Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us today for our webinar on Sleep: The secret to goal success, and we hope that this webinar will provide you with some insight and resources into how getting the right amount of quality sleep can help you achieve your goals.
Shannon Cyr: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. I’m really excited to talk a little bit about New Year’s resolutions, your personal goals, professional goals. Maybe you have some physical challenges you want to overcome and, obviously, my area of enjoyment to talk about is any emotional goals that you would like to work on. I know there are many of us who maybe opted to not come up with any New Year’s resolutions this year, because getting through 2020 was enough of a feat. We’ve come through it, which is awesome, and we’re now into a new year. So if you have yet to set any resolutions, it’s OK. You can do so now. And if you have set some, we’ll certainly talk about that. And, as Jessica mentioned, I’ll be very happy to answer some questions at the end of the webinar.
Some of the goals that people tend to come up with, especially at the new year, are perhaps exercising more, you know, losing weight or moving towards a healthier weight for your body and your lifestyle.
You know, to improve your overall health, maybe get sick less, improve your immunity, or your immune response, especially as we are finding ourselves in a global pandemic with the COVID virus. Some people want to stop smoking, or other habits such as that. There are individuals who are looking to boost their work performance or, possibly, if you’re in school, you want to get better grades or be able to finish your projects with less stress. Or maybe you want to learn a new skill. I know during this time of being safe at home, a lot of us are taking on new hobbies. And sometimes we don’t realize that sleep can certainly help us achieve all of these goals.
Many of the behind-the-scenes processes take place while you are sleeping. You improve your motivation and your energy levels. You can control your weight and actually keep your cravings in check. You can improve, as I mentioned, your performance at school or work.
Healthy sleep does reduce the risk of mental and physical health disorders and issues and, also, as mentioned previously, will strengthen your immune system. So, the role that sleep plays in our physical health is, again, improving your overall health, and you improve your immunity. You manage your weight, or you can possibly lose weight and, in doing so, you have more motivation to exercise or even to just move in healthy and enjoyable ways.
A lot of the things that we will talk about today focus on what poor sleep is and good sleep is. When I am presenting at different forums, such as this one, people will ask, well, what does poor sleep mean? What does that actually mean? Am I considered to be in the poor sleep category if I have one or two nights where I was restless or I tossed and turned?
And the good news is, no, if you have occasional nights where your sleep isn’t optimal, I wouldn’t say that you are in a poor sleep category. But if these issues continue and become chronic, for example, if you’re sleeping less than seven to nine hours for two weeks straight and beyond, then, yes, you’re certainly getting into that chronic habit of poor sleep. And when our body is in that state, we are putting ourselves at higher risk of high blood pressure, possible heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even obesity.
When you’re experiencing good sleep, and the definition of that is you’re getting consistent sleep between seven and nine hours a night, your sleep isn’t significantly disrupted, you feel rested and refreshed when you wake up. So that would be what I would categorize, or I would illustrate, as good sleep.
Your body is able to regulate your stress hormones. You’re able to reduce your blood pressure and, interestingly enough, the inflammation in your body is reduced when you’re sleeping. You’re balancing your sugar levels, your glucose levels, and you’re also balancing your hormones that control your appetite.
So, lots of good stuff going on when you get good sleep.
The immune response is really, really important, and when you’re not sleeping well, your immune system is suppressed. And there is a protein in your body called cytokine proteins and the production of that is reduced. People will say to me, well, what does that protein do? And that protein basically moderates how healthy your cells function. So you want more of that protein, and when you’re not sleeping, that protein is lessened. So the key to getting that production of healthy protein to be increased is to increase your quality of sleep.
And then, as mentioned, when you’re not sleeping well your stress hormone, your cortisol levels, just go out of their normal range. When you’re sleeping well, you certainly reduce the likelihood of getting sick from any virus or bacterial infection. And then if you do get sick, your body, when you sleep, has the opportunity to heal itself much more quickly than if you’re not sleeping well.
Managing or losing weight. The reason why it’s difficult to do so when you are not sleeping well is the effects that the appetite-related hormone ghrelin can have on your body. It’s definitely increased when you’re not sleeping. Sometimes that will result in weight gain because you’re consuming more calories, particularly in the late afternoon and evening. When you’re starting to feel tired and fatigued, the easiest way to get a boost is to drink some coffee or to have a high-sugar snack. And that will give you quick energy. But it’ll definitely spike your insulin levels and can certainly cause hormonal imbalance.
And, typically, when we’re a little bit more sleepy, as I mentioned, you’re reaching for a high sugar, high calorie snack to try to boost you and get you through the next phase of your afternoon or your evening.
When the body’s hormones are regulated through good sleep, it reduces your cravings for unhealthy foods and caffeine. It increases your desire for healthier snacks, particularly pairing a carbohydrate, such as an apple, with a protein, which would be almonds or a piece of cheese. That would certainly be a snack that you could reach for, as opposed to a donut, let us say it at four o’clock in the afternoon.
And not only does all of this help you to maintain the current weight you have, but you can also lose weight by choosing these healthier options.
Getting more exercise. Exercise to some cannot be a very appealing word. For some people, it really fuels them and it makes them excited. For others, it’s a little bit daunting. So I like to reframe my mind when I’m thinking about exercise. I think of it as healthy movement. It can be as simple as taking my dog for a walk and maybe going an extra half mile. Or putting on my favorite Spotify channel and just dancing for an extra 15 minutes when I’m feeling a little bit tired in the afternoon.
So I try to look at exercise — I trick my mind let’s say. I look at exercise as healthy movement, as opposed to a chore that I have to complete. Certainly, when we’re experiencing a poor sleep cycle, we don’t feel as motivated because, frankly, we’re just really, really tired, and when you’re tired, you definitely are at risk for injury and then illness, as I’ve mentioned previously. When you’re sleeping well, you have energy.
Also when you’re exercising, whether you’re doing light exercise or heavy exercise, your muscles are building and your tissues are rebuilding themselves. And when you get good sleep, it’s very easy to recover from a series of exercises.
If you want to move from just a regular movement enthusiast into that athlete phase, if that’s one of your goals, then good sleep will certainly help you to improve your performance, as well as your recovery time. And also being well rested just keeps you motivated. It just keeps you willing to kind of keep moving towards those goals and keep your body moving in healthy and happy ways.
Now, my favorite topic to discuss is how sleep can certainly help your overall mental health.
It’s very, very easy to basically summarize this in one picture. Those of us who have either had children or nieces or nephews or are around children know that when a child, a toddler in particular, is tired, they are just going to completely lose all ability to regulate their mood and melt down. And if you haven’t experienced that yourself in your own personal life, you can go to the grocery store anywhere between 3 and 6 pm and there will be a toddler in that grocery store that is just exhausted and tired and probably needs a nap. So sleeping will certainly help to improve that mood.
It will also help you empower learning and then help with your decision-making.
So when you are experiencing poor sleep, you are increasing your risk of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
You are in the state where you feel, as I mentioned, that toddler, you’re just irritable, you’re short-tempered, you’re stressed, and sometimes angry and, just frankly, mentally exhausted.
The way to quickly improve that is to try and regulate your sleep. Your emotions will be regulated, your mood will be enhanced, your motivation, as mentioned earlier. And then the likelihood that you want to adopt new behaviors, such as, you know, new exercise patterns or new hobbies seems a lot more promising when you’re feeling well mentally.
So, learning. This is so exciting. Not everybody realizes that your memory can be significantly impaired if you’re not sleeping well. Not only is your memory impaired, your ability to concentrate on a new task, or even tasks that you’ve performed a multitude of times, can be decreased when you just haven’t had good quality sleep for a regular period of time.
Your memory, or the ability to form new memories, is also impaired. And, that was something that I learned when I first came to learn about sleep, and was really surprised by that.
Your ability to sharpen your focus is definitely increased when you’re getting good sleep.
Then, decision-making. You know, this is another area that we don’t necessarily think about when we think about poor sleep or good sleep. We’re thinking about the physical impacts, but if you’re not sleeping well, your judgement could be impaired. It also will reduce the reactivity, you know, especially when you’re driving, you could certainly be much more tired. And just not be thinking as agilely as you would otherwise. Your ability to assess the situation may not necessarily be as heightened and as sharp as it would be if you were sleeping well.
And I think it’s just really important that if you are experiencing some of these to kind of take stock in what might be happening. Has your sleep changed? Has it decreased significantly or has it improved?
So, what’s next? I know that I talked a lot about what can happen if you don’t sleep well or what happens if you do. Let’s talk about what you can actually do to improve where you are now. Even if you feel like things are going well, we can certainly help with increasing your healthy sleep patterns. And if they’re not, we can give you some good tips to get back on track and on the road to healing and to healthy recovery.
So it’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And I know for a lot of us that might seem impossible, but really if we move towards setting a good nighttime routine, it definitely is very doable.
If you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, and you’re choosing not to use your PAP machine every night, the goal is to try to do so.
If you’re experiencing insomnia symptoms, you definitely want to talk with your primary care provider and they can certainly help you with the right tools to be able to get your mind and your body relaxed enough to sleep through the night. And you also want to look at areas to improve within your sleep hygiene.
For example, if you have a tendency to keep the TV on all night long while you are trying to sleep, you may think that it’s helping you to sleep, but really what it’s doing is it’s keeping your mind engaged in the sound and the light that the TV is emitting. So it’s a really good idea to turn that off.
Here are some golden rules that are tried and true. They really do work.
It’s important to try and avoid alcohol and eating anything very heavy three hours before bedtime. So drinking wine, a glass of wine with dinner, is OK, as long as your dinner isn’t, let’s say, at 8 or 9 o’clock at night.
You want to stay away from caffeine at least seven hours before bed. Dark chocolate is healthy, but it does contain a lot of caffeine. A lot of our herbal teas — you want to make sure that those are decaffeinated. There are also sports drinks that may have caffeine in them. So you want to look at the label and just ensure that you’re not consuming a lot of caffeine.
You’ll want to exercise daily, but we don’t recommend that you exercise right before bed. Because, obviously, you’re increasing your endorphins when you’re exercising, which is really good to regulate your mood, but not as good when you’re trying to wind your body down before sleep.
You want to try to develop a relaxation routine without electronics, and it does seem difficult, especially in this time of iPads and cell phones and laptops. A lot of us are working from home. So these things are on and around us constantly. What I recommend is 30 minutes before you’re ready to go to bed, turn all of that off. Brush your teeth, wash your face, maybe do a few yoga stretches. And by the time you do that and you say goodnight to your loved ones, 30 minutes has passed, and you are definitely well on your way to having your mind and your body relaxed enough for good sleep.
And you want to try to keep to a regular sleep schedule and even on weekends. If you can keep your going-to-sleep time and your wake time within an hour of each other, every single night, your body will eventually get to the point where it recognizes, just naturally, it’s your circadian rhythm. It will recognize that, OK, it’s time to wind down, it’s time to sleep. And then it’s in the morning, time to wake.
And if you haven’t taken our Sleep Checkup, I would certainly encourage you to do so. The checkup will just give you an idea of how you’re doing. Give you an idea of where your current sleep baseline might be. You may be an excellent sleeper and, if not, we don’t diagnose you over the Sleep Checkup. There are definitely a number of ways to determine if you do have a sleep disorder, but this would just give you an idea of, maybe, which areas of sleep could be improved upon. Is it your timing? Is it your quality? Is it the length of sleep, your duration? So, feel free to go ahead and do so.
Or if you just want to ask questions to our sleep coaches, please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (877) 615-7257. And our experts can certainly answer your questions and help guide you to the next steps to better sleep.
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