Dream job: An interview with a certified sleep specialist
We caught up with sleep expert Teresa DeNike to seek all the sleep wisdom we could get!
Q: What should you avoid before bed?
A: Most people know not to exercise intensely before bed, but what they don’t know is that light movement such as yoga and stretching can actually be beneficial. If you are experiencing anxiety or pain, light movement and intentional breathwork can be very helpful in getting your body ready for sleep.
As far as what to avoid eating before bed, this is much more important than people realize. Sleep is critical for rest and restoration, but that doesn’t mean that our brains and bodies are inactive during sleep. Physiological processes like digestion continue, and, in REM sleep, our brains are more active than during wake! Our bodies need to work to digest heavy meals before bed which can be a slow and uncomfortable process. Spicy foods can lead to acid reflux during sleep and upon waking. Caffeinated beverages need to be avoided for at least 4 hours before bed, as it takes 4-6 hours for just half of the caffeine molecules to be metabolized in our bodies. Caffeine can show up in some after-dinner foods like chocolate, so be wary!
Just because you can fall asleep after ingesting alcohol, caffeine, or sugar, doesn’t mean that you will stay asleep. Your quality of sleep will suffer, whether you know it or not. I cannot stress this enough to anyone experiencing issues with sleep…alcohol is not a sleep aid. While it can cause sleepiness, it also disturbs the quality and depth of your sleep throughout the night, leaving you feeling unrefreshed in the morning.
Q: Is beauty sleep real?
A: Absolutely it is. During quality sleep, collagen and growth hormone production is increased, as is and blood flow to the skin. This combination can help with that “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed” look after a restful night.
A Swedish study on this topic proved that beauty sleep is real! Participants viewed photos of under-slept and well-slept people. They consistently rated under-slept people with lower scores for attractiveness.
MindYourMind is a great supplement for optimizing your beauty sleep. Magnesium, just one of the powerful ingredients in these capsules, is known to act in the nervous system to improve mood, calm the body and mind, and regulate natural melatonin production. Magnesium also helps your body to maintain a healthy skin barrier, preventing dry skin and wrinkles.
After a late night or long week, none of us feel or look our best but don’t let this be one more thing to stress about! Jade rollers can help with the puffiness.Supplements with skin-plumping ingredients and a combo of concealer and highlighter can help combat the visual effects of poor sleep. Be realistic though; taking care of yourself and improving your sleep is truly the only way to experience long-term beauty benefits.
Q: Can lack of sleep age you?
A: Yes it can, but over time. Decreased collagen production and the aging of our DNA are part of the reason lack of sleep can age you.
The tips of our DNA strands are called telomeres and as we age, telomeres break down. People with extreme levels of stress, and those with chronic, untreated sleep disorders tend to have shorter telomeres.
Meditation and a generally healthy lifestyle have been shown to help slow the breakdown of these DNA telomeres. MindYourMind can help you relax for meditation and a restful night of sleep. The L-Theanine and Chamomile extract are great natural aids for relaxation and sleep.
There’s no doubt about it, sleep deprivation is bad for you, and beauty sleep is real. On the bright side, taking small steps to improving sleep quality can improve all aspects of your physical and mental wellbeing, thus slowing the aging process. Until we find the fountain of youth, sleep , nutrition & skincare are our best defense against aging!
Q: Are there any sleep gadgets worth trying?
A: As far as gadgets, my favorites are those involving light, noise, or tracking. When our eyes take in light, it slows the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Blackout shades, dimmable lights, and blue light blocking accessories are a great start. Many people chose to use a device like Hatch, which provides natural light to use at night and in the morning, meditation, and soothing sounds.
If soothing sounds are your thing, stick with sounds from nature, or white or pink noise machines. Skip songs that you know well (with lyrics). These “earworms” can keep the mind active and diminish sleep quality.
Tracking fitness and sleep is a super popular topic in sleep coaching. People are using their watches, straps and all kinds of gadgets nowadays. Generally speaking, wearable devices are much better at tracking for fitness than they are for tracking sleep quality. However, they have be great for getting a baseline. This can help you understand changes and needs when it comes to rest and recovery. I enjoy using the Whoop– it’s has a sporty sleek wristband and easy-to-use app.
If you’re serious about sleep and want a device with more clinical research behind it, I highly recommend the Dreem headband. The Oura ring is another high quality, effective option.
Q: When should you seek professional help?
A: If you have made changes in your lifestyle and in your sleep habits, but feel little to no improvement, seek help. Feeling tired is one thing; excessive daytime sleepiness could indicate a sleep disorder. We all have bad days and long weeks, but complete exhaustion and fatigue that doesn’t go away is not normal. NO, not even for new moms.
Snoring, something that is seen as common and normal, is rarely just snoring. It can be a sign of serious but treatable breathing disorder called sleep apnea. Don’t let this scare you! Sleep apnea is very common, and easily treated.
Sleep care is self-care. Ask your sleep coach or medical doctor to point you in the right direction for medical, dental, or psychiatric support.
Teresa Power DeNike, BS, CCSH
Teresa is a boarded clinical sleep educator and the founder of SleepBetterNYC. Her sleep coaching programs help clients achieve realistic goals, depending on their individual sleep situation.
Teresa has worked with hundreds of sleep clinicians who have treated thousands of patients over the years, and realizes there is a tremendous need for sleep health education. Thus, SleepBetterNYC was established for sleep coaching and care coordination with medical, psychological, and dental professionals. Her small team is based in Brooklyn, NY but they are able to work with clients anywhere in the country, virtually.