As a shrink I have recently posted about depression, anxiety, relationship transformation, and sexual healing. I have reviewed alternative approaches to mental health from the shamanic, orthomolecular, and Ayurvedic genres; and have noticed that, across all such problems and perspectives, there are a few common threads embroidering wisdom. Stress, or hypertension, is believed to be a primary cause of most mental and physical illness. Sleep affects all aspects of our health, including stress levels (the amount of stress we experience and our ability to handle it). Both stress and sleep deprivation can shift the brain into Survival Mode (stress response), limiting thought, perceived possibilities, and courses of action to those associated with self preservation. Although much has been written about the importance of sleep, it seems like more and more people tell me that they just can’t get enough. Some see the reasons, and others don’t have a clue. As we examine their health, habits, and lifestyle we can usually come up with at least a few possible explanations for their dark circles and dolor. In this post we will take a look at what happens when we don’t get enough rest, and some natural ways to get more of it.
Harmful Effects of Sleep Deprivation
While writing this post, I realize that I am currently sleep deprived. I understand the reasons why, and what I need to do, but am still experiencing some of the effects of my bedtime burglary. One key here relates to the frequency of sleep loss. It happens to everyone once in a while, right? When such occasional sleep loss occurs, we may be a little grouchy, tired, or spacey the next day, but with a good night’s rest we are back to our perky, cheerful selves. If we are unable to sleep well for several nights in a row, there is a different ending to the story. The mental effects become more serious. We struggle through brain fog, finding it difficult to concentrate and make wise decisions. We become physically and mentally depressed, often fading away early in the day. Our risk of accidents and injuries at home, work, and while driving increases significantly. Click here to see if you are too tired to drive. If our sleep deprivation persists, it can cause harmful physical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Insufficient sleep weakens our immune system, causes weight gain, leads to anxiety and depression, can result in diabetes, sucks away our sex drive, causes heart disease, and gives birth to infertility. Web M.D. identifies seven serious health risks resulting from chronic sleep deprivation. Aging skin and hair loss are among the ten surprising effects of not getting enough sleep. Got your attention yet?
Tips and Tricks to Help You Sleep Better
So let’s take a look at some natural ways to get more sleep. Pharmaceuticals for sleep artificially alter our sleep hormones, and other hormones while they are at it; potentially causing a variety of health risks. Just read the warning labels to see for yourself. Lack of sleep increases the production of stress hormones which, in turn, can cause additional sleep loss. Preparation for a good night’s rest begins when we wake up each day. Our food, supplements, exercise, nature time, exposure to light, and other things are continuously conspiring to either help us sleep better or worse. The National Sleep Foundation suggests some tips and tricks to help us get a good night’s sleep. When we take these seven steps to better sleep, the Mayo Clinic says we will get the rest we need. A Harvard sleep program offers us 12 simple tips to improve our sleep. Whatever the source, there are a few simple, natural things that will prepare us for the sleep we dream of. A few of these include maintaining the same schedule seven days a week (the time we go to bed, and the time we get up), establishing bedtime rituals, making sure we eat our last meal of the day at least four hours before hitting the proverbial sack, getting daily exercise, eating foods rich in the needed nutrients, and keeping our stress levels down.
What has helped you sleep better? What things have helped you recognize the effects of sleep deprivation upon your mood and attitude? What things have made it harder for you to get the rest you need?
Photo credit: girl/afraid