Like food and water, sleep is an essential part of being a human being, and we need it to be alive! Which is why it has such an impact and effect on us when we don’t get it. Did you know that is helps us renew, reboot, improves nervous and immune system and memory function. It’s anti- ageing and improves your mood? WTF right?
As human beings we have complex mind that means that we are a zombie by day, due to not having any sleep, and then we have all of the thoughts and questions as soon as we decide that it is time for us to go to sleep. Especially if we are stressed, anxious, depressed or there is something going on.
“I wonder why Sandra hates me, why did I say that thing to Steve, what the hell will I do in 20 years from now, what is the meaning of life.”
According to the Human Givens Counselling method, we evolved to dream as a flush mechanism. So that anything that we were emotionally aroused by in the day, that was left unresolved, we then dream about this so that out brains work out a resolution and then we don’t have to file this, instead we ‘flush it’. For example if we are worried about Brexit, this is out of our control, but it might still be really worrying, so we dream about an eagle taking Teresea May away, which then means that we are able to bring our emotional arousal down as we have found a solution to this. HOW AMAZING IS THIS! That we have evolved to dream in this way to actually help us with our mental health.
What’s more Joe Griffin (who wrote the book Dreaming Reality) talks about why people with depression need more sleep but wake up still feeling exhausted. This is because depressed people spend more time in the REM part of the sleep rather than the restorative part of the sleep. Because, what do depressed people do more of? THEY WORRY!
Worrying puts an immense strain upon the REM system, leading to excessive REM dream sleep, which in turn leads to brain exhaustion.
What’s more there is something in anti-depressants which inhibits the REM part of the sleep, which has been found to be helpful in the treatment of depression.
Claire Guthrie, Human Givens Counsellor talked about getting your needs met…
Things like the need to feel in control, sense of meaning, feeling connected to others. When are needs are met and in balance we feel good. When they are not met then we begin to worry and become emotional aroused. Which might mean that we are taking these worries to bed with us.
So now we have geeked up on sleep and how amazing it is what tools and techniques can we use to make sure that we get enough of this wonderful thing?
First of all NOTICE…
Check in with yourself, are there any underlying medical conditions going on that are stopping you sleeping?Cough, cold, blocked nose etc. That can be easily resolved or treated.
Or is there anything emotionally arousing you? Are you burying your head in the sand about this, or are you being proactive in addressing this. Are you hanging on in work waiting for a holiday? Are you avoiding speaking to someone? Maybe you need to do a brain tangle of journal what is in your head to get to the bottom of it.
Or noticing where you are in your period cycle, is there a change in season, moon change or other changes that you are sensitive to. Really noticing your environment and making adjustments.
Then start RITUALS…
As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, if you struggle to sleep there could be things that you do everyday to support you falling to sleep at night. We have looked at noticing and acknowledging if there is anything stressful going on, but how do we reduce stress and emotional arousal? Here are a few ideas to add to your daily rituals to help you sleep:
Journaling, brain dumping, brain tangling. Trying to work out, as mentioned above, what is inside our head.
Therapy, counselling. Finding a counselling approach that will work for you and give you tips to fall asleep such as CBT or Human Givens.
Mindfullness, practicing this throughout your day. You can try body scans, or leaving your phone at home to go on the school run/ walk to the shop. Really take that time to resettle your brain.
Exercise regularly, we all know the wonders of exercise but it really can help with sleep. As you are tiring your body and releasing endorphins to again help with stress and anxiety. Try not to exercise right before bed though.
Lastly NIGHT TIME ROUTINE…
Exactly the same theory behind having a morning routine to wake you up and start the day right, it’s the same for a night time routine. Really take that time to unwind and calm your nervous system and bring down any arousal. Take about half an hour to an hour per night to do this. Here are some tips:
Smell, introduce some sleepy smells, such as face oil pillow spray or even your stinky pjs, to get your brain conditioned to recognise that those particular smells means that it’s nearly time for sleep.
Food, make sure that you have eaten enough that day, and if you haven’t there is a sleepy chemical released in foods such as oats, rice and dairy.
No stimulation before bed (snigger), which means no caffeine after about midday. No alcohol as this will actually effect your sleep and mean that you wake up more (believe it or not).
Switch off, make sure that you leave your phone in another room, trying doing something before bed like reading or listening to something soothing. You can always have a pen and paper next to your bed if something pops into your head for your to do list tomorrow. You can simply say ‘I will write this down and tackle this tomorrow.’
Allow that time for yourself to fully relax and then sleep. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to go to sleep, that will happen, just give your body that time to rest and relax, even if you are awake.
Next time, you give yourself a hard time for having a lie in, or having an early night then remember how important sleep is to us, and how much we need this for our body and minds, and basically to stay sane.