My brain is officially wired for insomnia. The more I think about getting a better sleep, the more incapacitated I feel. As a kid, I found it difficult to sleep.
But motherhood made sleep deprivation my best friend. According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, about a million different medical or lifestyle habits could be responsible for my war with sleep. Here’s what I know: men seem to have an easier time with sleep than most women. And, my trip to Inscape – a sleep and meditation space in New York City – gives me hope.
Science suggests that men are better sleepers than women. Unlike men, women have a harder time turning their brains off at the end of the day. According to Best Health magazine, this is further exacerbated by fluctuations in women’s reproductive cycles. Menstruation, pregnancy hormones, and peri-menopausal changes in estrogen and progesterone all cause variations that disturb sleep. It’s not right for mother nature to play favorites especially if, as the evidence suggests, women need more sleep than men.
Another explanation suggests women have more trouble falling or staying asleep because they worry more than men. This definitely feels like a sexist statement, that women are somehow less resilient or weaker than men. But Andrew Shanahan, editor of Man v Fat, says women actually “suck at sleeping” because they use their brains and multitask more than men during the day. Okay, this swings the sexist pendulum the other way. I don’t feel too bad anymore. By comparison, it makes us look smarter now, doesn’t it?
I like the science that sides with the conditioning theory.
It suggests that hormonal fluctuations and pregnancy set women up for interrupted sleep. We are therefore more inclined to hear noises that keep us awake at night. If women do, in fact, need more sleep than men, according to the National Sleep Federation, then sleep is a feminist issue. Arianna Huffington wasn’t kidding when she said that women can be more successful, quite literally, if they “sleep [their] way to the top.”
I took Arianna’s advice to heart after reading more about the effects of sleep deprivation. The alarming highlights of sleep deprivation include:
- Higher cortisol levels that cause weight gain, reduce muscle mass, and increase hunger response in the brain;
- When the hormone ghrelin tells us we need to eat more because we are sleeping less, we produce more ghrelin;
- Sleep deprivation worsens because leptin, another hormone that tells us we’ve eaten enough, stops responding when we sleep less; and,
- Depression, diabetes, and heart disease all spike up when we sleep less.
But even still, when I gather the list of sleep hygiene rules, I can’t seem to follow them consistently. I exercise in the morning, I turn off my phone at night, and I even clean up my annoying writing desk filled with overflowing papers and books. It’s a pet peeve of my husband and a no-no if you want to relax the mind. I even add bedtime tea with natural chamomile and hibiscus flowers, but the glass of wine I shouldn’t have before bed probably counters this effect.
I need to take this problem seriously if I don’t want to develop long term sleep problems.
However, I keep putting it off because that’s what we women do. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things that need my attention. Even when I hear the lullaby chime on my cell phone reminding me it’s fifteen minutes before midnight, I can’t go to sleep. I get into bed but I can’t relax.
This is the perfect introduction to Inscape and meditation re-imagined. I am certain words like breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, and meditation are the missing keys to sleep-nirvana. I sign up for a class online and head into New York City to the Inscape studios. I force my husband to join me, with the promise we’ll go for dinner and drinks afterwards. But instead, we enjoy a Mexican lunch and a round of beer, thinking this might be a better prelude to sleep.
As we enter the posh high-tech looking entrance to Inscape, the air is calm and a fruity-floral scent wafts past our nostrils. We are separated from the frenetic sounds of traffic as the door closes behind us. White walls, comfy looking bean-bag chairs, and soft smiles invite us in. Gentle voices ask how we are doing. As we check in, a petite instructor wearing all black guides us to a small locker area. Photo below is the storefront in the the Flatiron section of New York City.
We pass the two meditation rooms – the Alcove (pictured below) and the Dome (photo above). We’ll do a 33-minute relaxation session for $22 each in the Dome. The prices are cheaper if you buy a monthly pass or bundled package of sessions. The fuss is minimal, if whether you purchase online or use the Inscape APP. I already feel lulled into a serene, whispering state as I wait for the class to begin. But, of course, I start to worry about the effects of our Mexican lunch. Not a wise move, but maybe the instructor won’t stay with us once the audio voice comes over the speaker. I assume we’ll close our eyes too.
As we take our positions on the floor, the marvelous red and purple colors of the room’s ceiling and walls make it feel like we are leaving planet earth. We follow the instructor who takes her place in the center seat of the Dome. Adjusting the foam roller supports and back rests, we watch the room fill up quickly. The door closes. And the class, of equal parts men and women, listen to the instructor. She will help guide us through an audio series of relaxation techniques. We focus on breathing, and I struggle to stay awake.
The class is finished as quickly as it started. We are encouraged to hang out in the lobby lounge before heading back into the real world. I really do feel inspired and empowered. Shockingly, even my husband agrees he’d like to return. The purpose at Inscape is to connect with yourself so you can connect with everything around you. The Inscape founder and CEO is Khajak Keledjian. His studio space and APP offer a balance between what he calls “modern wellness and mindful luxury.”
Since my visit, I’ve started to incorporate some of the breathing challenges into my daily routine. I’m sleeping a little better but know learning to balance my sleep and awake cycles won’t happen overnight (pun intended). I’m already late for bed, but I’ve added some ammunition to my cadre of sleep tools. In addition to the Inscape App, I now have a copy of Camille Maurine and Lorin Roche’s Meditation Secrets for Women by my bedside. I’m hoping to follow their mantra “Discovering your passion, pleasure and inner peace.” If that goes well, I hope to enjoy a lot more sleep.