Let’s Talk About Sleep
More importantly, the lack of it. If this speaks to you, read on about how to increase sleep quality.
We’re trying all the sleep-aid products out there in the hopes that one will do the trick. We load up on caffeine – or energy drinks – to boost ourselves during the day, yet the insomnia cycle continues.
We’re are also doing strange things in our sleep…waking up to find the refrigerator open with all the food out on the counter, or even that we’ve had conversations that we have no memory of. Sleep disorders are the #1 problem in health today:
- Insomnia affects 70 million
- OSA (sleep apnea) affects 23 million (25% of men/10% of women)
- 65% of people with insomnia are symptomatic a few nights/week or more
Our Quality of Sleep Has Changed For a Few Reasons:
- The speed of thought required today is far beyond what it was just one generation ago. On top of that, we’re multi-tasking at this speed as well. All day. Brain acrobatics is not sustainable. The system can’t go from that speed all day long into sleep mode.
- Weekends used to be for rest. Actual downtime. Instead, now weekends are more packed than weekdays. Recreation and rest are not the same.
- We’re watching TV to try and “slow down”, but blue light from the TV is keeping our brains awake. Blue light tells your brain that it’s 12 Noon.
- We try and wind down with a nightcap. This might help us initially fall asleep, but ultimately, the sugar will disrupt your sleep and create insomnia at 3am.
All this excessive energy that we consume throughout the day and into the evening keeps us hyped. There is a reluctance to let go, to go down and let the plane land. It’s this chronic state of hyper-wakefulness that is strongly associated with insomnia. It overrides both normal sleep drive at night and creates excessive daytime sleepiness. It’s associated with:
- Increased Body & Brain Metabolic Rates
- Elevated Heart Rates
- Elevated Core Body Temperature – Over-heating of elevated average body temperature. Normally it’s raised during the day and drops at night, since sleep requires cooling the system for energy dissipation.
- Elevated Nighttime Cortisol
- Decreased Serum Melatonin
- Nocturnal Sympathetic Nervous System Activation
There is a very strong relationship between sleep loss and chronic illness. Short sleepers (=/<6 hrs.) are at increased risk for:
- Viral Infection
- Insulin Resistance
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Autoimmune Disease
- Mood Disorders
Sleep loss also results in increased BMI (weight gain), due to increased hunger/less sated throughout the day:
- Increased Ghrelin; Decreased Leptin
- Impaired Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Resistance
What it Comes Down to is We Don’t Get Sleep Because We Don’t Get Sleep.
We’re trying to fix something that we don’t necessarily understand. We tend to define sleep the same way we define health. Negatively. Sleep is devalued and we are praised for taking home laptops, company phones and answering emails at all hours of the night.
Dreaming is as Critical as Sleep:
- Did you know the function of dreaming is to consolidate memory in lock-step with REM sleep? Deficits in dreaming over time = deficits in memory/memory loss.
- Dreaming is also involved in emotional healing. As we are coming to know, the gut is the second brain and the brain is the second gut. When we dream, the mind/brain digests and assimilates all of the day’s experiences…the same way the gut digests and assimilates what we eat.
- Many sleeping pills suppress dreaming – definitely anything with Benadryl – as do antidepressants
When dreaming is suppressed it eventually comes back with a vengeance. This is known as “REM Rebound.” The pattern we see is in line with what is seen in mood disorders. Fatigue. Depression.
Sleep Comes in Rhythms
As mammals, our sleep used to be in lock-step with the nature of circadian rhythms – wake with the sun and go to bed with it. Now it lives in an artificial way with pills, alcohol or pot.
When the sun goes down, so does our body temperature. Bodies are designed to do the same thing the natural environment does.
Sleep, sleep quality and dreaming are driven by melatonin and changes in core body temperature. Melatonin allows blood vessels to dilate and bring heat up to the top and out.
Melatonin is the queen of our nighttime biology. It has a complementary effect to Vitamin D (associated with the sunlight/waking) whereas melatonin (associated with dimness/darkness/sleep) signals the body that it’s nighttime. Ultimately it increases acetylcholine, which mediates an increase in REM sleep at night. With decreased sleep we inhibit our own production of serum melatonin.
Honor Your Natural Rhythms
Come out of the “artificial clock” to notice your natural rhythm.
“Swallowing sleep” is not sustainable. It creates dependency, altering natural sleep architecture. Then you start the day with a sleep-deprivation hangover that you need caffeine to get out of, resulting in rebound insomnia at night, anterograde amnesia and impact on self-efficacy.
When we land into sleep, it’s like landing a jet. We go through turbulence before we get to the ground…so we go back “up” into an energy state, because the “turbulence” is uncomfortable.
Here are some things to try:
- Understand Your Starting Point. What did you do from 6pm to the time you fell asleep? Jot it down for a few days and look for patterns.
- Stop Eating By 7-7:30pm, or earlier. Let your body rest over night instead of expending energy trying to digest late-night food. For the same reason, if you can, eat a light meal for dinner.
- Even if You Can’t Fall Asleep, Get Horizontal Before 9-10pm. When the body is horizontal it will behave differently. It rebalances the body. Experiment with that process to see what works for you.
- For night-owls like me, we’re functioning on reserve battery power to keep that going past 10pm.
- Turn off the Blue Light. This means TV’s, laptops, Social Media. Set a timer for 30 minutes and commit to turning it all off at that point.
- Create a Nighttime Routine. Some of my favorite techniques are:
- Grounding – Some people like to walk in the grass barefoot for a few minutes, others like to take a shower/bath at night. If you have a pool or spa, hop in for a few minutes before bed. BTW, connecting with both water and earth are great for curing jetlag.
- Stretching – So many ways to do this. Experiment with what your body needs. I like to get the legs, hips and neck.
- Breathing – Check my IG or FB for details on the 4-7-8 breathing technique @jikidenreikihealing
- Meditation – Insight Timer is a free app that has hundreds of options to suit your preference…guided, not guided, timer-based, specific sounds, themed. Everything.
- Do Not Undermine Self-Efficacy. If you’re absolutely going to take something to sleep, compliment it with an energetic focus on “letting go” of something in order to sleep. Mentally/Emotionally, what are you carrying into bed with you that’s keeping you up? Put some awareness around that and work through it.
- Keep Track of What You Eat/Drink. You’ll be surprised at how much inflammation from unrealized food intolerances can wreak havoc on your sleep. Look for patterns between your food/drink intake, sleep quality and quantity. Find the correlation between what works for you and what doesn’t.
If you find your insomnia is triggered by an emotional heaviness, grief, stress, anxiety, overthinking etc. – or if you’re having trouble getting to the root cause – REACH OUT, I can help.
Come try a Reiki session with me or schedule a free Health Coaching consultation. You can schedule here on my website or just shoot me an email.
I know this was a long one…hope it helps. Let me know how it goes! Happy Dreaming….