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Life can be complicated, confusing, and stressful. Here you will find topical articles on a variety of issues known to affect physical and mental health. Each short article includes recommendations for further reading and other useful resources.

 

Sleep Glorious Sleep

By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:25PM

There’s almost nothing better than a full night’s sleep and nothing worse then a night of interrupted sleep. Ask any student who has slept a fitful night before an exam, or a professional who was sleepless before a big presentation or a parent of a newborn baby. If the trend continues for any length of time we find our minds have turned to mush, we’re cranky and feel just terrible. Why is that? Why is sleep so important?


Adequate sleep is essential to restoring the body through cell division and repair, promoting memory consolidation, and releasing needed growth hormones. A normal night’s sleep contains repeated cycles of specific activity, each consisting of specific restorative actions. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Sleep was long considered just a block of time when your brain and body shut down. Thanks to sleep research studies done over the past several decades, it is now known that sleep has distinct stages that cycle throughout the night in predictable patterns. How well rested you are and how well you function depend not just on your total sleep time but on how much sleep you get each night and the timing of your sleep stages. Your brain and body functions stay active through­ out sleep, and each stage of sleep is linked to a specific type of brain waves (distinctive patterns of electrical activity in the brain).”


If you are having trouble getting your beauty rest on a regular basis you are not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans experience sleeps problems on a nightly basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome, and an additional 20 million report sleeping problems occasionally, according to the National Institutes of Health. Stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. Having an anxiety disorder can make the problem worse. Stress or anxiety can cause a serious night without sleep, as do a variety of other problems. Over 30% of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work, driving, and social functioning at least a few days each month.


Inadequate sleep has been linked to:


• Mood and anxiety problems (in some studies sleep deprivation has been directly linked as a causative factor in the development of mood disorder)


• Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse


• Obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation


• High blood pressure


• Increased risk of diabetes


• Heart problems


• Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information


• Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents


How to Avoid Restlessness and Maximize Restfulness


At any age practicing good sleep “hygiene” can maximize our chances of restful, body restoring slumber. The following describes some approaches that may help:


• Exercise during the day to release tension and release body chemicals called endorphins, essential to enhancing mood. Consider trying yoga, a practice that is very effective in managing stress and anxiety.


• Release stress and anxiety through a diversion activity such as gardening, fishing, and other hobbies and leisure pursuits.


• Talk to someone for input and support if you have a concern or a conflict you are working through.


• Seek out exposure to natural outdoor light during the day


• Consume moderate amounts of caffeinated beverages during the day.


• Create a restful, comfortable place to ensure good sleep. Remove the TV and other electronic devices. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using a fan to drown out excess noise, and make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable. Make sure your pillow provides the best support for your style of sleeping (back sleeper versus side sleeper).


• Meditate or practice deep breathing to soothe the nerves


• Create a bedtime routine that enhances unwinding from the day’s activities: listen to soothing music, read poetry or a novel with a restful theme, listen to a relaxation tape


If these approaches fail, talk to your doctor if you still have continuing problems falling asleep. You may have a sleep disorder or need a prescription or herbal sleep remedy to assist in restoring healthful sleep. Support from a therapist may also be useful in managing stress and anxiety.


About the Author:


Informed by over 25 years of professional training and work experience as well as her many years of meditation and yoga practice, Ronnie Biemans, M.A., L.C.P.C., is guided by a core philosophy to focus on strengths, not deficits or pathology. By discovering, restoring and optimizing each person’s unique ability to thrive and meet the demands, of today’s fast-paced, stressful world, those who have encountered physical and emotional health challenges can discover ways to improve their lives and well being. Operating from her home office and in other community settings, Ronnie provides guidance and support to individuals, families and groups seeking to live healthy, balanced lives.


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