Please welcome our latest guest blogger, Debi Silber, The Mojo Coach. Her first post on WMAG is about a working mom’s most precious natural resource: sleep. (Photo at right is of my sweet baby James and me taking a little snooze.) See the bottom of this post for details on how to win a 30-minute coaching session with Debi.
Are you getting enough sleep? According to the latest survey from the Better Sleep Council, 68% of American women admit to getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night. You can bet that percentage is higher among moms!
Sleep eludes some of us because stresses in our lives make it difficult to quiet down and relax when it is time to go to bed. For others, nighttime interruptions keep us from getting the sleep we need.
The truth is, in order to function adequately your body requires seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Without adequate sleep, we’re left feeling irritable, cranky, short-fused, emotionally unstable, mentally cloudy, groggy, fatigued – and overweight.
And the stress and sleep cycle continues. Once you’re sleep deprived, cortisol and other stress hormones are released, which disrupt the normal rhythm of your sleep cycle. Instead of waking and feeling refreshed, high cortisol levels leave you feeling groggy and fatigued. If that weren’t bad enough, this high cortisol level that’s released during times of little sleep also increases your appetite for high fat, high sugar foods. And when we are tired, two of the ways we attempt to increase our energy are by taking in simple carbohydrates and caffeine.
Taking in simple carbohydrates (sugar) can give you a quick energy boost, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to gain weight. The calories add up quickly, you’re never full or satisfied, and the resulting sugar crash can leave you looking for another boost almost immediately.
Seeking energy through caffeine is also a recipe for trouble. You may feel nervous, anxious and shaky. While you may have an additional energy boost from the caffeine, your body still needs rest. This can result in that feeling of being “tired and wired”. You may be able to get through your day, but the artificial energy takes you further away from a healthy, balanced sleep cycle. Without healthy sleep, the stress hormones have no opportunity to rebalance, the immune system is unable to repair itself and we experience physical, mental and emotional wear and tear.
Sleep, stress, and sugar turn into a vicious cycle.
I could tell you to make sure you get those hours in and settle for nothing less. And if you could make it happen, you would see the health benefits that come from adequate, quality sleep. But for many of us, our level of sleep is not a matter of choice.
If you have young children, it may not be realistic to get those seven or eight hours of sleep, no matter what. If you are doing late night feedings, your child is having nightmares, or having trouble staying asleep, the idea of a full night’s sleep may seem priceless, but not possible. In this case, the best option may be to nap if and when you can. Even an extra fifteen or twenty minutes somewhere in your day can do wonders to refuel and recharge your body and mind.
If getting more sleep seems impossible, there are strategies you can use to make the sleep you do get more effective.
1.) Limit your caffeine and try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. The caffeine that may help you get through your afternoon will interfere with restful sleep later. Coffee, tea, soda and chocolate all contain caffeine, so use them all with discretion.
2.) Put yourself in the best mental state for sleep. Putting your thoughts, ideas, and concerns in writing and then setting them aside may help you feel better able to relax. Keeping paper and a pencil by the bed to write down any thoughts or “to dos” for the next day can help you get back to sleep quickly instead of worrying and getting up to do “one last thing”.
3.) Develop a sleep routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time, make the room dark and cool, play soft music or “white noise”. Taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading something light could all be part of your routine to prepare for sleep.
4.) Make sure your room is clean, serene and comfortable. A messy room with paperwork sitting around may remind you of all you need to do and increase your stress.
Try some of these strategies to improve the quality of your sleep. Once you’re well rested and your stress hormones are under control, you’ll be less dependent on sugar and caffeine to get through your day. Getting your sleep back on track can be a major building block for getting your mojo back!
Debi Silber, MS, RD, WHC The Mojo Coach® is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Nutrition Science. She’s a Certified Personal Trainer, Whole Health Coach, Lifestyle Expert – just for moms, speaker and the author of The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So Every Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best and From Mom To Wow: Your Ultimate Body, Mind and Life Makeover Guide. Debi’s been branded The Mojo Coach® because for nearly 20 years she’s motivated overweight, overwhelmed and unfit moms to “get their mojo back” through gradual, lifestyle change. Sign up for a free report, 52 weeks of weekly tips and a subscription to Debi’s newsletter Mojo Moments at www.TheMojoCoach.com.