Ah, sleep. The most inexpensive and effective beauty treatment out there. Sleep has always been a big part of my life, and not always in a positive way. In fact, rarely in a positive way: I have been a chronic insomniac for over 10 years and I am also the mother of two babies. Enough said.
So as a vain woman, this has caused me a considerable amount of torture. How on earth can I expect to heal and rejuvenate my cells and tissues (aka skin) with barely any shut-eye? Will my skin age at an astronomical rate? Am I going to become obese, get diabetes or cardiovascular disease? Will I die young? Well, the current research certainly tells me that. I know, I know, I need to get 8 hours of beauty sleep a night. But the problem is, for many years, I could not sleep. I dreaded bedtime, and avoided any conversation about sleep. The mere thought of sleep triggered waves of anxiety.
So what is my solution? Have two babies and exhaust yourself so you just can’t help but fall asleep? Ha ha, that did work, but in the event that you don’t want two babies, I have some incredible tips.
Last spring, in an act of desperation, I went to see a sleep therapist. I had obviously tried all sorts of herbal and homeopathic sleep concoctions, and although they helped a bit, I needed more. I was also six months pregnant, so my medicinal options were limited. My therapist recommended the book “No More Sleepless Nights” by Peter Hauri PhD and Shirley Linde PhD – and it really changed my life! Some of their tips follow:
- First of all, don’t panic. The amount of sleep that we need varies tremendously – some people only need 3 hours a sleep each night, and some need 10+ hours! Revelation. All the studies out there have always told me we needed 8 hours of sleep to function properly. BUT, just as each individual is different, so are our sleep requirements. The pressure to get 8 hours every night was lifted!
- Insomnia can often be caused by stress, tension, anxiety, depression, illness, medication, breathing problems, or lifestyle (smoking, drinking, coffee, lack of exercise, shift work, etc.). Assess what factors are contributing to your insomnia. I stopped all caffeine (even green tea in the morning) and it made a huge difference.
- Keep a sleep log – first step is to get up every morning at the SAME TIME and NO NAPS
- Three things every insomniac should do:
- Reduce caffeine – cut out caffeine entirely for a month, then add back one coffee or tea in the morning only
- Limit alcohol – cut out alcohol entirely for a month, then add back a small amount (at least 2 hours before bedtime)
- Stop smoking cigarettes
- Rules of sleeping well:
1. Cut down on your sleep time – most insomniacs stay in bed too long. Find a consistent hour to get up every morning and work backwards to find your bedtime. Initially, no matter how little sleep you get, arise at your appointed hour. After several nights of doing this, your body will eventually fall into its own unique rhythm. Remember, insomniacs often do not need as much sleep as they think. THIS CHANGED MY LIFE.
2. Never try to sleep – this can create anxiety. IF sleep is not coming easily, get out of bed and engage yourself in another activity. The activity should be gentle and calming (ie. Reading, meditating, listening to a relaxation track).
- Don’t be afraid of insomnia!
1. Give yourself time to wind down
2. Keep a regular schedule
3. Exercise daily
- Eat regular, nutritious meals throughout the day to balance your blood sugar levels
The bottom line is that insomniacs are very sensitive individuals. Their sympathetic nervous systems can react very strongly to any stimulants (ie. caffeine, alcohol), stress and anxiety. We need to calm down and relinquish our expectations of getting 8 hours of sleep every night. Our bodies don’t need it. That’s all. Relax, read a good book, and get up at your appointed time. And be beautiful.
Adapted from “No More Sleepless Nights” by Peter Hauri Ph.D and Shirley Linde, Ph.D
Stacey Shillington, ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) in 2006. She has since established a practice in downtown Toronto focusing on naturopathic anti-aging and skin care, including mesotherapy and cosmetic acupuncture.