Ever thought about the role sleep plays in your life? Spoiler alert – it’s massive! It’s time to establish sleep as a bona fide wellness superhero. From fighting infections to emotional healing, sleep is your ultimate sidekick. Even more intriguing, sleep can act as overnight therapy, especially when we delve into the bonds between sleep disruption and mental health diagnoses. Join me as we unravel the mysteries of good quality sleep and its far-reaching effects on our wellness.
There’s more to sleep than just closing your eyes. It’s about creating a sleep-friendly environment, tweaking routines, and yes, even sacrificing that precious “me” time for a well-deserved rest. As a family, we must collectively prioritize our sleep. We also discuss lifestyle changes critical to optimizing your sleep cycle. So, let’s explore this sleep journey together, and help you become a champion of sleep, enhancing the quality of life in more ways than one.
What you will learn on this episode:
– The crucial role sleep plays in our overall health and wellness.
– How sleep impacts our emotional healing, fights infection, and regulates our hormones.
– The benefits of understanding and working with your body’s internal clock.
– Practical strategies to achieve quality sleep, such as creating a sleep-friendly environment and balancing alone time and sleep.
– The concept of a sleep cycle and how to optimize it for better health.
– The importance of prioritizing sleep and establishing healthy sleep habits.
– The impact of certain substances like caffeine and alcohol on our sleep cycle.
– The importance of developing a regular bedtime routine and sleep-friendly environment.
I absolutely love to hear your thoughts and get your questions.
You can email me at: Leighagermann@gmail.com
I can’t wait to hear from you!
This podcast is not intended to provide mental health treatment. Leigh Germann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. She does not provide diagnosis nor offer therapy through the LeighGermann.com website or in the information offered on the website. It is important that you do not disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking professional medical or mental health treatment because of any information on the LeighGermann.com website including but not limited to blogs, newsletter, videos, podcasts, e-books, programs, webinars, courses and other services. Leigh Germann and offerings on LeighGermann.com are not providing legal or financial advice, business advice, psychotherapy, supervision, religious advice, or medical advice. The information contained on this Website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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Today, we’re learning all about sleep, why you need it and how to get it. This is Leadership Parenting. Episode number 24, how to Sleep Better. Did you know that resilience is the key to confidence and joy? As moms, it’s what we want for our kids, but it’s also what we need for ourselves. My name is Lee German, I’m a therapist and I’m a mom. Join me as we explore the skills you need to know to be confident and joyful. Then get ready to teach these skills to your kids. This is Leadership Parenting, where you learn how to lead your family by showing them the way. Hi, friends, and welcome back to Leadership Parenting.
As promised, we are here with an episode all about sleep and, if you remember from episode 21, our four self-care pillars of wellness Sleep, soothe, fuel and move Sleep is listed first, and that’s not an accident. I listed sleep first because, of all the self-care pillars, sleep has what I think is the broadest reaching impact on our wellness. It’s intertwined with so much of our functioning. So today we’re calling you to sleep, to sleep more, to sleep more regularly, to honor sleep in your life in a way that elevates its importance and its power in your life, and I’ll tell you why I think this is so important. But I wanted to start with the invitation and the calling, because I want to focus on sleep as a way to love yourself better, because there is something you can do right now to feel better and protect yourself from illness, burnout and kind of ramp up the quality of your life, and that’s going to be to be focused and become a champion of sleep. So let’s pause here and have you just check in with yourself what feelings come up for you when I say the word sleep, like if you could just put a hand on your chest right now and take your internal temperature about this. What does your wisdom tell you? Are you sleeping enough? Are you getting enough hours to feel good throughout your day?
I’m not trying to cause you more stress with this question, because I know it is a big one and much of the time I think the answer is probably no. I haven’t had enough sleep. I’m really tired and I know I’m kind of used to ignoring this question because it can feel really hard to change things and to get more sleep. And this is the trap we face as moms this cycle of sleep loss, because we have to show up to be a mom and get up with the baby, or stay up and wait for our teenagers, and there are many things that get in the way of our sleeping. And maybe the cruelest thing of all is that when we move heaven and earth to get to bed and then lay there and sleep doesn’t come, I hate that it causes so much anxiety, which makes the problem worse and kind of just feels like we can’t catch a break, and I do think it’s kind of tempting to avoid this topic and just push through.
But I really believe that we need to become really educated on sleep, why we need it so much for our overall health, and become experts at knowing how we can work with our own bodies to get good sleep. So we’re going to talk about why you need it so much and then we’ll look at how you can get better sleep. So, basically, why you need it so much is that everything your body needs to rely on during the day gets restocked at night. That includes all of the immune cells that fight infection for you, your white blood cells. They’re manufactured while you’re sleeping. Your hormones settled and get regulated while you sleep.
You heal from illness, injuries, surgeries, from workouts, stressful days, traumatic events, anything that strains you. The healing really happens while you sleep. It all needs to be repaired and it all needs the extra focus and time during that reparation happens while you’re sleeping. Even more fascinating is that your brain uses sleep that kind of time when you’re offline where it does deeper work. It sorts through your experiences and organizes them and it softens the painful and rough edges of things Hard experiences that we’ve had where we feel those deeper feelings and maybe those more painful feelings. While you’re sleeping, your brain allows those to get softer and reframes them so that you can feel better about things the next morning and it helps you find solutions to problems that are stored deeper in your memory than what you can get to in your waking hours. And that sounds a little crazy, I know, but when you go to sleep you’re able to have experiences, ideas, things you’d maybe never thought about. I think things that get in our way while we’re thinking. Actively thinking kind of blocks all of this access and when you’re sleeping it comes to the surface and it can help you during your waking hours. So basically, you need sleep to heal.
A Stanford sleep researcher, Matthew Walker, is kind of big in this field. He puts it this way. It’s not time that heals all wounds. It’s time during sleep, and particularly during dream sleep, that provides this emotional convalescence. So sleep actually protects your nervous system and it gives you this buffer and it lowers your threat response and when you don’t get enough sleep, it increases your reactivity. In other words, there’s less buffer and it makes our nervous system so much more sensitive and easier to react. So when you get better sleep, you have more control over your emotions and your actions and you can practice the things we’re learning in our resilience training. So sleep is super important.
There’s a solid relationship between sleep disruption and mental health diagnoses. One sleep expert states that sleep acts as a form of overnight therapy, taking those difficult experiences we’ve had throughout the day and processing them in a way that helps us be soothed, and this is why, for every single diagnosis I treat, sleep is always part of the treatment plan and sometimes it’s the first and only recommendation I make. When we get sleep back on track, a multitude of problems have the opportunity to disappear. It may be the only thing required for my client to experience relief and return to normal functioning, because sleep recalibrates the emotional brain, helps you feel much more settled and clear. So basically, you need sleep to function period and I know sometimes we don’t have control over things and this is where it starts to get tricky for us as moms especially babies are up at night, we may have a big move or we’re traveling, but I think there’s always an option, even if it’s subtle, always an option to do one little thing to protect your sleep.
And maybe we can even make getting sleep so important that people help us deal with the things going on in our lives so we can get enough sleep to be well and stay on our feet. And this is one of the biggest things that I do when I’m working with a mom postpartum is to bring in her partner, bring in her support system, and we have a really candid conversation about sleep deprivation. And this is a hard one Moms recovering from labor and delivery, nursing a baby on a baby’s two or three hour wake cycle every two or three hours and I think it’s one of the biggest challenges we have as new moms that predispose us or kind of set us up for having mood challenges, having a postpartum depression or anxiety. It’s that sleep deprivation that just gets us so having conversations early on about the importance of sleep and needing support around it, and we do not talk about this in our culture. It’s getting a little better, I think, but we still really praise the ability to function on just a few hours of sleep, and this is such a mistake because your body and brain are a system that need that sleep to work correctly. Thank you.
We may be able to go without regular repair and regeneration with sleep for a little while, but sooner or later those sleep deficits cause us harm and they hurt us in a couple of ways. First, lack of regular sleep actually makes our bodies get sick faster, age faster, gain weight faster, makes it hard for us to think, remember, learn, problem solve, like we don’t have our full ability to work with our own thoughts and feelings and control our actions the way we want to when we don’t have enough sleep. The second way that we get harmed by lack of sleep is that we often blame ourselves for all those things and see our bodies as poor performers or just defective, and blame ourselves for not being able to control our appetite or our moods or our temper or our emotions. And we experience these effects but don’t always see sleep as the source of the problem and, more importantly, as part of the solution. So we need to pay attention and take care of our sleep and to get the sleep you need, you’re going to need to really, really want it and kind of make a commitment to it, because we have a lot of forces that make it hard to get good sleep. So we have to want it more than we’re facing the obstacles to it.
There’s another way to look at it that’s maybe even a little more personal and connective. You almost need to court sleep, like you’d court a sweetheart I know that’s old language, right, that we’re going courting. This is how we come to fall in love and to be committed and be in a relationship with someone. Back when you were dating, where you thought about that person you were dating, falling in love with, and you prioritized them, right? You woke up thinking about when you’d see them and how you’d plan your day around them. Well, getting good sleep is going to require this kind of attention, not just at night, but really all throughout your day, because your body is run by an internal clock that’s called your circadian rhythm, and circadian rhythms are mental, physical and behavioral changes that go on in your body to follow a 24 hour cycle and every system in your body sinks with this 24 hour cycle. It all intertwines with your sleep. So strengthening your love affair with sleep actually strengthens your relationship with your whole body. And when you think of it this way, sleep becomes the one major tool that buys you so much as far as your health goes.
And when we cut short our sleep, we cut short all of our regenerative processes, of everything, not just our sleep. Your body needs those hours to run through its cycle, and this is different with ages. Like our. Children need more sleep and as you get much, much older elderly, need a little bit less. But for us, as moms in the prime of your life, you will most likely need seven to nine hours of sleep for your body to really do its work at night.
And I don’t think anyone ever explained it to me that way. I did not know about my internal clock. I didn’t know how all the systems were linked and connected to that clock and that my sleep was the thing that kept that on schedule. And I didn’t know that I had a minimum number of hours that I needed to be able to run my clock on. So I cheated my sleep all the time. I just figured I could tough it out and be fine, like the only choice I had to make was whether I was going to be tired the next day, and that’s just not really the case.
Sleep is the gatekeeper of your health. So when you get enough, your body is working as it should, and when you don’t, your body starts to struggle. So as soon as I made seven hours my new minimum, no matter what, I started to feel better in ways that I hadn’t even realized. I was feeling so bad in. My moods were less anxious, I was way more patient, I got sick less and I just felt more like myself.
And when I don’t get the minimum and I feel tired and off, I now understand why it’s more than just being kind of tired and grumpy. It’s because my body is really reaching for the things it needs and it hasn’t been able to get them because I haven’t had enough time, it hasn’t been able to regenerate in the way I need, and so I also understand and I want you to understand why that happens and what to do to remedy it. We need to go back to protecting our sleep. So, as we’re talking about this, I really want you to stay off the all or nothing continuum, because the truth is no one will ever get a perfect number of hours every single time in the perfect situation, and if we make that our goal, we are definitely not going to be successful. What we really want to be able to do is understand why you need this much sleep, understand how it affects you so you feel the right motivation toward it. Right, not out of fear, but because you want to love your body and have it work for you the way that you want it to work. And on those nights when you don’t get your seven hours, for whatever reason, and those seasons of your life, you’ll understand why you don’t feel like you normally do and you’ll know what you need to do to get feeling better.
So the recommendation to my clients and my recommendation to all of you is that you plan for the core number of hours that you need to sleep to be well, and so that national sleep association number is seven to nine hours. Actually, when you do deep sleep research, the best way to know how much sleep you need is to check in to see how you feel. If you can go off of six and a half hours sleep, and routinely, you’re not getting sick and you’re feeling great and you have lots of energy and your memory is super and you just feel on top of the world. Six and a half hours might be your number. You also might be a person who needs nine and I think that you shoot for seven to eight hours. Give it a try and see how you feel. If you’re used to going off less hours than that, it may be that you just don’t know how great you can feel if you get a little bit more.
And the way it looks in planning for your sleep is to take the time, the number of hours, have them in your mind and take the time that you need to wake up and count backwards. Let’s say the minimum seven hours and add a half hour for a bedtime routine. That would be your bedtime. So if you need to get up at six am, then you start your bedtime routine at 10.30. So you can get to sleep around 11 and get seven hours. And, of course, if you went to bed at 10, you may benefit from a few extra minutes, but your latest bedtime is going to be seven and a half hours before your alarm in the morning. Okay, big breath here.
Once again, I’m talking to moms. I know I remember that almost. I sat down and counted. How many years did I have to work my sleep around my kids? 28 years of having children in my home at different stages, most of the time requiring me to mold my sleep around their schedules. That’s a long time. What if you have a newborn or a toddler coming into your room every night? What if you have teenagers up late at night or early mornings scheduled that cut your sleep short because of a job or their schedules or whatever? That is what if you don’t have the time. So we should see this as a family goal to help mom get a little more sleep. And so many times as moms we feel so alone. This is exhausting and I’ve worked with hundreds of moms to find ways to help them protect their sleep even during these challenging times. And we have to get creative sometimes.
There are things you can do to get by, to get through these hard times. You can take naps. You know, if you can’t get your core seven to eight or seven to nine hours of sleep all in one chunk, which is usually not possible when you have a brand new baby, you can fit little naps together. We want you to have an accumulated number of at least seven to nine hours throughout the 24-hour period, so your body has a chance to do at least some short-term recovery. During those nap times you might trade off with your partner for night duties. You can even go to bed way earlier than you ever thought you would. We’ll talk a little more about that and maybe work to sleep, train our babies when they’re ready, so we can squeak by with a few more minutes and hours of sleep. You know there are circumstances that are going to be out of our control at times, like these new baby months, but I’m still going to guess that at least 50% of our sleep loss is under some kind of our own control, and I think this is actually good news because it means that maybe we could do something about it.
And my favorite thing to do about it is to go to bed earlier. I tell my mom’s in postpartum feed the baby, go to bed at 9 or even 8, 30, get blackout shades they sell the cheap paper ones. You can hide behind your regular blinds so you can make your room dark enough to go to sleep earlier. I Tell my mom’s of all other children turn off the TV, put down the book, close the laptop and go to bed earlier, and it is so hard. The biggest thing I hear from moms is this I need my alone time. I’m desperate, it’s the only time I have to myself and I get it. I struggle with it too at the end of my day and all my kids are out of the house. I crave that quiet time when I’m done, finally, and I just have an evening, a couple of hours, to myself.
I Think all of us are juggling our alone time, competing with our sleep time, and Sometimes we have to trade sleep for that. I get it, but we cannot trade too much sleep for it, because the alone time will never give your mind and your body enough of the things that they are missing when you lose your sleep, and that alone time you get is so much better when you’re rested. So we have to have that hard conversation in my office and Exhausted and emotionally fragile mama does not want to talk about her sleep and Gently, we have to, because she’s kind of falling apart at the seams. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way. I have definitely felt like I’m just barely holding it together and I cannot stitch her back together. I can’t go in and regenerate her hormones and biochemicals for her, and there’s not even a medicine that she could take that does that for her body. She needs sleep to do that.
So we have to be strategic. We’re all going to go without sleep because we don’t live in ideal worlds, but we can be proactive in being champions of our sleep and making a commitment to do what we can, even if it’s just something small, and I love that thought. Can we do just one small thing To be better at protecting our sleep? And we can talk more about this. I’m putting together a workshop to go deeper into sleep and Kind of what to do and how to handle the obstacles, because we just don’t have time to cover all of that in a podcast Episode. But just knowing about this information is going to get your brain rolling and thinking and helping you Hopefully put sleep at the higher priority on your list and being able to get creative about problem-solving it. Okay, we just quickly covered why sleep is so important.
Now let’s talk about how to get sleep. So the key to better sleep is to keep that circadian clock in mind, because your body loves regular and reliable rhythms. When you understand and learn to work with those rhythms you will most likely be able to solve any sleep issue you might be facing. And your good sleep starts in the morning when you wake up, because your internal clock uses light to stay calibrated. It uses light to set a steady pattern for your body to follow. That clock that you have within you is really built around light.
So when you get bright morning sunlight it triggers your waking hormones, that cortisol, that serotonin. They need light to know that you’re starting your day and you need all the energy that those cord, that cortisol and that serotonin is going to give you to get going and to feel good. So light triggers your system to be awake and gives you all those hormones and chemicals that you need to move forward in your day. And you need dimmed light and darkness to trigger your sleepy hormone of melatonin. You have a gland in your brain that actually works with your eyes and your skin to detect light and that’s called the pineal gland. And when it senses light it triggers your wake-up chemicals and when it senses that light going down, it signals your sleepy chemicals. So that light in the morning is the beginning point of your 24-hour cycle, where your sleep Relationship begins and when your wake-up time is the same every morning. Your body loves that.
When you wake up and get light first thing and get moving, all of the signals start signaling and your body Memorizes this. It gets into a pattern that starts to work and help you without so much of your own effort. So we can work with light by getting up every day and being in the light, ideally getting the Sun, maybe without sunglasses for a few minutes. You don’t look directly in the Sun, you just have to be out. Let that light come into your eyes, let it be on your skin and you’re going to be able to soak up the messages that that light gives to your pineal gland and it will actually get that gland trained. Especially if you get up every around the same time every morning, it’s going to regulate your rhythm to the light of the Sun and then, if you protect it from light in the evening, it will sense the darkness and trigger your body to get ready to sleep.
I Think it really helps to understand the concept of what’s going on when you hear people say turn off your devices. You know, don’t watch screens, because it can just almost sound controlling like I kind of roll my eyes like yeah, I know, I know. But when you understand that your body actually needs these signals, or it you know it needs to have the dimmed light as a signal, it makes a lot more sense why we have those suggestions given to us. So there’s a lot of research on ideal conditions for sleep and you’ve probably heard them before, so I’ll just run through them here Pretty quickly and hope you can listen for one or two things that you might tweak in your sleep strategy and if you’re interested in learning more, I’ll let you know when I have this workshop completed and you can come in and become a student of sleep and, you know, really really go a little bit deeper into it.
But for now, to get the cues needed for sleep, I want you to think cool, dark, slowed down and comfortable Temperature. You want it cool, as cool as you can stand it, even into the high 60s and low 70s. It’s because it triggers the body into the reparative stages of sleep and sometimes you can actually heat up To cool down. And this is exactly what we do for our kids when we give them a warm bath before bed. It helps them kind of get that sleepy sensation and a warm bath or a shower before bed can help us too sound. You want it quiet. Sound machines can help with this and they can kind of block those harsh sounds, you know, like a dog barking or your husband or spouse moving over Gives your mind a background noise that can make it easier to not be jarred by those external sounds. Earplugs can even be helpful. Comfortable Wear, loose clothing, have soft blankets, find your perfect pillow. You know this is that love affair with sleep, right. So make your bed something that is very, very desirable to you. We give babies, lovies and minkies and things to feel good when they sleep, and I want you to consider the same for you.
Slowing down your activity Generally, anything that places a high demand on your brain and your body right before bed can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. So here’s a quick list Don’t eat within a couple of hours of bedtime. Too much activity going on for your body and digestion. Exercise Make sure that you don’t exercise too close to bedtime because it revs you up when you want to be ramping down, having big discussions, too much thinking, when you want to let go of big thoughts and decisions before you go to sleep. So move your discussions or your planning conversations to earlier in the evening, stop work an hour or so before bed.
You want to be able to have a transition time between your waking and your sleeping times and that can help your body know that sleep is the thing it needs to focus on. And I think routines really help us with this. Just like you have a routine for your child, having a routine for you will trigger the cues that your brain needs to help you fall asleep, because it loves routine and it looks for anything and everything that it can automate so it doesn’t have to use precious resources to think about it. This is why creating a bedtime routine and having a regular time that you go to bed can condition your body to expect sleep. And the same reason why, if you stay up late and you do your big projects and you kind of watch your shows and you kind of binge on Netflix, your body starts to believe that that is your routine. And so when you try to change this cycle and you try to get to bed earlier, sometimes it takes a while because your body’s gonna automate what you do regularly. So we wanna give it something that really protects it. So we wanna give it a schedule to automate that’s going to protect your sleep. So going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time, you can literally train your body to a schedule if you follow it long enough. Another thing that’s really helpful from a routine standpoint is to have nothing to do with your bed except sleep and sex. This is the part of that brain training. So your brain only associates your bed for those two things and not reading or watching a show or working on your laptop. These can seem like small, maybe insignificant things, but when you start to put them together, you’re actually working with your biology.
Probably one of the most important parts of having a daily routine would be putting light into your schedule, and we talked just a little bit about this. But getting up and going outside, opening the windows if you don’t have time for a walk, if you don’t have time to mornings, are crazy. We’re getting kids out the door. But even if you walk your kids to the bus stop, that counts. You’re out in the sunlight. We see a lot of increase in depression, particularly and other mood disorders when there is no sun, if you live in a place that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight throughout the day and sometimes like whole seasons like in the Northwest, where it’s beautiful and misty but not very sunny incidences of seasonal effective disorder are so much higher. That’s because your body needs light to process all of those hormones and brain neurochemicals, and so knowing that can help you understand why you need light, no matter where you live. So putting exposure to light as part of your routine is going to really be powerful in helping you with your sleep cycles.
And we probably need to add one more thing, because another big disruptor to sleep is substance, and when we’re looking at what a body needs to start to trigger that clock cycle to be working, starting at the very beginning of your day, you’re actually working toward that time at night when you’re gonna sleep. And one of the things that we do because we’re tired, because we haven’t gotten enough sleep or because we’re out of our normal sleep cycle is that we drink caffeine or we take in caffeine in many different ways, and what caffeine does is that it reduces the effect of adenosine, which is that sleepy chemical. If you haven’t had enough sleep, your body is going to be asking you for sleep. It’s going to ask you please give me some more sleep. That’s that draggy, yucky feeling you get, and what we’d usually do is we try to make that go away, right, because we have stuff to do and it feels yucky, and so at some point someone discovered that caffeine makes us feel better. It kind of supercharges us, and the problem with that is that caffeine blocks the signal of adenosine. If we drink or take in caffeine any time after 11 or 12 noon, we are going to keep.
Caffeine has a really really long life within our system. Up to 10 hours from the last time that we took in caffeine, you can still detect caffeine in the body, and so what I want you to understand is that what that means is, after 10 hours of drinking caffeine, you have now have something still in your body telling you not to go to sleep, not to be sleepy. It’s blocking adenosine and this starts to become part of our kind of vicious cycle. Right, I’m so tired. I wake up in the morning, I need caffeine to get me going, so I take caffeine and then I have a. It kind of starts to wear off a little bit and I’ve gone longer without sleep, so I’m more tired. So I take in more caffeine.
And I’m taking in caffeine sometimes into the afternoon and evening and then I lay down to go to sleep and I can’t fall asleep and so then I’m tired and then the next day it starts over again and it kind of ladders where we need more and more and more and sometimes we have another effect that comes in with needing something that brings us down at night, and alcohol is a big depressant. It’s one of the things that people love. That feeling of getting tired and being relaxed and kind of falling asleep really doesn’t let our bodies go into our normal cycles and our liver has to process any of that alcohol or that substance in the middle of the night, so it disrupts the actual thing that we’re hoping to get at night for sleep. So it’s very important to limit any caffeine and any alcohol to the very early to mid part of your day, and I know that that’s probably not perhaps even responsible to be drinking alcohol in the middle of the day. That’s probably another topic altogether.
But as far as sleep goes, we’re not doing any passing, any judgment on what you’re drinking or what you’re eating, but I want you to understand the science, the effect of these substances on your sleep, because you can work with these things, this knowledge, to be able to help your body go back into a normal rhythm. Okay, so, having an understanding of what sleep does for you and what your internal clock needs to give you that sleep can help you put this into perspective, and I want to give you a visual on this. I want you to imagine a piece of paper and see me drawing a line, starting at the top left of the paper and slowly and steady going down and across the page to the right like a big slide. So I’m just kind of drawing a curve down the page and this represents your waking hours, from the time you open your eyes in the morning to the time you drift off to sleep at the very bottom right hand side of that page. And if we could continue after sleep, we’d finish drawing a circle where the line curves down and then back up to meet the point at the top left of your paper. So I’m going to put this in the show notes.
It’s just kind of a rough drawing of this, but I think it’s helpful to have this visual because it can help us see where we are on the slide and what we need to do to work with our internal clock as far as your body goes. If it could talk to you with words, it would say its goal is to get to those sleep hours so it can restock and restore. That would probably be its goal. As far as we’re concerned, we’re checked out during sleep, right, we’re oblivious, we’re not aware. So our focus is on living our best life in the daytime hours, and what I hope for you to see is that our daytime hours help us prepare for sleep and, of course, the sleep hours help us prepare for the daytime. We need both of these sides of the cycle. So here’s the ideal sleep slide Okay, you wake up, top left of your page, top of the slide, after seven to eight hours of sleep, close to the time the sun comes up with light and you get the light.
You open the windows, even better, you step outside onto your porch or you go for a short walk. Your pineal gland sees the light and signals cortisol and serotonin to flow, which gives you energy. And if you do this on a regular basis, your body will probably start to trigger the cortisol to come more regularly, like on a schedule just before you need it, making it easier for you to wake up and feel more refreshed, so much less tired. And then, first thing, you take in some water top of the slide and food in those first hours and that gets your digestion going, gives you energy to start moving through your day. You’re starting to front load your nutrition instead of skipping food all day long and back loading it, eating right until you go to bed. You’re going to flip that and you start to move your body. Maybe it’s stretching, yoga, a walk or some other exercise, but it’s signaling that you’re awake and moving. And if you do this every day for a couple of weeks, maybe even a couple of months, your body will get used to being rested and hydrated and fed. So you won’t need that caffeine in the morning or the alcohol in the evening. You give your body food that’s balanced with the nutrients it needs throughout the day and stopping that food a couple hours before bed, so your digestion is finishing up before your body has to do its work while you sleep.
As the afternoon turns into evening, you’re on the lower part of the slide. Things are slowing down. You finish any workouts several hours before bed so your body can return to a resting state. Your lights get dimmer in your house. You stop electronics at least an hour before bed, turning off the TV, using blue light glasses if you’re looking at screens and shutting your laptop and stopping projects in time to signal that you’re going into rest mode. You might spend five or ten minutes writing down any worries or things you need to do in a notebook before you start your regular bedtime routine, which would consist of things that signal to your body that you’re done with the emails, the work project, the budget, conversations or anything that gets your brain spinning and you let yourself slow down and do your bedtime routine.
Maybe that’s reading in a chair in your room or taking a warm bath or shower, maybe it’s just washing your face and brushing your teeth or saying a prayer, and then you’d crawl into a bed that you’ve only used for sleep or sex. So just getting into that comfy bed is another cue for your body that you’re ready to sleep. Your room would be really dark. No lights on in a hall, even the little red light of the sound machine you have that’s covered with a little piece of tape and the windows might have those blackout shades to help keep it really dark. And it would be cool about as cool as you could stand it and your pillows and sheets would feel just right, and if you needed another little help, you might do some gentle deep breathing or guided imagery to transition your focus from daytime tasks to letting go, and then you would drift off.
Did you catch some of the clues to that daytime slide into sleep? And of course, that was a perfect slide. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a perfect slide and you don’t need to have one either. There are all these little dots on that slide, little places that we could intervene to work on something to improve our sleep, and anytime you disrupt that slide, you could kind of see why your sleep might struggle. Right, and the way I want you to think about all of this is like a big data bank of knowledge that you can generally start to build your plan around. You don’t need to do everything all at once, but when you know that there’s always a little something that you could do, and if you start to bundle these efforts together, you’re really going to be working with your biology instead of against it. And one of the biggest obstacles that we haven’t yet talked about is how our minds can kind of spin and we can get worried or anxious about things going on in our day or maybe not being able to sleep right away, and I will do an episode soon on how to handle that, how to cope with the frustration of that worry machine at night and having anxiety about being tired during the day. But for now, let’s look for a place on our sleep slide that you can find one little thing you can do to increase your chances of getting a better night’s sleep. Step back and look at what’s already working for you and draw your sleep slide on a piece of paper. Just make a little notation about the things you’re doing that are working well and circle the areas in your sleep side that you might be able to add something to improve your sleep.
Sometimes we have periods of time where sleep feels impossible and there are many obstacles to sleep the ones that are in our control and those are the ones we talked about today and some outside of our control Things like medication side effects or illnesses, having sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Sometimes allergies can interrupt our sleep, and even things like anemia Different situations that may feel a little bit more complicated and that we need to reach out and get some professional help for. So what I want you to know is that there are ways to treat all of these situations, from simple education, like we’ve just talked about today, to working with experts who make this area their life work. So I want you to know and trust that there isn’t a problem you struggle with that doesn’t have a solution waiting somewhere For us and our work.
Today, in this episode, your best chance of improving your sleep is to start with the sleep slide, the basic sleep tools, to try first, before bumping things up to the next level where you need to seek a professional’s help. You’ll need to give these sleep strategies a few weeks for your brain and your body to get used to the return of that rhythm. But remember, your body wants to return to its best functioning. We just need to give it the basics of what it needs to have a fighting chance. So consider starting with some of these basics, setting an intention to protect and care for your sleep like you would for your child, and we can go from there.
Well, this is our first look at how sleep helps us and when we need to pay attention to it and give it to ourselves. There will be more. The data is massive and it’s all really interesting, but I didn’t want to just flood you with all the data when you’re thinking about getting sleep. I really don’t want you worrying about what happens when you don’t get sleep. I just want you to trust in your body and be her teammate. She needs you and sleep is part of that, and you’ll receive from sleep so much to help you live your life the way you desire that it will be worth any little or large effort you put toward getting better sleep. So I’m sending love to all of you and I will see you again next week.
Take care. Thanks so much for listening. You can always find me on Instagram, at LeeGerman, or on my website at leegermancom. Thanks again and I’ll see you next time. The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again and take care.