The training staff at Cross Conditioning Training has already earned my respect for how they approach fitness, health, positive encouragement, routines and more. But when I read this post in their weekly e-mail from trainer Sarah Pay about sleep, I knew I had to share it with our Smarty readers. It’s such a dose of reality, and a smart one, to remember that sleep should carry just as much weight in our priorities as exercise. Frankly, as busy moms, sometimes it’s literally the last thing on the list. Read on for Sarah Pay’s take on sleep and how to get more of it. I know getting more sleep is one of my biggest to-dos for the fall! – Smarty Carroll
By Sarah Pay, Cross Conditioning Training
I’m not a “morning person” by nature and was certainly not raised that way. I don’t recall ever having a bedtime as a child, and as an adult, I experience not-so-subtle shaming from the night owls in my family of origin. No doubt, my relationship with sleep has been a roller coaster, but a silver lining of the pandemic was the opportunity to see what getting sleeping felt like. I noticed that sleeping for 7-8 hours gave me more energy than my previous 4-6 hours and I didn’t need as much coffee to stay alert and focused during the day. Clearly this is a no brainer, but never before had I been willing to sacrifice productivity for sleep. What I didn’t realize was that I was actually sacrificing my quality of life. Maybe some of you had the same experience.
After several months of observing a shift that came from getting more rest at night, I decided that I would prioritize my sleep and do the research to figure out how to improve my sleep quality. I also added the category of sleep as the FIRST part of every health assessment I performed on my clients. I took it that seriously!
We all know that our brains clear up cellular trauma, and our bodies repair themselves while we sleep, but when we don’t sleep well, or enough, we actually begin to experience damage in our central nervous system, setting ourselves up for physical and mental degeneration. But what does that look like?
– A decline in immune function (yes, you are more likely to get sick.)
– An increase in cortisol, stress and inflammation (more worries, aches. And pains.)
– Difficulty with mental focus and physical performance (not as sharp, fast, or strong.)
– Imbalances in appetite and blood sugar (read: struggles with weight management.)
– Problems with heat or cold regulation (have you ever been so tired you start to shiver?)
These are just a few symptoms of poor sleep. In later stages of sleep deprivation, the damage can often be irreversible and eventually the brain and body break down.
As a working mom, who chooses to be busy, there will certainly be days that I’m tired. Three teenagers equals late nights and my job equals early mornings. It’s hard to get in bed before 11 and some nights my sleep is disrupted by a kid, a dog or a Dodgers game. This is my life so I work around it. In January I began using an Oura ring to track my sleep and I have both increased the quantity and quality of my sleep just by being aware and making small tweaks here and there.
Here are a few things I’ve done to improve the quality of my sleep:
– Black out curtains or sleep mask (if lots of lights are still on in the house…I can’t sleep with my door closed.)
– Dropping the temp as much as possible in my 3rd story room, that feels like an attic.
– All devices closed in a cabinet in “sleep mode” during the night.
– Tape over small lights on any electronics, thermostat etc.
– A bigger bed to accommodate an occasional kid and a dog.
– A better mattress and pillow so I don’t feel like I slept on the floor.
– No caffeine 7-8 hours before bedtime.
Other steps I would like to add:
– Stop eating 3-4 hours before going to bed (this is hard for me.)
– Stop screen time an hour before bed (this is even harder.)
– A cooling device for my mattress.
If sleep is an issue for you, I highly recommend seeking help or at least taking steps to improve the sleep you are getting. That said, don’t lose more sleep over it. Stressing out over sleep issues is counter-productive and can lead to more serious issues. Worst case scenario…just take a nap!