Prioritize sleep — Many people think in order to have good sleep you have to go to bed early. The important thing is to lean into whatever sleep style you are (night owl vs. early bird) and be consistent. Adjust any medications and supplements to support that as well as some make you drowsy or alert.
Getting a good night’s sleep has so many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Yet with all of the distractions that demand our attention, going to sleep on time and getting enough rest has become extremely elusive to many of us. Why is sleep so important and how can we make it a priority?
In this interview series called “Sleep: Why You Should Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Major Priority In Your Life, And How You Can Make That Happen” we are talking to medical and wellness professionals, sleep specialists, and business leaders who sell sleep accessories to share insights from their knowledge and experience about how to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life.
As part of this interview series, we had the pleasure to interview Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand MD OF Bossa Bars.
LaReesa Ferdinand is a women’s hormone expert, integrative health coach and consultant with nearly two-decades of experience in women’s health as a board-certified OB/GYN physician. She is a member of the menopausal team of experts for Bossa Bars which is focused on helping women navigate the menopause years with confidence and ease. Dr. LaReesa believes that health is more than symptoms, doctor’s appointments, and medicine; It is also lifestyle, longevity, and love.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?
I once heard someone say that when you think about your life passion and about gravitating toward your destiny, it’s helpful to start with what frustrates you.
There are so many demands on women who want to exceed in their career and also feel the need to be a good wife, mom, friend and also maintain their health. As a high functioning professional woman, even my attempt at maintaining a so-called “work/life balance” only added more stress. I was mentally fighting that subconscious battle of the mind of living in a male-dominated world, and I sometimes just felt inadequate.
As an OB/GYN, I have an impactful job that I love because there is nothing I enjoy more than working with, and helping, women. This is why I have special programs for women and am also part of the Bossa Bar team: to help women re-imagine their experiences and optimize health and wellness.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this particular career path?
One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. After many years of serving women within the traditional medical paradigm, I recognized that my training served as an excellent path of becoming a great doctor. However, the skills, knowledge, and experience of developing relationships with women at many stages of life, I recognized quickly there is more than just sick or disease-based care. The wellness journey starts and ends outside of the typical clinical setting, and the expansion of complementary and alternative medicine tools support your body’s adaptive systems. Supporting lifestyle areas that optimize sleep, gut health, nutrition, stress, detoxification, and your hormone symphony, orchestrates improved health outcomes and quality of life. Simply, I integrated my foundation knowledge and built upon that natural and integrative medical solutions. Ultimately, I knew better, women started feeling better. The paradigm shifted.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the sleep and wellness fields? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
As an MD and OB/GYN I am dedicated to helping women specifically navigate the world of hormone imbalance and find their way back to energy and vitality with comprehensive and easy-to-understand solutions. I am passionate about helping women pursue a lifestyle that encourages optimization through a whole-body connection. Sleep is where the magic happens; it is the superfood that has the most impact.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“The Right Questions — 10 Essential Questions to Guide you to an Extraordinary Life” by Debbie Ford. When I was going through a challenging career transition it was a focal point of reading and meditation. Simply taking the vantage point of, “if we want to know what our lives will look like in the future, we have to examine the choices we are making today”(excerpt from book); Asking yourself hard but truth serum questions such as, “Am I standing in my power or Am I trying to please another?”, or “Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?” Quality not the quantity of life matters. And that quality is the sum of our decisions we make which impact the lifestyle, love, and longevity we seek.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
At Bossa Bar we actually have a “Menofesta” for women to embrace as they enter their midlife prime. While it is most relevant to women I work with, almost of of these best practice inspirations apply to everyone:
Believe that meno is empowering.
Optimize energy, Eat more plants.
Snack smartly to trim your tummy.
Sleep like a baby (take naps).
Act as if the best is yet to come.
The joy and ease of the “change of life” of women is a time of new breakthrough. Oftentimes, women dread it, don’t talk much about it, become misinformed, or leave it to Dr. Google or SEO searches. There is so much evolving in this space. I want a new perspective and more empowering dialogue among women to be the BOSS of their body and thrive, not just survive.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with the basics. How much sleep should an adult get? Is there a difference between people who are young, middle-aged, or elderly?
It’s more than just total time spent asleep; sleep duration and your body’s response during sleep stages, reactions to stress, and efficiency are what really matter. With the decline of vital hormones during menopause, sleep disturbances are especially common for middle-aged women. Everyone should focus on optimizing sleep that’s best for you, based on stress levels and whether you are a night owl or early bird. If you are able to optimize that within the 7–9 hour range, that can be ideal.
Is the amount of hours the main criteria, or the time that you go to bed? For example, if there was a hypothetical choice between getting to bed at 10PM and getting up at 4AM, for a total of 6 hours, or going to bed at 2AM and getting up at 10AM for a total of 8 hours, is one a better choice for your health? Can you explain?
The goal is to set yourself up for sleep success regardless of when you go to bed, but you should go to bed and wake up at the same time consistently. Also, be mindful of meals and excess snacking throughout your day. Limit caffeine to only before noon. Ideally, consume the least heavy meal toward the end of the day so your body has less of a detox burden during sleep.
All of these things help get your body out of a stressed state and optimize sleep. When you’re stressed, sleep and high levels of energy don’t come easy. Stress can actually cause you to age faster and also decrease your longevity. Sleep Disruptions can lead to a propensity toward obesity and metabolic disorders, and affect the extent to which we are able to express energy and harness our power to push through the next day.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for our readers. Let’s imagine a hypothetical 35 year old adult who was not getting enough sleep. After working diligently at it for 6 months he or she began to sleep well and got the requisite hours of sleep.
How will this person’s life improve? Can you help articulate some of the benefits this person will see after starting to get enough sleep? Can you explain?
Sleep is a vital time where your brain gets a chance to finally detox. The lack of sleep impacts daily energy, recovery and repair mechanisms, weight loss goals, cognitive performance, and immune system functioning. So someone who has improved their sleep will see an improvement in productivity and memory consolidation which is a natural defense system for cognitive decline as we age. They will have longer, more restful sleep duration and recover from fatigue, illnesses and injuries quicker. For a 35 year old female, it can help melatonin production, our sleep inducing hormone, work its menomagic and get hormone and antioxidant functional levels in check.
Many things provide benefits but they aren’t necessarily a priority. Should we make getting a good night’s sleep a major priority in our life? Can you explain what you mean?
Sleep is the true nectar of life. Everyone should make good nutrition, reducing stressors and optimizing sleep a priority. Research has found that those with higher perceived stress experienced shorter sleep durations. In fact, moderate to severe sleep deprivation produces impairments similar to alcohol intoxication, or blood alcohol levels of 0.05%. When you don’t sleep well, you go about your day in a fog and just don’t have the energy to function at your peak capacity whatever it is you are trying to perform or accomplish. Sleep is the key.
The truth is that most of us know that it’s important to get better sleep. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits.
In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives? How should we remove those obstacles?
1. Discounting the importance of sleep. Ben Franklin famously said, “There will be plenty of time to sleep when you are dead.” Yikes! I’m sorry Benjamin Franklin, you may have been one of the greatest inventors and writers of American history, but obviously you weren’t speaking to menopausal women! Everyone needs to understand that sleep is your super fuel for all other functions.
2. Thinking that constant fatigue is just part of the stage of life you are in like being new parents, starting a new job or going through menopause. That is a myth and you can set yourself up for success if you put effort into YOUR health and prioritize restful sleep.
3. Assuming Night Owls don’t sleep. Just because you stay up late doesn’t mean you can’t be consistent and still get quality rest and the proper duration. If you go to bed late you can’t get up at early bird times and you still need to ease into calm as part of your nighttime routine. Especially for Night owls, tracking your sleep and adjusting the things you can control can make a big difference in sleep duration and optimization. You can go to bed late but don’t cut the amount or type of sleep you get.
Do you think getting “good sleep” is more difficult today than it was in the past?
Absolutely, we have so many interruptions and inputs from our environment. It puts our body in constant overdrive and makes it less adaptive. And when we don’t recover well, that can present as more chronic fatigue, mood disturbances, and failure to thrive.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share “5 things you need to know to get the sleep you need and wake up refreshed and energized”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.
1. Prioritize sleep — Many people think in order to have good sleep you have to go to bed early. The important thing is to lean into whatever sleep style you are (night owl vs. early bird) and be consistent. Adjust any medications and supplements to support that as well as some make you drowsy or alert.
2. Maximize your sleep environment with quiet, cold and dark– Many people are on devices or feel the need to have TV or music on to fall asleep. You need to transition your body into a calm state 1–2 hours before you go to bed — whenever that is.
3. Track your sleep and set personal KPIs — Just because you think you are doing the two things above doesn’t mean you are optimizing sleep. Use technology to track and follow trends to bring daily awareness to patterns that you may miss. You can connect the missing links between sleep duration and your body’s response during sleep stages, reactions to stress, and efficiency. These key insights can help navigate making the necessary adjustments.
4. Reduce stress — When you’re stressed, sleep and high levels of energy don’t come easy. Stress is one factor that can impact your telomere length. Thus, stress can actually cause you to age and also decrease your longevity. Sleep Disruptions can lead to a propensity toward obesity and metabolic disorders, and affect the extent to which we are able to express energy and harness our power to push through the next day
5. Be mindful of meals and excess snacking throughout your day. Limit caffeine to only before noon. Ideally, eat a more plant-based diet and consume the least heavy meal toward the end of the day so your body has less of a detox burden during sleep. This improves energy for memory storage and creativity that you need to power through the next day. This is directly impacted by what you put in your body.
What would you advise someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep?
In that moment, see if there is anything they can do to adjust their sleep environment; Are all the lights and sounds in the room off –from TV to the small green, blue and red lights on any electronics in the room. Are you able to make the room cooler? Do not reach for your electronics! The next day, evaluate some of the other things I mentioned like making sure to stop caffeine intake after noon, limit excess snacking or late alcohol consumption, and make sure your last meal is nutritious and the lightest and consider what you can do the following night to get your body into a calm state 2 hours before bed.
What are your thoughts about taking a nap during the day? Is that a good idea, or can it affect the ability to sleep well at night?
I am pro-nap! Again, especially for menopausal women. Not too long though, that could possibly disrupt patterns for some women at night. 30-minute power naps can work wonders.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Former President Barack Obama — if I could get Michelle to join, that would be a major plus. He constantly infuses hope and inspiration with his words, path, and intellect, with a sense of humility and vulnerability. Who doesn’t need hope, love, or inspiration?
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The Bossa Bar team has regular MenoLounge Talks where we take turns covering everything from sleep and nutrition to the Myths of Menopause. The schedule of talks are at www.bossabars.com/pages/community. You can find out more about my additional programs for women at https://drlareesa.com/.