Good Morning, Heifers!
This morning’s energy is brought to you by a sweet combination of caffeine, a post-workout glow (ok, it's sweat) and a good night’s sleep. That’s right….sleep. You know, those blissful hours between scrambling to get the kids to bed and when the alarm (or aforementioned kids) buzzes us awake again to a whole new day. Yeah. Sleep.
Turns out, sleep is pretty key to maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I know; you know this. I've known it for a long time, but I always knew it in a kind of vague, sketchy way – the way we know that movement is good for us and we should eat healthier foods. Yeah. That way. The way that is so foggy it goes in one ear and right out the other, the crunch of Cheezits drowning out most of the message.
Why do I always get sidetracked by Cheezits?
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, sleep. Turns out sleep isn’t just necessary for basic bodily functions like walking to the coffee pot or swerving into parent drop off lines...sleep is important to one aspect of health and weight loss we often overlook: hormones.
I know, we’re getting all technical over here this morning. But stick with me. It’s worth it.
Lack of sleep has been linked to increased cortisol levels, insulin resistance and out-of-balance ghrelin/leptin levels. Read more about that HERE.
Cortisol is a stress hormone, so when we have too much of it, our bodies freak-the-freak out. Insulin resistance has been linked to many diseases (including Type II Diabetes) and has been shown to alter thyroid function and been linked to belly fat. And ghrelin and leptin? What-the-whaaaaaaaaa are ghrelin and leptin? Glad you asked. They're the hormones that control when our body says, "I’m full; we’re all good; I don’t need more food!"
Basically, when we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies freak out. We get stressed. We can’t manage our appetites. Our bodies can’t recover - not just from intense workouts, but from life in general, which can be pretty stressful itself. I say this as a mother of four teenagers, so I speak words of truth and wisdom, heifers.
And don’t think sleep only affects our physical well-being. Nope. Sleep affects how we feel and our mental health. How many of us sleep-deprived heifers know the feeling of waking up, groggy and exhausted, to face another day and feeling….like crud? How many of us know that feeling of fogginess on the drive to work, wondering if someone slipped something into the orange juice? Mimosas are for Sundays, heifers, not Mondays.
Good sleep helps us feel just better, all around. According to Harvard Medical School (I am all about legit stats), “Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health….” Apparently lack of sleep is so damaging, it can enhance or affect things like depression, ADHD, anxiety and bi-polar disorder.
So, what do we do? How do we get through our busy lives, fit in workouts, prepare healthy food for our families and ourselves and still manage to get enough shut-eye?
Here are my Top 7 Tips for creating healthy sleep habits and making sure sleep really is the foundation of our overall good health.
I can’t say it’s easy to make sleep a priority, but it’s worth it. We can feel better mentally, perform better physically and give our bodies the sleep fuel necessary (just like food and water) for optimal functioning.
Without further adieu…..7 Tips for Better Sleep:
1. Set a bed time
Bedtimes aren’t just for toddlers. Adults sleep better when we have a set bedtime and when we stick to it. Every night, I'm in bed 8:00 PM. I get up before 4:00 AM. This doesn’t change. I don’t sleep in on weekends or stay up partying hard on Tuesday night, unless my kids have a band concert or robotics club. Then, I party hard until 8:30 PM. Otherwise, I am in bed. It may not be glamorous, but it works. My body knows when to sleep because I keep it pretty consistent. I don’t typically struggle getting to sleep or waking up.
2. Make it a priority and tell the people in your home your intention.
I’ve learned throughout my weight loss journey and on the road to half-marathons that other people won’t make my health and fitness a priority. I do that. I set my intentions. I write down my goals. And I do the work. If you want to get better sleep, your spouse/kids/boss isn’t going to remind you to get to bed on time or practice good sleep hygiene. It’s up to each of us individuals to get that done. Set an intention for good sleep, tell the people in your life that you’re making this a priority and then do it. Just like Nike. You guys know I love telling people to be like Nike, and just do it. So, DO IT!
3. Lay off the caffeine, booze and the SUGAR before bed.
I love a cup of joe in the morning as much as anyone else. Okay, maybe more than some people. Still, I limit my caffeine intake and don’t drink it, eat it or wear it after 2PM. I also limit my alcohol and sugar intake. Sugar? Yeah, that after-dinner bowl of ice cream that you waited all day to dig into? It gives you energy and messes up all those lovely hormones. If I do breeze through DQ for a treat, I try to do it earlier in the day, so the sugar and buzz of caramel goodness doesn’t give me an energy jolt I have to come down from. It works.
4. Establish a bedtime habit/ritual.
I don’t care if you do a little yoga, meditate, read a magazine in a hot bath or rearrange your sock drawer every night: just set a little routine to cue your body and mind that it’s bedtime. I have a routine of washing my face, slathering it in anti-aging lotions and brushing my hair like Marsha Brady, 100 times. Just kidding. Maybe. The point is….do the same ritual or habits before bedtime, and you’re body will begin to associate these habits with sleep. It’s downright Pavlovian.
5. Move to rest.
When I move throughout the day, I sleep better. There is tons of data to support this, but just plain old life experience has proven it to be true. I try to move not just when I exercise but, you know, the rest of those 14 waking hours as well. If I sit all day, my body just isn’t tired. Go figure. Move during the day to rest well at night.
6. Write it down.
One of the biggest reasons people give for not getting quality sleep is anxiety. We're all busy and we all have a lot on our plates: food and emotions and everything else. One way to deal with all of this before taking it to bed is to just write it down. It can be in a journal, on the computer or on a dirty cocktail napkin (you know you have those lying around), but writing down your to-do list or journaling about a stressful day can help take it off your mind, where it might brew and create anxiety. Doing this before bed can work some serious sleepy-time magic.
7. Honor it.
Appreciate what sleep does for your body and mind and treat it with respect. Sleep isn’t something we can toss into our lives like croutons in a salad. If we respect it and give our bodies what they need to function well, we will reap the rewards of that commitment. Making a sleep a priority and honoring that commitment is what it takes to get the benefits of a happier, healthier and stronger mind and body. Things like limiting screen time before bed (the horror!), setting up a routine and giving yourself some quiet time in the evening all help to honor the importance of sleep.
I love my sleep. It’s a huge part of what it takes for me to fit in runs, take care of kids, work and just do life. I like life, and I want to have the energy and focus to really get out there and live it. If you can start adding some of these tips into your life, I think your sleep may improve too.
Can't hurt to give it a try, right? You've got nothing to lose, but exhaustion! And maybe a few pounds if that's your goal, too!