Health and Fitness

Sleep Better

I have learned a lot about sleep from my clients. They are very busy folks and travel more than average. One of my clients travels back and forth to different time zones, sometimes twice in one week. You can imagine what that does to her circadian clock.

I recently discussed sleep (or lack thereof) with a dear friend and Silicon Valley executive. During our discussion, I quickly realized that she was not prioritizing her sleep or herself each night. It was also clear that even the basics of sleep hygiene were not in practice. No downtime at night, animals in her bed and a bright LED clock glowing in the room. Coupled with late night email and a never ending to do list, insomnia has become a way of life.

Last year during a visit to Canyon Ranch for My Little Swans, I discussed sleep with the head of the Life Enhancement Center. I was told sleep is one of the top two reasons clients visit the Ranch. With the over use of technology and the constant borage of information coming at us nearly every minute of the day, it is no wonder our brains have trouble shutting down at night and we have created a nation with massive sleep debt.

As we approach the busy holiday season, some ideas for a personal sleep hygiene package are in order. Start at home, see what works and bring your “package” with you on the road. Consistent sounds, scents, even textures are key as they give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep.

Choosing your rituals is the fun part and you will start to look forward to your time. Pick a time you will go to bed each night and start your rituals one hour before. Yes, your health deserves one hour. No email, television, web browsing, phone. Just you and your rituals.

Here are a few ideas to try:

• Bedding: Uncomfortable bedding can prevent good sleep. Find a comfortable set of sheets that feel wonderful on your skin and pick up a few extra pillowcases. Bring a case or two to slide over hotel pillows when you travel.

•Herbal tea. Mint and chamomile aid in relaxation. The art of brewing tea is a wonderful nightly ritual. Pack a few bags to encourage sleep on the plane and when you arrive at your destination. Or, you can try hot water with lemon and a touch of honey.

•Bath salts: Draw a bath (not too hot) with your favorite scent of bath salts, then pack the same salts for travel. Your connection to the scent will help your brain to understand it is time to shut down and sleep no matter where you are. Slip into comfortable, soft pajamas and remember to bring them as part of your ritual package afar.

•Reading and music: Curl up with a book or kindle. Choose a book that completely distracts you from your day to day. If using an iPad to read, be mindful of how bright the backlight is and tone it down. Many of my clients find listening to a meditation on their iPod or the same soothing song helps them to drift off at night. iTunes is filled with options.

Nighttime yoga: try a few of these relaxing poses.

•Buy a portable sound machine. There are numerous units on the market that simulate white noise, the ocean, a crackling fire, and more. There are also apps that do the trick if you own an iPhone/iPad. Search “white noise” on your iPhone/IPad for a number to choose from.

•Exercise before 2:00 pm. This counts for home and travel. Get in at least 30 minutes. Studies have shown that exercise promotes continuous sleep and folks who exercise sleep a lot better than those who don’t.

•Stay away from alcohol 4 hours before sleep. Rich, red wine can be particularly tough on sleep.
•Caffeine, if consumed, should be done before noon. It can stay in your system for up to 12 hours.
•Keep distractions to a minimum. No television, pets, computers, work or loud music in your sleeping environment.
•Keep the room comfortably cool
•No heavy meals before bed
•Take vitamins in the morning. Many contain energy boosting vitamins which may keep you awake.

When you prioritize your sleep and health, you will be amazed at the energy and brain power you will have each day. You may also become a happier traveler and person. Who knows? Even the TSA line may become a pleasant experience.

Sandra Hahamian