Sleep..the Elixir of Life!
Sleep is a life force, the elixir of life that we are searching for. We want to live healthy, happy, well- balanced lives. We want to avoid cancer and Alzheimers. We want to stay young, willing in some cases to do anything we can to stay without wrinkles, active and attractive. We want to be the generations that stop father time carving its cruel mark on our minds and bodies. Fortunes are being made by providing surgery, face creams, diets….so that modern society can achieve its pursuit of staying young. We crave the ability to make tie stand still.
The irony is that sleep, this one true elixir of life, is available to us all for free. It is underestimated and underrated as being the answer to the current drive to beat time. Sleep is free but is greatly abused in modern day life. We put it off because we want to be on our phones or tablets. We want to go out and socialise, so we say we will catch up at the weekend. Many of us are running on empty (Lockdown Fatigue Syndrome!) going without sleep and prioritising other endeavours. But without sleep, we can actually die. Underneath every mental health issue, there is also a problem with sleep.
Sleep can help us to stay healthier for longer. First, in order to start prioritising sleep, we need to know why we sleep. With knowledge comes power!
What does sleep do for us?
Sleep can feel like an inconvenience. Downtime that is unproductive. We can sleep when we are dead? Well, the research of Matt Walker (Professor of NeuroScience at the University of California, Berkeley) is both alarming and mind blowing! His Youtube video is below. It can be alarming!
Sleep is not a choice. It is essential to our minds and bodies. It is the most significant part of our day, if we want to stay well and keep healthy. Without sleep, we are damaging all that we are or could be. Sleep is our brains way of storing and saving our memories and learning, helping us to process the learning from the day before. Without sleep we have trouble creating new memories but with 8hrs of sleep our memories are enhanced.
Deep sleep moves our memories from short term into long term memories, literally filing them in a different part of our brains for us. people who carry trauma have problems with understanding that time has passed and they are no longer in the time of threat. Sleep is often hard to come by with a trauma history (What is Trauma?) people become ‘stuck’ in the flight/fight mode.
Good sleep makes us more creative and more able to problem solve. Being able to be creative and think clearly is all part of living with a healthy mindset.
The impact of poor sleep patterns according to Walker
- Sleep disruption contributes to a decline in our cognitive abilities and with ageing, so sleep becomes harder to come by. It has a major par to play in Alzheimers, as the toxic proteins linked with this disease, only get rinsed away from the brain when we sleep.
- Reproductive health of both men and women is affected adversely
- Risk of dying early with only 5hrs sleep is increased by 65% according to M.Walker.
- Using the weekend to make up for lack of weekday sleep leads to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and is unhealthy for the cardio vascular system.
- The daylight saving (spring) sees an increase of heart attacks, suicidal ideation and completion, and a rise in traffic accident by 24%.
- i night of short sleep sees immune cell activity decline by 40%, therefore increasing cancer risk such as bowel, breast and prostate.
- The shorter your slope, the shorter your life.
Things that do not help our sleep
- Sleeping pills sedate us rather than enhance our sleep. When we come off them, rebound insomnia is common.
- Alcohol and marijuana also have this sedative effect and disrupt the dream phase of sleep, leading to people feeling more anxious. Alcohol actually prevents us having ‘dream sleep
- Catching up with sleep at the weekend- our bodies have not evolved to possess this function! We can’t ‘bank’ sleep.
Ways to help Sleep
- Got to bed at the same time every day of the week
- Get up at the same time
- Don’t use the snooze button…it is frightening to out heart!
- Allow the core temperature to drop
- Avoid caffeine after lunch time.
- Avoid alcohol (certainly in the evening…but breakfast drinking is not recommended either!)
How do we change?
This can all seem to be overwhelming but we can improve our sleep quality. But we have to want to. We have to see how important it is. We have to be prepared to change. Our routines and habits need to be analysed and altered. We then need to persevere. We need to keep on making the exchanges to our lifestyle that helps. The change may be slow but our bodies will know that we are operating in a different manner. By changing now, we are future proofing our lives, ensuring we live as healthy a life as possible for as long as possible.
We can make changes now. Today. Tonight.
Contact me if you wish to work together on this elixir of life! I am setting up a 6 week ‘Need to Sleep’ support group. Like minded people who want to improve their sleep and are willing to adjust but would like to have support and encouragement.