Understanding Sleep Habits for Better Sleep
Ironically, the question of how to get a good night’s sleep seems to keep a lot of people up at night. My experience tells me that the secret sauce of restorative sleep is to first find genuine inner peace in order to have that good night’s sleep that’s truly peaceful.
If you are tossing and turning, not getting your 7 or 8 hours of commonly suggested sleep, it may well be due to a lack of a peaceful internal dialogue with yourself…and with others. Blame your lack of sleep on all of the things you have to do (even that notion is inaccurate). The list of inner strife about life goes on and on into the wee hours of the morning. You run out of sheep to count before you have to get up and drag yourself into another sleep-deprived day. See? No inner peace leads to no resting in peace.
What Kind of Sleeper Are You?
The Starfish Sleeper
Starfish sleepers are the sleepers who lie on their backs with both arms up around the side of their heads. It’s been hypothesized that these are folks who are immediately likable, are truly wonderful friends, and helpful to others. Uh, they do snore wildly, so it’s not all good.
The Fetal Position Sleeper
Surveys suggest that these sleepers are a bit more introverted and are protecting themselves against a world they may see as potentially dangerous. They make a strong first impression but don’t let that fool you. Left side fetal position sleepers place strain on the lungs, stomach, heart and liver.
Negative Effects of Not Sleeping Enough
In the Whitehall II study of more than 10,000 people over 20 years, the researchers found that those who had 5 or less hours of sleep doubled their risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. A good night’s sleep is also correlated with “brain plasticity” or positive changes in the structure and organization of the brain. It’s also rejuvenating and restorative for muscle growth, metabolism, tissue repair, and protein synthesis. That is, if we sleep.
Neurochemistry and Sleep
One brain chemical, GABA (gamma-aminobutryric acid), has been implicated in the connection between sleep and mood. GABA helps neutralize a chemical in the brain that promotes excitement, exactly what we don’t want when we are trying to go to sleep. When we have too little GABA, our thoughts go racing. This leads to impairment in the deepest stages of sleep that has been associated with anxiety, depression, and other disorders of mood.
As if all this isn’t enough, there’s also leptin and ghrelin to keep you up at night, thinking about how sleep affects our weight. Those aren’t Disney characters. They are hormones easily tweaked by how much or how little we sleep. Not enough sleep leads to leptin levels sliding and feeling unsatisfied after a meal. But wait, there’s more. Ghrelin, the other hormone, increases and that stimulates your appetite. This is a deadly combination for weight management. One study reported that getting less than recommended amounts of sleep adds 300 calories per day to your intake.
How to Get Recommended Hours of Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults 18–64 years old get 7–9 hours of sleep a night, though a minimum of 6 hours a night may be appropriate. For those 65 years or older, 7–8 hours of sleep a night is recommended and 5–6 hours per night may be acceptable.
Of course your can follow all of the prescribed steps to a good night’s sleep. No caffeine after late afternoon, cut back on alcohol, darken your bedroom and keep it cool, avoid back lit electronic devices for an hour before bedtime, find a comfortable mattress, don’t work before sleep, don’t exercise for several hours before bedtime and keep the bedroom only for sleep. Yep, we know them all.
Without inner peace, though, these external tricks won’t work. Here are some tips to help you get a full night of peaceful sleep.
Fill your life with a deeper sense of acceptance of others, feel gratitude for others, stir your compassion for others and create present-focused mindfulness. Marcus Aurelius observed, “She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.” Think that person rests peacefully? I do.
- Simplify your life, wherever possible.
- Prefer, rather than demand, insist, or expect.
- Forgive in order to increase your own inner peace.
- Find enjoyment in your every step.
- Stop seeking the approval of others – run your own race.
- See redirection in life, not rejection.
- See that life ultimately happens for you, not to you.
Pleasant dreams and have a peaceful rest.