MY SLEEPLESS STORY
Exercising frequently mixed with sleepless nights is not a good combo. To perform your best athletically and get the best results physically, you need sleep. I’ve been struggling with this problem for years because I’m what they call an insomniac. I hate the word because it sounds criminal, but what I’ve learned is that not sleeping is a crime against the body especially if you work out. For years I've been telling people the value of sleep without getting the full experiencing myself. I'm not proud of it but I'm working on getting better with the 8 tips in this article. And the pic you see above is proof!
I'm taking baby steps because just like nicotine or hard drugs, my insomnia is hard to let go of. I've become addicted to staying up all hours of the night and I've somehow learned to function on only 4 hours of sleep. Everyone has a story, mine starts with a father who used to stay up late watching TV. I think I emulated this behavior but instead of TV, I did it with homework, all-nighters before exams in college and eventually work related to my business. It's become a problem because I look forward to chill, late night work sessions when the emails stop coming in and my phone goes silent. But working until 3 or 4am isn't healthy and this is what it's causing me:
- Facial acne
- Constant fatigue
- Abdominal bloat
- Muscle loss
MY TIRELESS STRUGGLE
Don't get me wrong, I REALLY WANT TO SLEEP! But when you're an insomniac you're hooked on doing everything but sleeping even though your body is screaming at you to stop. Sometimes it's a matter of playing tricks on my brain--doing things that slow my brain down--or prepping my body for a wind down in a healthy way that won't encourage late night bursts of energy. It takes work but if I don't do it, the fitness lifestyle I maintain is totally in vain. My lack of sleep will catch up with me to the point that working out is dangerous or even undesirable. And this would totally break my heart.
MY DREAM TEAM - 8 TIPS FOR THE SLEEPLESS
Insomnia isn’t a problem you can fix overnight. I’m doing it by combining several sleep remedies that are working great so far. I highly recommend trying all of them because if you’re a true insomniac, 1 remedy isn't enough. Here's my Dream Team of sleep remedies:
1. Dream Water
At first, I didn’t think this tiny bottle of dream potion would work but shockingly it does work and I can’t get enough of it, especially since I quite like the taste. Dream Water comes in Snoozeberry and Lullaby Lemon, which both taste like a lightly flavored water--nothing you’d ever wince at.
Dream Water is an all-natural sleep aid. It’s nothing like Ambien or Lunesta which reportedly only have short-term success on troubled sleepers. Dream Water works like a supplement, not medication. So you’ll actually wake up refreshed afterwards. When I took it, I felt gradual waves of increased sleepiness throughout my body. It was as if I was naturally getting more and more tired. Dream Water doesn’t knock you out into deep sleep—if it did, I’d be scared. It feels safe and relaxing, to the point that I took my whole supply back to back for six nights.
The ingredients inside Dream Water are: GABA, Melatonin and 5-HTP. Read about them here. None of these ingredients surprise me because they’ve all been used before as sleep aids but I think it’s the way and quantity in which Dream Water combines them that makes them work better than if you were to take them individually. I’ve taken Melatonin pills for years but have never fallen asleep as easily or comfortably as I have after a shot of Dream Water. If you try it, make sure to drink it during your let-go time which I discuss in #6 below. You can buy Dream Water at Walgreens, Walmart, GNC, Duane Reade and Paradies airport shops. (More info on how Dream Water works here!)
2. Sleep enhancing detergent & fabric softener
When you like the way your bed smells, you’ll look forward to laying down in it and will enjoy the sensory experience so much that you’ll want to sleep more. What I do is smell test my detergents. I only buy detergent and fabric softener for my sheets that have a special fragrance that puts me at ease. It’s different for everyone so you kind of just have to remove the caps at the store and see what smells at you in the right way. For some its eucalyptus and for others it’s lavender…but once you get it on your sheets (and wash them regularly with it) you will embrace your bed more. Lastly, make sure it’s never too hot to be under your sheets. Lower the temperature if you have to!
3. Make peace with the things that piss you off
Whether it’s a fight with a friend or a project at work that went bust. Take the time to write a few things down in your journal, or tweet out a quote from your favorite poet that wraps up how you feel and JUST BE DONE WITH IT. Anger will keep you up into the wee hours of the next morning, and it’s just not worth it because until you 86 the negativity, you’ll never be able to wind down and relax.
4. My dogs. If I were you, I'd consider getting one!
Ok, I know this sounds ridiculous because dogs are a lot of work and you may not be a dog person. But frankly, my dogs are the strongest players on my Dream Team. They love to sleep and like it when I sleep with them. Dogs are ruled by regularity. They have to eat, sleep and sh*t at the same time everyday. Their timely regularity inspires me to do the same. Plus, my dogs are so cute and soft that when I see them lying on my bed, I can’t help but want to snuggle with them…and snuggling makes me tired. Also, dogs have really big sad eyes that make you feel beyond guilty when you stay up late working instead of going to sleep with them. Trust me, it works.
5. Night-time Yoga
A lot of people will tell you it’s not good to work out at night but in the case of yoga, I disagree. Yoga can actually help a troubled sleeper. It's extremely soothing and tension-releasing. It requires physical work and mental focus which is good for insomniacs because that means both mind & body will be equally challenged (and tired out). A 1.5 hr yoga class leaves your body relaxed, free of lots of toxins and really drained. This is the best way to prepare for a good night’s rest. There's no workout I love more than an evening yoga class between the hours of 6-8pm. These are the nights that I truly get the best sleep because my body just wants to melt into my sheets and my brain wants to turn off. My good friend Kristin McGee shares some night-time yoga tips here.
6. Let-go time
It’s like winding down but better because you totally melt into a zone of non-importance for an hour before falling asleep. Do something that calms your mind and takes all your stresses/concerns off your mind. For me, it’s reading gossip sites online. I guess I’m one of the few that the Kim Kardashian clan puts to sleep. You could also try a bubble bath but as much as I love them, they’ve never worked for me. In fact, they energize me to do other things like paint my nails. Whatever you choose to do in your let-go time should NOT lead to other activities aside from pulling up the covers.
7. Nix the fatty
I’m not really a fatty-food connoisseur but I did have a boyfriend this past year who was. He had so much trouble sleeping at night and always complained about his stomach. It kept me up! It taught me to stay clear of late night weekend favorites like French fries and to keep healthier company. If you really must eat something late at night, try a bowl of cereal or a banana. Milk has tryptophan—a natural sleep agent also found in oats, bananas, turkeys and almonds.
8. Thinking before drinking
I still drink coffee and wine! I’ve just learned to drink them in moderation and before dinner-time, otherwise they steal away my precious Zzz’s. That means no more espressos after dinner…hey, you’ve got to give up some things to win back others, y'know? A sleep specialist and the co-author of Healthy Sleep recommends drinking your coffee in the morning while basking in sunlight:
Morning light is nature’s cup of coffee. It increases the production of serotonin. If you combine morning sun with a cup of coffee, you won’t need as much caffeine.
Most sleep specialists will tell you to drink your last cup of coffee at 2pm because the caffeine can stay in your system for up to 10 hours. It’s good to aim for this, but if you love coffee I’m not one to stop you. My best advice is to be conscious of how much you’re drinking and make sure you take your coffee with food.When it comes to wines, if you want to get to sleep faster after a few glasses, opt for white wine. Supposedly our bodies metabolize it faster.
NOT CONVINCED? THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!
At a TEDWomen conference, Arianne Huffington shared her story of sleep deprivation to point out that a lack of sleep becomes an obstacle to success.
Two and a half years ago I fainted from exhaustion. I hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and got five stitches on my right eye.
Don't let it get this bad! Even power-houses need sleep and thank God Arianna finally realized it was time to get hers.
WHAT HELPS YOU CATCH YOUR ZZZ'S?
Whether you're an insomniac or not, share tips that we can all "sleep on" in the comments section below. THX!