Sleep is essential
Sleep is essential to our body and mind. Everyone needs sleep to recharge the mind and process what we have experienced throughout the day. Sleep plays an important task to keep the mind clear and allows us to do cognitive tasks well.
We tend to remember less the next day when we have had bad sleep.
Everyone knows we feel more energized and alert when you have had a good night of sleep. We feel mentally stronger and we respond less irritated throughout the day.
It is a scientific fact that the shorter we sleep, the shorter we live. Then sleep must be important.
I don’t want to dive into all science of sleep because I want to focus on the practical things in order to improve your sleep…
Many people have sleep problems. There is a strong link between activation of your central nervous system and sleep. Activation is the response of your body to all events happening in your life. From stress at work, to thinking you hear sounds of burglary when you are in your bed at night.
The less you response to outer incentives, less activation occurs in your central nervous system. A lot of activation can turn into anxiety, discomfort, or simply you don’t feel well.
Less activation in your central nervous system leads to less annoyance or irritation and a overall better feeling.
Good sleep leads to less annoyance or irritation and response. So we better make sure we sleep well, in order to perform and feel better!
Out of balance
If we have a bad sleep pattern, we are easily annoyed or distressed in our daily lives. It can even lead to exhaustion, loss of clear logical thinking and increased irritability. This could feel like you are out of balance, which is essence is true.
We need to improve sleep today. It is essential and necessary for good health, well-being and cognitive tasks. Lack of sleep most of the time occurs when you have experienced a period of stress.
When stress and bad sleep occur simultaneously for a long period of time your central nervous system will definitely get out of balance. You could feel awkward, rushed, have an increased heart rate, low on focus, chronic tiredness and/or easily agitated. All sorts of physical errors due to bad sleep, and stress.
This can lead to a negative vicious cycle of more bad sleep, anxiety or stress…
Two forms of sleep problems
You might have problems to fall asleep or that you are experiencing waking up in the middle of the night.
Practical sleep tips
Not falling asleep has many causes. We can try to make some changes and see if they improve our.
These changes only take effect if you would do them for a longer period of time, months up to a year.
- It could be you are thinking endlessly about work, your relationship or anything else which occupies your mind. This activates stress hormones which tend to keep you awake.
Remove your mental stress
- Drinking caffeine before going to bed. This blocks receptors in your brain which affect a hormone called adenosine. Adenosine gives you that sleepy feeling of wanting to sleep.
Drop your coffee habit
- You sleep too much, which leads to less sleep pressure. The longer you stay awake, the more the urge the body feels to go asleep. Sleep pressure can decrease due to late afternoon naps.
If you need to do a nap, do it before 3pm. I am a supporter of naps, it will help you recover more quickly.
- Use of monitors late at night which produce blue light. Blue light suppresses melatonin, a hormone needed for good sleeping.
Melatonin is often used as a supplement to get better sleep; I strongly discourage you to use melatonin supplements because dosing it is very difficult and different for each and every person.
- Too much light in your bedroom. Your body can recognize day and night. The body wants to go to sleep when it gets darker. We call this the circadian rhythm. Too much light can influence this rhythm.
Get good curtains, remove all electronics from your room. This includes clocks.
- Use of mobile phone in your bedroom.
Please let go of gadgets in the bedroom.
- If you are reading a book in your room, the light might influence you of falling asleep.
Get a red light or stop reading before bedtime
Waking up in the middle of the night
When you wake up in the middle of the night this could have a different cause than those we’ve just discussed. Falling asleep can more easily be influenced by making simple changes in the bedroom, your conscious behavior and thinking.
Waking up in the middle of the night is a little bit more challenging because we can’t make simple changes which could lead to improvement. I believe that waking up in the middle of the night is occurring due to a state of high alertness/ chronic stress.
This is something which doesn’t stop in the middle of the night. Your subconscious brain will always stay on alert. If you would experience an unknown sound you will quickly wake up because your stress levels might be that high that your body sees threats everywhere. If your stress levels are normal or low you would continue to sleep during a lightning storm. The sound pattern is familiar to the brain, and therefore the brain doesn’t need to pass it on to your consciousness and wake you up.
When your subconsciousness is more alert, it will awaken you more often. Being in a constant state of alertness, or in fight or flight mode might cause you to wake up more often in the middle of the night.
This is something we cannot easily adjust by blinding the folds in our bedroom. In order to drop the state of alertness we have to use mindfulness exercises and relaxation. It could months to years before our state of alertness will drop.
You could also be more aware of your thinking and try to minimize internal negative thinking. Much internal negative thinking realizes a higher state of alertness.
Factors which might keep you in high alert can be your relationship, work, or maybe your financial situation. It could be anything which gives you chronic stress. You are the only one that truly knows. You are also the only one that can make a change here.
The bedroom temperature can also wake you up. Make sure the temperature in your room is good to sleep in. Your room temperature should be around no more than 18 degrees Celsius.
Next to that you could try to close windows in order to keep any external sounds out at night. Because your brain responds to any input and will awake to many sounds when you are stressed. It might be beneficial to try and remove most the external sounds. If you have a partner, a separation of bed might be a good idea. This way your central nervous system gets less input and hopefully will awaken you less.
I do not recommend sleeping pills. Please do not use sleeping pills the doctor prescribes because they interfere with your normal sleeping patterns. They could also have a negative effect on the length of certain sleep cycles like REM sleep. This stage is essential for good rest
If you really can’t sleep or you’re sleeping pattern is that bad you can try to use sleeping pills to break the cycle. I would only use them for a few weeks. From then on you should not use them any longer so you will not become dependent on them for good sleep.
When you haven’t had good sleep for a long period of time your mind will sometimes tell you that this night good sleep also will be impossible. This itself can generate anxiety of going to sleep which would lead to more activation in the central nervous system and make it harder for you to sleep. If you experience this sleep anxiety try to ask yourself what is the worse that could happen if you have a bad night of sleep. Example:
- I would very tired all day and unable to perform my work
You will be able to do your work, do it on a slower pace, relax yourself. You have worked numerous times with a lack of sleep, and back then it was also possible.
Whatever the thought might be, try to relax yourself. Make use of mindfulness exercises or get out of bed and go back in when you feel your body tells you it is ready to go to sleep. Do not ever stay in bed if you really cannot sleep.
Monitor your sleep
To monitor sleep all you have to do is wear a watch or fitness tracker. They give a good indication how much deep sleep, REM sleep, and light sleep you get.
It is easy to do, and it is objective. The reason it is objective makes it helpful.
If you can measure you sleep it too little you know that you can try to improve it.
Do follow your feeling, if you feel rested in the morning, and your watch tells you otherwise, always believe what you feel.
Lastly here are 12 tips from the American Health association which could benefit for good sleep. Add these to your possible change.
Twelve Tips for Healthy Sleep from the American Health association:
- Stick to a sleep schedule
- Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.
- Don’t take naps after 3 p.m.
- Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual.
- Take a hot bath before bed.
- Dark bedroom, cool bedroom, gadget-free bedroom.
- Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.
- Don’t lie in bed awake.