March 27, 2007

Sleep – The Third Pillar of Health
A few weeks ago, I heard that sleep was identified as the third pillar of health. I thought to myself, how true that is. Sleep fits right in with the first and second pillars of health – diet and exercise. Sleep is very important to me and I cherish it immensely. Sleep helps me have the energy to exercise and helps control my temptations to reach for unhealthy food choices when sleep deprived. For me, sleep is about letting go, rejuvenating my body and slowing down the natural aging process. Isn't that what life is about – living longer?

As I've gotten older, I make sure that I not only get enough sleep, but that I have some quiet time in the evening. By quiet time, I mean time without bright lights, computers, TV or loud music. When I get to bed on-time and get enough sleep, I'm more efficient with my work, and my day seems to flow more easily. I notice that I'm more patient with the happenings in my life, and am more pleasant to be around. I no longer feel I'm missing out on life when I get more sleep. Now, I'm thankful for my sleep time, and the energy it brings.

Sleep controls your hormone levels, stress levels, metabolism, moods, fertility, cardiac health, and appetite, weight gain, and aging. Physical repair mostly takes place when the body is asleep; between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM. After 2 AM, the immune/repair energies are more focused on the psychogenic (mental) repair; that lasts until we wake up. Light and dark cycles turn hormone production on and off; activates the immune system; and time neurotransmitter release that controls eating, sleeping and hormones.

A hundred years ago, people slept 9-10 hours per night, and now most people are lucky to get 7 hours. As a society, I've noticed that people sleep less, work more, walk less, drive more, eat more, are less active, and watch more TV. Many people use stimulants to keep them awake, and take drugs to help them sleep at night. Our nation is full of sleep-deprived people. What people really need is more sleep, pure and simple!

Let's take a look at your sleep cycles and your life.
Please honestly answer the following questions.
  • Do you hit the snooze button more than once in the morning?
  • How many hours of sleep on an average do you get nightly?
  • Do you spend your weekends trying to catch-up on your sleep?
  • Do you reach for caffeine, dough nuts or candy to get you going or keep you going?
  • How often do you wake up feeling rested and refreshed?
  • Do you feel calm, productive and efficient during the day?
  • Do you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day?
  • How many hours of TV do you watch daily?
  • How many hours a day do you spend in front of the computer?
  • Do you have a difficult time getting to sleep at night and/or staying asleep?
  • Do you take sleep aids?
  • What activities do you engage in during your free-time?
  • What time would you wake up if you didn't have an alarm clock?
  • What are you willing to do to get more sleep?
Now you have a sense of what your life looks like as a result of the amount of sleep you get. Let's take a look at how you can be more productive, sleep better, lose fat, feel less stressed and live longer.

Here are five easy steps to maximize the third pillar of health – sleep.
  1. Limit TV and computer time in the evening
    The electromagnetic energy from the TV and computer disrupts melatonin and cortisol levels that control eating and sleeping. The blinking lights from the computer/TV send a signal to the brain that says, I'm awake, feed me. Being awake longer and later keeps you reaching for a sugary and carbohydrate snack or alcohol at 8 PM, 10 PM and/or midnight.
  2. Eliminate caffeine, alcohol and sugary and carbohydrate foods
    Not only will you feel better, you'll lose weight and fat, normalize your moods and be more productive. Take charge of your health and your life – it's up to you.
  3. Engage in calming, stress-relieving activities
    Listen to soft music, meditate, walk, journal, or engage in deep breathing exercises, yoga, T'ai Chi or Qigong to relax the body and the mind.
  4. Make sleep a priority
    For optimum physical and mental rejuvenation, sleep 8 hours during the months of May through September; and sleep 9-1/2 hours or more the rest of the year. If you've able to take a nap during the day, be sure it's no longer than 30 minutes.
  5. Be consistent with your wake-up time
    Irregular schedules destroy waking and sleeping times. Plan to get up around the same time (within an hour) every day of the week - even on weekends. Depending on your schedule, be in bed by 10 PM and up around 6 AM or dawn. Eventually, you will no longer need an alarm clock.
It's not surprising that sleep is the third pillar of health, and diet and exercise the first and second. Again, here are the five steps to maximizing your sleep: limit TV and computer time in the evening; eliminate caffeine, alcohol and sugary and carbohydrate foods; engage in calming activities; sleep more; and be consistent with your wake-up time. I challenge you to select just one of the five steps and perform it for one month. You will feel the difference! Pure and simple, sleep is essential to life. Give yourself the gift of sleep, sleep, sleep.

To sleeping like a baby,
Belen Carmichael, NLC
Life Coach

Should you decaffeinate your life? by Joy Bauer
Lose Weight in Your Sleep from Good Morning America
How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul W. Chek
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival by T.S. Wiley with Bent Formby, Ph.D.
The Body Clock Guide to Better Health by Michael Smolensky, Ph.D. and Lynne Lamberg

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Interested in group coaching and live in the Denver, Colorado area?
See the Events page on the website for information about the Building Stability Group for Women Business Owners, the Women's Soup Night, and Walk the Labyrinth.

Copyright 2007, INNERGY Coaching, LLC - Belen Carmichael
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Wellness Within is published monthly by BelÚn Carmichael of INNERGY Coaching, providing life coaching, nutrition and lifestyle coaching and personal training to women business owners.
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