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Mindset and Sleep

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 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.

BrainI 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.

Sleeping Beauty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow did you start your day?

Did you wake up and spring out of bed, thrilled with the rest you got and ready to take on the world; or did you drag yourself out of bed and stumble into the kitchen, frantic to get some coffee going just so you could function?

Did you take some time to savor the early-morning quiet, perhaps reading something inspirational or sitting in meditation, or was it another one of those push-to-get-out-the-door-on-time days that left you feeling stressed before you even got going?

Well, truth be told, I like to think I mostly have the well-rested, take-time-to-savor-the-quiet kind of mornings. But, there are times when I didn’t sleep as well as I’d have liked and I stay in bed too late trying to get as much sleep as I can. That puts me behind schedule before my feet even hit the floor, and so the day goes….

Hmmm, the importance of adequate, restorative sleep is being talked about quite a lot these days. It happens to be a key element in the formula for Ageless Beauty. Without a good sleep routine, every other part of our life suffers.

That’s because sleep time is when your body does its main restorative work. It has everything to do with how well your hormones are balanced and how much energy you have during the day. It keeps your brain functioning harmoniously, making sense of the new input from the day before, or in other words, it keeps you sane and smart!

Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, especially around the middle. And we all know we have less patience with our loved ones when we’re tired and cranky. So, why are so many of us not making sleep a priority?

qweTWRYSTJYTKUI know that in order for me to get a good night’s rest, I have to be planning ahead early in the day. That means little to no caffeine for me, and certainly not after noon. That’s because caffeine over-stimulates the adrenals and messes with our cortisol production and its effects can last much longer than you might imagine, especially if you’re sensitive to it.

I also tend to jump on the computer after dinner (and I know lots of folks spend time in front of the TV too). Unfortunately, the type of light these electronic devices emit plays havoc with our pineal gland and we get wired when we should be winding down.

Added to all that, I also happen to be a highly sensitive person. Therefore, the stresses of the day, unfinished tasks, or worrying about upcoming events can upset my nervous system enough that I just can’t wind down once my head hits the pillow.

In my next post I’ll have some tips to help with shifting into relaxation mode.

I Knew It.

I knew it.  As I lay there in bed listening to the mantel clock chime midnight, I chided myself for my choices.  Well, not right away of course.  First off, it was the blame game.  Why does this have to happen to me when I want to be particularly alert tomorrow, when I planned to get up a half-hour earlier than usual just to make sure I have everything ready for a client retreat tomorrow?

I’m the one who preaches on the best practices for good sleep, and what did I do yesterday?  Yes, I had, not one, but two cups of regular coffee—knowing, mind you, that I am sensitive to caffeine. 

What is that thing that happens between knowing a thing and acting on it?  I’ve been sleeping so much better avoiding the caffeine, but somehow I think I can get away with a cup or two “once in a while.”  Well, coupled with the excitement over what the next day would hold, that decision proved to be disappointing.

The combination of caffeine and emotional stimulation left me buzzing for a couple of hours.  You’d think that would be enough to create a firm resolve to NEVER drink coffee again, especially if you have a lot going on in your life.sir_caffeine_alot_by_sikname-d5r8z9c

I know some studies point to coffee’s antioxidant content and even a connection with longevity, but depending on how sensitive you are to the caffeine, the rise in cortisol might cause you to go looking elsewhere for your antioxidants…oh, like maybe a couple of squares of really good, organic, 85% dark chocolate!

And for a morning drink?  Lots of health gurus recommend squeezing half a lemon in some warm water for its alkalizing effects.  For a similar effect, I’ve found that raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar—with a little bit of local honey—in warm water is a great way to start the day.  Then, perhaps, I’ll allow myself one cup of organic decaf and I’m good to go.

My new mindset?  No cup of coffee is worth my fighting to get to sleep.  Period.

Beach Story

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How does a 60-something grandmother get mistaken for a 40-something hottie?

I was in Florida for a business retreat.  After the session ended on the last day, I decided to walk to the beach (about a 20-minute walk) and took along a picnic of the leftover dinner I’d had from the night before and a book to read.

I plopped myself down on the sand, having waded past an international volleyball tournament that was happening–stunning young bodies in bikinis (no Photoshop needed) and all–and settled in to relax for a little while.  The beach itself was nothing much to see–one straight line of white sand dabbed by ho-hum waves.  (Our beaches in Oregon are spectacular by comparison.)

Every once in a while, one of the volleyball players would decide to wet her feet in the surf, and then that vision would be starkly contrasted by an elderly Jewish-looking woman (actually one after another) who was walking along the water’s edge–also in a bikini!!4702613758_82bfa448c6_z

After I’d finished my picnic and was engrossed in the book and the scenery, a Mediterranean-looking fellow walked up and gestured as if to put his stuff down a few feet away from me.  He asked if I was going to be there for a while because he wanted to go into the water.  I asked him how long he would be and he said about 20 minutes.  But then he proceeded to keep right on talking.

He had a thick accent and told me he was from north Africa, that he was in Florida because he was looking for the next place he wanted to move to, he had considered Portland as an option, that he had just been dumped by his lady friend of 2 years (although he never really loved her), and on and on.

It turned out he’s 48 years old (he thought I was younger than he).  He also had quite an appetite for spiritual discussion, so I ended up counseling him about seeing people as mirrors, about soul lessons, and about staying open to Spirit’s direction.

He wanted to know where I was staying, and I told him that wasn’t something he needed to know! As it was getting dark, I told him that if he was still going to go in the water, I wouldn’t be able to watch his stuff as I needed to get back.  I did ask his name and he said it was Bel-ai-eed.  How do you spell that?

B-E-L-A-I-D.

Hmmm.  It was a great ego-booster, I’ll tell you that!

If you have cougar ambitions, keep checking back here for tips and strategies to make that happen.