Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Supplier Spotlight: Back To Sleep

This year's Pride celebrations were non-stop in commemoration of Stonewall 50 and the launch of WorldPride. It was incredible, exhilarating, and exhausting. Now, it's time for rest and we have the perfect nglccNY business to help us do just that. Susan D'Addario is a LCSW and Certified Sleep Science Coach. Her business Back To Sleep focuses on assisting folks who are struggling with their zzzz's. As she puts it on her website, her services will help you "start to sleep great again so you can feel rested and ready to take on the world". nglccNY Media & Communications Chair, Cindi Creager, had a chance to speak with Susan and gain valuable insights about the importance of sleep and D'Addario's passion for helping others find their optimal slumber.

Susan D'Addario

Tell me a little bit about Back To Sleep.

Back To Sleep is a program that I offer to anyone and everyone who's having a hard time with sleep, specifically insomnia. By that, I mean difficulty either falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep, or waking up too early in the morning.

I am trying to help folks who are struggling with that and offering non-addictive options. The problem with over the counter sleeping aids is that, initially, they will help a person, but they don't help in the long run. We can very easily get addicted to those medications. But, in that, they don't allow us to go through the natural and normal sleep stages and cycles.

A lot of people who start medicating will sleep, but they're not necessarily going to get any healthier from that type of sleep. They're not going to feel refreshed. If they attempt to stop it, they find they can't. Even though it's not longer helping them sleep, if they stop taking them, they really can't sleep. So it's a big problem.

What I'm trying to do is offer options. These options include listening to people, determining what is going on for them, and offering them coaching solutions, whether that's one-on-one, whether that's in a group format, or in seminars. As a matter of fact, this week I'm running a free workshop called "Five Easy Steps To Sleep Through The Night" There are many basic and natural ways to help us sleep better. Some people that I've worked with are absolutely shocked to learn things that they're doing that have gotten in their way of sleeping. After working with them in a relatively short time period, they turn things around, so it's very rewarding.

Obviously, so many people need this. What led you to form this business?

I had my own issues with sleep for a long time. Before becoming a wellness coach, I was a psychotherapist for 23 years. So, I've always been very interested in working with people and helping them to deal with whatever the issues were in their lives. At a certain point, I started addressing my own sleep issues. I was sleeping through the night, but I never ever felt well rested. I woke up morning after morning exhausted.

I was struggling. I would wake up and just never feel refreshed. I had to use all my might just to prevent myself from nodding out between noon and 5PM on a daily basis. I spoke to doctors about this and no one really helped at all. I tried my own home remedies including running out and getting quick cup of espresso before a session, but that just made me jittery and didn't solve anything.

What finally happened was about three years ago. I was driving and I had just gotten off the West Side Highway and was looking for a parking spot. Thankfully I was driving very slowly, but I nodded off behind the wheel, which was obviously horrifying. Thankfully, I did not go into anyone or anything. When that happened, it changed everything. It finally dawned on me this is something I better start taking very seriously. It changed even my career. I started doing research on my own. I started reading everything I could find, and ultimately I became a certified sleep science coach to be able to bring this into my practice. I redirected my practice to become a sleep coach because I didn't want anyone else to have to go through what I went through. Did you know there are more car accidents due to people falling asleep behind the wheel compared to people who are inebriated behind the wheel? It's a big, big problem.

Why is sleep so important?

A lot of people think that when they fall asleep, they close their eyes, and they wake up in the morning thinking nothing has happened during the night. That couldn't be further from the truth! A heck of a lot is going on inside our bodies while we're sleeping. And if you get the kind of sleep we're supposed to get, which would be referred to as a restorative sleep, what's supposed to happen is that our bodies (muscles, bones, skin, and mind) are being restored, refreshed, and tended to during specific stages of the sleep cycle. For example, when we get into a deep sleep stage, that's when growth hormones are released and the repair of our musculature takes place.

So, if you are busy during the day trying to work out, you have an injury you're recovering from, or you're not getting proper sleep at night, it's going to be hard for you to do that if you're not sleeping correctly, because you need sleep for that to happen. Also, when you're in REM sleep, which is the rapid eye movement sleep, that is the time where your brain is actually cleared out, and that is the time for creativity to occur, and for our ability to move memory into long term memory. So, you could say that deep sleep is a caretaker for our physicality, our physical body while REM is really taking care of our mind.

Why is the world so sleep deprived?

For many, many reasons. Starting from many years ago when artificial light was created. This is because artificial light has thrown us way off from the sun, natural sunlight, or the circadian rhythm, which is 24 hours, and our brains are supposed to align with the sun. So, when you introduce artificial light, and now there's light out at night, that light enters our eyes and is giving our brains the message that it's daytime, so we're thrown off. And it's very hard to go from a bright room or even in New York City, walking around where it's still illuminated, to go from that, to get into your bedroom and expect to fall asleep. That light at night is giving your brain the message not only that it's daytime, but until you really enter a dark space your brain is not going to release melatonin, and that's also known as the sleep hormone. So, you're going to be up for hours. There's also the food that we eat that has changed that does not induce proper sleep with all the processed foods. Also, jet planes, the concept of jet lag, is only about 60 or so years old. 

There's no way for our brain to possibly keep up with jet lag so we'll suffer due to that. And there's a lot of stress, and a lot of things going on. There is not as much time to move your body. I like to compare our lives today to how we imagine our ancestors lived in the 1850s. They had natural light. They got up in the morning and they were exposed to real sunlight. And most likely they were outside, their work had them moving their bodies, and they were eating real food. There was no jet travel, and at night when the sun went down, that's when they went down. The sun was their real compass in terms of how to live out their day and sleep at night.

I can imagine you would agree that our phones play a huge role. People are so addicted to their phones now.

You can say that again. Any of the monitors, and even a regular light bulb are so loaded with blue light. If you have the white light in the spectrum of the different lights within white light, it's blue light that is primarily responsible for running interference in your brain knowing that it's nighttime, and holding off the melatonin being released.

What tools can you suggest to help people, as you say on your website, "take back the night"?

Let's say there are a few people who are waking up in the middle of the night, and even though their symptoms are identical, what's causing the problem could be different for every person. We all share a connection with the sun, and our connection with the rhythm of the sun. So, what I recommend right off the bat to each and every one of us, is that we all invest $7.50, and we purchase amber-tinted glass. These block out the blue light by approximately 98%. I also suggest to people that after dinner they look out the window. If the sun's setting, put on the amber glasses, and keep them on until you're ready to go to sleep, even if you watch TV. If you're going to be on your monitors, it has to be done with these kind of glasses. The goal is that you want to down-regulate at night and you want to up-regulate in the morning and during the day. Too many of us up-regulate at night.

Pride was incredible this year: Stonewall50 and World Pride. But now, many in our community are exhausted and trying to recuperate. Part of that involves getting good sleep. Do you have any advice for weary post-Pride LGBTQ people?

There's a lot of competition at night to do great things that compete with sleep, but now that Pride is over, I would say to try your best to take it down a notch. Start to get more in touch to be tuned with nature and with the sun. For example, one change which would make sense if one was consuming a certain amount of alcohol during Pride would be to bring down the alcohol intake. So, I recommend that at least two hours before going to sleep, that would be the time to stop the last alcoholic beverage. The problem with alcohol is that it will lull us to sleep, however, it is also a real culprit for waking us up in the middle of the night. Also, take some walks during the day to expose yourself to more daylight. The daylight is giving, it's informing your brain that it's still daytime.

You recently became a member of nglccNY. How has your experience been so far?

It's been great. I'm very interested in becoming a certified LGBTQ business. I already have an appointment with my accountant in August. The organization is something I definitely want to get more involved in. In fact, I'm going to the networking event this month.

Why do you think you might pursue NGLCC certification?

First of all, I really like being out as a lesbian. Whether I work with folks who are LGBTQ or allies or whoever, I just like being myself. It's been one of my goals in my life. So, I want to be out there, be a responsible representative adding goodness to the world. I want to have a presence in helping not only people with sleep, but also in general in the world, and promote acceptance of each one of us.

How can people reach out to you and determine if your services are a good option for them?

They could reach out to me either with an email: They can text me or call me if they like at 212-974-0935 and if they have interest. I am happy to offer a complimentary consult to learn more about what I do. If they feel I can be helpful and if I feel I can be helpful, then I'd be happy to talk with them about the programs and services I provide.

That's wonderful, Susan. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I love what I do. I have a mission to turn people around with their sleep. I want to make a difference for them. I want this to spread, I want the word to spread that there are different ways for people to sleep, and really become their optimal selves.

Written by Cindi Creager,
Chair, Media & Communications,


CreagerCole Communications, LLC

CreagerCole Communications, LLC is a New York City-based public relations firm experienced in LGBTQI issues.