Saturday, 25 September 2010

Sleep, glorious sleep!

Sleeping is something I've tended to put on hold. As I seek to cram more into my day, I find the hours in the middle of the night are those that are most able to be contracted.

I used to wonder about sleep and whether we could learn to do without it. Sleeping seemed like such a  waste of time to me. All those hours just lying around, doing nothing. Especially wasteful when there is so much to do!  I've discovered that reducing the amount of time I sleep is not a good idea.

According to current understanding about sleep and its functions, sleep is essential to psychological and physical wellbeing and is neuro-protective. According to John Axelsson from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, a good night's sleep is a very important component of looking attractive and healthy. Those ideas that my grandmother had about the hours spent sleeping before midnight being important are very likely to be true, much as I'd love to ignore that fact. She was right about a lot of things, my grandmother.

 I've found to my horror that sleep poverty is associated with obesity.  Apparently those of us who struggle with middle age (or any age) 'spread' or 'spare tyres' - polite terms for enlarged girth would be well advised to ensure that we regularly get a good night's sleep as good sleep patterns help to keep obesity related genes switched off!

Stress is another culprit! Even if people get enough sleep, unless the causes of too much stress are managed or diminished, the problems compound.

 I read Katy's blog this morning and she was talking about sleep - Katy is a biomedical scientist and her blog is always informative. Amongst other things Katy said:
"Sleeping the correct amount (or at least longer than you typically do) is a good place to start when trying to get to the root of any health issue.  As for body postures, it’s best (does the least to shorten muscles and stiffen joints) to sleep flat on your back, no pillow, on a firm mattress.  Sleeping in his way (or just getting into this position on the floor when you’re awake) reveals a lot about your chronic joint position.  If you need something under your knees to be comfortable, your psoas is too short for your height.  If you need a pillow under your head to keep your chin from elevating, the cervical (neck) extensors are too short for the length of your spine.  If you take yoga, executing the supine savasana posture takes a good chunk of time to work up to.  You’ve been practicing chair-asana (the art of sitting long hours with your hips and knees at 90 degrees, head forward to the spine, and chin elevated) 10 hours a day, it’s no wonder you feel stiff getting into bed.  Do five minutes of light stretching followed by a “floor assessment” of your tension patterns.  Set the timer for 10 minutes and relax your parts to the floor, breathing quietly and thoroughly, before hopping into bed.  This should make getting into REM state that much easier".
 As someone who practices 'chair-asana' on a daily, hourly basis, I've taken her words to heart!

Making the change to ensure good quality sleep means changing habits and establishing new routines. Some random tips for healthy sound sleep I've picked up over time are:
  1. Avoid stimulating drinks, conversations, television and other similar activities immediately before bed. 
  2. Spend time winding down; that can include a relaxing bath (with or without candles and aromatherapy)
  3. Get regular physical movement - a good walk each day stimulates/coordinates our brain cells and the muscles leading to better functioning
  4. Sweet talk - with yourself and if you have one, your beloved - quality mutually rewarding intimacy and sexual expression
  5. Review your day and congratulate yourself for things well done
  6. Avoid focusing on the things you could have done better - write those down and tell your self that you will review them in the morning
  7. A warm drink before bed can be helpful
  8. Think of five things you are grateful for and feel the feelings associated with that gratitude
  9. Review the things you want to do the next day and imagine them done well
  10. Ensure you are warm enough/cool enough and comfortable in bed
  11. Clean, fresh linen and smooth sheets always feels good
  12. Keep electrical appliances away from your bedside
  13. Don't read newspapers or action books or watch television in bed
  14. Make your room as dark as possible (optimal hormone release at night requires darkness)
Sleep well!


lisa said...

Oh those last 14 points are my mantras. I get so tired (pardon the pun) of people 'teasing' me for mostly being in bed by 9pm and waking at 6am, preferably 7am. I have always valued sleep as part of my normal health routine, just like the foods I eat, the laughter that I share, and my daily activities, modified exercise like housework due to my busy lifestyle and active little family. Thank you for raising awareness on how important that 'waste of time' can be.

Carolyn Hastie said...

You are so sensible Lisa! Your routine will keep you well, healthy and vibrant for your lengthy life time! Your telomeres will be happy too!

My Open Source Software Development Blog said...

I have found out that I actually get more work done if I sleep enough. A couple of years ago I was very tired each and every day. I could not find time to do the things I needed. Then I started to discipline myself and go to bed so I get around 8 hours of sleep. After a couple of weeks it turned out that I got more things done, since I was not so tired each night.

Good article BTW.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for your feedback, glad you found the post interesting. Your comment about getting more done when you were more disciplined about sleep makes perfect sense. Our subconscious goes to work when we sleep. Our conscious distractable mind is out of the way and that vast intelligence of the subconscious is able to 'get things done'. That realisation was great for me as a classic achiever :-)

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

I need to print this out and read it everyday !
Very timely advice for me.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Good idea Trish! We all need reminding of the things that help to keep us healthy and happy! We can so easily get 'caught up' in the day to day doings, that we forget to stop and take stock of where we are heading if we keep traveling the same way. At least, I find that's so for me. Thanks for your comment!

Wife to the Rockstar said...

this explains what's wrong with me!

Carolyn Hastie said...

Does it also explain how you can make it right?? Hope so :-)

Nic Bednarek said...

Hi Carolyn, I'm grateful I don't have any issues with getting my 8 hours- I can't be kept awake after 9pm most nights! There is a fantastic book called The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson which has a chapter entitled Let Us Sleep- he's a big fan of working less, sleeping more. I'm with him on that one :-)