Sleep deprivation is such a hot topic today.
And, the reason it is talked about at the office, discussed at coffee shops and mumbled about softly in yoga and exercise classes is that we aren’t getting enough sleep, sometimes not any at all.
Why? Sleep is such a natural part of our existence, and yet we seem to be depriving ourselves of the very thing that will keep us productive and happy in our waking hours. I work in an industry that helps many insomniacs. Having been in the wellness field for over half my life, I have seen the most healthy, peaceful, success-oriented people not getting a full night’s sleep. Psychologists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, chiropractors and a host of other wellness professionals are “treating” clients who just can’t seem to get to sleep and stay asleep.
The quality of your life is in jeopardy when you can’t have a minimum of five hours of sleep per night. Seven hours minimum is preferable, but if you can manage five solid hours, consider it a blessing. If you are blissfully getting over seven hours of sleep each night, good things happen in your world.
Here are a few reasons why sleep deprivation is so prevalent in our society:
This goes without saying. If you are a chronically stressed-out person, your mind will continually race all day and night. You will worry about everything from money, to friends, to work, to social situations, to peer pressure, to love relationships, to your place in this world. Stress is like a silent killer. The more you have, the less sleep you will attain, and the more you will be prone to illness and disease. Period.
Any coffee or black tea, many types of dark chocolate, and any other food or drink item that contains over 100 milligrams of caffeine will surely disrupt your sleep cycle. This pertains to those who consume large quantities of these substances prior to bedtime. Initially, you might toss and turn for many hours, until your body gets tired of tossing and turning and you fall asleep. You may wake up having acquired about four hours of slumber, yet still feel tired and irritable. Caffeine in the evening is simply not recommended.
Alcohol and inflammatory foods (including processed foods and foods containing gluten) will activate the digestive system and put it into overdrive, causing the nervous system to react unfavorably and making sleep impossible. Initially, you may be able to get to bed and sleep for the first few hours, but inevitably you will wake up, stay awake and not be able to get back into full REM sleep.
The body just can’t handle sugar before bed. It resists it every single time. This also applies to overeating prior to bedtime. Eating too many calories at dinner and late-night snacking will both interfere with the circadian rhythm of the sleep cycle and cause indigestion, which doesn’t help rest.
4. Intense exercise.
Although you might think that intense exercise will exhaust your system, it actually produces endorphins that fire it up when it is performed too close to bedtime. This is mainly true of weight training or interval-type training (short bursts of energy mixed with short rest periods). Because these types of exercises are anaerobic activities (without oxygen), they use more energy to activate the heart and lungs and keep them racing for several hours after the exercise session.
Unless you have a natural affinity for intense exercise late at night, and have a few hours in between exercise and slumber, the most effective means to a good night’s sleep is to perform the intense exercises earlier in the day, when the body has a chance to fully recover. Otherwise, you may experience muscle aches and cramping legs during the night.
There are several other factors worth mentioning, such as drugs, hypoglycemia, asthma, pain and lack of proper nutrients. Until these are under some sort of management, insomnia will be a chronic habitual state night after night.
Sleep is nature’s way of balancing the dark with the light. A simple means to help with sleep deprivation is to make the room you are sleeping in very dark and cool, with zero unnatural light coming in. The senses need to feel as though they can shut down completely. This restores the natural melatonin that the body produces. Also, the presence of “white noise”, such as that created by a small fan, will help bring about some sense of peace and relaxation, and comfortably keep the air moving in the room.
There are numerous reasons why we aren’t sleeping, and even more remedies to cure the deprivation. It is advisable to seek help and guidance through natural resources and qualified people, as unnatural means become highly addictive and are ultimately ineffective. They are more like applying a Band-Aid to a wound. They feel good in the beginning, but then the pain returns and you are back to square one, frustrated and impatient.
Getting to the root cause of insomnia is a natural approach to giving the body what it truly needs. Everyone is different. Every person has a unique internal system that is solely his or her own. Everyone has his or her own way of healthfully approaching what can be a very confusing societal way of life.
Not sleeping isn’t fun! As the Beatles once sang, “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong.”