Between the kids, the laundry, the dust, and all the emails (and everything else) we haven’t answered, Americans appear lucky to sneak in a good six hours of sleep each night.
But weight gain is increasingly tied to sleep deprivation — and more of us are trying highly inventive ways of getting at least seven hours of health-supporting slumber.
Breathing from an oxygen tank for several minutes and then hanging upside down on a platform is how Betsy Ulner, of Columbus, Ohio, begins her bedtime ritual — for real. Her ankles are secured in locked boots to distribute the oxygen throughout her body. Afterward, she meditates in her bedroom, which is lit with special blue light bulbs. Finally, she sips some sleep-inducing herbal tea before slipping under the covers.
Alexa Bettner, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, does a series of sleep-friendly yoga postures, winding up in Embryo’s Pose — curled over her thighs with hips on her heels, forehead on the floor and arms curled around her lower legs.
“It’s called embryo pose because you have basically gotten back in the position you were in while in the womb,” she told LifeZette. “It’s comforting to me.”
“If I’m awake at night, I’m eating. So I’m doing everything I can to get to sleep,” said one woman.
Stephanie Craig of Philadelphia is a self-described “plus-size travel blogger,” who is in the process of losing weight. She said her weight loss has made getting sleep more difficult — not exactly what she expected.
“Since losing weight, the biggest change is it’s harder for me to go to sleep at night,” she said. “I have so much more energy that I’m not used to having, and it’s had a negative effect on my sleep schedule. I used to be exhausted at 11 [p.m.]. I’m now still alert at 1 a.m. or later.”
She takes melatonin, a sleep hormone that is supposed to be non-addictive.
Medical exercise specialist Christine King, of Boynton Beach, Florida, believes a healthy bedtime ritual sets up weight loss success in two ways, by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and by producing better energy to work out the next day.
She suggests a warm bath to relax muscles and calm the mind, using a few drops of lavender essential oil in the water. She also likes clients to avoid all electronics, including television and phone. Setting an alarm clock helps eliminate the flashing light on the phone. She also counsels clients to use deep breathing before sleep, too.
Sleep has a different meaning to Susan Reynolds, of Arlington, Texas, due to her obesity. At age 50, she’s been fighting excess weight most of her life. She worked with a weight loss coach and uncovered some of her key eating triggers.
“Basically, I’ve realized that if I’m awake, I’m eating, especially at night,” she told LifeZette. “So I’m doing everything I can to get to sleep. I take a walk until I’m exhausted. I do the bath rituals and keep the room very cool.”
“I used to be a night owl and now I’m like a baby. I’m in bed at 8:30 p.m. and asleep by 9 o’clock,” she added. “I may not get the laundry done, but I’m not eating.”
Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.