By Hannah Sharer, alliantgroup
Sleep is the golden ribbon that ties health and our bodies together. Whether we’re hard at work, exercising, or soaking up time with loved ones — If we want to consistently show up as the best version of ourselves, we need quality rest.
On top of helping businesses grow and thrive, alliantgroup also cares about ensuring the people that fill them lead healthy and fulfilling lives. To serve our community well, we hosted the Women’s Fund Doc Talk Series and brought in one of the nation’s leaders on sleep medicine, Dr. Mary Rose, PsyD, DBSM, CBSM. During the event, she and our Senior Director of Investment and Wellness Melanie Baxter discussed how to maximize recovery and live your best life.
Want the highlights from our sleep session? Keep reading to learn about how sleep is impacted at different stages of life, holistic ways to unwind before bed, sleep hacks, and more.
How Sleep Is Impacted at Different Stages of Life
Dr. Mary Rose has worked in the field of sleep disorders for over 25 years, helping patients of all ages work through insomnia, apnea, night terrors, and circadian rhythm disturbances, to name a few.
From middle school all the way through post-menopause, sleep changes across the life span. In fact, sleep disorders are almost always found to be associated with age-related challenges and stress-inducing life events (big or small).
During someone’s junior and high school years, balancing grades, social media, sports, band, friends, and chores often comes at the expense of sleep. Later on, parenting years involve work hours, lack of exercise, and constant worrying about toddlers and teenagers, which leads to elective sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep cycles.
Holistic Ways to Unwind Before Bed
Decompressing before sleep is fundamental to receiving quality rest. If your body’s internal clock is confused, your heart rate is too high, or your mind is relentlessly racing, it can be very challenging to fall asleep.
While some might be understandably desperate for some much-needed shuteye, they often go about resolving these issues with habit-forming medications and supplements. Fortunately, there are more natural ways to soothe your body into sleep.
Create a Sleep Routine
Aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning. Developing a consistent sleep schedule reinforces your circadian rhythm (the brain’s 24-hour internal clock) and helps your body run efficiently, which keeps you feeling strong and energized.
Over time, a sleep routine will make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even better? It will help you overcome the infamous snooze button dilemma (you know the one) when it’s time to wake up.
Limit Screen Time
Blue light emissions from your cell phone, TV, and computer screen restrain your body’s melatonin production, the key hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. As a preventative measure, restrict phone use 30 to 60 minutes before bed. If looking at your phone is tempting, opt for a book or guided meditation instead.
Give Yourself Grace
Remember that sleep is ever-changing, so go easy on yourself and your routine. Forming a healthy habit takes time. To keep yourself on track, be sure to celebrate small victories along the way.
Struggling to fall asleep? Worrying about your sleep – or what you have going on the next day –will only exacerbate your struggle. Remember that rest (as opposed to clinical sleep) is still better for the restoration of cells than worry will ever be!
Deep breathing is great for falling asleep because it activates your relaxation response. Each heavy inhale sends a message to your brain that it’s time to unwind and calm down, gradually encouraging your body to follow suit.
While lying down, practice increasing the length of your exhale in relation to the length of your inhale. An example timing pattern is to breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds.
Cultivate a Soothing Atmosphere
Warm room temperatures and noisy environments can cause discomfort and difficulty staying asleep. Think about it like studying for a big exam: If your notes are cluttered, people around you are talking loudly, and you don’t have a desk to use, it’s going to be extremely hard to focus. Sleep is the exact same!
Make your place of rest a haven. Use comfy sheets, soft lighting, and cool temperatures to ensure that your rest is, in fact, restful!
Are Sleep Supplements Safe?
Are sleep supplements the answer to your prayers or just a convenience that does more harm than good? While supplements like melatonin, Zzz-Quil, and valerian root may provide fast relief, they’re not beneficial in the long-term.
For starters, supplemental melatonin can throw off the body’s natural production of melatonin. Over time, it can create dependency and perpetuate poor sleep quality. Instead, try a helpful magnesium (glycinate) supplement to aid in natural relaxation and restful sleep. Magnesium also boosts cellular recovery and can help decrease anxiety.
As with all supplements, consult your physician before adding any new ones to your regimen.
Sleep “Hacks”: Myth Versus Fact
You’ve heard of sleep hacks, but do they really work? At the event, Dr. Mary Rose and Melanie Baxter distinguished popular myths from facts.
Hack #1: Covering your feet at night will improve sleep.
Myth: Your feet play a vital role in regulating your body temperature. Studies prove that rest quality is improved when you are cool — not warm. Covering your feet at night raises your body temperature, which can impede quality sleep.
Hack #2: Limit caffeine intake after 3pm.
Myth: Caffeine affects all of us differently. A better rule is to ensure you are arriving at rest in a fully hydrated state (at least 64 oz of water in the day).
Hack #3: Don’t eat too close to bedtime.
Fact: In sleep, we aim to achieve a “rest and digest” state. If our body is working overtime to process yet-to-be-digested food, our quality of sleep can suffer. If you do have to eat close to sleeping time, go for a gentle walk to encourage gut motility and quicker digestion.
Hack #4: Exercising too close to bedtime can create difficulty falling asleep.
Both: This is case by case! Strength training, Pilates, or Yin Yoga can be excellent practices before bedtime, as they create positive stress on our muscles and boost the need for recovery. However, intense cardio exercises like running, cycling, or HIIT workouts raise our heart rates to a point of taking our bodies longer to decompress and enter a resting state.
alliantgroup and The Women’s Fund
alliantgroup is very passionate about partnering with The Women’s Fund, a nonprofit organization founded on the mission to provide Houston area women, and girls, with the tools they need to be advocates for their health.
We have hosted several of their Doc Talk sessions, including topics like:
- Teens and Mental Health
- Diabetes, Weight Loss, and the Now-Trending: Ozempic
Be on the lookout for a recap from the next session!
About the Author
Candice Garner joined alliantgroup in 2018 and serves as a Community Engagement Associate. She is a proud HBCU grad from Prairie View A&M University. Candice is passionate about giving back to the community and believes sharing our personal stories brings us together. When she’s not showcasing alliantgroup’s work in the community, you can find her traveling the world and trying new foods.