Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is a cortisol rush??

This is a common question I get on my Facebook Gentle Sleep Support Group "Sleep Sisters"

Cortisol is the stress hormone your body produces when you get overtired. You have a level of cortisol in your body when you are awake all the time but when your body is running out of energy and needs sleep, you have a sleep window when it's the easiest time to fall asleep.

If you aren't asleep or settling into sleep by the end of your sleep window, your body will produce more cortisol to help you cope. It's a cortisol rush or a cortisol spike.

It actually kills brain cells so you want to avoid it as much as you can. To give your baby the most brain health potential, catch their sleep windows and help them keep to low stress. Be responsive.

For an adult, the late night second wind you get is a cortisol rush. Have you ever stayed up late, at a party or working and pushed through the tired feeling.  Then you get your second wind.  An hour or so later you may push through it again and get another second wind.  Then by the time you do go to bed, you feel wired and tired?  Then you sleep fitfully and wake early. Perhaps you feel sick in the morning.  That's how babies feel when they get overtired.

It takes about 45 min to burn off the initial cortisol rush and then it has a residual effect, affecting future sleep so it messes with night sleep even if it happens during the day.  The first step to improving sleep is to catch the sleep windows and maximize day sleep.

If you need sleep help, check out
Tracy Spackman

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thankful for a Thanksgiving disaster.

On Thanksgiving, as a family, I get each of the children to make one piece of our big Thanksgiving dinner. This year, my husband did the turkey and the stuffing. My oldest daughter made the pies and the boys did the potatoes. They get to choose what they want to do and my younger daughter Chloe chose to make the bread rolls. 

To make the rolls nutritious, I wanted to her grind wheat so we have fresh whole wheat flour to use and we use mostly whole wheat flour with a little bit of white flour to lighten them up. I wasn't in charge of anything until the end when I was going to make some yams and so I was busy with other things and trying to supervise a little bit. Chloe didn't know how to turn on the wheat grinder and after I showed her I walked out of the pantry. (I keep my wheat grinder in the pantry because it is loud like a plane engine.) We were starting early in the morning so the bread would have time to rise and bake and be all ready for an early dinner. Fresh hot rolls, Yum. 

Well after I walked out of the pantry, she turned on the grinder and then she walked out and a few minutes later somebody walked into the pantry to get something. I heard shouting and exclamations of a white Christmas in Arizona!  I came into the kitchen to see what was going on and they were telling me it was snowing in the pantry. The entire room was billowing with swirling flour and settling all over the place.  Unfortunately, If you don't have the Grinder bowl set all the way back into the machine, the flour will billow out. Usually when this happens it's obvious and I turn the machine off and fix it and start over. When Chloe noticed the flour billowing out of the machine, she says she thought it was supposed to do that and so she just walked out. Everybody had a really good laugh about our white Christmas in the pantry. Until I insisted that they had to clean it up. It took all day to clean up the entire mess.

Everything in there had to be wiped down all of the dishes had to be washed, lots of vacuuming sweeping and wiping. Everybody pitched in and helped. It still took all day. The rolls still got made and the dinner was wonderful.
The best part, my pantry has never been so organized and clean. Ever.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What is a Cortisol Rush?

A Cortisol rush is the body's natural defense mechanism when it has run out of energy and needs to keep going.

Your body has a certain period of time that it can stay awake.  That's the wakeful window.  Then your body creates melatonin and is ready to fall asleep.  That's the sleep window.  If you aren't asleep or falling asleep by the time you get to the end of your sleep window, your body produces Cortisol (the stress hormone) to give you a burst of energy so you can keep going.  It's not healthy in high doses.  It has been said that Cortisol spikes kill brain cells so you want to avoid the cortisol rush as much as you can, especially as a baby.  Your body has cortisol in it all the time and you want to keep it at healthy levels. Not spiking.

When you see a burst of energy after tired signs, that's a cortisol rush and now it can be very hard to get to sleep, especially if you are lacking in self soothing skills.
It may be funny or it may be scary, temper-tantrum-ish.  (Is that a word?)

Think about that second wind you get as an adult when you stay up too late working or at a party or something like that, and when you finally do go to bed well past your typical bedtime, you feel tired and wired and have a hard time falling asleep.  Well, that is a cortisol rush.  That's how your baby may be feeling.  Then you sleep  fitfully, and wake early and you may feel sick in the morning for a few hours.  It's not pleasant.

So try to catch your child's sleep cues and their sleep windows and get sufficient day sleep and the right bedtime.  It can make all your sleep challenges a little easier.

When you are sleep coaching, avoiding the cortisol rush helps your baby's body to work with you rather than against you.

If you need help with your schedule, your naps, your nights, give me a call.

Tracy Spackman is a certified gentle sleep coach.