Sleeplessness, sleep debt, insomnia according to the latest research 10% of the total population has trouble sleeping. It is one of the main pillars of our well-being and yet it is such an overlooked topic.
Research shows insomnia is one of the main risk factors in developing depression and PTSD. By treating insufficient sleep, mood disorders dissolve. Furthermore insomnia is an early predictor in Alzheimer, can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It has been associated with weight gain and can kill sex drive.
Functions of Sleep:
– Physical recovery
– Growth hormone
– Synaptic downscaling
– Saving energy
– Cognitive functions
– Process emotions you encounter during the day
– Brain rinsing
Effects of insomnia
This means when we don’t get enough sleep, emotions can’t get processed and we take them with us into the next day. This may alter into feeling anxious and out of balance all together. All the more reason to shine light on this topic and gently uplift your day.
The key words are:
stress | headaches | anxiety for sleep | imbalanced hormones | sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene, the TLC for the sleep deprived
The key word is consistency; consistency in bed/wake up time and persist in the hygiene matters at hand. The rules are simple; no caffeine after 18h (it takes the body about 7h before half of the caffeine is processed) no alcohol as a night cap, use the bed for sleep or love making and if you cant sleep get up and drink some tea and try again; last but not least.. screens really don’t help.
The mind body connection is very real. Research showed physical stress is associated with an increase of stressful thoughts. When there is too much stress (physical or mental) the body can’t heal and therefore the mind won’t either. You may feel more anxious, your legs and arms may tingle, your head and back might ache and all together you can experience weird sensations. This is not uncommon in sleep deprivation.
The pre-frontal cortex of the brain used for decision making, planning and coping strategies suffers when not given enough sleep. Evidence suggests that this might lead to an increase of anxiety and mimic mental health issues. Recent studies show that when we sleep the brain ‘rinses’ itself. Rhythmic waves of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (fluid present in the brain and spinal chord) clean the brain from potential harmful waste products, much like a washing machine.
The sympathetic nervous system provides the more active hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The parasympathetic nervous system is for unwinding and activates the nervus vagus, releasing neurotransmitters like GABA whom induce sleep and relaxation. Valerianic acid, the key compound of valerian, inhibits the breakdown of GABA through the same mechanic anti-anxiety pils use, promoting sleep and feelings of tranquility. 5-HTP synthesis serotinin, which converts to melatonin in the body, and regulated mood, appetite, and sleep.
Hormones play the leading part in telling the cells of the body what to do and regulate it’s activities. They will determine whether it is safe to rest or if you are needed in ‘fight or flight’ mode. This might happen when you see a bear in front of you, or have a deadline and is extremely useful for last minute essay writers. Though when you want to unwind and relax they aren’t your friends.
Racing heart, sweaty palms, quickening of the breath and hyperventilation are all symptoms of adrenal hormones. Lying awake at night hearing your own heartbeat and looking vividly at the clock as the hours pass by won’t help to soothe your body and is a sign of these hormones, this is a very tempting circle one could get lost in.
Studies show chronic elevated levels of adrenal hormones in persons with insomnia. Being chronically stressed has the body turn on these adrenal hormones for a longer period of time and your stress system can be off balance. Keeping you up at night regardless of how tired you might actually be.
Thankfully there are loads of powerful practices to lower these hormones and send them off to be replaced by the more relaxed friends you need at night. These all include trying to get the sympathetic nervous system less stimulated and turning the parasympathetic nervous system on. Examples of these practices are meditation, yoga, cognitive behavior therapy, creating a personal routine pre-sleep, adjusting your sleep hygiene and supplements whom bring the stress hormones back in balance.