Are You Tired of Being Tired?
One of the commonest problems my clients ask for help with is sleep.
It seems ironic that in this day of machines and gadgets to do our work, keep us comfortable and amused, that we would have such an epidemic of insomnia.
Now, I'm not talking about the occasional white-nighter. I'm talking about when most nights they can't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time.
The science is waffling about how much sleep is best. Some say we need a good solid 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Other sources claim that that's too much and is actually harmful. As you've probably observed, different people need different amounts. And different lifestyles and coping capability and stress level and stress tolerance also causes a variation in the amount of rest that is "right" for a person.
So how do you know if you're getting enough rest? And how do you find out what the right amount is for you? And how do you fall asleep and STAY asleep?
First off, here's some clues you're NOT getting enough rest:
- You feel tired and draggy most of the time
- Your head is fuzzy
- Your reaction time is slowed
- Your patience is pretty thin
- You're prone to every flu and bug
During the sleep stage is when the body not only recharges, but it also unloads.
Imagine your body and brain as a busy mail-room. Throughout the day a constant influx of papers, large envelopes and boxes arrive and are dumped for you to sort through and integrate. By the end of the day you've got so many experiences and types of information that have come to you through your senses that it boggles the mind. Literally. How do you ever sift through this mess?
During the REM stage of sleep.
This is the ONLY time your brain and body can get on top of cleaning your 'mail-room'.
You typically fall into the REM stage of sleep a few times during the night. This is the stage where you will see someones eyeballs moving rapidly back and forth under their eyelids like they're looking back and forth with their eyes closed. At this time the unconscious mind and the brain/body is busy sorting information so it knows where it is and can make use of it.
People who don't sleep never get their mail-room clean. The mess that remains from the day before just gets added to the next day. And the next.
You can see why being tired affects brain function and your body's ability to cope.
Now, as we remedy this I want to let you know that it is not uncommon for people to wake a few times a night. I know the ultimate is to fall into the pillow and wake up in the same position 8 hours later, but you can rise to wakefulness and drop back into a good depth of sleep a few times and still have good rest.
The thing is you want to fall asleep again quickly. If you're waking up and your brain is pumped but your body is tired and you can't fall asleep again, there's a problem.
How do you know how much rest you need?
If you're tired, and if you're sick all the time you're short on rest.
The only real remedy I know for this is to pay up your sleep deficit. It's like a loan you took from your body. Now you have to pay it back or suffer the consequences. And the consequences will be a reduced ability to appreciate joy, and your health.
My suggestion for overcoming this deficit is to take naps.
Ha! Bet you thought I was going to say something fancy.
A 20-40 minute nap at the 'low' time of the day (for most people that's between 2pm and 4pm) will rejuvenate you faster than anything I know. Even if you just lie there listening to soft restful music will help. Eventually you will drop into a restful state, though it might take practice.
I also highly recommend between 7 and 10 hours of sleep-time at night. And it's also important to get to bed earlier... like between 9:30 and 10 pm. Stifle the urge to be incredulous, that you're a busy adult, etc. This is the truth.
And now.... how to fall into sleep and stay there.
While a glass of wine or a shot of liquor can push you off the edge into sleep, it is not the best for your liver and will not help you stay asleep all night. Here's some better suggestions for sleeping. And bear in mind that like other life-changes there will be some lag-time and a period where it might feel impossible:
- Listen to soft gentle music in the background while you sleep. This is particularly useful if you have tinnitus (ringing ears).
- Establish a bedtime routine so your body and brain knows it's time to gear down into sleep-mode.
- Do not watch ugly TV shows before bed.
- Don't eat or drink stimulants closer than 3 hours before bedtime. Things like coffee, black tea and chocolate may be revving you up when you need to slow down.
- You might play with what you eat last before sleeping, and how late you eat before bedtime. I've been told it's best to go to bed "with a clear body and a clear mind."
- Make lists. List all your to-do's and everything else that's running around through your head. Get them down out of your mind and onto paper.
- Listen to a sleep meditation. I recommend a Yoga Sleep Nidra that runs at least 25 minutes.
- Trim foam earplugs to a comfortable length and wear them to block out noise. There are fancy ear-phones you can buy from Bose with sound cancelling technology plus soothing sounds, and there may be others. (I haven't used these.)
- Remember your mind belongs to you, and you are the boss of your mind. A lot can be improved by being firm with your galloping thoughts. Your mind is not a runaway horse, but it might act like it won't follow rules. You make the rules and be firm with yourself. When you catch your thoughts spiraling, just become aware and rein them in.
Sometimes sleep is evasive because we're under too much stress, or there's things we can't control going on in our sleep environment. Pain in the body will keep people awake as well. Addressing these areas of your life that are disturbing you will bring peace of mind and an easier platform for sleep.
Like most things, there's no quick fix and no solution works for all people. I hope some of these suggestions help you get the sound rest that you need to enjoy a full life experience.