It’s tempting to ignore sleep in your efforts to pack more into the day. It’s true, you can train your body to survive on less sleep, but the long-term harm to your body is enormous. Aside from weakening your immune system and stamina, sleep deprivation damages your mental health.
Your mind has insufficient rest time to sort through the day’s events, categorize them and shelve them away in its library. Hopes, worries and fears you have been avoiding in your waking hours, which would normally be resolved in a dream state, are ignored and are free to fester in your mind, creating potentially larger problems.
Lack of mental rest means your mind doesn’t have a chance to switch off and take a full nightly holiday. Your organs also need a nightly rest if you are to awaken refreshed and full of energy – it isn’t called beauty sleep for nothing!
Insufficient sleep gives you a false sense of well-being. Up to a point, it makes you fatigued and grumpy. But once you are chronically sleep-deprived it can induce a manic state where your mind is hyped up. It hasn’t switched off for a long time and as a consequence, it has forgotten how. Like the Duracell bunny, it keeps going and going.
You think things are great because your mind is still buzzing but after a while, the high wears off and you become restless. It becomes impossible for you to slow or calm down. This is especially common for the ‘Type A’ achiever personality.
You find yourself rushing to do everything until finally, you burn out. Your batteries run flat, and all your internal systems are overdrawn. You will have no residual reserves remaining and will crash (literally). Your short-term memory fails, your creativity dives and your comprehension and endurance become non-existent.
On a physical level, any number of problems can arise, from general tiredness to physical breakdown. Without sleep, the body does not have a chance to regenerate and rejuvenate. Take preventative measures now and ensure you get enough sleep each night to wake feeling alert, refreshed and motivated.
Don’t be a hero – sleep is a basic need and you do yourself no favors by shortchanging yourself.
Tips to help you improve your sleep habits:
1. Eat an early dinner
2. Drink herbal tea before bed. Relaxing teas such as chamomile, passionflower, and valerian are best
3. Avoid exercise or work-related activities immediately before bed
4. Eat a healthy diet
5. Go to bed at the same time every night
6. Drink most of your fluids in the morning or early afternoon so your bladder doesn’t wake you during the night
7. Sprinkle lavender oil on your pillow or fill it with lavender flower heads
8. Avoid or reduce stimulants such as caffeine, sugar or soft drinks. Energy drinks contain stimulants that remain in your system for at least 24 hours
9. Have a hot bath or massage before bed. Gently massage your feet and hands with a light oil
10. Make sure the room is completely dark
11. Concentrate on breathing deeply and steadily
12. Don’t have any music playing unless it is soothing, and ensure your bedroom is quiet
13. Do a ten-minute visualization exercise immediately before bed, or use the ‘Waste Basket’ method to clear your mind of the day’s thoughts
14. Tense and relax each of your muscles in turn, starting from your toes and working your way up to the top of your head
15. Naps during the day are fine if you can sleep well at night. If not, avoid them, it will only exacerbate your sleeping problems
16. When lying in bed say relaxing words to yourself like sleep, yawn, rest, relax to help you feel sleepy
17. Spend 10-15 minutes outside when you arise from bed. This helps reset your day/night clock so your body knows when to sleep.
Extract from The Art of Calm: Freedom from Stress & Worry by Talia Mana.
About Author: Talia Mana is a Health Psychologist, inspirational speaker and Author who specializes in personal growth and wellness. She is the founder of the Centre for Emotional Well-Being. Her first book, Romancing the Frogs: A Singles Guide to Love & Happiness helps people find love. Her second book The Art of Calm: Freedom from Stress and Worry offers more than 100 tips on stress management and is based on her own experiences with stress-related illness. Talia is currently researching emotional eating and mental health issues. You can visit her website at taliamana.com