The Power of Sleep

Family wellness coach Michelle Gindi shows how overworked parents can get some much-needed shuteye.

Five years ago, Michelle Gindi began to experience some health issues after the birth of her second daughter. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she headed to the library and checked out dozens of healthy cookbooks a week, most of them by doctors who believed in plant-based foods as medicine. 

Besides developing her own vegan cupcake recipes, Michelle learned that acupuncture, Chinese herbs and a slew of supplements would balance her hormones and solve her stomach and gut problems for good. As a corporate lawyer by trade, the research was natural. Eager to bring over the same nutrition and wellness ideas to her kids, she also studied how to manage their allergies and developmental delays.

Soonafter, by word of mouth, parents would hire her to overhaul their entire household with her healthy tips, tricks and habits. She became a certified health and family wellness coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and started sharing her best secrets for busy parents on her blog, Buddha Bowls and Burpees

Throughout all her consults, Michelle discovered that sleep is one of the most underutilized tools for wellness. When clients have anxiety or their kids are throwing tantrums, their ground-level focus should be sleep. 

“When you not only have that 9-to-5 job but you’re coming home to parental duties, you need to be on your A-game,” says Michelle. “Your immunity needs to the best it could be and your overall mood needs to be as optimal as you can make it. Unless you get the right sleep routine, nothing is going to function as well as it could.” 

According to Michelle, those who get a good night’s rest will also be more productive and be able to do more in less time by giving the brain and body necessary downtime. Those that stay up late to work or study because there aren’t enough hours in the day are actually doing themselves a disservice. 

“Overnight, the brain does a sweep up of toxins that build up throughout the day through normal thinking and activity,” she says. “I want to make sure my brain has enough time to remove them and be fresh for the next day.” 

To start catching those necessary zzz’s, follow Michelle’s tips for developing an effective sleep routine. 

Pamper yourself 

I try to take a bath for 10 or 15 minutes while I put my husband on-duty to read the kids a bedtime story. I may add some essential oils or Epsom salt to relax me. That would be my first line of defense. Then, I put on pajamas—it’s like taking the day off and switching to bedtime. I always tell people that even if you like to wear sweats or pajama-like clothing, designate a sleep pajama. 

Block out blue light 

If I know I need to do work at night (the blog needs to get updated, there’s some Instagramming to be done, client recaps are due), I will put on blue light blocking glasses. They’re very low cost and filter out the blue light that reduces the hormone melatonin, so I can do my work or even watch TV without worrying about not falling asleep at night. My kids’ nightlights and lamps all have orange light, not LED, which is the worst for you. 

Designate some of your nighttime responsibilities

There are certain times when my husband has to get up with my daughters if there are night terrors or growing pains. I’m like the cure-all doctor and I’m on 24/7, but I do tell my husband that I need rest and he needs to get up and put them back to sleep sometimes. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking you can do it all, all hours of the day and night. 

Get your kids to sleep—and stay sleeping

Educate your kids on what sleep actually means, whether they’re two or in their teens. Then, try to make the sleep routine fun while still calming. My kids love certain bedtime stories on Youtube like Hot Air Balloon Ride, Dragon Story Time and Cosmic Kids Yoga, which are quiet and meditative. I also use lavender essential oils or a doTERRA serenity blend. I spray it on their pillowcases or massage it on their feet. It signals to them that calm is on the way and they can sleep in peace. Do it over time and the second they smell the lavender, they’ll begin to put themselves into that mindset. 

Take deep breaths 

If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t panic. So often, people wake up and say “I’m never going to fall back asleep” and that’s exactly what happens. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I like to give myself ten deep breaths with eyes closed and not think much about anything. Don’t use your phone or open the TV. Sometimes, I’ll just listen to a ten-minute meditation app right when I wake up and it will put me right back to bed. I’ll also put on Pandora and play Classical for Studying or really low, easy music. 

Trigger your routine 

If you recall one time when a non-routine was a full-out disaster, you will drag yourself to start your routine. The second you do one thing, like turn on the water for a bath, you’ll get into the rest of your routine easily. It’s the first step that’s hard.