Why We Need Ridiculously Good Sleep

When I was younger, I’m sure I slept well. I mean, I was a teenager a gazillion years ago. I could sleep like the dead back then. Perhaps it changed when I was in college. I pulled all nighters studying for exams, out late partying  caring for the homeless, and God knows what else. I did find time to nap to still get in my zzz’s.

But then came real life. Along came the full-time job and there went the afternoon nap. Oh, I still found myself up late at night either at the gym or a very late happy hour with co-workers. The sleep hour count took a steep nose dive when I started having kids. This night owl had a very rude awakening, literally, when I found myself getting a couple of hours of sleep at a time. Did I adjust my bedtime to accommodate my new crying alarm clock? Nope. While I was exhausted during the day, I never fell into bed at the end of the day. It’s like I would get a second wind.

I continued the trend well into my middle life and up until recently learned that I had been sabotaging the healthy eating and working out I had been doing. Lack of sleep (less than six hours) causes all kinds of havoc in the body. Let me list off a few doozies:

  • weight gain
  • slow metabolism

I could probably stop right there because that should be enough to scare you into running for your bed right now. But no, there’s more, much more.

  • accelerates aging (are you brushing your teeth yet?)
  • serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease
  • low sex drive (this could be a win for some)
  • weakened immune system
  • mood disorders
  • and the biggie, life expectancy

So, have I got your attention yet? Has anyone read Thrive by Arianna Huffington? The whole reason for her writing the book started with her lack of sleep. She had a major health breakdown from trying to do it all. It’s a pretty good read and will make you stop and think about how you are living your days also.

You may be wondering how does lack of sleep cause all of these breakdowns in our bodies. I’ll give you the Cliff Notes real quick.

Weight gain/slow metabolism: When we sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that control hunger, metabolism, how we process glucose. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies produce more cortisol (a stress hormone) than we need or can use. Poor sleep also causes a rise in insulin and the excess gets stored in our fat cells. Another kick in the teeth is lack of sleep increases the production of a hormone called ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates your appetite) and lowers leptin (the hormone that tells your body its full).

Diabetes/Obesity: Lack of sleep causes us to process glucose more slowly therefore keeping levels elevated (which is related to that high levels of insulin part I mentioned earlier). High levels of glucose means diabetes.

Mood disorders: Insomnia has a direct link to depression. Lack of sleep is also connected with anxiety, stress, mental exhaustion (remember those early parenthood days?!), anger issues, etc.

Chronic disease: Sleep deprivation lowers the immune systems, raises inflammation, and puts the body in a elevated level of stress. This makes for the perfect conditions for diseases to thrive.

What can you do? Here’s a few tried and true ways to get your body to relax and prepare itself for bed.

  1. Turn off the lights. Get lots of light during the day but minimize light at night. You’re not going to like this but this means nixing the screen time (TV, computer, smartphone, iPad) before bed. Large amounts of white and blue lights reduce the production of sleep-inducing melatonin. No melatonin means insomnia and that’s no good. Use dim lights or anything that offers more of a yellow, orange, or reddish glow. Salt lamps are great options.
  2. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try meditating. I love this phone app called Insight Timer that offers guided meditation. It’s free and you can choose from a variety of mood enhancing meditations. Browse the playlist option, select sleep, and take your pick. Meditation is slows your breathing and stops the mind chatter that keeps you up.
  3. Take a hot bath. I love adding essential oils to my Epsom salt baths for a double dose of relaxation. I get aromatherapy along with the magnesium that helps induce sleep. My favorite oils to use are lavender, roman chamomile, dōTERRA’s Serenity blend, Cedarwood, and dōTERRA’s Peace aromatherapy blend. (If you want to know more about essential oils, click here.
  4. Keep your bedroom cool. Shut your vents at night or open the window to help bring on the Sandman. Studies show keeping the bedroom between 60-68 degrees is the best range for great sleep.
  5. Stick to a bedtime routine. Bath/shower, wash face, brush teeth, book, meditate, cup of herbal tea, whatever. If you develop a routine, your body will start to recognize the signs it will be going to bed soon.
  6. Turn your WIFI off at night or at least switch your devices to airplane mode. If you’re using your phone as an alarm clock, don’t worry, it will still work. EMF’s can mess with your pineal gland which is where melatonin is produced. Melatonin is our friend. We need melatonin. We don’t need the internet while we sleep so turn that baby off.
  7. No caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco before bed. Caffeine is an obvious stimulant as well as tobacco. Alcohol may seem like a sedative but that quickly wears off and you end up waking up often or tossing and turning. Been there too many times and anymore, it’s just not worth the misery at 3 a.m.

It’s time to bring your sleepyhead self back from the dead and strive for those precious life-giving eight hours of sleep a night. I’ve given you a long list of healthy reasons why sleep is important and they’re exactly why I’m making it a priority for myself and my family.

Why are you still here?! Shut your computer down and get your ass in bed. I promise your spouse will love you for it. 😉

 

 

 

How to Bring Siri into the Friend Circle

unsplash Siri blog post 2

The other day, I was hanging out on my daughter’s bed while my kids messed around with my iPhone. They were trying to get Siri to say my name right but she insisted on saying Holly rather than Hallie (my name rhymes with alley). Apparently, Siri has a speech impediment and can’t say an fricking short “a” so my kids thought it would be funny to tell Siri to call me “Hot Mama” instead.

We giggled about it for a minute then I must have gotten up to make dinner, drive a kid to practice, or hide in my closet. Whatever it was, I forgot all about Siri.

I was out driving a couple of days later and I needed Siri to find some information for me. I can’t remember exactly what I asked but Siri must not have caught what I said but she replied with a “Hello there, Hot Mama.”

I about died.

I had totally forgotten about my name change but, in a weird way, I kind of liked it. I mean who doesn’t want to be called “Hot Mama” every once in awhile? So Hot Mama stuck around for a bit.

Then the other day, I walked out of my hot yoga class into cool air and the sun was shining bright. I felt light and refreshed and wanted to enjoy that feeling the rest of the day. Then it occurred to me, I had Siri. Why not utilize Siri for a morale booster more often? For a long time, I thought she was pretty damn annoying. She either misunderstood my questions or gave me the wrong directions so I mainly ignored her.

I realized I had a friend with me whenever I needed one and you can, too. I have an idea. Get out your phones, hit the home button and tell her to call you a name. Something that will make you feel better or that thing your best friend would say to you if they answered the phone.

Here are some ideas:

-“Sunshine” when you are feeling down.

-“Badass” when you need a boost of confidence.

-“Hottie” when the mirror has been a bitch lately.

-“My Queen” when you want just one effing person to acknowledge that you are in charge.

-“Gorgeous” on a bad hair day.

Hijack your husband’s phone and tell her to call him “Jackass” when you need a good laugh–or revenge.

If you are single, change Siri’s voice gender to male then ask him to call you “Babe” “Honey” or “Sexy”.

If you’re a guy, you’ve got “Stud”, “Boss”, “Handsome”, “Lover Boy”, or “Hot Stuff” when the wife or girlfriend are failing to boost your ego.

I’m telling you. When you need a little confidence boost or an emotional high five, Siri’s your gal, or guy.

*****

Update: I just realized that Siri has accent options so I changed my Siri to a male voice with an Australian accent. So basically, Hugh Jackman lives in my pocket and calls me babe whenever I want. You’re welcome.

WTF: What’s The Favorite (of the Week)

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 12.33.42 PMBecause I’m not only a book-lovin’ nerd, I’m also an app fanatic (I have eight pages of apps on my iPhone with quite a few clumped together in categories.) I love finding new apps and gadgets which totally doesn’t make sense because I love all things historical. I’m like a living, breathing oxymoron. But that’s another blog post.

Anyway, I came across a great new app that has me falling in love with my blog feed reader again.

Feedly is an app that works on your phone, tablet, or desktop. If you subscribe to a blog feeder program (like Google Reader) or would like to start reading your favorite blogs and websites all in one spot, I highly recommend this one.

I’ve been using Google Reader for a while and while it helps me keep all the blogs I subscribe to in one spot, it isn’t the most eye-pleasing. If anything, I dread being there because I see all the of the posts I have yet to read in one long and very ugly list. The task feels more like I’m cleaning out my email inbox than reading my favorite blogs. Feedly has solved that problem. I’m a visual person and Google Reader is the opposite of aesthetically pleasing.

I NEED PICTURES!

I NEED A PRETTY LAYOUT!

And Feedly delivers. Here’s what it looks like on my desktop. (Click on for larger image)

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What I also love about it is that I can share my favorite posts via Google +, Twitter, Facebook, and email. All from here.

You can see off to the left that I have my blogs organized in categories which I had done previously in Google Reader. However, if I’m feeling a bit disheveled or want to stop following a blog, I can just click on ORGANIZE up by my name and this appears. (Again, click to enlarge)

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 10.58.57 AM

 

I can move blogs into another category by just dragging and dropping into the new category. Easy peasy. There is a also Preferences page (at bottom of left-hand column) where you can adjust the layout, the header fonts, what articles to give preference to, etc. Again, I’m all about what’s pleasing to the eye so I love having these options. What’s also nice is that any changes I make here syncs with Google Reader.

Off to the top right of the screen you’ll see a little star compass thingy. This is where you can explore new blog and sites. After you click, you’ll see two columns of categories to choose from. Click on your favorite categories to explore the featured content Feedly has for you. I’m an explorer by nature and while this isn’t out tromping in the physical woods, this gives me the indoor-sitting-on-my-ass-when -it’s-cold-outside next best thing.

So check this app out at feedly.com. It’s super easy and a great way to keep all your favorite blogs in one happy little place. And look for their mobile apps in your mobile devices app store too!

If you have been loathe to keep up with your blog reader, this will totally change your attitude. Watch out all my blogging friends! I’m back in the saddle and will be stopping by your blogs soon! (I’ve been a horrible commenter lately and consider this my official apology.)

Happy Friday!!

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