Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Importance of Sleep

Over the past few months I've been writing about meditation, gratitude, being present and all sorts of other habits we can incorporate into our lives to make our days a bit lighter and happier.  It is pretty obvious if you stop and think about little habits that you have or the food you eat and the effects these have on your overall feelings of wellness.

I have learned the hard way that as much as I love coffee, if I drink as many cups as I feel I should some days I will not feel well.  The caffeine affects my heart rate and ability to fall asleep.  I will feel dehydrated.  Just overall I will feel off.  Sometimes though when things get busy, I will reach for the third or fourth cup during the day to give me that extra boost.  It doesn't take long though before I start to feel the affects of too much coffee and adjust my behaviour.

But one of the habits that affect all of us and the one single thing most people can change in their days to make having a more balanced approach to our outlook is getting enough sleep.  Anyone who has experienced broken sleep for a night or two whether from too much on our agendas, children or a busy mind know that the next day or days following the missed sleep are difficult.

Various studies have been released discussing the amount of sleep we need.  Basically the average is 7-9 hours a night for adults.  I'm not sure how many people actually get that amount of sleep each night consistently, but I know there are many nights I don't.

Many of us have become accustomed to functioning on minimal sleep.  Most people don't even realize how the lack of sleep is affecting them and how poorly they feel.

Poor sleeping habits creep up on people without even realizing is.  For a lot of people, the end of the night is a chance to unwind from the day.  Once we finish everything we need to accomplish or feel we need to accomplish we look for a way to turn off.  Often turning off is finding a TV show or zoning out in on a tablet, computer or phone.  Sometimes you might enjoy this downtime with a glass or wine or beer just to chill out from the day.

I'm not saying that these are necessary habits to avoid.  Everything in moderation.  Difficulties with this behaviour start to occur when you end up getting sucked into endless episodes on Netflix or one link after another and you've spent hours in front of your device. Or you need that alcohol to make you sleepy in order to drift off.

The problem with having that drink is once your body has metabolized the alcohol it is converted to sugar.  The extra sugar in your body causes a spike in your insulin and glucose levels.  Even if you have already fallen asleep, your body is now working hard to process the rise in blood glucose levels. 

So instead of working to repair cellular damage and detoxify through the night when you are resting, your body is having to clean up from your night cap.  If you have a snack with your drink, your body needs to work to digest that food as well.

Combine the work being done with digestion of food and drink with the images and artificial lighting you have exposed yourself to on your screen and you are creating even more of a challenge for your brain. During the day, you are exposed to millions of pieces of information taken in mostly through the subconscious.  When we turn your conscious mind off through sleep, our subconscious mind has the opportunity to clear out.  

I learned the hard way that watching Game of Thrones before bed was not conducive to providing a sound night's sleep for me.  If I didn't want disturbing dreams, I needed to make sure I wasn't exposing my mind to disturbing images.  The same is true for the information we are watching or reading on our screens and especially if they are showing up on a screen that is back lit.

So what can be done to ensure that we have a pleasant night's sleep?  Well a few easy suggestions....
  1. Set a bedtime and make it a priority.  No TV show is worth a painful start to the next day especially with Netflix or PVRs. 
  2. Limit alcohol before bed.  This also means fewer calories consumed and less dehydration the next day. 
  3. Do not eat 2 hours before going to sleep.  Again you'll be less likely to consume extra and often unnecessary calories and you'll allow your body the chance to repair damaged cells and tissues.  
  4. Avoid screens of any type 1 hour before bedtime.  Read or journal before sleeping.

Having a properly rested mind and body will provide the framework for starting your day with the energy and outlook we need to live our lives in the manner we want.  The ability to sleep is a precious gift for anyone who has struggled with sleeping disorders but by changing our approach to sleep we may be able to instil basis for a solid night's sleep.  

No comments:

Post a Comment