SLEEP

The modern world is exhausted! Most of us don’t have the time to get enough sleep; we then try to muster up the strength to power on through the day and by the end of it, we feel like we’ve run a marathon.  We feel the weight of never-ending to-do lists; we have too much to do and excessive demands are put on our time, consequently the time that we devote to sleep is being squeezed and squeezed.  Modern society pushes people to their limit; it encourages people to challenge themselves, to be achieving and to always be on the go, there is little thought to the cost and the impact on our health. We wear our tiredness like a badge of honour; it is a sign that we work hard and are tough, and it is a symbol of what great martyrs we are. I have no doubt that years of sleep deprivation was a key component in contributing to my early diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease; my body was screaming out for rest; I didn’t stop, and so it made me do just that! 

So, did you get enough sleep last night? Did you get your 8 hours? Did you allow your body and brain enough time to rest, recover and repair? Are you at a tipping point? I would imagine that most of you who are reading this would benefit from more sleep; I know that I would. We are not super-human and sleep is not a waste of time or indulgent. Our health is governed by the amount of sleep that we get; and so, it’s time to make some changes…

Our bodies and minds need rest, refusing to slow down greatly increases our risk of being diagnosed with a chronic or indeed terminal illness. Sleep influences all areas of our lives; it is essential for neurological, mental, physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep impacts every cell, tissue and organ; it affects stress levels, concentration and immunity. Cortisol levels surge when we are tired, and too much cortisol causes inflammation and chronic illness. When we are tired, we are more likely to crave junk food and fail to exercise. Sleep deprivation has been linked to reduced life expectancy, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, morbid obesity, cancer, and the list goes on… The health of my brain is an absolute priority to me, and so, I have to be selfish with my sleep, I must make time for myself. I am not lazy but I take every opportunity that I can do to get some rest and relaxation, I no longer feel guilty for allowing myself to have a break, I am just tuning in to what my body needs and refusing to damage my health any more than I already have done.

Alternatively, you may suffer from insomnia and will have spent last night staring at your phone in the hope of dropping off to sleep. You may have spent the night calculating how much sleep you would get if you fell asleep in the next five minutes. Not everyone can easily slip into a deep sleep. Many of us will stare at the ceiling for hours and our over-zealous brains will start to think about something that happened years ago and what we should have said and done, we might even reflect on every bad decision that we have ever made, or we make up imaginary situations that will most likely never ever happen. Well, there are many things that you can do to promote good sleep, they won’t work for everyone, but they are certainly worth trying…

Firstly, it is essential that you avoid food with chemicals and toxins as these are not helping your body to relax; your body is working overtime to cleanse itself of the harmful substances in junk food and alcohol. Sugar and toxins hardly have a sedative effect on the brain, instead they raise and elevate stress levels. Low carb diets also lead the body to go looking for energy, we need ‘good’ carbs to stay asleep. Plant foods containing calcium and magnesium can lower stress levels, and magnesium encourages the release of melatonin which is needed for sleep. Chamomile tea is very soothing and a great way to help your nervous system to unwind as you get ready for bed.  

I have already written about the benefits of meditation; it is an excellent way to help the body to relax, and there are so many excellent apps and resources on YouTube that can be availed of.  ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is growing in popularity as it induces feelings of relaxation; it has a meditative effect and can help anxiety. There are literally millions of ASMR videos on YouTube; they range from whispers to waves, and whilst it doesn’t work for everyone, it does help many others.

Those who exercise, particularly outdoors, report better sleep as it releases stress and endorphins. Yoga Nidra videos can be accessed online; these encourage total physical relaxation, release tension and calm the nervous system by helping the body to switch off.

So, to conclude; anything that stops you getting sleep needs to be addressed; find a way and take control. Say no to people pleasing and set some boundaries. Those who think that you are lazy are probably struggling with their own guilt about taking time out as they also want more sleep. You need to take responsibility for your health and well-being. Stop everything and be selfish. If you don’t do this for your own body, then who else will?  

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