Sleep? Who Needs Sleep?


Sleep is essential for so many things!
Sleep is essential for so many things

After 3 nights in a row without proper sleep, I am beginning to wonder how I am going to function if this continues.

Not sure why my brain doesn’t seem to want to go to sleep, perhaps it is part of my abuse recovery… I am on what I am calling my “emotional fitness journey” especially intensive over the last month.  It has been a challenging path to take and honestly, some days, I feel like quitting the journey and just going back to my “tough” self that never had any problems.

Sleep is one of those things that is important for brain function and we don’t realize just how much.   Yesterday, at clinic, by half way through the shift, my thinking felt slowed, cloudy, eyes were burning, ears were ringing and felt some serious fatigue.  Ate a few mint chocolate squares to liven me up, which seemed to work for a few minutes, then subsequently I felt worse instead of better.  Challenging to get through the last part of the shift this way!

I did some research on sleep recently and founds some interesting facts about what the brain does while we are sleeping!  There were 5 that I found most interesting!

Firstly, while we are sleeping, our brain helps to process complex data, to aid with decision making when we are awake!  Its amazing how much our brain processes while unconscious!

Secondly, While we are sleeping, the brain creates and consolidates memories.  For this reason, sleep is VERY important for learning and retaining information.  Also, having good sleep PRIOR to learning, prepares the brain better for initial formation of memory.  Hmm, maybe pulling those all-nighters to study for exams and write papers were not such a good idea!

Thirdly, sleep helps to boost our ability to have creative connections.  In an unconcious state, the mind can make surprising creative connections that it won’t make while awake!  Have you ever waken up in the morning after a good sleep with new “aha” moments?

Fourthly, a very important function of sleep is for the brain to do a little housekeeping.  This process allows the brain to flush out toxic materials that build up while we are awake!  Apparently, without enough sleep, these toxins can build up and lead to cognitive diseases.

Fifth, while sleeping, our brain learns and remembers the process of how to perform physical tasks.  These things could include dance moves, new golf swing techniques, running form, etc.  During REM sleep, our body transfers these to a longer term memory area, so that they become more permanent in our minds.

Given the significant processes that occur during sleep, its no wonder my brain didn’t want to work properly after no sleep.  I have learned that no amount of caffeine, chocolate or sugar in the day will fix that!  In fact, having these substances, can affect the quality of your sleep the upcoming night again!

With all of the research, and looking at just how important sleep is, I have come up with 5 ways to improve my sleep:

  1.  Minimize caffeine intake (chocolate, coffee, iced tea, other drinks and more).  Caffeine can take up to 18 hours to completely clear from the body, so even the morning coffee can interfere with sleep quality!  (this issue can get worse at we get older too!)
  2. Avoid bright screens/computer for at least an hour prior to sleep.  Bright light can interfere with our natural melatonin and sleep cycles!  Also, what we are reading on those screens may be too stimulating instead of relaxing!
  3. Meditate or think deeply about things that are stressing me or bothering me prior to going to bed and write them down on a piece of paper beside the bed and give myself permission “not to worry about them until tomorrow”.
  4. Exercise and eat healthy (at least 85% clean) every day.
  5. Have no screens or TV in bedroom.  Bedroom to be used ONLY for sleep.

What other suggestions do you have for me about how to improve sleep?  Have you had issues sleeping and found a solution that works for you?  Please share your suggestions in the comment box below!



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Is Your Stress Level Triggering Pre-Menopausal Symptoms? How to Tell and What to Do About It


Stress can totally work against our body's healthy function.
Stress can totally work against our body’s healthy function.

We women often demand much of our bodies.

Too much sometimes.

We have demanding and stressful careers. Family responsibilities. Our spousal relationship may not be the best. Aging parents can add to the burden. It all adds up to a lot of stress, which takes its toll on the body.

What we find out too late though, is that stress can actually trigger early menopausal symptoms. 

If your body is under even a moderate level of stress and over the age of thirty, it’s possible your stress is to blame for pre-menopause. Check out this list of symptoms to find out if it might be happening to you:

Do You Have These Pre-Menopausal Symptoms? 

• Irregular menstrual cycles
• Light or heavy menstrual flow
• Lumpy or tender breasts
• Fibroid tumors
• Endometriosis
• Mood swings
• Water retention and bloating
• Sleep problems
• “Foggy, fuzzy” thinking and memory lapses
• Anxiety and depression
• Inability to handle stress
• Hot flashes and night sweats
• Vaginal dryness
• Weight gain

If so, you may be on the long (often more than ten years!) path to menopause.

(Quick pause here – menopause is the body’s cessation of the menstrual cycle. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Pre-menopause is the body’s long process of preparing. It slowly reduces the degree and frequency of ovulation until finally it does not happen anymore. The process results in hormonal imbalance, which produces many of the above symptoms.)

What most women don’t know is that we have the power to change it.

We can influence our hormonal balance. 

But it’s going to take a bit of work. Because we’ve been wrecking our hormones for a while. Incrementally, every day, our habits actually work against us, pulling our hormones in directions they shouldn’t go.

Other ways we women ravage our hormonal balance include obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and excess caffeine and alcohol. These add to the problem instead of helping the body cope with what is demanded of it.

Effects of Hormone Imbalance: 

  • Low sex drive
  • Bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches before menstrual period
  • Mood swings
  • Irregular periods / excessive bleeding

When hormones are balanced, we tend to feel more alert, energetic, and ready to take on the challenges of life!

So how can we tell if the pre-menopausal symptoms are, in fact, happening because of hormone imbalance?

That’s an important question. Because stress, age, and lifestyle choices are not the only consideration. Some of the symptoms listed can be signs of other conditions. That’s why it’s important to consult a physician or nurse practitioner with knowledge and experience in the area of hormonal balance. (I’m one.)

How To Help Re-Balance Your Hormones: 

Like I said, there is something you can do.

But I kind of don’t want to tell you. Because I’m afraid you’ll roll your eyes and say, “Pfft. I knew that.” But sometimes the most powerful truths are the ones you’ve heard a thousand times from a hundred different places … but you may have just preferred to keep your head in the sand.

Trust me, I know. I’ve been there, done that.

Okay, here’s the deal.

Rebalancing your hormones can be simple, but takes the work of doing these things: 

  • Reduce caffeine (did I lose you already? Come back! You can do it!!)
  • Reduce alcohol (yes, you can do it.)
  • Exercise regularly (If you hate exercise, you probably haven’t tried these fun programs)
  • Eat clean. (If you’re really new at this, just start with eating some kind of vegetables every day. Or add one superfood shake a day….perhaps join a clean eating challenge to learn more)
  • Reduce stress (Meditate, schedule some quiet time every day and every week, using that time to do something that recharges you.)

I’ve been where you are.

I’ve been fatigued, unbalanced, and unaware – and I’m a Nurse Practitioner!! So don’t feel bad. It happens to us all. At least you’re not stuck, right? There IS something you can do.
And I can help you through it.

Need a health or menopause coach, or some advice on which exercise  program to try out? I’m your woman.

Have some questions you’d rather not post in the comment section? Contact me here.

Or, if you are having the pre-menopause symptoms above, some hot flashes and night sweats and are looking for some natural solutions,  download this free PDF!