I have the opportunity to work with a variety of women. Some are struggling with ill-being, while others are striving for well-being. Regardless of their starting point, my starting point is always the same—lifestyle changes.
To meet our individual goals, we need our bodies to be working for us, rather than against us! To get our bodies working like well-oiled machines, we need to eat healthfully, exercise regularly and get enough restful sleep each night. While we are often educated on the importance of healthy eating and exercise, and making those lifestyle changes is both en vogue and reinforced when we look amazing in our skinny jeans, the importance of sleep often gets lost in the shuffle.
In the spirit of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week this month, I present to you the many benefits of getting your ZZZ’s.
First of all, let me speak to the part of you that values those skinny jeans. Research tells us that poor sleep patterns can increase cortisol levels, insulin secretion and ghrelin, a biochemical that stimulates appetite. Simultaneously, it decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that alerts our brains when it’s had enough food. The result? Weight gain and an increase in diabetes risk factors. Sleep deprivation also affects physical performance, killing your chances of getting a good workout, no matter how hard you try.
If that’s not enough, recent studies suggest that a poor night’s sleep weakens our immune systems. We #WomenWhoWork have no time to get sick! In addition, sleep plays a role in cognitive function, aiding in repair restoration and memory. So, if you’re not sleeping enough, crushing that presentation is out of the question, regardless of the amount of blood, sweat, tears and time you put in preparing. Finally, researchers explain that there is a significant correlation between sleep and mood, stating that people who aren’t getting enough sleep report irritability and too little energy to take care of daily responsibilities, and that just won’t do.
An important note: Women require more sleep than men! Researchers state, “The more of your brain you use during the day, the more of it that has to recover and, consequently, the more sleep you need. Women tend to multi-task, they do lots at once and are flexible, and so they use more of their actual brain than men do. Because of that, their sleep need is greater.” And, that’s a direct quote! So, listen ladies, we’ve got to hit the hay.
Here are several Sleep Hygiene Do’s and Don’ts to assure a good night’s rest.
Keep your bedroom quiet and dark
Use your bed for sleep (okay, and sex). Keep television viewing to the living room, keep your work in the home office, snack in the kitchen and read your book in your favorite chair
Follow a bedtime routine. Enjoy a warm bath, breathing exercises, deep muscle relaxation or soothing music. Think spa!
Go to sleep at the same time every night, whether it’s a normal Tuesday or New Year’s Eve
Get up at the same time every day—yes, even Sunday!
Keep your room temperature cool and steady
Exercise before bed—if you workout in the evening, aim to wrap up 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
Incorporate TV into your bedtime routine
Engage in stimulating activity before bed. Screens off!
Take naps, unless they’re 20-minute cat naps at least 8 hours before bedtime
Have an emotionally charged discussion or watch violent television within several hours of bedtime
Stay in bed when you can’t sleep—get up, engage in a calming activity, then head to bed and try again
Drink caffeine 4-6 hours before sleep or alcohol 2-3 hours before sleep
For several days, track your sleep. Get a sense of your individual sleep problem. Do you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or with achieving restful sleep in general? Then, implement the aspects of the Sleep Hygiene Do’s and Don’ts list that address your individual needs. Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of drifting off on cue.Sweet dreams!