By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
You know you can look a little haggard after a night of burning the midnight oil, but did you know that skimping on sleep depletes your anti-aging hormones?
We’ve all heard that adequate sleep is important for optimum health, memory retention and brain function, but perhaps like me, you’ve reasoned that you’re different – that you can get by on a lot less sleep than others.
This eight hours a night stuff isn’t for you. After all, you make up for any lacks on the weekend.
If this is you, welcome to the club! I spent years believing it was fine to squeeze in 5 or 6 hours a night.
I learned to question my hubris on this one. It’s not just the 3 p.m. dip that gets me reaching for that second cup of coffee. It’s the frustration I often feel at day’s end – why wasn’t I more focused? Why couldn’t I remember all the little pieces of my project and so had to waste time looking back at notes, searching for information?
The answer, I finally realized, might lie in my refusal to grant myself enough sleep.
Stay Slender and Young with Adequate Sleep
Here’s a mistake I used to make: for years I set my alarm at 5 so I could work out at the gym at 6 a.m. Then it was rush home, fix breakfast and lunches for the kids, get them off to school, then race off for a full day of work.
It was a rare evening that I crawled into bed before 11, and then I’d usually read, often ending up with less than six hours of precious shut-eye.
And sure, those workouts helped keep me fit. But the surprise: when I started gifting myself with more sleep and skipping some of those workouts, I actually lost weight!
I couldn’t figure it out at the time. Now I’ve learned that studies show that sleep leads to easier weight loss! People who slept less than six hours a night consumed 300 more calories more in a day than those who slept 6-8 hours. And dieters who slept around eight hours lost 10 pounds way more easily than those who didn’t.
Scientists speculate that these results are due to the fact that your brain is fueled by glucose, so inadequate sleep causes it to search for carbohydrates to keep going. Chronic sleep deprivation can bump up those sugar cravings… a sure path to a more billowy muffin top!
And we all know that partying till the wee hours will bring on the dark circles and wrinkles quicker than a teenager can type out a text – but I had no idea about the physiological factors that can cause an overall acceleration of aging when I insist on staying up.
Human growth hormone – which makes us look and feel younger – is released from our pituitary gland during sleep. Less sleep equals less youthful hormones coursing through the body.
Now there’s some motivation to put the electronic toys away and turn out the lights.
The Toss & Turn Factor
Wait a second, you’re saying. Sure, I get it on this sleep thing. I’m TRYING to get in my eight hours. But I just end up lying awake in the darkness. If it’s not hot flashes and night sweats, it’s worrying and feeling frustrated that I’m not sleeping more.
Well, read on for some useful tips on quelling your insomnia.
Sleep researchers say the most health replenishing sleep occurs between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., as that is when our bodily systems, including the crucial adrenal system, recovers and recharges. So, it’s worth it to at least try to get yourself into the REM state earlier rather than later.
Obviously, there will be exceptions. I know I like to go out and enjoy a good show on occasion, or just stay up late at a party enjoying friends and a fun time.
If you’re the same, or if you have trouble putting everything away and going to bed, join me in employing the 80/20 rule when it comes to turning in early. Let’s make sleep a priority 80% of the time, and we’ll surely be ahead of the game!
Whether you feel like a little kid digging in your heels about bedtime when there’s so much fun stuff to do – or you’re battling wakeful demons no matter how hard you try to drift off – these 16 tricks and tips will gently nudge you in the right direction – and get more sleep!
- Align Yourself with the Rhythms of Nature – Just Go to Bed!
All this was a no-brainer back in the days before electric lights. It got dark…so we went to sleep. Society has evolved a lot quicker than our physiology, our bodies don’t know things have changed from prehistoric times. They naturally want to shut down when the sun goes down, and that’s why many of us crave more sleep during the winter months.
Now I’m not saying you have to go to bed at 5 just because it’s dark. But instead of resisting those whispers of fatigue, think about turning in a tad earlier during the darker time of the year.
- Shut down the computer and turn off the TV.
Electronics stimulate our brains and make it harder to wind down and accept the peace that sleep delivers. Forgo checking email that one last time, and record your favorite late night shows so you can watch them earlier.
Make that hour before bed a time for reading (a book – remember them?), perhaps writing in a journal, making notes about your plans for tomorrow, preparing food and other tasks that will make for a smoother morning.
- Turn down the heat.
Keep your bedroom cool as much as possible. An overheated room will definitely interrupt your sleep, especially if that heat is artificial. You’ll get the added perk of saving on electricity if you crank down the furnace before retiring.
On the other hand, don’t crank up the air conditioning too much, or you will dry out your sinuses and the overly dry air could cause wakefulness.
- Create complete darkness in your bedroom.
Pull the curtains, or better yet get some light-blocking shades. A glowing digital clock next to your head is a surefire way to keep your eyes wide open. Get rid of it or turn it toward the wall while you sleep. Resist the temptation to check that clock if you awaken in the middle of the night. Knowing what time it is will just stress you out further if you’re worried about insomnia. If it’s impossible to darken your room completely, try a sleep mask.
- Don’t go to bed too full – but not too empty either.
If your digestive system is doing the Samba when you lie down to get some shut-eye, well it’s just not going to be that restful a sleep. (Not to mention the detrimental effects on your weight). Make a point to finish dinner a few hours before retiring.
Conversely, don’t try to get to sleep while your stomach is growling and the word ‘starving’ comes to mind. Eat a small snack high in protein and complex carbs. I like a little Greek yogurt. Ditch the cookies for bed though. Sugary snacks won’t promote peaceful rest!
- Create and maintain a personal bedtime ritual.
Start this about a half hour before slipping under the covers and you will be signaling to your body it’s time to wind down and drift off. Get into your cozy jammies, brush your teeth and take care of all your bedtime grooming rituals a half hour or so ahead of time.
It’s a good idea to dim the lights an hour or two before you plan to tuck in. Prepare for your best sleep by reading restful and uplifting books (not a good time for the heart-pounding whodunit!), listening to calming music, or even some meditation.
If you struggle with mild to moderate insomnia, your body will thank you if you make some changes in your routine and incorporate a few of these tips. Watch for more in next week’s post.
More by Sarah:
Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’, helping clients rediscover their passions and reinvent themselves no matter what their age or circumstance. In her previous career she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for over three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com
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