A Better Night’s Sleep

We’ve always known that quality sleep is good for your brain, but research tells us how and why. Studies find that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. The catch here is that your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality, deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc and ultimately impairing your ability to think. This slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and increases your emotional reactivity.

High quality sleep (notice I did not say quantity) can be life-changing, even life-saving. Poor sleep has shown to increase the risk of many life threatening conditions including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Not getting quality sleep can increase anxiety and depression too. Are you getting the impression that sleep is important? In my work I treat sleep as paramount for the reasons mentioned. I also treat sleep because I know what getting consistently high quality sleep can mean to a person’s everyday life.

John came to see me because he was depressed. He complained of lack of energy, poor diet, irritable or sad most days. He didn’t want to be around people even though he considered himself to be an outgoing and engaging person. I came to find that John’s sleep habits were terrible. John believed the myths about sleep that many people believe-more time in bed means a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep; naps are a good way to “catch up on sleep”; alcohol or sleep aids help to get a good night’s sleep. I was able to educate John on how to get a good night’s sleep regularly and consistently.

Think of the bedroom and the bed as a sanctuary of sleep. When John thought about his bedroom he would get a little anxious because it reminded him of how hard it was to sleep. His room wasn’t that comfortable and neither was his bed.

The Bed

The bed should be comfortable and inviting. We want to create a mind-body connection to the bed that promotes sleep. The bed should only be for sleep and sex. Don’t eat, watch TV, read or play on your phone while in bed.

The Room

John came to call his room the “chamber of sleep”. He adjusted the lighting so it was softer. He adjusted the temperature so it was cooler. He got a new mattress that was comfortable. He even got black out shades so there was very little light coming in (John would wake up when light would hit the room).

The Nest

The nest is a place to create that you can go to promote sleep either before HHP (head hits pillow) or when you wake in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. John’s nest has a big comfy chair, soft lighting, magazines and catalogs to browse, headphones to listen to soft music (John likes easy Jazz to help him feel sleepy). The idea is to promote the feeling of sleepiness. Keep in mind there is a difference between tired and sleepy. Tired is how we feel when we have used up a lot of energy or are lacking energy. Sleepy is the heavy eyes, head drooping feeling we get right before falling asleep. Go to bed ONLY when you are sleepy and you may get what John has-excess energy that he uses to exercise more; vigor for life; an overall sense of well being.

Sleep well my friends!