We all know that a good night’s sleep is important but many of us struggle to get that average 7 – 9 hours sleep required for overall health and well-being.
The Stress in America survey found 43 percent of adults reported that stress caused them to lie awake at night and 49 percent couldn’t sleep because of a racing mind. That too wired to be tired feeling is an overactive or in overdrive nervous system which has been in action time and time again during the day, as we try to cope with this high speed, high pressure and high stress world we live in. When we are ready for sleep, our nervous system is still up and running in that fast pace mode, preventing the trigger of the relaxation response and the release of sleep hormones.
Without sleep you become weak!
Lack of or poor quality sleep affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. Insomnia can increase the risk of many health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Tiredness can cause lack of concentration, irritability and slower response rates. Lack of sleep hinders the critical repair process and can generate inflammation – a major driver of chronic illness.
Sleep deprivation may be a risk factor for obesity. Dr Gerda Pot, senior author from the Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said: ‘The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure and this study adds to accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to this imbalance.
New clues about why sleep loss is linked to depression were reported in a recent study in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. The study explored a phenomenon called repetitive negative thinking (RNT) and suggests a link between sleep loss and the inability to suppress negative stimuli, which is a key element of mood and anxiety disorders. Lack of sleep may deteriorate the neural processes that normally suppress or shed negative thoughts and negative incoming information.
How can we get a good night’s sleep?
A good night’s sleep, as researchers have discovered, is a single treatment that can improve memory, increase the ability to concentrate, strengthen the immune system and decrease the risk of having accidents. Getting that 7 – 9 hours sleep a night, should be up there on top of everyone’s wellbeing priority list.
It’s almost impossible to escape the stressors that trigger that too wired to be tired feeling. However establishing a pre-bed routine, to dial down an overactive nervous system and boost the relaxation response, is one way to help catch that much needed extra 60-90 minutes sleep each night.
1. Reduce the things that make go BOOM!
The display screens of our phones etc and noises and sounds from notifications can keep us in that overactive mode. The blue screen light activates the nervous system AND decreases melatonin, the powerhouse hormone that regulates sleep wake cycles. From the Display Settings on your phone, change the brightness of the blue light to the warmer end of the colour spectrum. Night Shift allows you to choose the times you would like that change to happen say 6pm – 6am.
The “Do Not Disturb” setting allows you to schedule times when your calls and notifications will be silenced. There’s a favourites option to use for those who need access to you at all times.
These small changes will help reduce the triggers that stimulate the nervous system.
2. Reset the Relaxation Response
Each evening do something for 5 – 10 minutes to boost the relaxation response. There are many practices to try such as Yoga to help release physical tension and calm the mind, Meditation, Body Scan Meditation and Mindfulness practices also calm the mind, Deep breathing triggers parasympathetic dominance, self massage is useful to release tension especially in the neck and shoulders or have a long lavender scented bath.
Find a technique or several that work for you to reset your relaxation response and use one each evening to help you wind down.
3. Remove Distractions
We use routines to prepare children for bed – create an unwind and relax pre- bed routine for yourself. A routine which removes the distractions that lead to that high wired feeling and stimulate the brain.
Unplug at least 1 hour before bed – switch the TV off, stop using any technology. This hour break will give your brain a chance to unwind and prepare for sleep. Read or use this hour to reset the relaxation response above.
Don’t use your phone as an alarm. Your brain will register there’s a phone nearby and will be on guard waiting for that perceived phone call. Your sleep will become lighter, increasing the likelihood that your sleep pattern will be disturbed. Its called hyper vigilance the experience of being constantly tense and on guard.
Reduce, Reset and Remove is a way to reinforce the message to your mind and body that it’s the end of the day. It’s time to unwind, relax and have a good night’s sleep.