The Importance of Sleep

The Importance of SleepIts no accident that sleep deprivation has been used as a torture. Not having enough sleep affects us all differently but common symptoms of not having enough sleep are irritability, depression, confusion and feelings of being generally overwhelmed.

Having worked with clients for over 12 years I have come across individuals who are having difficulty sleeping. Our modern lifestyle can contribute to some of our sleep problems. Doctors, nurses, police officers and others who work night shifts often experience problems with sleep. As our body clocks get moved from their natural rhythm a healthy sleep pattern can become difficult to maintain.

Modern life and all its stimulants can also have an effect on our ability to switch off and get a good nights sleep. Many of us sleep with TVs, phones, laptops and tablets in our bedroom, in fact we may only turn off these devices just at the point of going to sleep, often just checking our emails one last time!

Some conditions such as anxiety and depression can also lead to a problem with our sleep. Life events such as the death of someone close to us pregnancy or having a newborn in the house can also interfere with our sleep patterns. Other times when sleep may not come easily are times when we are feeling stressed, worried or anxious or have something on our mind.

There are also times in our lives when because of physical changes sleep becomes a problem. It is now proven that teenagers need more sleep than other people. There are also hormone changes that can affect our ability to sleep such as when women go through the menopause.

When clients have been particularly anxious or depressed they can then experience an increase in nightmares which are a sleep problem in their own right and can leave someone frightened and disturbed. It’s difficult to get back to sleep when you feel like this.

Our partners sleeping problems can also impact on the quality of our own sleep. It is very difficult to sleep next to someone who snores loudly, grinds their teeth or who sleep walks. Less common forms of sleep disturbance are called Parasomnias and include night terrors or behaving inappropriately during sleep. There have been documented cases of people being hit by their partner whilst they were still asleep.

The list of what can interfere with our sleep is endless as is the effects that it can have on our emotional, physical and mental well being. A lack of sleep can have a very real and physical impact on our bodies chemistry. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been found in those who lack sleep.

What can we do to get a better nights sleep.

Reduce the amount of stimulants we have: Limiting our intake of tea, coffee and caffeine based drinks can help with getting a good nights sleep. Switching to Decaffeinated products can help.

Reduce our alcohol intake: The common misconception is that alcohol can help us sleep is incorrect. Alcohol is a stimulant and so while we may fall asleep initially it can be harder to get a full nights sleep when we have drunk a large amount as we often wake after a just a couple of hours.

Reduce the amount of time on laptops, phones and tablets: Having a routine whereby you begin to relax and unwind earlier in the evening can lead to a better nights sleep:

Avoid TV immediately before bed: TV can also be a stimulant and whilst many of us watch TV as a way of relaxing, just before bed it can cause a state of arousal in our brain making it more difficult to sleep.

Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all dayFriedrich Nietsche

Taking regular exercise: Our lives have become increasingly sedentary and whilst our mind may be tired our bodies often are not. Taking regular exercise and eating well can increase your chance of a healthy good nights sleep.

Talk to someone: If you are having problems, if it means that you are spending time worrying at night talk through your problems with either a friend or a professional. Working through your problems and dealing with them rather than ignoring them can really make a difference to your ability to sleep. Its often said that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. It takes a huge amount of energy and rarely solves anything.

Take a notebook to bed: If you wake up and worry about things in the night accept that there is nothing you can do about them then. Write your worries down and promise yourself that you will deal with them in the morning.

Try perfecting a bedtime routine: Its no coincidence that parents try and get their children to sleep by developing a bedtime routine. It often includes a relaxing bath, dimmed light and a warm milky drink. It can work for grown ups too!

Attend to any medical problems: If having tried to deal with your sleep problems yourself ensure there is not a medical underlying problem by visiting your GP.

It may be time to seek professional help: If nightmares are making life difficult and disturbing your sleep, if your partners sleep problems are disturbing your own sleep it may be time to seek professional support to ensure that a normal healthy sleep pattern can be resumed.

Sleep when we are deprived of it can feel like a luxury. Its an essential part of life and provides time for our bodies to grow, repair and rebalance itself. We all owe it to ourselves to priorities our sleep and ensure we get the right amount. Having a good and restful nights sleep means that we are able to enjoy life more fully and work more productively. If you feel as though sleep has become a problem then please find someone who can help