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Dear Reader,

How many of you dear readers are “struggling” with some aspect of your life? Perhaps you are working hard to shed a few (or many) pounds, or you have a seemingly endless project that you can’t seem to complete (or get to!), or you have a person in your life who is driving you crazy yet you can’t rid yourself of them because they are family! Most people I know are trying really hard to handle the challenges of life. But WHAT IF THERE WAS A SINGLE “CURE –ALL” THAT MADE EVERYTHING EASIER? A magical remedy that allowed for easier weight loss, greater energy, faster healing, higher concentration, increased patience and tolerance that ultimately allowed for greater peace and happiness? Would you promise yourself to try it for a week? What if the answer was as simple as GOING TO BED AND GETTING MORE SLEEP?

Researchers are confirming we are suffering from a sleep epidemic that threatens our safety (sleepy drivers, mistakes in patient care, increased risky behaviors and accidents) and lowers the quality of our lives. Dr. Rachel Salas, Associate Professor of Neurology and Assistant Director at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep reminds us that “sleep is a basic human need, not a luxury!”. Dr. Naresh Punjabi, pulmonologist and professor of medicine at John Hopkins University recently spoke at A Women’s Journey Workshop in south Florida. He asserted that our use of electronic gadgetry (phones, ipads, television) at nighttime is interrupting our sleep/awake rhythms. In our brain, a small group of hypothalamic nerve cells, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), controls our circadian pacemaker timing of the sleep-wake cycle and coordinates this with circadian rhythms in other brain areas and other tissues of our body. But the blue-green lights that electronic devices give off are over stimulating our brains and interfering with the function of our natural sleep cycle. Additionally, when we do not get enough rest, our hormone cycle gets off track, and the hormones that regulate appetite and weight loss get reversed. While we sleep, the hormone, Leptin, increases in the body. This hormone has the awesome job of letting our brains know we have enough fat already and it suppresses our appetite! But if we stay up late, and our bodies are fatigued yet unable to reset, our body get confused and releases more of the hormone Ghrelin, that not-so-helpful hormone that triggers hunger and because we are already tired and our cognitive functioning not at optimal levels, we tend to go for the sweet and salty snacks past 11 pm! Come on, be honest, who really makes themselves a salad at midnight?

Have any of you ever woke up cranky? (Ask your spouse or children for a more accurate answer). Many of us try to cover up this morning malaise with caffeine or sheer determination to work under pressure even if it feels like a complete “struggle”. My sister has noted that when she has had a bad night’s sleep she wakes up with more questions, but when she has slept well, she wakes up with answers! How about giving yourself a chance to truly feel great naturally by getting some sleep?

Here are a few gentle reminders to tap into the universal cure of SLEEP:

1. Establish a bedtime ritual. Decide in advance what time you will go to bed and turn off electronics 2 hours prior to this to allow your brain to relax!

2. Take a warm shower or bath to allow your body to relax.

3. Drink a soothing drink. (Not alcohol - although it can make you drowsy, it also causes brain arousals at night). Opt for warm peppermint or chamomile teas.

4. Drink a few ounces of organic tart cherry juice, which is a natural source of melatonin, a few hours before bedtime.

5. Be sure you have exercised your body during the daytime.

6. Keep communications in the evening gentle. Focus on the love!

7. Your bedroom environment should be soothing, dark and cool. Keep your bedroom reserved for sleeping, draw the blinds or curtains and keep the temperature cool (studies show 65-70 degrees ideal).

Make sleep a priority! If you do not feel rested when you wake up, try to sleep more! If this is not an option, look ahead at your day and schedule a mini nap to rejuvenate your body and your outlook! When we are rested, life feels “easy breezy”! You (and your loved ones!) deserve to feel great!

Sweet dreams, Diana

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