Tag Archives: sleep

Ten Small Changes to Be a Healthier and Happier Mom

Being a mom is tough.  I remember when my son was a baby, survival was the only thing on my mind.  Even though they’re cute and you love them to death, infants and toddlers can tire you out and even put you in a bad mood.  Here’s a list of 10 small changes you can make in order to be a healthier, happier mom:

1. Cut the caffeine.  Coffee might keep you going, but your caffeine addiction – yes it’s a chemical addiction – can dehydrate you (it makes you pee more) and cause you to feel jittery or anxious.  This is not a good thing when you’re already stressed out with a kid.  Have one, maybe two cups a day, but that’s it.  For the rest of the day, sip decaf, herbal teas, or just plain water.  That way, you’ll stay hydrated and energized.

2. Have sex.  A lot of new moms call my show complaining that they are too tired or don’t feel like having sex, as though it’s a terrible obligation or assignment.  However, with all the crazy hormonal changes you’re going through, sex might be just the solution.  Sex is therapeutic.  Orgasms release oxytocin, endorphins, and DHEA, which create positive emotions, release tension, improve mood, and give your immune system a boost. In addition, sex does wonders for that post-pregnancy belly pooch because it strengthens the pelvic floor and the lower abs.  Forget the apple – sex a day keeps the doctor away. 

3. Get sleep.  Sixty percent of moms say sleep is their primary challenge.  Are you having trouble falling asleep?  I suggest 10 minutes of yoga, prayer, or meditation before going to bed.  If you find it really hard to shut off your brain at night, keep a journal on your nightstand and before you go to sleep, jot down your to-do list for the next day. Anything that is worrying you, write it down. By getting it on paper, you can say to yourself, “It’s taken care of, now I can sleep.”

4. Eat breakfast.  It’s the first meal (you are “breaking the fast”), and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.  You need to put food in your belly within a half hour of waking up to rev up your metabolism and get your brain going.  Aim for a mix of protein and fiber, such as yogurt with fresh fruit or oatmeal with berries and almonds.

5. Don’t set unrealistic goals.  Don’t overload your brain with 40 million things you think you need to get done.  You won’t stick to what you can’t do.  For example, instead of looking at exercise in terms of weight-loss, approach it in terms of endurance.  When you start off, it may take you an hour to go around the neighborhood. A week later it may take 58 minutes, and then the next week 56 minutes, etc.  That kind of observation is better than stepping on a scale and getting demoralized.

6. Listen to music.  Just like Mother Laura has been saying for years, a recent scientific review published in the journal Nutrition reports that listening to music strengthens immunity, digestion, and pain perception, reduces the incidence of heart failure, and even improves recovery time after a strenuous workout. So, load up your iPod with the kind of music that makes you feel good.  For me, that’s Motown.  When the music comes on, my mind immediately goes blank and I’m just movin’. 

7. Cut out the packaged foods.  Eating any kind of food that can last a long time on the shelf makes you live a shorter amount of time.  Instead of packaged snacks, eat real food.  No antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, or added sugar.

8. Snack smart.  There are times when I get out a teaspoon of peanut butter, lay it in my mouth, and just let it melt (if you have to talk, I don’t recommend doing this).  It keeps my blood sugar up, and it’s a good source of protein.

9. Make your workouts work for you.  With little kids, you may not have time for a half hour or hour workout, but you can break it up into 5-10 minute increments throughout the day.  Or get up earlier.  When my son, Deryk, was little, I used to ride him around in a seat on my bicycle.  I rode him to the park and he’d play, and then we’d get back on the bike and go back.  I also took him to the mall. This worked great: like one of those wind-up toys, I’d set him down, face him in the direction I wanted him to go, and let go.  He would run forward and I would do my little shuffle run behind him.  It’s amazing how you can get exercise by doing simple things like this (of course you get tired and they don’t!).  You can get a good 20 minutes in just by chasing your kid around the mall (if they like to run in a straight line and you don’t take your eyes off them).

10. Stop stressing. Exercise, meditate, or do something fun with your husband.  Whether it’s sex or playing a board game, you need to have some fun before you go to bed.

Sleep Deprivation Can Even Make You Unethical

An article in the New York Times about sleep said it’s a necessity, not a luxury. For a lot of people, it’s a luxury, but it turns out that it’s an absolute necessity on many levels.  And most of you are living in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, which is a really bad thing.

“Studies have shown that people function best after seven to eight hours of sleep.”  So it’s best at least to aim for seven.  Get this: In the last 50 years, “the average night’s sleep for adults in the United States dropped to six and a half hours from more than eight.”  Some experts predict that this is going to get worse, mainly because you folks permit yourselves to be distracted by emails, instant text messaging, online shopping, online porn…online anything.  That flat, little screen in front of you is robbing you of sleep.

Now, what does that mean?  Well I can’t blame it all on the fact that you’re doing the wrong things…you know, with advancing age (something I know nothing about yet), natural changes in sleep quality occur.  It’s not unusual for people, as they get older, to take longer to fall asleep….they tend to get sleepier early in the evening, and they tend to awaken earlier in the morning.  Much of the time  “is spent in the lighter stages of sleep,  less in the restorative deep sleep.  R.E.M. sleep, during which the mind processes emotions and memories and relieves stress, declines with age.”

There are some bad habits you have that can ruin your sleep also: 

  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Not spending enough time outdoors (turns out “sunlight is the body’s main regulator of sleepiness and wakefulness”.  That’s hormonal.) 
  • Crappy diet
  • Sometimes “medications can disrupt sleep.”
  • “Having a partner who snores.”
  • Too much alcohol (it’s a nervous system depressant but, in fact, it disrupts sleep.)

And there are sleep-robbing health issues like arthritis that is painful, diabetes, depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, hot flashes…there are all kinds of things that happen that can disrupt our sleep.  But there are a number of reasons we need our sleep.  Restorative is at the top of the list.  Also, you look a lot more attractive when you’re rested.  Somebody actually paid to do a research project which in which photographs of people were taken when they had good sleep and when they hadn’t…and the research showed (I don’t know, did this research cost a million dollars?)  that when you sleep, you look better!  Really?  I love this kind of research – it’s a true waste of money.
 
Losing sleep also makes you fatter or at least fatter than you’d otherwise be.  Harvard looked at 68,000 middle-aged women, and followed them for 16 years, and “those who slept five hours or less each night were found to weigh 5.4 pounds more.”  This is a 16 year research project to get that answer?  Five pounds?  Two weeks of potato chips; we can do that.
 
Basically this is the case, because when you’re up later, you tend to nosh…munch, munch, munch.  You  could add a pound in two weeks.  So you need to get your sleep.  If you can take naps, they also help your brain function, and improve your energy, your mood, and your productivity. 

But I loved this tidbit from the Washington Post: “Sleep deprivation can make you unethical.”  Two business school professors did some research in sleep labs.  “They found that a lack of sleep led not just to poor performance on tasks that require ‘innovative thinking, risk analysis, strategic planning’- but also to increased deviant and unethical behavior.”  These people are ruder, have more inappropriate responses, and attempt to make money they haven’t earned.  They tend to cheat.  And the irony in this is that, in business, everybody gets so impressed if you’ve been up all night working on projects, papers, analysis, taking red-eye flights to meet clients…everybody considers you a hero.  Instead, companies should really be giving you sleep awareness training (If there is such a thing), because these workaholic cultures, without the restorative opportunities, actually “cost the U.S. economy some $150 billion annually in accidents and productivity losses.”  The percentage of folks “who sleep less than six hours a night has jumped from 13 to 20 percent” in the last 10 years.

So we become less ethical people and we don’t do what we have to do as well.  Other than that, if you don’t want to sleep, I suppose it’s just fine.
 
References:
 NY Times article 
Washington Post (5/13/11) article