About Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it's within the pages of a book. Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, Christmas Stray received a 2016 Readers' Favorite Gold Award, and Playing for the Save got the 2017 Readers' Favorite Gold Award in Realistic Fiction. She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.

Ten Reasons to get More Sleep #RachelleAyala @Mimisgang1 #mgtab #BookReview

We’re having a global brain climate crisis!

Last month, I had my entire worldview about sleep overturned. I went from a sleep denier to a sleep advocate once I realized the detriment I was doing to my health by burning the candle on both ends. I also read Matthew Walker’s entire book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. My emotions went from skepticism to alarm to curiosity to concern as Dr. Walker laid out the reasons for every adult to get at least seven hours of sleep [babies and children obviously need more]. I highly recommend the book because it is footnoted with a lot of research and backed up by real-life experience. He talks not just about the quantity of sleep but also the quality of sleep and the importance of each of the stages of sleep.

Here are at least ten reasons why you should get more sleep. [Note: page numbers are approximate and come from a PDF file which might not correspond to the printed book, but you should be able to flip forward or backward to find the referred material.]

  1. Drowsy driving is dangerous. When you don’t get enough sleep, you drift off for a few seconds into unconsciousness. A few seconds at sixty miles per hour is lethal. While drunk drivers are slow to respond, drowsy drivers don’t respond at all because they are asleep. All it takes is a few seconds of oblivion. A study showed that later start times for high school students reduced accidents by 70%. To put it in perspective, anti-lock braking technology which was hailed as revolutionary reduced accidents 20-25%. (pg. 226) It is estimated that every 30 seconds, someone gets in an accident that is caused by drowsy driving. Even worse, truck drivers are 200-500% more likely to get into an accident. (pg. 106)
  2. Lack of sleep devastates your immune system. Even a single night of sleep deprivation (four hours versus eight) swept away 70% of natural circulating T-cells. These are the cells that fight infection and cancer. (pg. 136). In fact, studies show that if you didn’t get several nights of good sleep before a flu shot, your subsequent immunity is roughly 50% of your well-slept counterparts. You can imagine what a lifetime of sleep deprivation can do to your immunity and ability to ward off cancer.
  3. Lack of deep NREM sleep and dementia/Alzheimers go hand in hand. The brain uses deep NREM sleep to clean out the amyloid plaques (or debris) between the neurons. The less deep sleep, the more amyloid, the more amyloid, the less deep sleep. How can we prevent this downward spiral? Start getting more sleep whatever your age. Those of us who are already past midlife will have a disadvantage but we can still try to clean up as much as we can by sleeping more. (pg. 120)
  4. Unhealthy sleep, unhealthy heart. Here the data is clear. Study after study shows how even a single night of short sleep raises blood pressure, calcifies the coronary arteries, and elicits the fight-and-flight emergency response system and speeds up the heart. Deep NREM sleep soothes and calms the fight-and-flight branch of the nervous system. (pg. 126)
  5. Sleep and lose weight. When we find ourselves needing to lose a little weight, we immediately turn to dieting and exercising. While these two activities are proven to work, they will get a significant boost if we also increase our sleep. No matter how strong your willpower is, you can’t beat these two hobbit-like hormones, leptin and ghrelin. One (ghrelin) makes you crave food and turns you ravenous, and the other (leptin) signals that you’re full and there’s no need to eat. Sleeplessness unleashes the ghrelin (cookie) monster while a full night’s sleep allows leptin to do its job. Research shows that giving people five or six hours of sleep a night caused them to increase their caloric intake by 300 every day or 70,000 a year (10-15 pounds). (pg. 129)
  6. Sleep enhances learning and memory retention. One experiment showed that sleeping before learning improved learning. Not only that, sleep the subsequent nights increased long term memory. Sadly, even one night of disrupted sleep on the third night after learning decreased retention. For example, a college student sleeps well all week, but goes out drinking on Friday night. That one night of disturbed REM sleep washed away their progress. It’s unknown how many consecutive nights of adequate sleep will make these newly formed memories safe. Dr. Walker says his class groans when finding this out. (pg. 199)
  7. Sleep and emotional stability. Dreaming reduces stress. Studies have shown that the stress chemical noradrenaline is entirely shut off ONLY while you’re dreaming (REM sleep). (pg. 153) Deprive someone of REM sleep, and their minds will attempt to make up for it by dreaming or hallucinating while awake. This research is so unethical that no attempts are made to recreate the studies from the 1960s when young people were deprived of REM sleep. Their hallucinations could not be distinguished from psychosis. (pg. 224)
  8. Sleep Deprivation and Bad Decisions. Another alarming fact is that medical doctors and residents are chronically deprived of sleep with the thinking it would “toughen them up.” Many of us are unaware, but the doctor who came up with this tough training regimen was a cocaine addict and made many mistakes himself, including leaving young residents in the middle of surgery alone while he had the shakes. This legacy has killed countless patients, and yet, the medical profession prides itself on it’s sleeplessness. Perhaps they should be ashamed if we equate sleeplessness with being naked. It would actually be safer for patients if they were naked rather than bereft of sleep. The stats are chilling. (pg. 230)
  9. Sleeplessness makes you Unpopular. Research was done where observers are asked to rate the attractiveness of random people. Each person had a picture taken when he or she was well rested, and another picture taken when he or she was sleep deprived. Even though the individuals were the same, the raters who didn’t know the purpose of the study rated the pictures of the sleep-deprived state as less attractive. Perhaps that’s why we call it a beauty rest or beauty sleep. (pg. 134) Furthermore, sleep-deprived individuals are less able to pick up on social cues. They tend to attribute negative thoughts to others by defaulting to a fear bias. (pg. 158) Imagine what happens when a nation or world of sleep-deprived individuals ascribe negative motivations and exhibit fear-based responses toward each other.
  10. Great sleep make great creativity (and sex). Ending on a positive note, sleep has always been the source of creation, whether of the arts or procreating new human beings. Dreaming and a good night’s sleep gave us the periodic table, neurotransmitters jumping across synapses, Paul McCartney’s Let it Be and Yesterday, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (pg. 163) Sleep also keeps testosterone levels healthy (pg. 132). Take that, you alpha males bragging about how little sleep you get. Under-slept men have smaller testicles and lower sperm count, the testosterone level of a man ten to fifteen years older, and a dulled libido. Under-slept women have irregular menstrual cycles and are more likely to suffer miscarriages. (pg. 133). Therefore if you want to birth and raise healthy babies, make it a habit to prioritize sleep, and give your children great sleep habits, too. It’ll increase their learning, social attractivness, emotional stability, and overall health.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD

I hope you read the book for yourself. Dr. Walker covers tips for a better night’s sleep. These do NOT include sleeping pills, alcohol, and caffeine. Unfortunately, all of these chemicals disrupt normal sleep patterns. Sleeping pills are habit forming. Alcohol sedates the cortex but creates nonrestful sleep, and of course caffeine with its long half life make getting to sleep difficult. You also cannot “bank” up or “makeup” for sleep by bingeing on it over the weekend. What’s lost is lost. You can only go forward and give yourself at least eight hours of sleep opportunity a night.

Within a month I’ve increased my average sleep time from 5 hours a night to 7 hours a night. I wear a Fitbit Charge 2 to track my sleep so I don’t have to record it every night. I also go to bed earlier and have had to shift my writing time, because I used to write late into the wee hours of the night. My latest book, Not My Boss, was written before I added 2 hours a night of sleep. It’s available in a new Workplace Romance Boxed Set, Madly in Love with a Coworker. My self-driving car romance, Nick’s Christmas Ride, is written with 7-8 hours of sleep a night and will be in the new Author’s Billboard Christmas set coming in late October. I’m still proud of my late nights with Not My Boss: Can office pranks, HR violations, and a doggy fashion show get Dixie the divorce she thinks she wants?

Madly In Love With A Coworker, 99c or Kindle Unlimited

Are you getting enough sleep? #RachelleAyala @Mimisgang1 #mgtab

How many hours of sleep do you get every night? How many hours do you believe you need?

For many years, I was a firm believer that I only needed five hours per night. I gloried that I was one of those “short sleepers,” especially since I would stay up until 3 or 4 am writing or working and then get up again at 6 to go to work. After all, I reasoned I could do a whole lot more without wasting time with sleep.

That was before I heard of Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology from UC Berkeley. Part of my late night forays is watching self-help videos on Youtube, so it was inevitable that their algorithm would steer me to mind-hacking through better sleep. Wait, what? You mean I can sleep my way to a better life?

Unfortunately, being type A, and an incessant publisher, I had a hard time relating to what he said–until I realized a few salient points.

  • Lack of sleep effects the memory big time. A decade ago, when I first started writing, I could not only keep track of my own storyline but also the characters, events, motivations, goals, and themes of dozens of critique partners as well as published authors who brainstormed with me on their characters. I was always able to say, “Remember when Cassie did this or thought that?” And they were like, “Huh? Oh, which book was that?” Guess what? Now, I’m the one being reminded by my editor that I did that already, or a few paragraphs back this already happened. I now have to keep cheatsheets of my own books or re-read a book and take notes if I want to continue the series. Matthew Walker cites tons of stats about the percentage of memory loss in his speeches. I won’t repeat them here, but it turns out that when you go to sleep, your brain is re-recording or cutting grooves [think of a vinyl record] to store the memory and it does it again and again and again. He talks about imaging rat brains the night after they learned a maze.
  • Lack of sleep makes you emotionally raw. Have you noticed how easily you fly off the handle if you’re tired and bedraggled? How little things that normally won’t bother you will make you go ballistic? Or you get weepy at stories that are only a tiny bit sentimental. Or like a never-ending earworm, you have a worry worm circling your heart filled with anxiety? Matthew Walker tells us that dream sleep is incredibly “therapeutic,” in that it allows you to supposedly unemotionally process the stories of your life and create links to previous stories or experiences. I’m not exactly sure what my recurring and frustrating dreams about broken computer code and or not realizing I have a final exam when I’ve cut all the classes and not done the homework are all about. Maybe it’s PTSD from my academic and computer related work. Recently, though, I’ve been having escape and rescue dreams involving me saving small children and babies under attack. We’re always running and hiding in underground tunnels while terrorists are hunting us or fleeing in disguise in the backs of trucks or buses or safe houses. Don’t try to analyze that! I’d rather have fun foodie dreams where I can eat all the cakes and cookies and goodies without gaining a single calorie. But according to Walker, these dreams are calming my emotions, so I’ll be grateful that they’re only dreams. And the babies or toddlers [who I don’t recognize, but could if I met them in real life] are adorable. The ones last night were twins. My husband had the heavier boy and I had the lighter girl who had a full head of black hair and large brown eyes who called me “Yaya.”
  • Lack of sleep shortens your life and predisposes you to Alzheimers. Yikes, he has proof. According to his studies, sleep is the best blood pressure medication. Sleep also cleans up the “glop” that gathers in the brains of Alzheimers patients. Lack of sleep also shrinks the testicles big time and lowers both men’s and women’s testosterone levels. And of course there’s the immune system. We all know that sleep builds it, and these days, it’s so important.

He’s so adamant about sleep that he says there is no one healthy who gets less than seven (7) hours of sleep per night. Watch the entire video, but let’s start with the testicles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yGw_hfEfk&t=790s

Looks like I’m going to be getting more sleep. I plan on going to bed two hours earlier, or at least not staying up past midnight. I’m also going to cut down on caffeine after lunchtime.

He also gives one big tip on what to do if you WAKE UP in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. He says not to lie there worrying because you will be training your body that bed is for worrying and not sleeping. Instead, get up and go to another room. Put on a dim light, not bright, and read a book. Then when you’re feeling drowsy, put the book away and go back to bed. An alternative is to listen to an audiobook but do not lie in bed. A change of position is needed so your body associates bed with sleep and one other activity only.

You knew I had to bring in my books somehow, right? I have eighty-four (84) published books to help you get better sleep, including three (3) free audiobooks and nine (9) free ebooks. [Go to https://www.rachelleayala.net/free-books for the free audiobooks and ebooks and https://www.rachelleayala.net/books for my booklist] I’m also in a lot of the Authors Billboard boxed sets. Start with five (5) free Authors Billboard Fabulous Freebies. Choose between sweet and steamy books. Did you know Alexa can also read your ebooks to you? Tell her to read in a low voice and before long, you will be back in dreamland and hacking your mind and life to better health and happiness.

Check out Matthew Walker’s full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yGw_hfEfk

Happy Sleeping! – Rachelle Ayala

Flying Above the Clouds, Thinking Positive #RachelleAyala @Mimisgang1 #mgtab

Recently, I had the misfortune of watching a highly anticipated movie only to find it utterly disgusting and disappointing. It was supposed to be a comedy, but the sexually abusive nature of the “fighting” ruined the supposedly zany plotline and ridiculous antics of the characters. I bemoaned the movie to my good friend who also had the misfortune of seeing it. You wouldn’t have known about the fight scenes from the trailer which promised a comedy in and out of the multiverse.

Some images cannot be unseen and the best thing my friend and I hoped for was “forgetfulness.” However, it means we have to stop thinking about how horrid the images were. As you well know, as soon as you tell yourself to forget something, you remember it. Like right now, I’m yet again trying not to remember the images but in writing this blog, I have the misfortune of having those scenes flash in my mind’s eye.

My friend then told me to make this a Philippians 4:8 moment. Instead of thinking about the bloody and sexually suggestive fight scenes, I would say, Philippians 4:8 and look for the beautiful, the pure, the good, the lovely, the virtuous, and think on these praiseworthy things. Focusing on the positive will leave no room for negative thoughts.

It’s the same way in life. The news is filled with the bad and the horrible. All around us, fear abounds and outrage explodes. There are plenty of things and events to be upset over, and everyday annoyances large and small. “Did you see that guy cut me off?” “The price of gas is over the roof.” “Sri Lanka just collapsed, are we next?” We can so easily fall into playing the cynic and drag down not only our own mood, but everyone around us.

Being a cynic and dwelling on negative things doesn’t change them one bit. Your circumstances are still the same. Only you’re more upset and anxious. Instead, focus on the positives, and if you can’t find any, do something kind for someone else. Instant positive thoughts and feelings! Make every moment a Philippians 4:8 moment, and soon, you will be flying above the clouds where it is lovely, pure, and free. Try it. Look at the people around you and find the good. Write down a time and place when someone showed kindness to you. Count your blessings. Even in the worst of circumstances, you can find something positive. In Acts 16:22-34 Paul and Silas were thrown into a Philippian jail after having been stripped naked and beaten. Their feet were locked into stocks, and it must have been cold and wet. They were battered and bruised, bloody and hungry. But at midnight they were singing praises unto God. They were singing with joy and hope and thankfulness!

I’m creating an audiobook for Kitty, It’s Cold Outside, and while proof-listening, I came across a passage where the heroine, Katherine Gills, is lost in another world [in another time]. Her new friends suspected she was a fraud or con-woman, and they were watching her carefully when they took her on a ride in a small airplane. I could picture and feel her sitting there when the pilot let her put her hands on the controls and pull the airplane through the cloud bank. What a joyous moment. Even though she was still lost in time and space, by keeping her focus upward, she was grateful and rejoicing, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord God up High.”

[The audiobook is ONLY 99c available from Google Play, where all my audiobooks are FREE or 99c]

Excerpt from Kitty, It’s Cold Outside:

“It’s so beautiful down there. The trees look so small, and I feel like I’m an angel looking down on everyone. I hope they’re being good this Christmas,” Katherine said.

“I bet you’re nice in Santa’s book,” the pilot said. “Because you’re going to get a real treat.”

“Will we go higher than the clouds?” Katherine asked, swinging her hands like she could reach out and touch the fluffy puffs.

“Even better, let’s go through them,” the pilot said.

“Goodness gracious!” Katherine put both hands on her face as the propeller cut through the cloudbank, and a thick gray mist surrounded the entire plane. “How can you see where we’re going?”

“I’ve got these instruments.” The pilot pointed to the screens. “Here, I’ll let you pull us up over the clouds.”

He put his hands over Kathrine’s and guided them onto the controls, then gently pulled back. The airplane’s nose lifted, and voila! Clear blue skies popped into view above with the clouds below.

Katherine squealed with joy. “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord God up High. We’re in the realm of angels. I wonder if we will see any.”

In case you’re wondering what movie NOT to see, check out this review. It’s hilarious. Of course, you might enjoy it, so to each his own! C’est la vie.

Family memories and secrets #RachelleAyala @Mimisgang1 #mgtab

Have you ever been amazed at family get togethers on how a single event you vividly remember is entirely different in another family member’s memory? Or how stories are not the way you remembered? Or even that you’ve reinterpreted some happening now with the distance of wisdom and experience?

These questions are ever present for me as I am now a grandmother and asked to write down memories in a book for my granddaughter. I most certainly want to present her with as much “truth” as I know or am aware of, but I’m afraid I cannot capture everything outside of my perspective. I recently read a memoir of an author who was shocked that the stories her parents told her were not what she uncovered in their paperwork, and I realized the fragility of childhood memories when research showed that many more people during world war II reported unexploded bombs dropped into their homes, even in regions with no aerial bombing.

Is it because we are suggestable people? Especially as children where we’ve heard a story and then believe it to have happened to ourselves? I know that’s the case in our family where our children to this day claim things that happened to them but we “know” were things that happended to us when we were kids and we told about them. Could it be that “dog bite” story was actually transmitted from great-grandfather to grandfather to father to son, and none of them had actually been bitten? This question has haunted me as I recall my mom’s wartime stories and witness my children thinking certain things happened to them exactly like described in a time and place they didn’t exist.

As a writer, these mismatched family memories are fertile grounds for stories, especially those in which a child was lied to their entire life. In my latest book, Going to Find Love, Penny Barnes has a big shock when she finds out her religious parents lied to her by omitting her adoption and then denying it. What are they covering up? Compelled to find the truth, Penny leaves everything behind, including her high school sweetheart, to find the answers long denied her.

I know how she feels because I know real life people who have had a similar shock [too close for me to reveal who] of finding out they weren’t who they thought they were. I hope these musings will encourage you to dig into your memories, old pictures, and documents to make a sense of your past to reexamine and preserve what you hope is closest to the truth.

Going to Find Love by Rachelle Ayala

Penny Barnes has never left home. She’s a pastor’s daughter, has a long time boyfriend, and is a hometown sweetheart. Her fairytale life is upended when she discovers she’s adopted.

Excited by the discovery of a genetic match, Penny is lured to a distant town with secrets of its own. She meets another lonely young woman who has more questions than answers. Her adoptive parents disappear. She runs into roadblocks and dead-ends, and someone powerful is determined to stop her from finding the truth.

Mike drops everything to find Penny as she digs through old secrets. When disaster strikes, will Penny leave everyone she loves behind—including her hometown sweetheart or find love on her own terms? [Pre-order Going to Find Love for 99c]