Guide to Beauty Sleep

How to get some quality sleep in 2014

Did you make any new year’s resolution? They are so complicated. On one hand you want to become a better version of you, and on the other this better version sometimes take too much work and people give up after just a few days. But is seems to be a guilty pleasure that everyone wants to partake in regardless of how outlandish the promises are. In general, baby steps is best way to actually achieve some results. What is my New Year’s resolution? To sleep well while I still can! As many of you know my baby girl is coming soon and that will mean many sleepless nights so I embarked in a proactive plan to get some quality beauty sleep now while I don’t have a screaming infant reminding me that it’s time for the next feeding. This post contains what I have learned so far about quality sleep and it applies not only to pregnant women but all those who, like me (before the pregnancy), have the occasional stress related sleepless night.

Eat (a nourishing) dinner.

People often think the dinner time is the time to starve, skip the meal or, even worse have a liquid dinner (mostly consisting of alcohol). Going to bed on an empty stomach is not good for quality sleep: you’ll find yourself starved in the middle of the night and your stomach will likely not forgive you that easily. Soon, you’ll be crawling to the fridge and likely eat the first thing you find, and likely also the most unhealthy (chips, cookies anything that brings instant gratification would be my poison of choice in these cases). So eat your dinner and make sure that you eat healthy too, since you are at it: lean protein, vegetables and whole grains is the way to go. You don’t want a spike in insulin levels that would wake you up. But a meal that is too rich in proteins and fat may weigh you down, too. If you really need something sweet step away from the Oreo cookies dunked in milk and opt for some fresh fruit instead.

Burn your calories

Stress keeps you awake, but if you have a desk job (like me) your body is probably not as tired as your mind is. You have countless deadlines, tasks and other important things to do but if you don’t actually move around enough to burn the calories and get tired, it’s unlikely your body will tell your mind to just shut up and rest. If I don’t sleep for a couple of days, I usually think about how active I have been and find out that I haven’t been moving enough. Aside from the problem of growing a desk butt (and that’s no joke either), I don’t sleep well, eat waaaaaay to many carbs to compensate and there you have a great recipe for disaster.  But if I break the cycle and go to the gym/work out/walk/go grocery shopping and buy food for an army, I then sleep like a baby. The strategy for a good night sleep shouldn’t start just before bed, It should be a day long process. You shouldn’t work out before bed if that makes you wake up, only a couple of relaxing stretches will do, but my suggestion is to take a cold hard look at the amount of active time vs sedentary time in your day and take stock of what needs to be done during the whole day to make you sleep. Chances are the vicious circle can be turned around with 20 minutes on a treadmill/a walk in the park/playing with your kids/bringing home the groceries!

Cool the bedroom.

It’s completely counter intuitive, i know… I have always associated a good night sleep with a fluffy pillow and heavy duvet, but if you have an overheated bedroom you are more likely to wake up. I confess I learned this from my husband, the Pirate. He loves to sleep in a very cold bedroom and I was initially pretty upset because I was always cold. Now thanks to the raging hormones during the last month of pregnancy, I have to admit that he is right: a colder room (between 70 and 72 degrees) helps you sleep better. And while I pile on the duvet when I go to bed I often find myself kicking it in the middle of the night. But how cold is too cold? Well that depends on your self regulation system. Mine stink, let’s be honest, because I am always cold, so I draw the line at cold feet. If my feet are too cold and I can’t warm them after about 15 minutes then I either grab a pair of socks (very unsexy but they match the flannel PJs) or make the room a degree warmer (hoping that the Pirate won’t notice).

Stay hydrated.

Drinking throughout the day is very important but drinking at night is equally crucial. Lots of people stop drinking before going to bed thinking that they will wake up to pee. Unless you have a medical condition that causes you to pee during the night, depriving yourself of water before bed is not a good idea…. Because you’ll wake up in the middle of the night parched and in need of water. My suggestion is to have a nice cup of herbal tea before bed. Nothing sophisticated or caffeinated. Chamomile, linden , verbena and peppermint are a great way to soothe your battered nerves and get you hydration going. I really like my Kusmi tea and a nice cup of Be Cool is excellent to put you right to sleep.

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Stay away from Technology

Work can wake you up like nothing else, especially when you (a) check your blackberry before going to bed (b) receive some unwelcome email and (c) you realize that in the morning you’ll have to put away many a fire. Being pissed off is not very conducive to sleep. At the same time, social media and the news can be equally upsetting. Let’s say that one of your Facebook friends loves animals and decides to post a picture of an animal that has been tortured, with a social commentary about how cruel people are. Even if you avoid Facebook all day the Murphy’s law is really clear on this point: you WILL find that post of the poor tortured animal before going to bed… and sometimes what was seen can’t be unseen. So even if your stomach holds, you’ll be pretty much awake and upset. Same applies to the news: do you really want to hear about all the nasty crimes in your area before falling asleep? The Pirate doesn’t seem to understand this concept so he puts on the news while I am trying to fall asleep. No, dude, that won’t work. I need reality TV or programming that puts me in a good mood: reruns of Good Eats, Unique Eats/Sweets, Diners Drive-ins and Dives, Love it or List it, Project Runway. So do yourself a solid, don’t check your blackberry and smart phone for about 1 hour before going to bed and if you really want to fall asleep with the TV on, pick a show that is at least soothing!

Leave the world outside your bedroom

Once you fall asleep you want to stay asleep, so any intrusion in the form of light and noise is your enemy. I have learned this the hard way because living on Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West side was very quiet 7 years ago but in recent years things have changed and the area has become very noisy because of constructions and new developments. So before moving to our new apartment the Pirate and I had devised a strategy to prevent outside light and noise from percolating in our bedroom. While Blackout shades are the most straightforward ally in this battle the second instrument is really key: a sound machine. You know those fancy machines that diffuse the room with the sound of the jungle? well they don’t work, so don’t waste the money. Get yourself a very basic sound machine that produces white noise: it’s a baby version of a fan with different speeds. The white noise doesn’t get time getting used to but it drowns the outside noise like nothing else. Plus it’s not a digital file that starts and stops so you turn it on at night and off in the morning and you’ll have continuous noise all through the night. I love my Marpak Dohm Sound Conditioner, it is the best purchase if you want to invest in your rest and relaxation. I currently have 2 one in my bedroom and one in the baby’s room waiting for her to arrive 🙂dohm

Pamper yourself a bit.

Since baby girl is about to debut, I have been reading a lot about child care and how to soothe a child. One of the most used routines to put a baby back to sleep (aside from feeding of course) is to give the baby a bath and a nice massage with a soothing oil. All my friends who recently (or not so recently) became moms agree that this is one of the best ways to soothe babies, so I decided to apply the same rule to my stressed out self. After my herbal tea, I set up the bedroom, get a nice candle (such as the Flora by Fornasetti I received for Christmas) and head to the bathroom to run a bath. I know that during pregnancy they tell you to avoid saunas and turkish baths but this is just a 15 minutes lukewarm soak and ever so soothing. I have been using Mio Skincare Liquid Yoga for my pre slumber water therapy. Mio Skincare is the non pregnancy spin off brand of Mama Mio. As you may remember I am particularly faithful to Mama Mio products because I started using them (Tummy Rub, Lucky Legs and Boob Tube) on the second month of pregnancy and so far I don’t have a single stretch mark, not one…. I looked for them with a magnifying glass people, trust me, I am THAT psychotic. The Mama Mio pregnancy products work wonder, it’s official. Liquid Yoga is one of the first non pregnancy related products launched under this new brand and I had to try it: it contains epsom salts, arnica and soothing essential oils like lavender, lemon, sage and spearmint. It smells amazing and, as opposed to regular epson salts that often leave my skin dry or other bath soaks containing SLS (i.e. the stuff that is in dishwasher soap and it downright nasty!), Liquid Yoga leaves my skin hydrated and ready for bed even if I skip the body lotion. While you are soaking in the bathtub you can already start counting sheeps because you’ll be ready for bed as soon as you dry out (possibly with a warm fluffy towel to get the real spa experience).Mio Liquid Yoga Hi Res

Pick the right pillow

Nowadays there are pillows of every shape or form so finding the perfect pillow shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s not about how it’s going to look on your bed and you shouldn’t care about the frills too much. It’s about the basic utilitarian need to have something that works for you at a certain point in time. If you are pregnant this becomes even more important. Let me explain: I have always been a back sleeper but with a growing belly, baby girl squishes my internal organs way too much and I feel short of breath. Passing out and falling asleep are two very different feelings! So I have become a side sleeper out of necessity. The only problem is that then my hips hurt… so I bought a body pillow. Now, maternity stores sell pregnancy pillows that cost an arm and a leg, I opted for something simpler. A friend was going to Ikea and I asked him if he could find a body pillow. And there you have it for about $15 bucks, a basic body pillow to hug and rest the bump and sensitive hips. The bottom line? Buy a pillow that works for you, something not too fancy but that allows you to get comfortable enough to fall and stay asleep.

… and if you wake up in the middle of the night, be prepared!

Let’s say that your circadian rhythms are out of wack, you are jet lagged, highly hormonal, generally cranky, irritable and stressed. Set up and emergency corner in your room ( I use my bedside table): fresh PJ in case you have night sweats, a glass of water if you are thirsty, chapstick and tissues if you have dry lips and a runny nose. Have them ready so that you can use them and crawl back into bed without waking up too much.

What are your tricks for the perfect beauty sleep?