Tawnya Ritco Registered holistic nutritionist The saying “let’s sleep on it” is a staple for everyone from those making complex and high stakes decisions to those wondering what colour of paint would work best in the living room. Most of us have thought it would be best to “sleep on it” before giving an immediate response on the basic questions of day-to-day life? This is more than just a saying. The fact is we rely on sleep for clarity of mind and to recharge our bodies. It’s easy to understand why we’ll make better decisions with a clear mind and a rested body. At the other end of the spectrum, the odd night of restless, broken or insufficient sleep is inevitable. The key is to avoid a chronic deficit, one that starts to impact our overall ability to function at an optimal level, leaving us fatigued — and often quite irritable. The relationship between sub-optimal sleep and stress for women is one of the big talking points among health care practitioners and researchers. It can be compounded during perimenopause (the period leading into menopause) when fluctuating hormones can certainly play a role in throwing our systems off. I’m sure most would suggest that the night sweats commonly associated with perimenopause and menopause do not make for a comfortable sleep! Moreover, a perpetual state of worrying can exacerbate a sleeping issue. So what can we do about it? The goal is to find ways to relax and calm the mind; to incorporate into our lives some of the simple steps we can take to promote restful sleep. How much sleep? Most of us require 7-9 hours of sleep per night; If life commitments make it impossible to get 7-9 consecutive hours of sleep at night, look for ways to take cat naps from time to time, as needed. Even a 20-minute cat nap can help balance the hormonal flux we go through during perimenopause and menopause, especially if you’re not getting the sleep required for your body. When? Ideally be in bed by 10:00 p.m.; Research shows that for most people (those not working night shifts), the hours between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. are the key restorative hours of sleep. That’s when the brain does most of its repair work. Get most of those “optimal” four hours as part of your seven to nine per night and you’re going to make the most of the rejuvenation and renewal that sleep can ring. Getting to bed after midnight on a regular basis will deprive us of the best hours of restorative sleep. What can you do to best prepare for sleep? What you do each day can often determine how well you sleep that night. Getting regular exercise – even brisk walks daily – can help set the stage for good sleep; Yoga or other forms of stretching can help to relax the body. Yin yoga, for example, could be part of your evening regimen, either at a yoga studio or at home. It involves deep tissue stretching and long, meditative holds of postures designed to calm the mind and body; Slow deep breathing can positively affect our parasympathetic nervous system resulting in relaxation. How many of us can relate to sighing after we have been relieved of a stressful situation? Focus on calming the breath. Eliminate or reduce stimulates such as alcohol, caffeine and sugar from your diet, especially in the evening; Do not eat three hours before bed; if you need to snack keep it light, ideally vegetables; Recreate your environment: Turn your bedroom into a sanctuary; start by removing clutter and electronic devices from the room; Refrain from using electronic devices, such as cell phones or laptops, at least one hour before your bed time. Even though many of us have been conditioned to do it, watching television immediately before bed is not the best preparation for sleep; Dimming the lights and playing soft music for 30 minutes before bed can prepare us to transition into a restful state, which in turn helps us transition to restorative sleep; A guided meditation or soundtrack of ocean waves, running creeks or rain water for 15 to 30 minutes before sleep can also serve as great transitions from the stress of our work and personal commitments to a good night’s sleep; Sleep in complete darkness: This increases our natural production of melatonin, which is essential in regulating sleep. Blinds and curtains are typically enough to do the trick but some find a sleeping mask can do the trick! How do we manage tossing and turning? We’ve all had nights when we can’t seem to fall asleep or we can’t help but toss or turn or we get locked into the worrying modes that keep us awake. How do you reset when the same thoughts keep recirculating in your mind? Have you often noticed when we worry, we’re often thinking about the same issue over and over again? Finding a way to set these worries aside and “organize your mind” can help reduce the number of nights we lose sleep to tossing and turning and insomnia. Journaling before bed can help clear the mind of lingering emotions or thoughts of the day; Thinking about tomorrow? Write a list of what is on your mind and then commit to putting it aside until the morning when you are feeling refreshed. Natural supplementation When the underlying issue of our sleep breakdowns or deprivation is hormonal, as in the case of Menopause in women; supplementation can provide additional and often beneficial support. As a hormone balancing formula, Purica Menopause Relief works to naturally, safely and effectively balance hormones, thereby providing relief for common symptoms associated with menopause, such hot flashes and night sweats. The natural supplement also increases energy, regulates mood and supports the body and mind in dealing with stress. To learn more visit: www.puricameno.com The bottom line is finding the right sleeping regime that “works for you” and committing to it. Good sleep is arguably the best ally in stress relief and it’s worth doing the things that can help you get the most of a good night’s sleep. An advocate of whole foods, supplements and healthy lifestyles, Tawnya Ritco is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and product specialist for Purica. Follow her on Twitter at @Tawnya_Purica and follow Purica at @puricawellness. * Always consult your physician or naturopath if you believe there may be additional underlying conditions affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep, including but not limited to sleep apnea. A note on vegan and vegetarian options: At Purica, we’re committed to empowering you with the best in whole foods, supplements and positive lifestyle solutions. We support all athletes and active living people whatever your dietary preferences, although we will always do our part to raise awareness about the benefits of vegetarian or vegan options.