How is your sleep in these troubling times?

A good sleep pattern is vital for our health.

When life overwhelms us, or we constantly find ourselves obsessing about the negative things in our life then our sleep can be disturbed.

Do you know how important sleep is? Do you know that it is essential for our heath, and well-being?

It’s amazing how little we know about sleep when the average person who sleeps for 8 hours a night will tot up 229,961 hours, 33 years. Which is about one third of our life asleep. Amazing isn’t it and that sleep sits alongside our survival needs of food and water.

So, what is happening when we sleep?

Sleep allows us to build and develop new memories, provides us with the ability to keep the pathways in our brain clear and allows us to extend them so we can continue to learn. When we are sleep deprived, we don’t function as well, our reflexes are slower, and we find it hard to stay focused.

When we sleep our whole bodies reap the rewards from our heart, lungs, mood, and our ability to resist disease, to our metabolism, brain, and the function of our immune system. Poor quality or lack of sleep puts people as a higher risk of suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Every year scientists are learning more about our brain. About how and why we sleep. Although, the full extent of why we need to sleep, and how it impacts our biological functions is still not known.

Over the years we have heard a great deal about REM, rapid eye movement sleep, and this is something I talk about with my clients. This is the process where we unload our emotional memories from the day - hence the saying ‘sleep on it’. At night we rerun the events of the day in either clear, dreaming or metaphorically, and then we process them and move them from the primitive, emotional mind to the intellectual mind where we have more control over them. You will often find that having had a good night’s sleep, after an emotional event during the day, the following day you will feel more detached from the emotional side of the memory and be able to be more logical and rational.

What scientists are researching now is what happens during the non-REM sleep portion of our night and the results are interesting.

It has been shown that during these times of less brain activity, due to less stimulation at night, the neurons begin to work together. This leads to moments of no activity occurring in the brain, so less oxygen is required, and a spring-cleaning process occurs. Cerebrospinal fluid is then able to flow into the brain and wash the toxins away. This is not a process that can happen during the day because the neurons are always firing independently, and blood would be constantly flowing through the brain.

To find out more about what happens if we don't get enough sleep then you can watch this brief ted talk by Claudia Aguirre.

Scientists are beginning to use this research to investigate neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia because this ‘spring-cleaning’ effect is often low in patients with these issues.

So, knowing this information we can see that all the different levels of sleep are imperative to our overall health and well-being.

Here are some ideas to help you get a good night’s sleep.

· Get into a routine, and go to bed at the same time each night as this will help your body adapt to its own natural circadian rhythm

· Avoid technology – we all know about the blue screens and how they suppress our sleep hormone melatonin.

· Make sure that your bedroom is a tidy and comfortable space and that it’s not hot as we fall asleep easier in a cool room.

· Exercise at some point during the day, even a short walk will help to prepare you on your route to get a good night’s sleep.

· When you go to bed focus on relaxing, as worrying about going to sleep can be counterproductive. Remember that by laying there you are resting and allowing your body to recuperate, imagine laying on a quiet beach listening to the tide flowing in and out or taking a gentle walk through the woods. Immerse yourself in the imagery and focus on your breathing, in and out gently.

To finish off I have included a ted talk by Matt Walker who is a brain scientist and sleep guru. He has spent many years researching why and how we sleep. His ted talk ‘Sleep is your superpower’ provides a wealth of information on sleep and all its nuances.

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