Do You Fight Sleep?
Do you find yourself constantly “on the move” and only stop to fall into bed late at night? Is your mind like a hamster wheel that keeps you from falling or staying asleep? Do you associate resting with laziness? Have you been taught that successful, hard-working people don’t need much sleep?
If you connected with any of these questions, read on to hear about the essential benefits of proper rest. It may just transform your life!
Rest: What is it Good For?
Does this sound familiar – “I only got 4 hours of sleep last night so I’ll catch up by sleeping 10 hours tonight.” Unfortunately, our brains are not like banks that you can deposit and withdraw rest time. Getting regular sleep is important!
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep deprivation leads to high rates of irritability (52%), headaches (40%), and feeling unwell (34%). Have you had coworkers or family mention you are a bit “snappy” or that you appear tired? Often those around us notice our moods before we do.
Have you ever caught yourself spacing out during a task or conversation? If you’re running on “empty” from too little sleep, your brain will find a way to shut down during the day. Think of it as your brain’s way of taking a “cat-nap” to catch up.
Getting proper rest/sleep affects every aspect of your life: energy, mental focus, immune system, mood, work productivity, libido and relationships. If you think you don’t have time to get 8 hours of sleep, think again! Your brain and body need deep sleep (also called REM) in order to rejuvenate and recharge.
What’s your sleep number? No, I’m not referring to the firmness of your mattress – I’m asking how many sleep hours you average each night. According to the NSF, only 27% of Americans get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And at least 30% suffer from occasional insomnia.
Cultivate consistent routines by establishing a regular bedtime and good sleep hygiene. Those who have regular bedtimes and occasionally take naps report feeling more rested and being more productive (NSF).
March 14th-20th, 2021 was Sleep Awareness Week. For more information and tips, check out the National Sleep Foundation’s tips on sleep here: https://www.thensf.org/sleep-awareness-
Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post) was one of those high-powered, ambitious persons who thought that sleep was a luxury she couldn’t afford. She finally had a “wake-up call” when she literally collapsed from exhaustion. This motivated her to transform her attitudes toward sleep and she is now on a crusade to spread the message about the importance of rest.
In her work “Sleep Revolution and Thrive,” she talks about how 70% of people in the US sleep with their phones. Blue light from screens like smart phones, computers, or TV will affect your melatonin levels and make it harder to fall asleep. Many of us are addicted to our phones and constantly check emails, texts, and social media.
The phone does not need to go to bed with you! Give yourself at least 1-2 hours free of screens before going to bed to allow your nervous system time to prepare for sleep.
Check out Arianna Huffington’s website Thrive | Arianna Huffington for more statistics and tips on sleep.
Is taking a nap something that you associate only with toddlers and the elderly? Did you learn early that resting during the day over the age of 3 is only okay if you’re deathly ill or old?
As babies, we learn to self-regulate from our caregivers. If your parents were working day and night, your nervous system may have felt overstimulated and unable to fully rest since you were in sync with those closest to you.
It’s not too late to learn to listen to your body’s signals. All too often we are not even aware of these signals. We eat or sleep when it’s convenient not when we need it. So I’m encouraging you to listen: when you’re tired, rest; when you’re hungry, eat something.
Even taking mini-breaks during the day can be replenishing and reset our nervous systems. Saundra Dalton Smith, author of “Sacred Rest,” recommends taking a sensory break by looking out the window for a minute or even closing your eyes. Looking at a computer screen all day is not natural and particularly taxing for our eyes and brains.
Ten Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene
- Set a standard bedtime and stick to within 30 minutes of it as often as possible. Your body will respond to routines and regularity.
- Stay away from TV, computers, and phones for 1-2 hours before bedtime. Blue light screens overstimulate our brains and reduce melatonin. The news especially will cause you to ruminate and show up in your dreams in a similar way as watching a horror film.
- Set your thermostat for 60-65 degrees. Cooler temperatures are optimal for deeper sleep.
- Make your bedroom darker to prevent ambient light from inside or outside.
- Take a warm bath just before bedtime to relax.
- Meditate or focus on your breathing for 5-10 minutes to calm your mind just before bed.
- Avoid difficult problem-solving, tense conversations or arguments just before bed.
- Practice gratitude or remember what went well that day but then let it go and tell yourself this is a time to rest, not for rehearsing the day or planning the next day.
- Avoid caffeine after 2:00 in the afternoon.
- Avoid more than one glass of alcohol in the evening. It may feel relaxing but then it may wake you up in the middle of the night due to the effect on the brain.
Anxiety as a Bed-Fellow
Do you have anxious, worried thoughts that keep you awake at night? Did you have trauma that happened at night (like childhood sexual abuse or an alcoholic parent)? These are the kind of issues that we specialize in at Somatic Therapy Partners.
If you need help with facing these internal demons that keep you from feeling safe enough to rest fully, contact us. We can support you in healing your mind and body from these past traumas and give you tools to help your mind find its way back to ease and rest.