Sleep. 8 hours a night.
That is what the average adult needs according to research. And by “sleep,” we are talking about the deep state of sleep, also called “slow wave sleep” because our brain and heart waves are pulsating much slower than during the day. When you’re reading this, I assume that you know about the connection between sleep and health. And, maybe, you’re like me, and you LOVE to sleep. But, there is that monkey in your head – an ongoing mental chatter preventing you from winding down and falling asleep. This monkey is keeping you awake by making you think about your day, the tasks on your to-do list, tomorrow’s schedule. You name it… it’s running through your head. Would a banana calm this damn monkey down!? Well, we’ll speak about food later. For now, let’s look at our attitude towards sleep.
Do you regret every minute you spend sleeping? Are you one of those people, who try to make the most out of their time? To the extent that you push tiredness away and reduce your sleep time to a minimum?
For your brain and your body, sleep is vital. Sleep deprivation will affect your health, your memory, learning abilities, hormonal balance and, in the long-term, your performance, your relationships and, eventually, your life. Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sleep is part of the physiological needs that are at the base or foundation of the hierarchy. According to Maslow, the needs of one level need to be met before moving on to the next level. In other words, the fulfillment of our physiological needs, which includes sleep, gives us the freedom to concern ourselves with security, relationships or self-realization.
When you don’t sleep enough, your leptin levels drop. The hormone leptin triggers your feeling of unsatisfaction. Hence, less sleep equals greater hunger for high-fat and high-calorie foods specifically.
Sleep deficiency reduces your testosterone levels, which in turn will reduce your “appetite” for making love.
Have you ever tried to sleep in a disco?
No, I’m not joking. No one would go to a disco to take a nap, right? It’s too noisy, and there’s too much light. Through the retina of your eyes and via the optic nerve, the degree of light in your environment is communicated to your nervous system. Light activates your Sympathetic Nervous System; also called “fight or flight” response. Darkness stimulates its counterpart, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is responsible for relaxation; also called “relaxation response.” As we “extend” the daylight period by artificial lighting, the Sympathetic Nervous System keeps being stimulated. The same principle applies to your bedroom. If there’s too much light in your bedroom or falling from outside into your bedroom, you can’t fall asleep because your brain is stimulated. For some people, even the light of their alarm clock is enough to impact their ability to relax negatively. Are we listening while we’re sleeping? Yes, we’re always recording, what’s happening around us. And, because we can get used to noise in our environments like traffic noise or church bells, it doesn’t mean that it does not affect us. Depending on the noise, it stimulates our Sympathetic Nervous System, or it triggers a relaxation response. The ticking of your alarm clock, passing cars or a window, which is not shut closely will raise your cortisol levels, even if you do not hear the noise any longer consciously. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Stress keeps your nervous system activated and impairs sleep. By adjusting light and noise levels in your bedroom, you can create a beneficial sleeping environment for you (and your monkey!) so that you can both relax and rest. Except, well, maybe it’s not the sleeping environment, which keeps your monkey stimulated but your lifestyle?
From 100 to 0 in 5 seconds
Have you ever used an overhead projector? When you turn off the device, it does not shut down but starts to cool down until the motor has reached a specific temperature. This concept is true for your brain as well. How can you expect to fall asleep, when, just five minutes ago, you’ve sent the last email or watched a crime thriller? Well, this may seem quite obvious to you. So let’s dig deeper into how your current lifestyle affects your ability to wind down and fall asleep. I’m sure you know that the stimulating effect of caffeine persists for several hours after you’ve enjoyed your cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s the caffeine in your tea or sodas? Or in the chocolate, you enjoyed while watching television? Or the cigarette after dinner – which contains nicotine that stimulates wakefulness. And, yes, also alcoholic beverages need to be seen as a “double-edged sword.” They may help you to relax in the short term but keep you from entering the stage of deep sleep over the course of the night. Do you do sports? Do you like to sweat and really feel your body? Good for you. And stimulating for your nervous system, your cardiovascular system, and metabolism. The effect of intense physical exercising persists for about 3 hours.
As you can see, it’s not your monkey’s fault when your mental chatter keeps you awake in your bed at night.
The day was just so exciting and stimulating, and it had not yet had a chance to calm down and relax. If you’re a parent, this will sound quite familiar to you. And which magic pill do you give to your child to help them fall asleep? Love and a bedtime ritual, right? Following the same bedtime ritual, each night creates the space for them to disconnect from the day and allows them to gently move into a state of relaxation. The same is true for adults (and monkeys ;-)). Dedicate the last 30 minutes before you go to bed to consciously disconnect from your day and turning your intention inwards. No, I’m not asking you to become a Zen Monk. This can be done in many different ways. @StephanieZenker Click To Tweet
Here are 4 proven ways to put your busy mind to sleep:
1. Soak your feet in warm water with dead sea or Epsom salt and Eucalyptus for 10 minutes. Rub your feet with a coarse towel and massage them with body lotion. Keep your focus on your body. Feel the warm water caressing your feet and enjoy the smell of Eucalyptus. When massaging your feet, stay focused on the sensation of touching your feet.
2. Commit to a sleeping pattern that fits your needs. Set a regular schedule to go to bed and to get up in the morning and stick to it even on weekends. Don’t nap during the day. Don’t go to bed until you’re tired. And get out of bed, when you can’t fall asleep.
3. Combine carbohydrates and proteins in your dinner. The protein contains tryptophan, an amino acid that causes sleepiness. The added carbs make it more available to the brain.
4. Take a warm shower before you go to bed. And, while the water is running over your body, imagine, how it washes your day off. Allow the water wash away any conversations; you’ve had, any frustrations, you might have felt during the day, any shoulda’s and coulda’s that are spinning in your mind.
Put your busy mind to sleep!
Translate insight into action! Choose the three aspects described in this blog post that resonated most with you and try applying them in your life right now. Share your experiences in the comments below, or in our PRIVATE online community held on facebook! Also, share this blog with your friends and loves ones! If you’re looking to change your sleep patterns, it’s important to communicate that with your family. You can use the WWC Family Meeting as a tool to do that – on a weekly basis!