Ah, how amazing it feels to greet your day after a restful night’s sleep. You have energy to spare and are excited to get moving. However, many of us are missing out. Being over scheduled, sedentary, stressed and out of sync, can leave us the opposite of well rested. Good sleep was a necessary ingredient to my life that has eluded me for years. Insomnia was more familiar to me than sleep. I convinced myself that I didn’t really need that much sleep while becoming more exhausted. At other times, I joked that I was too tired to sleep.
So how important is good sleep? Sleep deprivation has been linked to decreased cognitive performance, increased accidents, depression, suppression of the immune system, weight gain, moodiness and more. So go down the rabbit hole with me for a minute, lack of good sleep creates a suppressed immune system that can make you susceptible to infectious diseases. So at best, without sufficient sleep, we are basically sleep walking through our lives unable to fully engage. And at worst, do we really want to go there?
By researching to help my sleep, my partner and I had changed many factors in our environment that can contribute to poor sleep. We made our room dark, cool, quiet and devoid of most electronics. We had a pretty good bedtime “routine” to signal that it was time to sleep. I still struggled. It was starting to negatively affect my health. Then I stumbled across a video by Ari Whitten who teaches a course called the Energy Blueprint. During his introductory series, I learned that the ability to sleep is all part of our circadian rhythm and that if you want good sleep you have to fix your circadian rhythm. What we do in our whole 24 hour day and when we do it affects our sleep. While, I can’t say at this point that my circadian rhythm is fixed, I can say that my sleep is probably 90% better. I’m now participating in Ari’s Energy Blueprint program and have been very happy with the results so far. If you want to check out Ari, here’s a link to his site: Ari Whitten
When I was struggling with insomnia, I would attempt to continue to rest even if I couldn’t sleep. While resting was better than attempting twenty-four hour action, it does not replace sleep. When we reach deep sleep, our bodies are able to regenerate. Although rest can’t replace sleep, I did learn some attributes of rest that encourage me to want more. Have you ever noticed that if you need to make a decision and you go take a hike or even just spend some time relaxing outside, your decision becomes clear. A theory that explains the cognitive benefits nature provides is Attention Restoration Theory¹ which shows that people are restored and rejuvenated by time spent in nature. You are also able to concentrate more effectively. This research showed that taking a walk in nature is not equal to taking a city walk. So to nurture yourself, get some nature. Taking time off restores us and increases our creativity. Just think back to your last beach walk or hike through the woods.
In Before Happiness, Shawn Achor discusses how being not well rested makes us more likely to see situations as threats. Having a mindset with a negative bias kept us alive when we were still hunter-gatherers, Now the lack of sleep and low blood sugar can put us on the defensive when we don’t need to be.
We are plugged in so much these days that people have become addicted to the “update.” We are driven by a fear of “What if we miss something?” and that creates a level of anxiety. The constant checking in is hampering our ability to focus and be effective. We have to remember that we are still wired the same way we were when we were running from saber-tooth tigers. When we relax, kick back and have some fun, I think we are sending a signal to our brain that all is well. It helps to unplug. When you feel pulled to constantly update status or comments on your electronic devices especially when you’re already stressed or tired or both, take a break. If you must stay on the computer or device, close the window that is distracting you and causing the behavior. If you can, walk away. Really, go take a walk, get a cup of tea, pet your dog and generally change your state. You see the world differently when you are rested and relaxed. Getting good sleep and taking the time to rest can change your world.
This post is one in a collection of posts arising from the Frenzied Mind.
1 Studies by Berman, Jonides & Kaplan, 2008; Berto, 2005; Kaplan, 1995; Kaplan & Berman, 2010