The phrase “life balance” is about as hot right now as bikram yoga. Women, rushing about to finish everything on their plates, now have a new concern. Psychologists and life coaches aplenty advise women to take time for themselves, focus on family life, and make time for activities they enjoy. And it's not that I disagree. I have long used the definition, “Balance feels like making choices that allow me to live happily in sync with my values.” The danger in this idea is trying to cram too much into a short period of time. A recent Sleep in America poll finds only 20% of women are willing to cut into the time they spend on their work lives when pressed for time. Yet a whopping 52% of women polled responded that sleep is the first thing they sacrifice (followed closely by exercise at 48%). The dangers of this practice are daunting:
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 100,000 car crashes are caused each year by drowsiness or fatigue. More than one-quarter of women polled said they have driven drowsy at least once a month. Ten percent do so with children in the car!
- Lack of sleep is the biggest factor in childhood obesity. It counts more than parental history, medical history, or weight history. And it surpasses family income, or time spent in front of the television (study by Universite Laval). This connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain continues with age. A Nurses' Health Study surveyed 68,000 women over a course of 16 years and found that those that slept five hours or less each night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain. Consider the fact that women sacrifice their diet and exercise almost as much as sleep and you can see a vicious cycle forming.
- Depression, long believed to be a cause of sleep deprivation, is now shown to be the byproduct. A study at the Stanford School of Medicine found that depressed people are five times more likely to have a sleep disorder caused by breathing problems. It also found that treating the sleep apnea had a positive effect on the symptoms of depression in most cases.
On the positive side:
- Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that the odds of waking in an upbeat mood increases exponentially with an increase of REM sleep.
- The University of Massachusetts conducted a study of 2,000 students, aged 11 to 14, and found that those who slept more had higher grades, better self-esteem, and a lower risk of depression.
- Adults perform better, as well. Brigham and Women's Hospital found that the cognitive skills and memory of well-rested individuals were better than their tired counterparts by up to 44%.
Clearly, sleep must not be left out of the “life balance” equation. Getting some extra Z's may be a crucial part of achieving the health, happiness, and quality of life you seek. Get started tonight! Here, for your slumbering pleasure, are tips to help you get a better night's sleep.
- Caffeine, which builds up throughout the day and can stay in your system for up to 12 hours. Try to limit yourself to decaffeinated beverages after lunch.
- Nicotine, which seems relaxing, is a powerful stimulant. Avoid smoking right before bed and definitely do not smoke if you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Alcohol, which may make it easier to fall asleep may cause fitful sleeping and nightmares.
- Vigorous exercise before bed, which may cause your body and mind to be more alert due to increased blood flow.
- Watching TV, eating, or reading in bed. Train your body and mind that it is the place for sleeping and sleeping only.
- The desire to replay your day in your head as you fall asleep. This will stir up the stresses, worries, and pains of the day which may bring about fitful sleep.
- A light carbohydrate snack and a glass of milk. Research has shown that carbohydrates may improve sleep. Milk contains L-tryptophan (famous for Thanksgiving Day turkey-induced comas.)
- Setting your thermostat. Ideal sleeping temperature is between 54 and 75 degrees according to WebMD.
- Getting out of bed when you find you cannot sleep. Resist the urge to let your lack of sleep cause frustration or anxiety. Listen to music, read, watch television, or do something productive (but NOT stressful) that will keep your mood cheerful.
- Getting on a sleep schedule. Try to wake up at the same time everyday, preferably without an alarm clock blaring at you. This will help your biological clock work to your advantage.
- Actually unwinding before bed. Rushing about trying to prepare for tomorrow will only cause you problems tonight. Try to accomplish what you need to earlier in the evening. Save the last hour or so before bed for calming activities you enjoy.
- Make your bedroom sacred space. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow and beautiful linens that make you feel pampered. Eliminate distracting noise and clutter. Banish snoring partners if need be.
For more information on the sleep studies mentioned above, please visit:
Sleep in America polls by the National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org
Universite Laval Sleep Study Findingshttp://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-03/ul-cws032806.php
The Nurses' Health Study Publications http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhs/publications/index.shtml
Stanford Medicine Magazine http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2007fall/
Rush University Medical Center Chicago- Sleep Disorders Center http://www.rush.edu/rumc/page-1099918804001.html
University of Massachusetts http://www.massachusetts.edu
Brigham and Women's Hospital Sleep Disorders Program
WebMD Sleep Disorders Center http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/default.htm
© 2007 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who inherited her mother's love for women's issues and the platform. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.