When I tell people how old I am, most react in shocked disbelief and then ask, “Daria, how do you do it? How do you look so great for your age?
I’ll gladly let you in on my “secrets.” The truth is I’ve had a lifelong interest in health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, massage, beauty and everything related to aging well. In the past I’ve worked in the beauty and fitness industries and I’ve garnered a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
Here’s what I do that works.
I have a routine and a mindset that keeps my body humming despite the stresses that I put it under and the mistakes I’ve made along the way. I have a belief, and this is key, that I’m the type of person who takes care of myself. That I’m worth the effort to select better foods and to take time out of my day for movement and exertion. I’m worth taking care of my skin with professional facials and good-quality skin care products. I’m worth taking time for massage and other complementary health care practices.
I educate myself about supplements and nutrition, about stress reduction practices, about pain management. My interests are broad and turn up all kinds of recommendations for taking care of everything from head to toe: hair care, tooth care, soothing aching muscles in the neck and back, allergies, vision improvement, acupressure for wrinkle reduction and prevention, yoga postures, meditation variations, digestion issues, sleep habits, cellulite and lymph drainage, weight management, posture and so on.
Not everybody knows this stuff, so my friends and clients come to me for advice when they have a self-care question, and I readily help them. If I don’t have an answer off the top of my head, I can usually find one fairly quickly.
But even if you’re already doing all of this, here’s the one way you may be sabotaging yourself without even realizing it….lack of sleep. This topic keeps coming up in the media and among my clients. We aren’t sleeping very well, most of us. And not for lack of trying.
These are the things I have found most important for my own sleep recovery.
Limit caffeine. Most researchers recommend not consuming caffeine after about 3 p.m. That’s way too liberal a limit for me. I’ve tried stopping with just one cup in the morning, but even that amount disrupts my sleep. Some people are extra-sensitive to caffeine, and if that’s you, you’ll do yourself a world of good by finding an alternative you like.
Limit alcohol. I’m not saying you should stay away completely (I am Italian, after all!) but one glass of wine with dinner a few times a week is a far cry from two or three drinks every single night. This caution is especially important if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep.
Hormone levels. It’s important to know what your levels are of these three especially—cortisol, progesterone, and insulin—as too much cortisol, too little progesterone, and surges of insulin will all affect sleep. Working with a holistic doctor may be necessary if simple lifestyle changes involving supplements, botanicals, exercise, and/or mindfulness don’t even things out. Bioidentical hormone replacement is an option for those of us with low progesterone. I’ve heard that pomegranate extract is also good, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Supplementation. You will often see certain supplements recommended to help sleep, namely melatonin or valerian. You should be aware that melatonin supplements often come in dosages far in excess of what you’d actually benefit from (.3 to 1mg will do). And both melatonin and valerian can sometimes be problematic as some people (myself included) respond in a contrary manner and become wired instead of relaxed. By the way, you should only use melatonin under a doctor’s supervision.
The thing that works best for me is supplementing with about 400-500 mg of magnesium citrate (or other chelated form—not magnesium oxide) right before bed. Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the body very nicely and helps deactivate adrenaline so your brain settles down. Most Americans are deficient in this mineral and would benefit from supplementing. You can also get more of this vital mineral from dark, leafy greens, beans, nuts, avocados and garlic.
Turn off the devices. That includes the TV, the computer, the tablet, the cellphone and any other device that is backlit with blue light. These interfere with natural melatonin production and confuse our biorhythms so our bodies don’t realize it’s time to go to sleep. It’s generally recommended to go screen-free an hour or two before you hit the mattress.
Sleep is so important, ladies! It’s really the foundation of the long, luscious, lovely lifestyle, so it’s well worth doing the detective work to figure out how you can best protect your beauty sleep.