The current pandemic (2020) has certainly changed the way we live our everyday lives.
It has affected many of our daily routines, and one of its biggest reported impacts has been that on sleep - sleep becomes more elusive when we are anxious.
Many people are suffering sleep issues for the first time in their lives. Some of the common symptoms:
awake for long periods
unable to fall asleep at all
wake up several times during the night
more intense and emotional dreams
tired and groggy the next morning
find it difficult to concentrate or function properly
How are you sleeping?
Do your worries play on an endless feedback loop in your brain when you climb into bed? Whether you are tossing and turning with anxious thoughts racing through your mind or dwelling on a general feeling of negativity, the inability to shut off the pessimistic chatter in your head during night hours is a major contributor to sleep issues.
We all take sleep for granted until we have problems with it and then we remember how restorative and rejuvenating a good nights sleep is as it allows our mind and body to recharge itself. Without sleep we cannot function properly and this has a negative impact on our health.
The consequences of Lack of Sleep
For some sleep deprivation is a common occurrence but constantly interrupting the sleep cycle can be dangerous. It affects us in a multitude of ways.
Mood swings - when we don’t sleep well it can affect our moods during the day. Some of us may become irritable, short and even indifferent.
Cognitive Function Slows - problem solving, memory retention, recall and focus can decline when we are robbed of sleep.
Poor Co-ordination - The brain fails to function properly without adequate sleep, so the signals that are being sent to your body are compromised.
Nine reasons for a good nights sleep
1. Sleep helps you feel your best
So how much sleep do I need? Eight hours is considered the norm, however on an individual basis, it’s the amount of sleep that allows you to wake feeling refreshed and able to stay awake during the day.
In a study conducted by the American Automobile Association, December 2016, highlights the risk associated with car accidents and reduced sleep “The results of this drowsy driving study indicate that drivers who usually sleep for less than 5 hours daily, drivers who have slept for less than 7 hours in the past 24 hours, and drivers who have slept for 1 or more hours less than their usual amount of sleep in the past 24 hours have significantly elevated crash rates.”
2. Sleep protects you from heart disease and diabetes
Insufficient sleep can result in an impact on immune function and cardiovascular risk. There’s also a link between weight gain and reduced sleep. Studies have also shown a link between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You know that your family medical history, along with what you eat and how much you weigh, can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But did you know that your sleep habits can also play a role? It’s true. In fact, sleep deprivation is an often overlooked but a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, a disease that involves too much glucose (or sugar) in the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.
"The connection may be hard to imagine. But the primary reason that regularly skimping on shuteye can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes is because your hormone levels get thrown out of whack. Specifically, with ongoing sleep loss, less insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) is released in the body after you eat. Meanwhile, your body secretes more stress hormones (such as cortisol), which helps you stay awake but makes it harder for insulin to do its job effectively. The net effect: Too much glucose stays in the bloodstream, which can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
These effects have been seen with getting between four and a half to six hours of sleep per night. In particular, a decrease in slow-wave (or “deep”) sleep—which is thought to be the most restorative stage of sleep—seems to play a major role in maintaining proper insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control". National Sleep Foundation 2020
3. Sleeping burns calories
How many calories does an extra two hours of sleep burn? Almost 300, according to a study at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. Researchers at the college asked 32 summer students to keep diaries noting how much sleep they got and what foods they ate over a three-week period. The first week, students stuck to their normal eating and sleeping schedules so researchers could see their normal routine. The second week, students were asked to sleep an extra two hours a day. The third week, students returned to their normal routine. When researchers compared the students’ diaries after the third week, they found that the students who got an extra two hours of sleep in week 2 ate nearly 300 calories a day less than in week 1. When they returned to their normal sleep-deprived routines in week 3, they ate more food.
4. Sleep keeps extra kilos at bay
A study of 68,000 women conducted at Harvard Medical School revealed that women who sleep five hours a night are 32 percent more likely to gain 30 pounds (13.6kg) or more as they get older than women who sleep seven hours or more.
Common sense says that someone who’s awake and running around should be using up more calories than someone who’s in bed. Running around should make them slimmer, right? But the study, conducted over a 16-year period, revealed that even when the women who slept longer ate more, they still gained less weight than women who slept less.
Don't skip exercise during the coronavirus restrictions, even though you may not be able to go to the gym or play your favourite team sport. Be creative and find something that you can enjoy indoors, balcony or in the garden, you don't need to go overboard, several short bursts throughout the day will benefit your health and mental wellbeing.
5. Sleep boosts your immune system
Sleeping better may help you fight off illness. Sleep deprivation makes your body’s emergency stress system kick in. In a University of Chicago study, men who were vaccinated against flu while being deprived of sleep (the subjects were not allowed to sleep more than four hours a night) produced less than half the antibodies to the flu virus than vaccinated men who got a full night’s rest did.
6. Sleep improves brain function
Not only does sleep deprivation lead to poor health, it also affects your concentration, problem-solving skills, memory and mood. Problems with memory, decreased social interaction and difficulty concentrating can all be linked to lack of sleep.
7. Sleep helps you look better
People who are limited to only four or five hours of sleep a night for several nights not only experience more physical ailments, such as headaches and stomach problems, but also undergo changes in metabolism similar to those occurring with normal ageing.
8. Sleep improves your mood
People with chronic insomnia without depression produce higher rates of stress hormones (cortisol) during the night (sleep hours) compared to people who sleep well, (Natural Medicine Journal June 2010). This puts their bodies in a hyper-aroused state that can make it difficult for them to wind down. The inability to sleep causes more stress, which can have a devastating impact.
People who don’t get enough sleep can become depressed, and that causes insomnia. Inversely, more and better-quality sleep can make you feel happier.
9. Sleep keeps cravings in check
Sleep deprivation also influences your food choices, making you crave high-carb and high-sugar foods. This is because sleep loss decreases insulin sensitivity, putting the sleep-deprived at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
“These effects have been seen with getting between four and a half to six hours of sleep per night. In particular, a decrease in slow-wave (or “deep”) sleep—which is thought to be the most restorative stage of sleep—seems to play a major role in maintaining proper insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
In addition, getting too little sleep can increase your appetite and reduce your level of satiety, causing you to crave carbohydrates and sugary foods, in particular. Over time, indulging in these cravings or overeating, in general, can wreak havoc on your insulin and blood sugar levels, as well as your body weight. (Remember: Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.) Plus, when you’re short on sleep, you’re more likely to feel tired and less inclined to exercise, which is a problem because regular exercise helps with weight management and blood sugar control.” National Sleep Foundation 2020
So sleeping more may make it easier to fight the cravings!
Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up and include protein such as eggs, yoghurt or nuts. This will help your body to make hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin essential for well being and trust keeping anxiousness at bay. Eating all your meals at the same time each day reprograms your body clock. Having your body clock in a routine helps sleep.
But good sleep stratagems will help you sleep well and can limit the negative effects of poor sleep.
Try these FIVE hints for calmer and better sleep.
1 Limit news intake and avoid your mobiles, tablets, social media, stop work tasks, emotive subjects with your partner or anything that's going to keep your mind working for at least an hour before bed
Do something to boost your mood before bed - a humorous television programme or an uplifting podcast can help you unwind and sleep.
2 Have structure to your day
Our brains and bodies love structure. Wake, exercise, eat and sleep at similar times each day. If you are working from home, whatever time you would normally finish work do the same at home.
3 Focus on your breathing
Think about resting rather than sleeping. Follow your breathing by silently whispering the words ‘in’ and ‘out’ to induce sleep.
4 Learn to relax
Relaxation can switch off the stress response, physically and mentally. Find something that works for you - mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, a long hot bath, or progressive muscle relaxation focus on where you are holding the stress and gradually allow yourself to release it, imaging the tension floating out of you as a stream of smoke to the sky and dissipating like clouds in the sun.
5. If you can’t sleep - get out of bed
Your bed should not be a battleground. If you are constantly tossing and turning, get up, maybe a have a hot milky drink, reset and return to bed. Instead of focussing on sleep, try to enjoy the sensation of merely resting, knowing all is well and safe allowing yourself to drift, slowly drift down and down.
Hypnosis can help many forms of sleep issues and insomnia.
If you are not sleeping well, and traditional treatments are not working, hypnosis may be able to help you sleep the way you deserve.
It uses different approaches to induce relaxation, such as focused attention, symptom control and guided imagery.
And, unlike sleep medications, it has no side effects, so it can be an aid for those who can’t or don’t want to take sleeping pills.
It can help overcome bedtime restlessness - ease the worry, tension and anxiety that prevent sleep - and can show the way to the deep, restorative sleep that we all need.
To get started, download this complimentary hypnosis recording Sweet Dreams
And take the first steps on the road to better sleep!