Hibernation

Some of our plants are waking up from their winter hibernation/dormancy. I heard concerns from so many newer plant parents this winter about lack of growth on certain plants. Alocasias are notorious for this. You can stare at them all you want, but they generally won’t produce much during the winter months. This is true even in many somewhat warmer environments like San Diego. They conserve energy during times when there is less fuel available (sun). Like people, their “sleep” allows them to be healthier in the long run.

alocasia
The two Alocasias in this photo have not produced leaves over the winter, but they are otherwise quite healthy.

Good restorative sleep is at least as important as a healthy diet, regular exercise and healthy bowels (more on that in a future post) in terms of overall wellness. Although each individual is different in terms of what might be interfering with sleep, here are a few tips that might help you improve this important component of wellness:

1. Realize that we sleep in approximately 90-minute sleep cycles. Even people who don’t “wake up” between each cycle come very close to it. So when you wake at 4am and you don’t need to be up until 6, tell yourself, “It’s okay, I still have time for one more whole sleep cycle!” This might reduce the anxiety you feel about waking up prematurely.

2. Have a good sleep schedule. Generally you should go to sleep at the same time every night and awaken around the same time every morning. Obviously there have to be exceptions to this – there’s travel, social gatherings, etc .– but try to stick to the schedule at least 5 days a week at a minimum.

3. Exercise – but not too late! Regular exercise (vigorous is better) has been shown time and time again to help with sleep patterns. However, vigorous exercise can be overly-stimulating for people who have trouble falling asleep. In that case, be sure to finish at least a couple of hours before you plan to hit the hay.

4. If you are having chronic trouble sleeping, eliminate caffeine after noon or altogether if needed. This seems obvious, but it can be hard to give up if you’re a coffee addict! You may need to taper off to avoid headaches and severe fatigue, but your body will thank you in the long run. (Side note, if you’re not having trouble sleeping, coffee is okay in moderation, and is even good for liver cleansing!).

5. No screens for 2-3 hours before bed. Period. Except…if you are like me and like to read books and articles on your device, or get your Instagram posts prepped after the kids go to bed. In that case see if you have a “night shift” setting. The newer iPhone software has this under “Settings -> Display & Brightness -> Night Shift.” Other smartphones may have similar functions. This setting adjusts the color scale away from blue light, which can be overly stimulating before bed. Exposure to blue light has been shown to lower elatonin levels, our natural sleep hormone. This may not solve your problems if you are struggling significantly – in that case please eliminate screens altogether. Go back to paper books or listen to a calming podcast instead.

6. Though alcohol can often help people fall asleep, too much often results in midnight or early morning awakenings. Best to go easy on the alcohol, especially if you have problems with sleep. Here’s more information about safe alcohol amounts: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

7. The bed should be for sleep (and sex). Period. You should read in a different location of the house and go to bed when you’re sleepy. If you wake at night and can’t fall asleep, go to a different room and do something relaxing, such as mediating or reading, or spending time looking at your plants, and then return to bed when you are sleepy.

Wishing you all restful, restorative sleeps!

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