  7. Do not watch TV or use your bedroom for anything else other than S and S (sleep and sex).
  8. Turn off ALL screens a minimum of one hour before your sleep time.  Switch your phone screen to Nighttime Mode in your phone settings.  This helps minimize your exposure to blue light close to bed.  Tee up your bedtime meditations, music, or nature sounds to help you trail off to sleep ahead of the one hour desired cut-off.  

What’s all the hype about sleep anyway?

Sleep is not only a necessity, it helps us deal with the stressors of day-to-day life.  If you are in a perpetual state of overwhelm, seek ways to handle stress differently so that your body can find some peace in a world that offers so little.  Item #5 above is a good place to start. The lower your stress, the lower your circulating cortisol.  And the less abdominal fat you’ll stockpile.  Bonus!

Another cool occurrence I hear often is that sweet cravings diminish and in many cases disappear.  This is most likely due to the lack of fight-or-flight promoting cortisol so the body isn’t in a constant need for more glucose to burn…that is until you become fat-adapted.  When that happens, your whole world changes!

How do you like to relax?

Take a bath?  Read a book?  Listen to some calming classical music?  Drink a cup of sleep-promoting tea?  Talk to your partner?  Do other things with your partner? (Picking up what I’m laying down?)

Think of activities that help you relax and put you in a positive state of mind, then do those.

As far as stress, keep this in mind, stress is how YOU react to something. Working to identify these situations and choosing a different reaction will go a long way to mitigating the damage our stressful lives leave in their day-to-day wake.

Be sure to leave a love note for your Sandman…it is well deserved.

Put your new plan in place tonight…taking action immediately is the best way to solidify a new habit.

What’s part of your bedtime routine?

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