This post is dedicated to all of you ladies and men who have a hard time sleeping. Raise your hand if your brain is constantly chatting it up, if you feel some sort of pressure to keep your head above water or you’re just overall trying to keep your shit together because you’re too scared of failing. FYI, my left hand has been up the entire time. You’re not alone.
How are you sleeping?
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep as of February 2016. Having healthy sleep duration is considered to be 7 or more hours per day. Anything short of 7 hours would be considered sleep deprivation. According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, it is recommended those adults’ ages 18-60 years have at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
We are not machines, we are human beings
Why is it so difficult for us to meet these guidelines? Stress, rushing to get to somewhere, poor dietary and lifestyle choices, inconsistencies and suppressed feelings are just a couple of reasons why we are having difficulties catching those Z’s.
When we talk about stress, it’s the kind of stress that creates those endless thoughts that we wish we could release or communicate to our loved ones. Instead we suppress these thoughts and feelings and in turn we create a reaction in our bodies by releasing cortisol and adrenaline since we “feel” threatened. Luckily, we can cope with our stress by incorporating simple techniques and creating daily habits for ourselves.
Rushing to get somewhere? This basically falls in line with that “fight-or-flight” response. In a nutshell, when your body feels threatened (this can occur physically or mentally), your sympathetic nervous system stimulates your adrenal glands (located above your kidneys) to release catecholamines such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. The outcome of this reaction is that your heart rate increase, which causes your blood pressure to increase, and increased breathing.
One glass of wine, that’s all I need!
How’s your lifestyle lookin’ these days? Are you one to go out and chug some beers with your boys or hang at happy hour with your girls? Studies suggest that alcohol may impair your ability to get a good night’s sleep. This is partly due to alcohol reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM happens about 70-90 minutes after we fall asleep and is what contributes to storing memories, ability to learn and moods according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Sleep Foundation.
Reflecting on self
Now that we have an idea of what may contribute to lack of sleep, where do you fall within this category? How would you like to see yourself improve? There are many helpful techniques that can be incorporated into your life to improve within this area. Meditation or breathing exercises are extremely beneficial when trying to calm the mind. Studies have shown certain areas within the brain, such as the amygdala (emotional centre of the brain) to have had reduced activation after incorporating meditation for 8 weeks.
Another great technique to incorporate into your lifestyle is adapting to a sleep routine. Before I go to sleep, I give myself roughly 2 hours to get ready for bed. My ritual includes taking a warm shower, lavender oil rubbed on my temples and pillow, journaling while drinking hot tea and reading a book. I also make sure to turn off all electronic devices. At some point, you need to give your mind a break. Remember that your body also likes to be in a routine. The more you stick to a routine, the better sleep you’ll have.
Last but not least, your diet. No, I don’t mean the paleo, ketogenic or whatever new diet that’s out. I’m talking about your overall lifestyle and the dietary choices that you make throughout the day. There’s a reason why our parents told us to avoid drinking sodas at night; at least mine told me that it would cause me to bounce off the walls (this sounded kind of fun at the time).
Poor dietary choices such as foods that are high in sugar (candies, pastries, sodas, etc), consuming caffeine later in the day or eating foods that take a longer time to digest, may impact your ability to get a restful night’s sleep. My suggestion to you is to first take a look at what may possibly be causing your lack of sleep. Next, be mindful at the choices that you are making throughout the day when it comes to your diet. Are there certain foods that should be consumed earlier in the day than later? Maybe start off by gradually tapering down your consumption of caffeine by replacing that afternoon coffee with an herbal tea.
Remember, there are several ways to improve your sleep. Start by becoming more mindful with yourself and to be more open with exploring new possibilities.