Sleep. Most of us don't get enough of it... or at least don't get enough quality sleep.
But, it's SO very important. It takes up about a third of your life (and impacts the other two-thirds).
Part of the problem, of course, is the hectic nature of our society. Turning off a busy mind is very difficult and wreaks havoc on your sleep. Keep this in mind, though: your body is also always present -- it's not in the past, not in the future (whereas your mind is all over the place). Your body never lies.
You need to learn to prepare for sleep, surrender to slumber, and get back to the simplicity of sleep.
Some of that preparation is putting your technology devices to bed about an hour before YOU go to bed. Surrendering can involve not looking at that clock if you wake in the middle of the night.
What if you have trouble falling asleep? Again, usually it's because your mind is too active. If you can combine body awareness with breathing and a gratitude practice, you can get your mind to a place where it's ready to go to sleep. You won't be thinking about those million other things, both your body and brain will be relaxed.
Sleep expert, Nancy Rothstein (also known as The Sleep Ambassador®), joins Andrea and Lisa to share why sleep is so important, how it's changed over the years, and simple ways you can get better, more restful sleep.
RadioMD Presents:Naturally Savvy | Original Air Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Hosts: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH
Guest: Nancy Rothstein, the Sleep Ambassador®
Lisa: If you ask my 10 year old daughter, I’m strict about 2 things. One is eating whole foods and eating a good diet. The other one is sleep. There is no wiggle room on our sleep schedule. I don’t care if we have relatives over that we haven’t seen in ten years. We’re still going to bed, at the time we go to bed. I’m a little extreme, but we’ll see what Nancy Rothstein has to say because I think it makes such a difference in the quality of our lives and, of course, in our health. Nancy Rothstein is the Sleep Ambassador®, Hi Nancy.
Nancy: Hello ladies, good morning.
Lisa: It’s great to have you on. I’m a bit extreme, but talk to us about how we can all get better sleep and, if I’m right, that’s just so important to our health.
Nancy: Well, just listening. If you look at honest living like you just mentioned. One of the most important things is that we can all go to the press and read a million things about sleep but very few people have ever actually taken a course on sleep. It takes up about 1/3 of our lives, and totally impacts the other 2/3 but most of us don’t really know much about it. If we learn about it, we still don’t know what to do about it. So one thing, in terms of the word honest, and this is very important, our bodies are always honest. Our bodies never lie. And the other thing about our bodies is that they’re very present. They’re not in the past, they’re not in the future, and they’re right now. Whereas our minds? Our minds are all over the place. We’re thinking about what we didn’t do and what we need to do, especially for many people when they lay down to sleep at night. Turning off a busy mind and all of that mind chatter is very difficult, so it plays a lot of havoc with falling asleep. The other issue is that transitioning to sleep is so hard for so many people. We could spend hours talking about technology and sleep. I like to say put technology to sleep a good hour before going sleep, without getting into the intricacies of what the blue light does on all of these devices we are on. But I’m going back to the point of listening to our bodies. They are honest. Shutting everything off. I like to say our biology hasn’t changed. Sleep is as essential as food or oxygen. We diet, we don’t live, and we die. But our behaviors have changed so drastically since Thomas Edison’s beautiful invention of the light bulb. Then you add to it all of the technologies, and thank you Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, but it’s all playing havoc with our sleep. We have to get back to the simplicity of sleep, and that’s what we’ve really lost. We’ve lost how simple it is. I love you that you Lisa, I think it was you, said that you are very strict about your sleep habits. That’s because you’ve recognized it as important and you’ve been able to honor it by doing the things you need to. As I like to say, prepare for sleep. It takes preparation for sleep, and it takes surrendering to slumber when literally laying down to fall asleep. Can you stay asleep?
Andrea: Nancy, I have a couple of questions and I’d love to hear your answers. For those people that have trouble falling asleep, what would you recommend?
Nancy: There’s a lot of answers to that, but because we don’t have a lot of time this afternoon, I’m going to give something that I’ve been teaching a lot in my consulting. I love to see the way it has impacted people so rapidly. When you can’t fall asleep it’s usually because your mind is to active, right? Would that be correct?
Nancy: Here’s a suggestion, a very quick one I’ll make; if you can combine body awareness with breathing and a gratitude practice, you’re pretty much going to cover all the bases to get your mind where it needs to be to go to sleep, which is relaxed, and not thinking about unknown (4:32). We’ve all probably heard, and anyone that’s been to yoga class knows a technique something like this, but when you combine these three different relaxations techniques it’s pretty powerful. It’s a way to get into your body and out of your head. So you start to breathe deeply. You start at your feet. This isn’t about tensing them up and then relaxing them; it’s just going to your feet and saying to them: “I’m so grateful you walked for me; you did so much today, you can rest now.” And then, without getting in to all the details, whatever works for the individual, go up through your body. Get to your stomach and say: “You just did so much work, you can rest now, you can rest.” Then get to your heart. When was the last time any of us thanked our heart? Our heart never gets to rest. It’s always beating and has such a huge impact on our existence. And then you just thank your heart. You thank it for beating all day, whatever comes to you. If there’s an emotional thing, thank it for the feelings, whatever it is, if you’re not asleep already. Remember, we’re combining gratitude, because when you’re grateful you can’t be angry or thinking of other things. We’re combining body awareness, body parts, whatever works for you. And we’re combining breathing, breathing into the different body parts. Then you go to your mouth and your eyes and your ears and your nose, and you breathe. It’s just such a simple thing to do. I’m not asking anyone to buy anything or do anything different, just spend the time spent tossing and turning into something that may be more effective to help them go to sleep. Now, if somebody is getting a fair amount of sleep but wakes up exhausted every day or wakes up during the middle of the night or unknown (6:38) tosses and turns for 2 hours, I highly recommend, I’m not a medical practitioner, that they seek medical care for a prospective diagnosis or treatment for a bona fide sleep disorder. That said, I think many people could improve their sleep just by their sleep preparation and their ability to relax when they get in bed.
Andrea: I definitely think that makes a lot of sense and I like that you say to thank our body, because I do believe that our body doesn’t get thanked enough I think a lot of us are very hard on our body. I think that giving it thanks and appreciation is definitely something that’s important for us to do. We only have about a minute and a half left. Is there anything else you would recommend for those who are listening, in terms of having trouble sleeping, anything you could recommend as the Sleep Ambassador®, that we can leave them with?
Nancy: Yes I would. I think one of the most effective things to help be people, being falling asleep or if they wake up during the night and falling back asleep, is don’t look at the clock. And if your clock is a cell phone, go out and buy and inexpensive clock that, if it has an LED light it should be red, or a simple old fashioned clock. Set the alarm a while before you go to bed. Liberate yourself from the time when you’re going to sleep and turn the clock around and move it far enough away that you’re not going to be pressing the snooze button, which definitely robs you of good sleep if you keep pressing the snooze button. But take away looking at the clock. It doesn’t cost anything, and again, it’s simple and it can have a huge impact on not activating the brain to start counting hours and everything that we do when we look at the clock. That’s important. And then do a self-assessment. What’s the reality here? Do a reality check on your sleep and don’t put too much pressure. Take small steps, adapt your sleep, but good sleep is definitely possible for everybody.
Andrea: Well, I think that’s a great note to end the show on, don’t you Lisa?
Lisa: Oh yes. I used to drive myself crazy looking at the clock. It makes it so much worse, she’s so right.
Nancy: It’s a huge tip, and it makes such a big difference. Such a small thing to do, with such a positive impact.
Andrea: Well, we agree Nancy. Thank you very much for being on our show today. You can learn more about Nancy by going to her website at www.TheSleepAmbassador.com. You can also follow her on twitter @SleepAmbassador. I’m Adrea Donsky along with Lisa Davis. This is Naturally Savvy Radio RadioMD. Like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @YourRadioMD and @NaturallySavvy. Thanks for listening everyone. Sleep well and stay well.