{Sleep} ‘Twas the week before Christmas…and you’re not sleeping enough!

Win a “nap sack,” including sheets, pillows, and iPod clock radio and eye pillow, to help you sleep better this holiday season, by answering in the comments below: What holiday-related tasks will you sacrifice shuteye for this week?

‘Twas the week before Christmas… and you’re not sleeping enough, says a recent study published by Sleepy’s and conducted by Toluna, an independent research service. The study shows that the “most wonderful time of the year,” is also the most sleep-deprived. Women, especially FOFs, push physical limits, sacrificing sleep for holiday chores. This past week, FOF Julianne Shannon tells us she pulled an “all-nighter” in order to turn her California home “into a  winter wonderland with faux snow and reindeer–a kind-of Santa’s Workshop motif. Then, I took my son to school and came home to have a morning nap before work.”

Julianne is not alone. More than half of women queried in the study expect to spend between one and four hours a night in December performing holiday-related tasks, cutting into crucial sleep time. The study reports that men will forfeit some sleep too, yet (no surprise here) they devote much less time to holiday chores.

According to sleep expert Robert deStefano, a woman over 50 should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep to function properly. “Throughout the year, women suffer stress-induced insomnia at a 2:1 ratio to men. That skyrockets over the holidays.”

“Many women over 50 have lower sleep efficiency, meaning that their quality of sleep is much poorer,” adds Dr. Steven Y. Park, M.D. an otorhinolaryngologist and Integrative Sleep Surgeon at Montefiore Medical Center.

“If her sleep is fragmented, the central nervous system is taxed and little stressors become magnified,” says Robert. “Stress is a primary contributor to heart disease, the number one cause of death to women in the U.S.”

Lack of sleep (quantity or quality) is known to promote weight gain by increasing your physiologic stress levels,” says Dr. Park. “It causes cravings of sugary or carbohydrate-laden foods, and metabolically makes you put on weight.”

Seven to eight hours of sleep before the holidays?! Fat chance! Here’s what the study shows that FOFs are doing instead of sleeping.

  • 46% sacrifice sleep for making or wrapping gifts

“I spent last night from midnight to 4 a.m. wrapping gifts for my 4 kids and making a dozen intricate holiday garlands for a fundraiser for our local museum,” says FOF Teri Miceli.

“I woke up from a dead sleep at midnight last night because I forgot I still had a dozen individual scrapbooks to finish and wrap for my co-workers… Was up until dawn on that one!” says FOF Tina Mulheisen.

96% put in extra hours baking, cooking, decorating or cleaning

Every year, FOF Francesca Kranzberg has a “cheesecake party” for 120 to 250 neighbors. She bakes 15 different varieties of the dessert–and non-cheesecake treats, too. “The last few days before our party I usually stay up until 2:30 or 3 a.m. finishing the baking, cleaning, etc., and arise at my usual 7 a.m. to get to work. While I always hope to get some sleep before the party, I am simply too nervous.”

“Sleepless nights start before Thanksgiving, with bread baking and prepping pie crusts,” says FOF Cathy Barrow of the cooking blog Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen. “As soon as that holiday is wrapped up, the holiday confections and cookies start. It takes two weeks to make twenty varieties (about 120 dozen) for my holiday cookie box. Lots of baking well past midnight. Plenty of mornings that start at 4 a.m., with cookies in the oven before the coffee is brewed. I mailed off all the treats on Monday, and now my holiday begins.”

“In addition to my normal crazy party schedule, this year I volunteered to make 700 gift boxes of white chocolate dipped and decorate pretzels, oreos and rice crispy treats–up all night with that,” says Alison Mesrop of Alison Mesrop Catering “Also made 20 flourless chocolate cakes complete with ganache frosting and glaceed fruit decor. In a sleep-deprived stupor at 3 a.m. I possessed the patience to separate prosciutto slices, painstakingly fitting into cups, baking them to make 500 crispy prosciutto cups.”

45% are shopping online during hours they normally sleep.

“I stay up to 11:30 p.m. shopping for clients last minute..not for myself,” says FOF style guru Sherrie Mathieson, author of Steal This Style and Forever Cool. “Then it’s hard to unwind, as the computer light affects melatonin cycles. They say that sleep  between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. is most important, and I have sabotaged that rest time.”

Win a “nap sack,” including sheets, pillows, an iPod clock radio and eye pillow, to help you sleep better this holiday season, by answering in the comments below: What holiday-related tasks will you sacrifice shuteye for this week?

One FOF will win.(See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes December 29, 2011 at midnight E.S.T.

{Brilliant Idea} Can a nightgown really help you sleep?

Two FOF believers (and business partners) are spreading the “Goodnighties” gospel…

FOF Sarah Baldwin spent 25 years as a high-powered marketing executive, launching mega brands such as NutraSweet and Dorothy Hamill’s Ice Capades. But by her mid 40s, she had stepped off the corporate track to raise her two children and was, in her own words, a “tired, restless menopausal mom, not getting any sleep.”

That’s when she happened upon a website featuring “Goodnighties”–sleepwear that claimed to improve circulation and sleep. “I thought the name was cute,” Sarah remembers. “So I ordered one.”

Exactly 19 days later she was on a plane to Hunstville, Alabama, to meet the inventor of Goodnighties, Marcia Bacon. “The very first time I wore the gown, I slept through the night and woke up feeling refreshed,” Sarah remembers. “I said to my husband, ‘This actually works! I have to find this company.’”

Today, Marcia, Sarah, and their husbands run Goodnighties together, a labor of love that’s quickly turning into a blockbuster business, with sales in all 50 states and 15 countries. Here, Marcia and Sarah discuss how a unique fabric has inspired their business, their friendship and a legion of fans.

FOF: Marcia, you actually developed Goodnighties.  How did you get the idea?
Marcia: While I was recovering from back surgery and going through menopause. The combination made sleep impossible.  My husband, who has been in the sportswear business for years, brought home a shirt sample made of ionized fabric (called Ionx) that supposedly increased circulation and improved healing. It was intended for athletes. I was skeptical, but I wore it, and noticed right away that I was sleeping better and my recovery felt easier.

Still, the shirt itself wasn’t quite right. It was too thick and too heavy. So I started development of a custom Ionx fabric that was lightweight, soft and non-binding. After 18 months, Goodnighties “smart fabric” was born. It has the same negative-ion properties but is also moisture wicking and antimicrobial. (It’s also made in the USA, which I love.)

What exactly do negative ions do?  It sounds a little like science fiction.
Marcia: Negative ions are molecules found in abundance in certain natural, outdoor environments such as the beach or the mountains. Recent studies suggest that they can increase serotonin levels, decrease stress, regulate melatonin and increase circulation. If you’ve ever had a fabulous night’s sleep at the beach, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Researchers at Columbia University are even investigating negative-ions as a treatment for depression.

Sarah, what did you notice when you first wore the nightie?
Sarah: I slept so well in it.  I felt energized!  I thought, ‘everyone should know about this!’  I didn’t know the science behind it then, but my whole body felt refreshed.

How did you connect with Marcia?
Sarah: I cold called her! And she couldn’t have been nicer. She appreciated my marketing background and what I could offer her business.

Marcia: Our abilities complimented each other. My husband and I had the manufacturing experience and Sarah, knew marketing and sales.

Sarah: A few months later, we went into business together.

What’s been the reaction from consumers?
Sarah: It’s not an easy sell at first…most people are skeptical. They think that if it’s not a sleeping pill, it’s not going to work. But once women try it, they love it. We get calls and emails constantly from customers who can’t believe how well it works.

Marcia: Our re-order rate is amazing. Most of our customers re-order either for themselves, or send it to other women they know have had trouble sleeping.

What are your plans for the future?
Sarah: Right now, we’re just having so much fun working together on a product we believe in. It’s inspiring. But it’s also a great challenge.
Marcia: We promised each other that when we hit the $5 million sales mark, we’ll take a trip together.
Sarah: We want to have a glass of wine in Tuscany! That would be a dream–no pun intended.

Editor’s note: FOF’s Founder, Geri Brin, discovered Goodnighties this year, and liked hers so much she contacted the company about creating a special FOF-branded version. Check it out in our shop and enjoy a 10% discount this week when you use code Good10 at checkout.

{Beauty} Ask the Beauty Inventor: Clark Wolfsberger, creator of Beauty Sleep

When we sent BeautySleep to our FOF Beauty Testers, we had no idea if it would work. A beverage that promised to help you sleep better and improve your skin seemed a bit too good to be true. So we were shocked by the unanimously positive reviews. Intrigued, we called Clark Wolfsberger, President of BigQuark, the Missouri-based beverage company that manufactures the supplement to find out exactly how this powerful little potion works.

How did you come up with BeautySleep?

The three issues boomers are most concerned with are sleep, aging and beauty. We wanted to come up with something that addresses those concerns.

Why is sleep so important?
When you sleep, your body repairs and replenishes itself. Some studies show that if your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it produces more cortisol, a hormone that causes you to age faster and gain weight.

Why is sleeping more difficult as we age?
There are many reasons, but one is that, you don’t produce as much melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

How does BeautySleep aid sleep?
It contains melatonin to help set your sleep cycle on course. It also includes chamomile, valerian root, and gava which relax the body and brain.

How does BeautySleep fight aging?
It has antioxidants that protects skin cells. It also includes sensara, a clinically-proven anti-aging ingredient which improves skin hydration, elasticity and lipid content. Lycopene, another ingredient in BeautySleep, is anti-inflammatory. Eliminating inflammation preserves more cell life and there’s less damage to the body. Last, it contains vitamin B, which aids circulation and in turn nourishes the skin and pushes toxins out of your system.

Do you use BeautySleep?
Yes. Typically on a Sunday night, if my sleep pattern has been thrown off over the weekend.  I’ll drink it to get everything back on track.

Beauty Sleep costs $21.90 for six bottles and is available at Soft Surroundings.com

{Giveaway} A Wrinkle-Preventing Beauty Pillow

Pamela Governale and her FOF mom, Angela, are giving away their brilliant invention, the Vanity Pillow.

To enter, tell us in the comments below: Do you sleep on your face, side or back?
Thank you for commenting this contest is now closed.

Convinced that a lifetime of sleeping facedown was causing facial wrinkles, Pamela Governale set to work designing a pillow that would help her sleep comfortably face-up.  Her FOF mom, Angela, sewed the first Vanity Pillow prototype.

“We protect our skin from the sun; we moisturize; we use anti-wrinkle creams and under-eye serums; and then we spend all night squashing our faces into a pillow,” says Pamela. Her Vanity Pillow works by ensuring the user sleeps face-up which relieves pressure on existing wrinkles on cheeks, under the eyes and forehead. It also ensures a smudge-free slumber for women who like to slather on night creams.

“It’s relaxing to snooze on your tummy, but to avoid wrinkles, flip over…. A vanity pillow cradles your head, preventing tossing and turning,” wrote InStyle editors in a recent glowing review.

To enter to win the Vanity Pillow, tell us in the comments, below: Do you sleep on your face, side or back?
Thank you for commenting this contest is now closed.

(See all our past winners, here.)

Natural Sleep Aids for Women

Stop popping pills and counting sheep, FOFs. Here are 9 unconventional aids for catching zzz’s.

1. Teas and Tinctures with Passion flower: Decaffeinated herbal tea has long been a fix for sleeplessness, but natural product companies have become savvier to the distinct needs of menopausal and post-menopausal women. Many have created blends of tea including Passion flower, a plant recently show to help women with menopausal symptoms such as aches and cramps, fall asleep.

Try: Jade and Pearl Sleepy Time Special

2. Peanut butter: The ubiquitous nutty spread is high in tryptophan, an amino acid with soporific effects. For best results, eat it on whole-wheat toast, another sleep-inducing food, an hour before bedtime (that’s how long it takes for the tryptophan to reach your brain).

Try: One of ten varieties such as “Mighty Maple” or “White Chocolate Wonderful,” from Peanut Butter and Co.

3. Chinese herbs: Herbal remedies for insomnia have been used in China for generations. They have become widely available, more recently in the United States in the form of herbal packs and tinctures. The blends differ vastly but can include sleep-inducing roots, seeds, oils and extracts from herbs commonly found in Asia such as Poria (Fu Ling), Spiny Jujube (Suan Zao Ren) and Biota Seed (Bai Zi Ren).

Try: iSleep Herb Pac

4. Cooling sleepwear: Many nightwear companies have caught heat for neglecting the needs of FOFs experiencing menopausal night sweats. But some are listening; they’ve swapped cotton for micro-fiber fabrics that wick away perspiration and are quick drying. So…cool!

Try: Cool-jams Sleepwear

5. Bedtime Bars:  A new line of NightFood Bars claims to help you fall asleep, and they just might be on to something. According to the National Sleep Foundation, eating a balance of protein and carbs before bed can actually help you sleep better. The Night Food bars  boast a combo of protein (soy) and carbs (oats, cookie crumbs, flour) as well as the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

Try: NightFood Bars

6. Cherry juice: Just this year, a study conducted by three universities found that cherry juice could reduce insomnia in older adults. Researchers believe the high content of melatonin in cherries plays a role in inducing sleep at night and wakefulness during the day.

Try: R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Tart Cherry juice

7. An acupressure mat: Acupressure mats, with their rows of plastic or rubber “spikes,” may sound and look like torture devices, but they have actually been reported to have sleep-inducing effects. The thousands of small points on the mat stimulate specific reflex points and release blocked energy. This in turn can ease tense muscles and create deep mental and physical relaxation.

Try: Yantra Mats or Spoonk Space Mats

8. A sleep shot: We have energy drinks galore, but what about an anti-energy shooter? A few companies have developed relaxation shots; mini-beverages sans caffeine and sugar that promise to help you doze off. Different brands contain different ingredients, but many rely on natural substances such as chamomile, Ecklonia Cava, Valerian root extract or melatonin, a hormone known to induce sleep.

Try: iChill

9. A smartphone app: A cell phone and uninterrupted sleep don’t usually go hand in hand, but a new smartphone app works through Bluetooth sensor technology to track your sleeping habits. A wristband measures body movement during sleep to find your ideal wake time. The app will set your alarm to this time so you awake feeling naturally alert and refreshed. It also will analyze your sleep cycle to determine your quality of sleep each night and the number of nightly awakenings.

Try: Wakemate Smartphone App

Enter to win Sleepy Time Special tea from Jade and Pearl by commenting below and answering: Have you ever taken sleeping pills?

{Quiz} Which famous FOF DOESN’T have insomnia?

Fifty percent of middle-aged and older adults complain of chronic insomnia symptoms according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Three of these four FOF stars toss and turn under the stars each night. Can you guess which famous FOF DOESN’T have insomnia?


Sources: The New York Times, Supanet.com, National Sleep Foundation
Images: Katherine McPherson for FabOverFifty, Greg in Hollywood, David Shankbone, The Famous People