The Struggle is Real: Womanistas and the Sleep Goliath


The baby was on an indomitable crying jag. Your husband got home late and you decided to stay up and watch Vice with him. You snuck a night out with girlfriends and one glass turned into three (or five). Or, perhaps, you simply could not shut down the whirling dervish that is your mind

For many women, being tired is the name of the game more often the not. Since this is my first “The Struggle is Real” Womanista article, I want to set the precedent for honesty.

So here goes…ladies, I’m bad at sleeping.

Whether I’m up late with a running stream of to-dos and to-NOT-dos, or up before dawn with the same, proper sleep often evades me. And it is no joke. I’ve experienced everything from mild snappiness to full on anxiety and depression from poor sleep. Although I’m not here to share the horrendous possible ill-effects (that’s WebMD’s job), I am urging you to take it seriously.

I’ve tried every kind of sleep medication you can possibly imagine, ranging from intensely Western…pills and vino, anyone?…to intensely Eastern herbal concoctions of lemon balm, lavender, chamomile, you name it. Oh, and everything in between. Of this cornucopia, only one thing has emerged as consistently helpful—what I choose to eat during the day.

I have to think that those indelicate creatures who seem to be able to eat all-the-bad-things are also incredibly sound sleepers. Because I know from experience, when you’re exhausted, refined sugar and grease are your greatest enemies. Cheesy as it sounds, proper nutrition is my secret weapon when my sleeplessness is at its worst, and I want to share the wealth with all my Womanista friends…we are friends, right?

So here are my top 5 tips for tackling a particularly sluggish day!


1. Start with a hydrating, protein packed green smoothie

This easy shot of nutrients and fiber will give you lasting energy, unlike coffee, which will bring you up high and then crashing down. My favorite blend? 1/2 frozen banana, 3/4 cup blueberries, 1 inch piece ginger, 1 teaspoon honey, 3 stalks kale, 1/2 small zucchini, 1/4 cup raw cashews or almonds and enough coconut milk to get everything moving

*If you want to drink coffee, try to keep it to one cup. You can also sub Yerba Mate tea for a less jolting boost.

(Photo: Getty)

2. Hydration Station

Start the day with a glass of water and fresh lemon juice, and then keep drinking water throughout the day (stop after 5 pm to prevent nighttime potty breaks). Your body needs more than you think when it’s run down. Bored with plain water? Switch out with sodium-free soda water or soak water in the fridge overnight with cucumber slices for flavor.

(Photo: Getty)

3. Gentle Exercise

Your urge might be to pump yourself with adrenaline, or move as little as possible. After trying both and everything in between, I’ve found that a 30 minute - 1 hour power walk is the best option. It will get your blood moving and make you feel productive, but it won’t leave you needing to crawl into bed at 2 pm.

(Photo: Getty)

4. Focus on protein & fat

It is crucial that you keep your blood sugar levels steady when you’re wiped. Make a point to ensure that your lunch plate is 1/3 high-quality protein or fat, and the rest is mostly green vegetables. Some good options are avocado topped with hemp seeds, grilled chicken or salmon, lentils or chickpeas.

(Photo: Getty)

5. Take two…


Take two 5 or 10 minute mini-meditation sessions. I know you’re probably so sick of hearing about the benefits of meditation, but that’s cause, uh, it works. Steal just a few minutes mid-morning and in the afternoon to clear your head, close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. This will help re-balance and rejuvenate you to get through the day.

(Photo: Getty)

For questions or more advice on how to get through sleeplessness with nutrition, contact me Chef Laura Lea // @lauraleabalanced.