“When we shrink our whole reality down to pending projects, when our life becomes our endless to-do list, it’s difficult to put them aside each night and let ourselves fall asleep and connect with something deeper.” ~ Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time
On March 5th, we introduced Pillar #3 of “The Year of the Best You” – Sleep is Essential to Success. Today, we will recap how the month went with our attention on the areas of commitment to sleep and sleep hygiene. Our March worksheet encompassed 3 tasks – recording the amount of time dedicated to sleep each night; reviewing our current sleep hygiene & ritual; and jotting down 3 things to either add or change to the latter.
What gets in the way of sleep
Some of you may have no troubles at all with sleep and found the worksheets to be of little value. If so, that is truly awesome! On the other hand, the majority of us either do or will have the common sleep disorder insomnia at some point in time in our lives. Insomnia may present as hard to get to sleep, stay asleep or awake too early, where 1 in 3 adults have short-term insomnia (lasts for days or weeks) and 1 in 10 adults have chronic insomnia (at least 3 nights per week for more than a month).
In some cases, the cause of insomnia is not obvious, however, in many cases an underlying cause exists such as anxiety, stress, depression, pain, shift work, obstructive sleep apnea, and heartburn. Other causes of insomnia include certain neurological and cardiac conditions. Sleep studies may prove useful to some people for sorting out the cause, and in turn, an approach to management.
Why is sleep so important anyways?
A lot of research has focused on why we need sleep, and more importantly, the harmful effects of consistent insufficient sleep on our health and well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to many health problems including diabetes, heart disease, depression, and a shorter life expectancy. Other ill effects include making you look older by breaking down skin collagen, weight gain due to impaired metabolism and increased hunger, and weakening your immune system (which is why we are more prone to getting sick when we feel run down due to a lack of sleep). Even short-term sleep insufficiency can impair your judgment, ability to focus and mood.
What if I still have troubles sleeping?
I get it. We filled out the worksheets, dedicated 8 hours to sleep each night, ticked off all the do’s and don’ts, made modifications and still don’t feel refreshed every morning. My personal
struggle journey with sleep has been complicated by sleep deprivation during medical training, having children, stress/anxiety, gastrointestinal symptoms (heartburn/reflux), pet antics and more recently persistently enlarged tonsils following tonsillitis (leads to more frequent wakening secondary to snoring).
Despite the fact I prioritize sleep and am pretty consistent with my sleep hygiene and ritual, I still awaken many times in the night and toss and turn. Although I recognize that this can set up a negative association with sleep, it is not the road I want to continue to go down.
So, I have adopted a mind-shifting approach:
- I will do my best to get a good night’s sleep, but if it doesn’t happen, I will be fine and more likely to sleep well the following night.
- I will adjust my pillows to accommodate the physical disturbances with my sleep (i.e. raising my pillows will help my heartburn/reflux symptoms, however, it will not help my neck issues) – have to weigh the pros and cons.
- I will continue to commit to daytime meditation as it definitely helps with my ruminating thoughts at night.
- I have always wanted to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia and will now give it a try given the importance of this pillar!
Stay tuned next Sunday as we discuss Pillar #4 of the “Year of the Best You” – Mindfulness & Spirituality.
Until next week, sleep well.