Ultimately, moms are often left to feel overstretched & stressed out. And, they are left confused on which fad science to believe and without sustainable skills to resolve & to recover from their stress.
With the women/moms that I have worked with with, sleep is most often the main thing that they are trying to recapture. I hope to educate you on the stress – sleep relationship and to leave you with low cost, lifestyle modification to better improve your sleep & health.
Moms are constantly searching for ways to balance their lives and the presence of stress. Commonly reported causes of stress for moms are:
- Time Demands.
- Relationship Demands.
- Protective Instincts.
- Self Doubt.
- Time Alone.
Women tend to express stress differently than men. When under prolonged stress, women often report experiences of headaches, emotional instability, gut and/or digestive issues, and emotional eating.
Stress – Sleep
Stress, or the stress hormone cortisol, is not the villain to your poor sleep. Adrenal Fatigue is not the culprit (there’s more to cortisol & adrenals than what’s often reported). Yet, this is the story that is often told in the functional medicine/nutrition world. It’s the inability to turn off AND RECOVER from the stress response that is the cause.
Proper recovery is most often the missing piece to reaching one’s health, fitness, and/or performance goals.
The inability to recover prolongs the stress response and leads to living in a state of chronic stress. In my practice, it is the effects of this inability to properly mitigate the stress response that I most commonly work with clients to solve. This unchecked stress response, most commonly, can lead to:
- Prolonged general fatigue.
- Increase in tension, depression, anger or confusion.
- Inability to relax.
- Poor-quality sleep.
- Lack of energy, decreased motivation, moodiness.
- Not feeling joy from things that were once enjoyable.
- Get sick easily or commonly get upper respiratory infections.
- Hormone imbalances and/or thyroid issues.
However, there is a way to overcome this. The answer – Recovery.
What is Recovery?
“I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.”
Recovery is the missing link in today’s stress-filled world.
Briefly, recovery is turning off the stress response and turning on the healing response – what your body should be doing whenever you aren’t in a stressed state (and the other 23 hours of the day that you aren’t in the gym). A comprehensive recovery program seeks to restore the body from the effects of stress by connecting the dots between fitness/training, conditioning, and lifestyle.
Through my time as a performance-focused chiropractor, I’ve learned to view all of my clients’ goals through the lens of health. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years. Everyone from world-champion athletes to those who were chronically ill to people that just wanted to get up off the couch and be healthier. And, I’ve learned that we all need more than just exercise and diet advice. To support health & performance goals — especially during major life upheavals — they need solid sleep, stress management, and recovery skills. Developing these skills with my clients has now become an integrated part for all of my clinical programs.
Why should we sleep?
At the foundation of any recovery program should be sleep.
Gary Keller’s book (of Keller Williams Realty), The One Thing, makes the case that we will move closer to our goals by focusing our energy on one thing at a time. This approach cuts through the clutter of life and breaks down, seemingly, impossible goals into bite-sized & attainable pieces.
Sleep is an important period of time for our body to heal & regain energy. More importantly, it is the time for our cells to restore, regenerate, and repair. Sleep is known to:
- Decrease inflammation
- Improve memory
- Promote cognitive development
- Enhance skill & movement development
- Help body composition by reducing cravings throughout the day
Sleep deprivation might cause:
- Poor cognitive function and/or decision making
- Slower reaction times
- Memory lapses
Prolonged period of sleep deprivation would lead to:
- Chronic fatigue
- Weak immunity/chronic upper respiratory infections
- Increased likelihood of cancer
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain and/or Type II diabetes.
Sleep is both pro-health and anti-disease. And, therefore, the one thing that we could all do to make ourselves healthier.
How much sleep do we need?
Our biological sleep-wake cycle is internally controlled by our circadian clock; our 24-hour clock that is connected to light/dark cycles. The right timing of sleep is important for rejuvenation and growth. A good sleep would happen when maximum secretion of melatonin and lowest body temperature happen in between the sleep. On average, adults including elders need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Children do need more sleep than adults. As mentioned earlier, the resting state of the body during sleep is vital for cells to restore, regenerate, and repair. Prolonged periods of sleep deprivation for all people will hinder growth, development, and proper function.
|Hours of sleep per day|
|+/- 18 hours
+/- 16 hours
+/- 14 hours
+/- 11 hours
+/- 9.5 hours
+/- 9 hours
+/- 8 hours
+/- 8 hours
+/- 8 hours
Steps to naturally improve your sleep?
Continuing with the theme of “One Thing”, I have found that focusing on optimizing your morning is the best way to set you up for sleep success.
If you are having trouble or difficulties with sleep and/or are continuously not waking up refreshed, fixing your sleep might seem like an insurmountable problem. Most sleep fixes are centered around your night time procedures, sleep environment, and supplement use. Instead, a morning ritual works with your biological, Circadian rhythm clock to make you want to go to sleep.
Your Circadian rhythm is your internal clock that works with the light/dark cycles of our 24-hr day.
We want to leverage morning routines to work on our neurology to sync two hormones – melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin helps us to fall asleep (it does not keep us asleep) and Cortisol wakes us up. These two need to work in coordination with each other. The best way to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep is to start in the morning and to create a daily schedule that works toward optimizing your sleep hormones.
Your body relies on a cascade of hormones that dictate when you sleep, eat, and what you are motivated to do. When you don’t sleep well, the domino effect of protective hormones is altered.
Melatonin is the key…
- Helps us to fall asleep
- Does not help us stay asleep
- Is an antioxidant
- Produced by the pineal gland, eyes, skin, and the gut
- Is made from the amino acid tryptophan
Cortisol is the modifier…
- Wakes us up/should have a spike in the morning
- Mobilizes sugars for energy
- Elevated during times of inflammation
- Is prevalent during stressful situations…
- Produced by the adrenal glands, intestines, skin, brain, and possibly the heart
- Can be analyzed/monitored via basic blood labs (CMP-14)
Neither hormone is the magic-bullet or the culprit. It is the balance between the two that needs to be addressed…
5 Steps to Better Your Sleep
- Early morning sunlight (or bright light)
- Early morning light on your eyeballs tells your brain to start making melatonin. While counterintuitive, this starts to build your melatonin account so that you can use it at night. Sitting outside, facing the direction of the sun (even if it’s overcast), and enjoying a cup of coffee is all this step takes.
- If you’re one that wakes before the sun, a full-spectrum light box is the way to go. Set off to a 45* angle to your face, this has similar effects as early morning sunlight.
- If you’re a shift worker, getting sunlight into your eyes, as close to the time you wake up, has benefits, too.
- Cold shower
- A cold shower elevates your early morning cortisol – when you naturally want your cortisol elevated.
- Washing as you normally would and finishing with a 90-120second cold and focusing on controlling your breathing will teach your brain-body to naturally be more resilient towards stressful situations. Do this for a grand total of 9-11 minutes every week.
- Meat & Nut Breakfast
- Melatonin is naturally found in meat like beef, pork, and chicken.
- A palm size serving of meat and a thumb size serving of nuts for breakfast will give your body the nutrients to start producing amino acids & neurotransmitters and will set you up to better balance your blood sugar throughout the day.
- Tryptophan, naturally found in sources like turkey and nuts, is needed to make serotonin and melatonin.
- Waking with a thankful heart, sharing what you are thankful/happy for, and/or journaling this in the morning will help your body make melatonin.
- Serotonin is the neurotransmitter of thanks. It’s the same neurotransmitter that’s released when you joyfully do something for someone else. And, melatonin is produced from “used” serotonin.
- Carbs at night
- Keeping cortisol, the hormone that wakes you up, at bay is key through the night. Cortisol elevates when we have “low blood sugar” (there’s more to this) and having a supply of carbs in your system will keep your cortisol throughout the night.
- Have a cupped-hand size of your favorite carbs at night and you’ll find that you’ll be sleeping through the night.
- Fruits like berries are a great snack to have throughout the day.
Pick one of these steps and do it for two weeks. After two weeks, pick another and add that to what you are already doing, etc. Over time, you’ll find what combination works best for you. Yes, there are other steps that can be taken but these become more individualized to specific needs and lifestyles. A great place to get started on evaluating & correcting your sleep would be with an easy sleep assessment. These are found online and are effective questionnaires to evaluate your quality of sleep and, possibly, guide you in steps to take to optimize your sleep.
As a complimentary gift, SPARC PTC will send you my Sleep & Recovery Assessment. Please go to website (www.sparcptc.com) and, through the “Contact” tab, send an email that says, “PTC Mom.” After submitting the assessment, I’ll provide you with a quick interpretation and provide some action steps to get you the sleep that you deserve.