Why Your Ideal Day Depends on Deep, Delicious Sleep
At a recent business development retreat in Nottingham, England, I sat with a group of women from the US, the UK, Amsterdam, and Sweden to talk about our growing businesses. This afternoon’s workshop veered away from discussion of e-mail lists, brand strategies, delivering content, and making offers. It was titled, “Your Ideal Day.”
My Ideal Day
I began to write about my early morning plans to rise and work with my trainer or walk outside, after which I brewed my non-caffeine, Rasa “coffee” and made my way to my desk. But it occurred to me that this “ideal day,” depended, more than anything, on a good night’s sleep.
During the discussion, one woman asked the group if any one of us had ever felt “awake-asleep,” which she described as holding a cup of coffee and behaving as though she was awake, while feeling like she could collapse in a puddle of distressed sleep at any moment.
We all laughed, but none of us thought it was very funny.
Deep Sleep for Women 50 and Wiser
At the age of 50, I I realized I simply could not continue to push through my days by sheer force of will and then live without sleep because my adrenaline-fueled energy simply would not turn off when it was time to sleep.
I had to learn how to sleep. At first, I thought I could simply force myself to sleep like I did everything else. I decide and it happens. But that clearly didn’t work.
I turned my sights to healing myself and sleep was one of my first projects. Finally, just this year, I realized that I had developed a process that I could share. I call it my 3-day Sweet Dreams Challenge and the link is below. I hope you will give it a try.
Let’s Start with the Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
But first, I found it helpful to know all the reasons why sleep is so important – both the good news and the bad news. One of my favorite online health coaches, Sara Gottfried, M.D. just came out with a new book called the “Brain Body Diet: 40 Days to a Lean, Calm, Energized, and Happy Self” (HarperOne, 2019).
Here’s what Dr. Gottfried tells us about all the good sleep does for us: a good night of sleep organizes our day, doing an accounting of what we did and storing memories. Night time is when neuroplastic regeneration, our brains’ way of healing, renewing, and growing new pathways is underway. During this time our much-needed growth hormone and melatonin are at their highest. Sleep shampoos away toxins, repairs damaged mitochondria, and shores up our memories. Sleep is like restarting our minds and bodies (p.294-295).
And . . . the Not-So-Good News
As we age, our sleep becomes more and more elusive. We have a harder time falling asleep and then wake up more frequently in the night. (I’m sure that’s not news to you.) With this difficulty sleeping, comes a wave of unfortunate, even debilitating, developments: weight gain, faster aging, a weakened immune system, risk of cancer, diabetes, and stroke, and finally, memory loss.
I Could Not Force Myself to Sleep
We are awash in advice about how to sleep better. We are told that proper “sleep hygiene” involves darkening and cooling our bedrooms, turning off our devices, and taking herbal rather than pharmaceutical supplements.
I found that even after dutifully doing all of these things, if I was “wired and tired,” sleep was simply not going to happen. Have you experienced this? I knew I needed my sleep, but deep, delicious sleep was like a gold ring, floating in the distance, just out of reach.
This first thing I had to learn was that I could not force myself to go to sleep. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the mindfulness-based stress reduction programs in hospitals all over the world, asks us to listen to what our bodies are telling us and what these messages might tell us about how we are moving through our days. (Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Bantam Books, 2013. p. 472).
Now, I have to admit, that when I turned 50 (and I’m 67 now), I wouldn’t have been eager to hear that message. I simply wasn’t ready to re-examine my life. I just wanted that seven to eight hours so that I could get back on the train downtown in the morning and do what I did again for another day.
The Most Important Sleep Lesson I Have Learned: “Falling” Into Sleep
I learned that if I am “wired and tired” all the conventional sleep hygiene prescriptions do not work. I learned that I had to let myself “fall” into sleep.
I created a “pre-sleep,” lying down experience that I offer to folks in my sweet dreams challenge below. This deepening relaxation process has changed so much about my daily life.
On the relatively rare occasions when things don’t go well, I find myself in that state of “awake-sleep” and I am not happy about how I feel. Those sorts of days remind me how crucial sleep is for me and offer support when I must say “no” to late-night events and put my sleep first.
I suppose my new-found and stubborn persistence about creating a situation in which I can “fall into sleep” is part of my code-of-conduct for being 50 and wiser. I really thought hard about how I had been traveling through my days and what needed to change and now I find my sweet dreams practice is a precious gift that I hold on to quite tightly.
Would You Like to Give this Process a Try?
I invite you to join my free, 3-day, Sweet Dreams Challenge, and try out my precious sleep practice to see if you can get just a glimmer of what it feels like to “fall into” sleep.
When you click the link, you’ll see a description of the challenge and when you sign up, you’ll also be subscribed to my free blog, where I speak to women 50 and wiser about what we want our post-50 years to feel like.
Here’s the link:
I would love to hear about how this sleep process works for you.
Content provided by Women Belong member AnnMerle Feldman