It was as if he was about to divulge the secrets of the Lost Ark and I’d said “Hang on, now – where’s Egypt, again?”
Chip the charming nutritionist at Body Dynamics has worked with me before; our “check-up” meeting should have proceeded along quite standard lines.
Instead, I shanghai’ed the conversation before it even began by saying “You know, I don’t get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.”
Chip’s reaction was the visual equivalent of pushing the reset button. Everything he can do to help me achieve nutritional health, it turns out, is hamstrung by a lack of sleep… and the more we talked, the clearer it was that all the issues I was having were at least influenced (if not outright caused) by poor “sleep hygiene.”
Including the MASTER demon in my nutritional hall of nightmares, sugar.
“When I’m well-rested,” I said, innocently making his case for him, “I’m better at resisting sweet foods.”
“Of course,” he said as if I’d said that it’s useful to inhale after I exhale. So I hastened to disabuse him of the notion that sleeping through the night was entirely under my control.
“I’m peri-menopausal,” I offered. “I wake up in the middle of the night so damned hot. So I get up and then I’m up for a few hours. That’s hormones.” I finished in triumph, sure I’d managed to overcome any insistence that I was in control here.
Chip is a wilier opponent than that. “Guess what influences hormone levels?”
“Sleep?” I guessed suspiciously.
“No. Sugar.” (D’oh! Sugar is ALWAYS the answer with Chip, just as any question Barbara asks can be answered by an automatic “Abdominals.”)
“So the hot flashes are more extreme if I eat sugar?”
“Try and see.” He looked smug. I know what the answer is.
“And I can resist sugar if I get more sleep.”
“And if I get more sleep, I can resist sugar. There are times when you’re very annoying.”
“Annoying but right.”
Chip, despite having every possible answer that points to ice cream sundaes being an unwise choice, is really a very dreamy guy. We talked about how to improve my sleep hygiene (this phrase gives me the giggles) – and the answer is to better regulate my schedule.
I can do just about anything for ten to fourteen days – my determination lasts about that long without reinforcement – so I’m going to embark on a REGULATION EXPERIMENT. These are its outlines:
- I’m going to dial way back on the sugar. Three desserts or treats a week and NO MORE. (Sure. For ten days to two weeks? I can hack that.)
- I’m going to do my evening “yoga flow” while watching Rachel Maddow, my spirit animal. I’ll give her half an hour before starting so I can fast-forward over the commercials, so I’ll start that at 9:30. That’ll last until 10:15.
- Once I turn off the TV, there’s 45 minutes to an hour for non-screen awake time. This means reading a physical book. No e-reader; the blue light of the screen is messing with my melatonin/cortisol levels. (I almost understand this and will explain poorly if anyone cares.)
- Between 11 and 12, I turn off the lights and lie in bed to stare at the ceiling. Eventually my body will learn that this is bedtime and I’ll actually fall asleep. Theoretically.
- I’ll set my alarm for the gaggingly-early hour of 7:30, and get up at that time every day. Yes – even weekends. Shudder. Again theoretically, my body will adjust to constancy so I’ll get up that early without feeling like I’m entering a disjointed hellscape.
No iPad if/when I wake up in the middle of the night. No cheating.
For ten to fourteen days.
I’m curious about what will happen. For so long, I’ve been at my smartest in the evening; I write better at night. I think better at night. Chip says that’s because I’m “cortisol dominant” – the “wake up” hormone is out of whack. I can regulate and get that brightness to show up in the morning.
So this is the beginning of a new phase, courtesy of a nutritionist who doesn’t think nutrition is the ONLY answer to better health. Interesting experiment, huh? I’ll report back on how it’s going. (And if you decide to try it, too, I hope you’ll share your findings in the comments!)
It’s my unscientific belief that blog posts are more eagerly read if they feature images of hugely attractive people doing exciting and exotic things. Who here thought, as I did, that when they finally opened the Ark, it would be freaking crawling with snakes?