It seems with each passing day, the world spins faster and as a species, we’re required to do and be more, more, and still yet MORE…
As schedules tighten, we’re forced to rob from other time commitments. Our sleeping hours are usually the first-and worst- place we elect to chop.
Between the demands of a hectic work schedule, outside obligations and the nonstop work of keeping a house and home running, coupled with the natural physical drop in energy during the Menopause process, most of us feel like we could drop dead in our tracks, yet we press on.
We end up burning our candle at both ends, until there is nothing left and we find ourselves short tempered, inflamed, sluggish, grouchy and cranky; large, hormonal toddlers greatly in need of a Time Out.
I don’t know about you but I’m tired- and I’m not gonna take it anymore! Perhaps I once thought I was Wonder Woman, but somewhere along the way, Life has proved me wrong and quite frankly, I NEED A NAP! Sound familiar?
Let’s take a closer look at the dynamics of sleep – and why sleep matters.
The human body is set up to run on a 24 hour (approximate) daily cycle, known as the Circadian Rhythm. This cycle orchestrates every single aspect of our bodily function.
The Circadian Rhythm is also present in plants, animals and even certain forms of bacteria and regulates sleep and feeding cycles; what we do, what we need, and when we do/need it.
It’s closely tied to our overall health, general rest-waking cycles, hormonal cycling and cellular repair work.
The Circadian Rhythm basically consists of a group of cells housed in the hypothalamus, known as the Suprachiasmatic nucleus. This rhythm can be altered by exposure to certain external stimuli; things like light (sun, blue and white) and temperature.
At night, during the rest portion of the Circadian Rhythm, the human body cycles down and prepares to carry out several important tasks: repair work throughout the body and at a cellular level, proper folding of proteins in the brain, the processing and storing of memories and freshly learned tasks, detoxing and necessary work to maintain hormonal balance.
If sleep quality is poor- or one doesn’t allow for a full cycling of the natural sleep rhythm- big trouble looms, especially for women!
It’s been shown time and again that women who don’t get enough sleep run a much higher risk of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, depression and obesity.
It’s also believed that the sleep cycle plays a role in the worsening of alcoholism.
Alcohol consumption plays a key role in disrupting the naturally occurring sleep cycle and once this cycle is interrupted, the grip of alcoholism worsens.
Sleep deprivation has also been shown to speed the aging process and increase the visible signs of aging.
The skin repairs itself approximately three times faster at night than during the day.
Maximizing this repair process by cleansing your face and using high quality skin treatments at night seems like a wise move from a beauty standpoint, especially when moving through the Menopause years.
Too, when sleep cycles are interrupted routinely and the necessary cycling is not allowed to occur, mental acuity diminishes. We struggle with tasks, thinking-learning and recall.
In terms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s one has to wonder: if sleep is crucial to brain repair and detox- and without proper sleep cycling the brain can’t successfully fold its proteins, is it a lack of quality sleep throughout the years that sets one up for these awful brain diseases- or is it the development of the disease over time that then creates the associated sleep disturbances and Sundowning syndromes that accompany these diseases? Which actually comes first?
Thinking of sleep in these terms should help us all realize cutting into our sleep allotment to get ahead is never wise!
Most sleep cycles are approximately 90 minutes in length and throughout the night we require 4 or 5 full cycles along these 5 stages to achieve maximum health benefits:
1) journeying into light sleep
2) slipping into deeper sleep
3) and 4): achieving much deeper sleep
5) REM sleep where restoration and repair occur.
How do you think you fare?
If quality sleep is an issue for you, there are several things you can do:
First and foremost, do your level best to work with your naturally occurring rhythms.
Getting exposure to sunlight in the early morning hours will cause your body clock to speed up, making you want to go to bed earlier and also wake up earlier. If you get exposure to sunlight later in the day, you will be awake longer into the night and wake up later the following morning.
This light exposure includes Blue and White light- commonly found in electronics. Do you stay up until right before bedtime watching TV or surfing the internet? Sleep will come hard for you once you hit the hay! Light exposure interferes with the production of Melatonin…So what’s a gal to do?
You can elect to power down about an hour to an hour and a half before bed by turning off all electronics; read a book, listen to music, meditate instead… you can also go online and purchase blue/white light-blocking glasses and also download blue/white light-blocking software for your computer/tablet/smartphone. This will help.
Other ways to maximize your sleep:
- Go to bed and get up each morning at the same time.
- Try Melatonin supplementation-but with care. Most people take too much of this powerful hormone and/or they abuse it by taking it for longer than 2 weeks. Be careful with this supplement. It can trigger migraines and interfere with other important hormones. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s totally benign. If you elect to go this route, please discuss doing so with your ND or MD first and keep dosing minimal. Usually .3 to 1 milligram will prove sufficient.
- Take a nice, warm bath with Epsom salt right before bed.
- Slip into soft, cozy sheets lightly scented with organic lavender essential oil.
- Utilize a sleep mask (my personal favorite is made of mulberry silk) and a white noise machine.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom COOL: no warmer than 65 degrees and even in the wintertime keep your window open slightly to allow fresh air. This is especially important during the Peri menopause/Menopause process!
- Get sufficient exercise during the day.
- Turn your bedroom into your oasis: invest in a quality mattress, pillows and sheets, and pajamas- if you wear them.
- Keep lighting subdued, have no electronics in your bedroom and don’t allow work or the world to penetrate that Sacred space!
Quality sleep is NOT a luxury, it’s a very basic necessity. It’s quite simply a NON-NEGOTIABLE – and now you know why. Until next time, Pleasant Dreams!
Health and Beauty has been Carrie E. Pierce’s career focus for over 28 years. Throughout her career, Carrie has served as: Guest and Corporate Makeup Artist for numerous major, international cosmetic companies and as a Hollywood film, TV and special effects makeup artist. She’s provided skin care and makeup services for the fashion industry, as well as restorative make up procedures for burn and scar patients, cancer patients, domestic violence survivors and women suffering with self-esteem issues. Carrie is a licensed Aesthetician, Certified Color Analyst, Menopause Skin Care Specialist, Author, Public Speaker and served as co host of the syndicated radio show ‘Magnificent Menopause & Beyond©’. It’s her mission and her passion to help women be the best they can be – especially as they move through Midlife! Find out more www.MidlifeMystique.com