It’s 3 in the afternoon and you’ve been pounding coffee and energy drinks all day. Your
nerves are a live wire. You’re irritable and unfocused and yet, you’re also exhausted. Your body and mind are drained and you seriously doubt if you’re going to make it to the end of the workday upright and awake.
Lack of sleep is not just making you feel fatigued. It may also be taking a profoundly dangerous toll on your physical, psychological, social, and professional wellbeing. Luckily, it’s never too late to begin improving your sleep, which in turn will improve your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The Warrior Mentality
Ours is an always-on society, in which productivity is paramount and indolence is anathema. That makes it very hard for grown-ups who value their reputation to admit they prioritize sleep in their daily lives. Indeed, the business world teems with successful entrepreneurs who boast that they have trained themselves to thrive on five hours or less of sleep per night.
Whether those claims are mere bluster, wishful thinking, self-delusion, or some emblem of extraterrestrial DNA, they have little relevance for or resemblance to the physiology of we mortals. The simple truth is that humans’ need for adequate sleep is as great, and as important, as the need for food, water, and oxygen. When you try to deny that need, not only will your physical health suffer, but so will your mental health, your relationships, and even your career.
The Brain’s Bath
For all our deep knowledge of the most complex systems of the body, sleep remains largely a mystery. Nevertheless, what is already known about sleep only affirms and illuminates its pivotal importance to overall wellness.
One of the most significant discoveries about sleep is the role that deep sleep plays in literally cleansing the brain of neurotoxins that have accumulated during the day. As the body sleeps, especially in deep sleep, the brain is bathed both in electrical waves and in waves of cerebrospinal fluid. These nightly “baths” not only clear debris but also help to prevent the development of beta-amyloid plaques, which are strongly implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Consistent and high-quality sleep doesn’t just help prevent the development of plaques in the brain, but studies have shown it also helps to prevent plaque formation in the heart and the arteries. That means with good sleep you’re going to be at significantly lower risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
A Better You
Ensuring that you have adequate rest, with seven to eight hours being optimal for most adults, will not only make you healthier but can also make you happier and more successful. These studies show that sufficient sleep is directly related to the reduction in anxiety and depression. In addition, sleep directly impacts the functioning of the hippocampus, the deep brain structure principally responsible both for encoding memories and processing emotions.
What that means is, when you sleep, your brain is at work parsing (and making sense of) the events of the day and storing important memories. Quality sleep is inevitably going to improve learning, memory, and cognition. Interestingly, it’s also going to improve your mood. With the hippocampus at work while you sleep, emotionally-charged memories will be processed more effectively and that can be a tremendous benefit.
In other words, if your brain is well-rested, you’re going to be both cognitively sharper and emotionally well-regulated. That will help you to thrive and grow in your personal life, your relationships, and your career.
What Is To Be Done
Understanding the benefits, and the necessity, of healthy sleep is only the first step to changing a behavior. You also need to know what to do about it. There’s no denying that it’s not always easy to get the sleep you need in our 24/7, tech-dominated world. However, with effort and a commitment to wellness and self-care, it is possible to cultivate good sleep hygiene.
First, it’s important that you establish a consistent nighttime ritual that prepares your mind, body, and spirit for sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
Before you lie down, you should prepare by doing the things you find most relaxing, such as taking a warm bath, listening to a podcast with “bedtime stories” or ambient sounds, journaling, meditating, or reading.
Above all, you need to cut off the distractions and avoid stimulants. Nix the caffeine in the evening and turn off the devices at least 2-3 hours before sleep. This will not only help you relax in mind and spirit but it’s also going to help your brain move into a healthy sleep mode. After all, screens have been shown to literally alter the functioning of the brain, including interfering with natural circadian rhythms and the production of sleep-supporting neurochemicals. So, make your evening a device-free zone to avoid the blue light so strongly associated with insomnia and disrupted non-REM sleep.
At Casa Alternavida, we can help you regain the healthy rhythm of life that you need, want, and deserve. This includes supporting you in developing strategies for ensuring healthy sleep as a vital component of holistic health and wellness. Reach out to us today to discuss how our caring team at Casa Alternavida can help you (re)discover the happy, healthy life you were meant to have!
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.