by K.C. Lomonaco, Psy.D., R.N.
Today we are going to talk about sleep! Anyone else laying awake wondering about the state of the world right now? No, just me? All the same, sleep is so vital to our wellness for so many reasons: it helps us heal our bodies (helps with cardiovascular health and tissue regeneration), it helps us unplug and reset, it boosts immunity, helps to balance hormones, controls hunger, and helps us focus and concentrate, helps process and consolidate information throughout the day and it's our memory maker (it processes/files our memories).
When we don't sleep, all that can go out the window. Sleep also has a bidirectional relationship with mood and anxiety meaning when we don’t sleep well we can have increased depression and anxiety. So here are some thoughts about sleep!
Here are some interesting statistics about sleep in America :
10-15% of the population have chronic insomnia,
It is often very difficult to establish the etiology of insomnia
$12 billion spent on sleep disorders annually
$2 billion spent on medications to treat insomnia (ACK)
Insomnia impacts the quality of life and increases the risk for accidents. Sleepy driving can be as risky as drunk driving.
Medical problems can produce insomnia: pain, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disease, and stomach issues can all make or create sleep problems!
So how do we get better sleep? Believe it or not there are a lot of things we can do throughout the day to help improve nighttime sleep. Sleep does come in stages and while the science behind sleep is really cool (and way beyond my paygrade) I won’t bore you with it! Here are some tips for better sleep:
Exercise is actually a great method of making sure your sleep is consolidated at night and that your body burns through some of the stress hormones that build up in our body. So come to the gym and lift heavy shit! But also go for walks, do yoga, hit the trail, or get on your bike.
Unplug from the world when you can. I recognize that it's a privilege for us to unplug but for our sanity and wellness sometimes we have to turn off the news, log out of social media and hit the gym, the trail, the mountains, or the hay! Stress makes sleep more dysregulated!
Making sure you eat well throughout the day
Stay hydrated throughput the day.
Work through hard things with friends, family, and in any way you think would be helpful (journaling, art, therapy).
Do set up a routine around bedtime. If you’ve worked with or had kids you know that routine is vital. Start about an hour before bed by turning down sounds and lights, get a routine that includes a hot shower/bath, reading or meditation, and then hit the hay!
Try relaxation techniques if you have trouble falling or staying asleep. There are great apps out there to help. Calm, Insight Timer, UCLA Mindful are just a few. D
Avoid alcohol. I know I’m a bummer every time but I will say it over and over. Alcohol actually disrupts sleep, even though it may help you fall asleep it messes up brain waves and makes sleep less restful and can create long term problems.
Make bed for sleep and sex only! Don’t read, eat, fight, or watch tv in bed if you are having trouble with sleep.
If you are having trouble sleeping, get out of bed until you are sleepy, then try again!
Medications can work but should be used short term only! Talk to your doctor/provider if this is an ongoing issue. There are over the counter medications as well, most of them have Benadryl in them. Use with caution and again short term!
Therapy can help! There is, believe it or not, specific therapy for insomnia and there’s great evidence behind it! It’s called CBTi! Check it out
Before going for heavy hitting medications try natural remedies: teas and herbs are great resources. Ask at your local natural grocery store but Melatonin, Valerian, Kava, and other mixes work great for some!
Stay well and healthy out there Kali Folx and get your ZZZZZZ’s. Hope to see you lifting heavy shit soon!