Sleep.

This next Pillar of a Nutritious Life (the nutrition certificate that I hold) is one that I know you saw coming…SLEEP.  Keri Glassman, the creator of The Nutrition School says: 

Sleep Deep
When you are well rested, you make better food choices, have more energy to go the gym, walk to work or take time for your favorite activities. When you are not well rested, your defenses are down, and you are more likely to overeat and make poor food choices. Lack of sleep causes your levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, to rise. You can improve your sleep by practicing a calm ritual before bed. Try dimming the lights in your bedroom and reduce stimulation by turning off the TV, computer, and yes even your phone!

Sleep is such a hot topic right now. Sleep, or lack thereof, affects everything from our weight, our brains, our sex life, our immunity and so. much. more.  The average female 24-64 needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  I know that you’ve heard all the tricks about turning the screens off, no pets in bed, make a list before you go to bed so that you don’t stress, etc., but I want to talk about something different.  I want to talk about what you put in your body and how it affects sleep.

I often talk with my clients about the Wheel of (un)Wellness.  You can hop on it at any point of your day, and once you are on, it is pretty hard to get off without making some major changes.  It goes a little something like this:

Kate is up all night worrying about her daughter’s wedding.  She finally falls asleep at 4 AM and turns off her alarm clock when it goes off at 5:30 AM, the time she needs to get out of bed if she wants to work out.  She eventually climbs out of bed at 7 AM with her workout skipped.  Groggy, she makes herself a pot of coffee and drinks two cups for breakfast.  She doesn’t have time to make breakfast for herself, so she leaves for work without eating.  She stops at Starbucks and picks up a Skinny Vanilla Latte and a breakfast sandwich and eats them in the car on autopilot.  She is having a hard time focusing and grabs another coffee mid-morning.  Lunch is at her desk, and she washes it down with a Diet Coke.  The rest of the afternoon gets away from her, and she’s headed to the store to get dinner for the family and a bottle of wine (she deserves it!) for herself.  She eats a heavier meal than usual because she is starting to crash from all the caffeine and sweetener.  She settles onto the couch with her wine.  “Just a glass” turns into two and 1/2.  She cannot keep her eyes open, and she falls into bed at 10 PM.  She wakes up at 12:15 AM because she has to pee.  She can’t fall back to sleep because her mind starts to race.  It’s not the wedding; it’s the caffeine that is overloaded in her system.  It’s 2:30 AM and now she’s starving.  It’s from the heavy dinner and the sugar crash from the wine.  She’s up to pee again.  It’s 3 AM, and she’s going to take a Tylenol PM because she has GOT to sleep!  It’s 4:45 AM and she just fell asleep.  The alarm goes off at 5:30 AM because she had every intention of getting up to work out.  And the Wheel of (un)Wellness has got her locked in!

This is NOT an extreme example.  In fact, it is so common, you are probably wondering how I got a camera in your bedroom.  Caffeine and alcohol are major disruptors.  Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 14 hours!  As you metabolize the alcohol, your body becomes aroused (not sexually) and you can wake up, get the sweats, and a headache.  Please don’t tell me you smoke.  If you do, the nicotine works like caffeine.  Yuck.  Sleep aids screw up your body’s sleep rhythms for days.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because your doc prescribed them for you that they are okay.

The bad news is that the Wheel of (un)Wellness keeps going around and around.  It doesn’t stop to let people on and off.  The good news is that you can jump off at any time without getting hurt.  Please!  Please jump off of it now!  You might be uncomfortable for a few days as your body adjusts to fewer stimulants, but I promise you that if you can clean it up AND add the physical exercise in, you will feel better pretty quick!

Do I sleep perfect 365 nights a year?  NO!  Do I sometimes stay awake with the Committee in session?  Of course!!!!  But we have a saying in our house, “there are few things worse than a Cassie who hasn’t slept!”  My sleep time is as sacred as my workout time.  I hope that you’ll make it sacred, too!

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