HELP! I’M SLEEP DEPRIVED AND UGLY
By Coach Kat, August 19, 2020, copyright Bronwyn Katdaré 2020
A great night of quality sleep is essential for feeling energized and focused, helping you look better, and staving off chronic disease. When you sleep better, all systems start to function properly.
When your sleep is off, everything is off. Just one night of crappy sleep can result in irritability, lack of focus, reduced vigilance, higher risk of accidents, puffy skin, sallow or sagging skin, and fatigue. This is really due to a lack of deep sleep, rather than getting too little sleep overall. Stages 3 and 4 deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) and REM sleep are the stages that keep the body and brain functioning optimally. Stages 3 and 4 are the physically restorative sleep stages; this deep sleep occurs in the first 1/3 of the night. Most growth hormone is produced during this time for cellular growth and repair through protein synthesis. Also, during these stages, the brain filters out the extra information it took in during the day but is no longer needed, which is important in order to fall into REM sleep.
During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, mental restoration is happening. REM sleep happens during the last 1/3 of the night. Heart rate and respiration increase and your body uses almost as much energy as it does when awake. In REM sleep, information is being connected and produces dreams. As well, information is solidified and stored so memories can be created. Prolonged sleep deprivation leads to memory lapses, delusional thinking, hallucinations, and paranoia. If you are sleeping only 5-6 hours a night, you are missing out on REM and memory will be affected. Over years, chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, neurological problems, altered hormone production, impaired temperature regulation, and lower immune function.
There are so many directions this blog could take (I’m feeling a workshop in the making!) but we are going to focus on one aspect of how to encourage your body and mind to get better sleep tonight.
Our natural state is thinking: this is how we interact with and process our days. How can we shut down the thinking brain so we can fully optimize our energy through rest and recovery? Meditation is the single most effective way to calm the nervous system so you can get to sleep easier and faster. Let’s look at some options.
1. Using Breath. Deep, slow, centering breath leads to physiological changes like decreasing muscle tension, blood pressure, and heart rate. Even taking a slow inhale/exhale during the day or when feeling anxious will help.
The 4-7-8 breathing practice is one of my favorites and I use it every night before bed. This was developed by U.S. Navy SEALS because heart rate can throw off the trajectory of a sniper’s shot.
The 4-7-8 breathing practice immediately lowers the heart rate. To enter sleep, you need a heart rate of 60 or lower. Taking in and holding the breath, slightly increases oxygen level so the body does not have to work so hard. The long, slow exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest/digest/relax” system). By doing this practice before bed, it mimics breathing while sleeping.
To do this technique: inhale for a count of 4 – hold for a count of 7 – and exhale for a count of 8 while the tongue rests at the back of your teeth on the roof of your mouth so breath glides over it. When beginning this practice, start with a cycle of 4. As you get better at doing this, you may increase to a cycle of 8.
2. Meditation. Meditation decreases stress hormones, increases cognitive function, improves blood pressure, improves sleep by increasing time in slow-wave restorative sleep and time producing 70% of growth hormone (anti-aging hormone is released in slow-wave sleep). Meditation also increases time in REM sleep. REM contributes to memory consolidation, emotional processing, and dreaming. When meditation is practiced at night, melatonin levels increase to initiate falling asleep. The act of bringing the mind back to center is the heart of meditation, not the quiet mind. Meditation strengthens focus because we catch the mind wandering and bring it back – repetition creates strength and focus.
3. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is gently focusing attention and awareness on the present moment. In the present moment, you are aware of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that occur as well as being aware of the surrounding environment. Mindfulness improves symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances as well as decreases daytime tiredness and fatigue. It also alleviates worry and a racing mind – this includes worrying about not sleeping! How many of us look at the clock and think, “OK, I can still get 5 hours of sleep….3 hours…2 hours.” Mindfulness works better for insomnia, daytime fatigue, and depression than practicing good sleep hygiene (ie., relaxation or sleep education).
I encourage you to try any of these options. Immediately prior to sleep, I practice Reiki while chanting and doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This helps me to be mindful by staying in the present moment and releasing the goings-on of the day.
(Bronwyn Katdaré is a certified plant-based holistic health coach, specializing in intuitive, lifestyle, and functional medicines. She is a Shamanic practitioner, an attuned Reiki II practitioner of the Usui and Karuna traditions, and a facilitator of other energy-healing modalities. Bronwyn is guest faculty with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and a graduate of the FSS Three Year Program of Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing. Bronwyn practices healing modalities with the dogs she trains at Katdaré K9 Coaching. She is also interested in quantum physics, astrophysics, transpersonal psychology, and ecopsychology).