Sleep, health and hormones with Amisha Klawonn
n this interview, Laurie and Amisha Klawonn discuss sleep, health and hormones as well as what you can do to improve your sleep and how to best incorporate changes to your sleep routine.
The founder of Centered Mama, Amisha is dedicated to the wellness of each and every woman who she has an opportunity to work with. Amisha is a Board Certified Orthopedic Physical Therapist, Certified Women’s Wellness Coach and Yoga Therapist. She uses her extensive knowledge in restorative sleep, sleep education and evidence-based sleep tips to help clients find their way to deep restorative rest. Centered Mama focuses on assisting women create optimal wellness through deep rest, hormone balance and lifestyle strategies.
This is a transcription of an Instagram live conversation. You can find the full video on Laurie’s IGTV tab on Instagram and soon on YouTube.
I’m here today to talk to Amisha about sleep. So Amisha I’m glad you’re joining. This is a popular topic, especially since the start of the pandemic. The increase in stress often means a decrease in sleep or its quality, right?
Sure. The stress and many other things that we might be doing to alleviate the stress decrease our sleep and its quality. Things like staying up late, binging Netflix, wine or whatever it might be. It’s different for everyone, but pandemic time has definitely increased sleeping anxiety.
We know how good we feel when we have had a good night’s sleep. But many people tend to not allow themselves a full night of sleep.
And if it’s been awhile, since you’ve had one, sometimes you just don’t know what a good night’s sleep feels like, when you do have that true high quality sleep. So feeling bad and exhausted can become your new normal.
We skipped introducing you, so Amisha would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m Amisha Klawonn and I am the founder of Centered Mama, which is an online education system for women in particular. There’s a special focus on restorative sleep and prioritizing rest for women to allow them to regain optimal wellness.
Being able to prioritize rest and your daily habits can make a huge difference in just the way that you live your life. So that’s really what we focus on.
Awesome. So let’s dig in. Where should we begin?
I think a good place to begin is to look at your own sleep schedule right now and just notice when you go to bed at night. When do you wake up?
Not everyone needs exactly eight hours of sleep. There’s a lot of variety, but most people need a minimum of six. If you’re one of these people who are like, “I get by on four,” I would really encourage you to look at how long you have been on four hours. And are you having caffeine and sugar throughout the day to maintain that? Do you really feel amazing? I do think there’s always outliers out there. I don’t think everyone needs eight hours every day.
Absolutely. I had found in the people that I’ve worked with over the years, that people tend to want to believe that they don’t need as much sleep. I’ve been working with people who are very active and busy and more high pressure jobs and things like this often require more sleep for recovery.
If that describes you and you say you don’t need much sleep, I really would invite you to look at how you are starting your day. Are you taking caffeine? It’s great to have a cup of coffee. But are you having one cup or four cups?
What does your afternoon look like? Are you reaching for a latte or are you having a sugary snack there? So you are super clean and you’re not having caffeine and you’re not having wine to wind down, then maybe four hours is okay for you.
But most of us need more. I need nine hours, as in I’m happiest at nine.
So that doesn’t always happen, because of life. Sometimes I stay up late and watch Netflix. It’s not the end of the world, but I do notice the next day I want another cup of coffee or maybe I want a snack from Starbucks. I don’t normally want those things, but if I’ve had less than nine hours, I do. So it was just noticing some of these things and seeing what comes up for you and maybe relating it back to sleep.
Yeah. That’s so helpful. As you pointed out, do we need help like coffee to get us going in the morning or do we wake up feeling restored and ready to go already? Did our sleep actually give us the energy for the next day? Or are we depending on something else to give us and sustain our energy throughout the day?
Yes. I also think that every week can be different, especially for women. If you’re still menstruating, your cycle can affect how you’re feeling as well.
So some weeks you might need more sleep and some weeks you need less sleep. But just looking at what your day looks like can make a huge difference.
Once people have done that and realize that they maybe need two cups of coffee to get going in the morning, we move on.
How’s your general health? Are you at the weight that you want to be at? Are you exercising the way that you want to exercise? We look at those kinds of things, because those relate back to rest too.
Yeah. And stress levels too, if you are having a hard time managing stress.
Which hormone type are you?
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Right. What does that look like for you?
It’s different for everyone. It can come out as anxiety. It can come out as depression. It can come out as doing these really high intensity workouts or not wanting to slow down. Maybe you’re just pushing all hours until you literally fall into bed and fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow.
Sometimes it’s hard to slow it down. So switching over into how you move into sleep. I would invite you to look at your evening. What does that look like? Are you checking emails, reading articles, doing things? When you go to sleep after that, are you having a hard time falling asleep?
Our minds aren’t meant to just turn on and off. They really need a runway to bring you down into sleep. If you have children, you wouldn’t just push them all day until eight o’clock and then just drop them in bed.
They usually have a bath. They may get a little lotion massage. You usually read them a story. You play some nice music and you wind them down.
We all have this little inner child inside of us and all need that. We all need that. I think that sometimes we forget that that little person is still in us. So I approach sleep that way, not from an adult scientific perspective.
I mean, if you have looked at sleep at all, then you have probably looked at the science of it. Our sleep builds up through the day. So even if people say that they missed their sleep window and can’t fall asleep after, that’s not really true, because your sleep is building up through the day.
I do think it’s easier to catch that sleep wave at certain times, but ultimately you can go to sleep at any point, when your body is tired, because those chemicals are adding up all day long.
So the more you can wind yourself down, the easier it is to just lay in bed and go to sleep. It definitely helps me. I have a pretty strong routine to go to sleep and it helps. I definitely notice the days that I don’t do it and the days that I do make such a difference.
I noticed that I fall asleep a lot when I put my son to bed, because his routine is so calming. Then I struggle when it’s my own time to go to sleep, which is an hour or two later, because I’m not doing that same calming routine every time for myself.
I can see that. We’re busy and we’re working. If you have kids, you put your kids down to bed first and maybe you want to work or check on your emails. All these things you want to do before you go to bed often involve being on a computer or on an iPad or doing something with blue light.
What would you recommend around that?
If you’re going to be on a computer past seven or eight, definitely wear blue light blocker glasses. Then turn it off at least an hour before you go to sleep. If it can’t be a couple of hours, then at least one hour, just so that your body has time to release the chemicals that are gonna allow you to sleep deeply.
Right. I love talking about those chemicals. I love talking about hormones.
Do you really believe that it’s okay if we just turn it off an hour before, or is that still going to affect your melatonin production? Are we still going to be somewhat affected if we’re not turning that blue light off and dimming the lights in our home and getting into that environment, that’s sending signals to our pituitary gland or our pineal to say, “Hey, let’s turn up the melatonin and turn down the cortisol.”
How much time realistically, do we need to really be taking the best care of our sleep if we’re looking at optimizing it for health?
Okay. If you’re looking at optimizing it, we have to remember that our brains are still kind of in this caveman world. All of this technology is still fairly new for our minds and bodies. So our brain perceives blue light as sunlight.
For example, think about camping. The sun goes down around six or six thirty, depending on where you are. After a couple of days out in the wilderness you start to get tired around eight or eight thirty and you go to bed and wake when the sun rises. Although normally you go to bed at 11 or 12. That’s resetting your circadian rhythm.
In today’s world, our circadian rhythm is completely dysregulated, because of our electronics, modern life and the pace of modern life.
To optimize melatonin production, as soon as your eyes start to see darkness, melatonin starts to produce. Then it takes a couple hours to release.
If you turn your phone off at nine, ten or eleven, melatonin is really not going to release for a couple hours or an hour and a half, two hours. So when you go to sleep, you’re really not getting your deeper sleep when you should be having it.
It’s that deep sleep, which allows your body to heal. I really think it comes down to what else is going on in your life. Are you having anxiety? Are you at the optimal weight? Are you able to move through the days, the way that you want? If you’re not, then I would really look at what am I doing at night that might be facilitating this dysregulated, circadian rhythm.
In particular, that increase in melatonin that we get before we go to bed is not just about helping us fall asleep. It’s about so many other things. I like to bring up that it also helps immunity.
Yes. Honestly the better you’re sleeping the better your immune system is, because that is when your body heals.
I have a lot of clients who take a lot of supplements, but they’re getting four hours of sleep a night. You can’t supplement your way out of a challenging lifestyle. Sometimes it’s just really looking at the day and seeing what you can do to optimize your sleep a little bit.
I like to recommend to just pick one thing. There is a lot you can do for sleep, but just pick one thing that feels doable to you.
If you scroll through your phone right before you go to bed, maybe turn it off an hour before that and see how you feel. Maybe add in blue blocker glasses, maybe use some essential oils to put yourself in a calming mood. Salt baths can be nice, especially if you add some essential oils into the bath. I think it’s such a beautiful way to yourself.
Absolutely. That’s one of my faves. So you’re suggesting that we just start small and find one or two things we can do to improve our routine and then build from there.
Yeah. Just picking one thing to start, I think is always the easiest.
When you look at a whole list, I think it can be overwhelming. You think, “There’s no way I can do all these things. So why should I do any of them?” So just picking the one that you think you can do and then adding that in.
An example from me is, how you spend your day influences how you’re sleeping at night. I really struggled with adding in hot lemon water in the morning. I read that it’s so great and it’s so wonderful. But I had the hardest time with this. It literally took me months to be able to add it in every day.
In the beginning I always tried to drink it hot and it took me ages. In the end the key for me was mixing it and drinking it warm. I just really didn’t like it when the water was hot. That sounds so silly, but now it’s my first thing I drink in the morning and it helps me wake up. It’s hydrating and I feel better and it’s so doable, but it literally took me like six months to figure out what was going to work for me.
I love that. That something like drinking lemon water in the morning helps you sleep better at night.
Yeah. How you start your day is going to affect how your day ends too. I think sometimes people don’t give that enough importance. So some people just wake up, check their phone and they’re in go mode the whole day. Just think about how much stress that creates in the body. All the cortisol that’s releasing the second you’re checking your email and then you’re in reactive mode.
What if you could wake up and have your water, have a quiet cup of coffee or tea, get some morning sunlight and then check your phone 20 minutes later. What would that feel like for you?
I try to encourage people to think about how they want to feel in contrast to what they may be feeling right now. I think that’s a great reason to do some of these things.
I think it’s amazing. As someone who’s struggled with sleep for a long time and sometimes still do, when these little things are in my life every day I sleep amazing. But the second I let them go, like when we’re on vacation and I did not have my lemon water or we ate out a lot, my sleep isn’t great. Going out and having a fun time is okay too and fantastic, but I notice that I need time to readjust, when I come back.
This has been so interesting. So many people struggle with sleep, is there anything that you would like to leave them with?
“By prioritising sleep you are supporting all your hormones.”
In terms of falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up, I think that people fall into different categories.
There’s those that have a hard time falling asleep. There’s those who can go to sleep just fine, but they wake up a lot through the night. And then there’s those who are super early risers when they don’t want to be. I’m talking like 3: 30, 4: 30, 5: 30. Those are all sleep issues. People are not getting the sleep that they want and need to get.
So really dive in and look at why you are waking up so early. It’s different for everyone. It might be your blood sugar waking you up. It could be alcohol, before sleep. It might be good at helping you fall asleep, but it will wake you up in the middle of the night or early morning.
So look at what you are struggling with and see how you can maybe change that. There is a lot that you can do outside of sleep medication.
One a hundred percent agree. There’s so much we can do. You mentioned some simple lifestyle things, but you also mentioned blood sugar. These are some of the things that people sometimes can’t make the connection with.
We can often make the connections: I drank too much coffee yesterday. I stayed up too late. I was on my computer. I drank too much water throughout the day and before nighttime or all the other things that might interrupt our sleep.
Things like blood sugar and other subtle things that can make it difficult for women to figure out why their sleep isn’t great.
But there is something you can do about it. It doesn’t always require medication, I’d like to say ever, but I’m sure there are some exceptions.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s why it’s nice to have a person to bounce off of. For me personally, once I kind of talked through a lot of these things, it made a huge difference in what I was aware of.
Because sometimes you just need someone to help point some of these things out that you are not realizing because you’re so enmeshed in it.
Absolutely. It’s taken me a while to get to where my sleep routine is now. I had to learn things little by little, just figuring it out.
Which is so interesting because as a child, you probably had stellar sleep. Then we grow up and we stray away from it until we start to come back.
Yes. One of the hardest things for me was figuring out how much sleep I needed. How much my body truly needed, which was more than I really wanted it to be.
In our culture we think of sleep as an unproductive time. We need to shift away from that and think of it as the most productive time that we have, so that we can live our lives in the way that we want to live them. I think that that can make a big difference in helping people prioritize their rest.
Yep. Sleep is my number one performance tool. It affects how clear your mind is and how easily you can come up with good ideas.
Yes. My clients, who are women around their thirties tend to have a lot of brain fog. They have a hard time remembering and constantly feel like, “What’s going on?” When we come back and look at their lifestyle, they’re sleeping around five hours a night and maybe wake up four or five times, since they had a couple glasses of wine in the evening.
Just making a couple shifts, creates a huge difference in how people feel.
Absolutely. I love wine, but if I’m honest with myself, that wine is not good for my sleep. I need eight or nine hours of sleep. Realistically when I have had some wine I need more sleep, because part of that sleep is taken over by the wine.
Right. If wine might be a piece of joy in your life, then by all means have wine, just maybe not every night.
Sometimes when we’re diving into these things, we become so clinical and people tend to lose a little joy. So if you’re out with friends or you’re at home and you want to have a glass of wine, have a glass of wine, but just don’t make it three glasses every night. Have a couple of glasses once or even twice a week, but know that that night you may not sleep as well as you would without it. It’s a give and take.
Even if your life is perfect. You still want to have these fun moments, where you don’t have to worry about getting sleep or getting brain fog. Just enjoy.
We just have to make those conscious choices.
Exactly. I think it’s all just a give and take.
Sleep does fluctuate based on so many different areas of life, whether you’re traveling, where you are in your menstrual cycle or if you ate something that doesn’t necessarily agree with you.
It’s all about finding joy. Although I do think joy is easier to find if you’ve slept.
For sure. A hundred percent. You’re feeling good. After having a good night’s sleep, I’m singing and finding the joy in every little thing that I do.
It’s amazing what a difference it makes compared to the nights that you haven’t slept.
So just inviting people to kind of look at their days. How do you start your day? What are you doing in the middle of your day? How are you ending your day?
Start there. That’s great. Thank you Amisha.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
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Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
Hi, I'm Laurie, a functional nutritionist and health coach, athlete, dog-mom, and biohacking adventure-lover. After having struggled for years to find lasting solutions for my own debilitating hormone-related symptoms, I created my online practice to begin helping other active, driven women get the support they need. I now help women around the world elevate their health, energy, business and life by optimizing their hormones with personalized nutrition and lifestyle tweaks. Together, we discover new tools and strategies that keep you showing up at your best so you can play even bigger in your life and work.
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