Insomnia – the new obesity

Something I’ve always been grateful for is my ability to get a good night’s sleep.  In fact, if you asked me my most important health and beauty secret, I would say sleep because of the following benefits:

For years, I’ve pretty consistently gotten 7-8 hours per night, until recently.  Just before moving to Austin, I began having sleepless nights where I either tossed and turned all night, or I woke at 2:30-3 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I figured it was simply because of the whirlwind of emotions and amount of work I needed to accomplish to prepare for the move and that once I got down here and got a bit settled, things would get better.


OK, so I’m here and I’m about as settled as I’m going to get for the time being, and still, I’m having too many restless nights for my own comfort.   According to the CDC, insomnia is a public health epidemic.   It’s causing traffic accidents, lost productivity at work, illness and disease, depression, and is now being called the new obesity.   Not surprising given all the benefits we know of from getting consistently good sleep:

  1. Hormone balance – this includes insulin and glucagon involved in sugar storage and usage.  Cortisol that goes up in response to lack of sleep and contributes to belly fat.  And ghrelin and leptin involved in hunger and satiety, respectively.  The end result is healthier food choices and a lighter, leaner body.
  2. Lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, and other chronic diseases.  Besides the regulation of hormones, our bodies use sleep time for repair, house-keeping, and regeneration.
  3.  More efficient detoxification.  Your liver’s strongest detox period is between 10 pm and 2 am, and even better if you go to bed on an empty stomach.
  4. Healthier skin as a result of repair, regeneration, detox, and hormone balance.
  5. Stronger immune system that’s better able to fight off sickness and disease.
  6. Better short-term memory; better able to learn and carry out difficult tasks.  Your brain consolidates learned ideas or skills while you sleep, allowing you to recall or perform them better.
  7. Better moods – Sleep helps to dissipate stress and calm anxiety, improving your mood.

If you find you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, here are some tips for setting yourself up for an effective bedtime routine:

  • Try to go to bed around the same time each night ~ usually 10 pm.
  • Eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day and alcohol – yes, alcohol can interfere with REM sleep.
  • Get regular exercise to keep stress down.
  • Keep electronics off or out of the bedroom, including a computer and cell phone.   I usually either turn my phone off or put on airplane mode if I need the alarm.  Or, I’ll frequently leave it in a different room while I sleep.
  • Avoid watching anything stimulating or disturbing before bed, like the news.
  • Have your bedroom completely dark.
  • Sleep on the right mattress; this is a biggie for me!
  • Legs up the wall – A restorative yoga pose that I’ve been using lately and remarkably, it will put me into a deep, relaxed state in 5 minutes!  If only I could sleep in that position, I’d be all set.   But it certainly sets me up for getting to sleep.
  • Passion Flower Tea – After posting a picture of a beautiful passiflora, or Passion Flower, on Facebook, I learned by my friend Bonnie Plaut Rogers, an expert in herbology, that Passion Flower is great for calming the monkey mind, which is something that keeps many of us up at night!

What’s your secret weapon for getting a good night’s sleep?  Please do share it!!

Image courtesy of debspoons

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