Back to Dreamland: How to improve your sleep

 

We are all human beings who experience the same fears. Currently, we are physically apart but emotionally connected, with shared shivers of anxiety for an uncertain future. The news seems to be always on, whilst contemplations arise on whether the world as we knew it has vanished. What will “normality” look like in a post Covid19 world? Is this evolution acting out in fast-forward? What is the teaching behind all this? Is there even teaching? These questions now ceaselessly inhabit our minds. In fact, a poll conducted by Kasier Family Foundation found that 45% of Americans feel that the present crisis has negatively affected their mental health. This raises the question: what can be done to cope in these emotionally draining times? A sole certainty that lies in a crisis is it perpetuates change. Adapting to it can be stressful, and at times feelings of helplessness will arise… but we must adjust our sails. 

 

A little stress and anxiety can be helpful to drive and motivate us, and in extraordinary situations such as the present one, these feelings make us stay at home; wash our hands frequently; freeze us from hugging our loved ones. Nevertheless, excess levels of stress and anxiety can have dramatic repercussions on various spectrums of our lives, one of which is the inability to relax and fall asleep. Worries on why you can’t fall asleep will subsequently arise, racing thoughts and restlessness become further acute until insomnia, anxiety and stress enter viciously into a cycle in which the exit direction is very hard to see. 

 

We all know how a good night’s sleep recharges and energizes us, physically and mentally. Have you ever asked yourself what lies behind this phenomenon? During sleep, many important things happen to the brain. We flush toxins away that have been built up as burning of energy during the day. It is also during sleep that we integrate new information with information that we previously learned. But it is not just the brain that benefits from sleep, our bodies do too. If we don’t get enough sleep, we increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The immune system is also positively affected by sleep; thereby a deficiency will leave you vulnerable to external, malevolent, agents. The metabolic system is also very sensitive to sleep deficiency. Does it ever happen to you that when you are feeling drowsy and tired you start eating anything that sits in front of your eyes? 

 

Good nutrition, exercise and sleep are said to be the three pillars of good health; knock one down and the remaining two start trembling. Out of the three, sleep is perceived to be the pillar we possess less control of. Sometimes we just can’t fall asleep. As kids, when this problem arose we were told to count to 100 and bam! Welcome to dreamland! As adults, it really isn’t as simple, but there are certainly some habits one can implement to support a goodnight’s sleep, and who knows… reach dreamland again?

 

Firstly, regular bedtime is central and essential. Scientists and psychologists tell us that having a sleeping routine will regulate our circadian rhythm which, in turn, regulates our mood. This habit will be your anchor: no matter what happens during the day, the time you go to bed will not change. This should be integrated with a cue to wind down and ease off your snooze.  

 

It is widely acknowledged that your devices monitor your sleep. As the price of electricity has dropped, the use of it per person has increased tenfold. This increased exposure to artificial light, essentially, tricks the brain into thinking that dusk, instead of happening at 6 o’clock in the evening, occurs when we shut down our devices. This entails the brain sending a strong drive to keep us awake whilst they are on. Thereby, it seems logical that we should reverse this trick we have induced our brains into and shut down devices an adequate amount of time before going to bed. However, considering most things these days are happening online, and it is thanks to this that we linger on glimpses of “normality”, it is easier said than done. Nevertheless, all sources of emitted artificial light from technological devices, to safeguard your wellness, should be shut down at least one hour before we go to bed. 

 

Moreover, sleep forging can be coupled with CBD oil, a compound found in the cannabis plant; a possible game-changer. It has been found that CBD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, which promote a sound and restful sleep. While most people tend to use CBD oil for anxiety, it also holds the potential to stabilise our sleep cycle. The sleep cycle follows an alternating pattern between REM and NREM sleep: 25% of sleep is REM, eye movements become rapid and the brain is similar to when it is awake, the other 75% of sleep is NREM, essential for memory and hormone release; CBD has been shown to promote the third phase of NREM sleep. This phase is the most restorative: blood pressure drops, the blood supply to muscle increases, tissue growth and repair occurs, hormones are released. By prolonging this phase CBD can promote healthy and restorative sleep. 

 

CBD can be taken in various forms and manners: you can eat some CBD gummies as a late-night treat, take a relaxing bath with CBD oil, put an oil drop under your tongue, massage a sore part of your body with a CBD cream (it also promotes muscle relief!). The list continues, it really is up to your personal preferences! Get creative! Subsequently, pick up a book and immerse yourself in it. Reading before you sleep relaxes you significantly. In fact, a study has shown it reduces stress levels by 68%. When reading a good book, your mind is distracted from daily stresses and worries that cause tension. Stories give your mind the option to be somewhere else for a little while. The Alchemist, written by the mystical Paulo Coelho, fits perfectly for the occasion. This book takes you on the dazzling and soulful journey of Santiago, from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure. Coelho writes: “The possibility of having a dream is what makes the life interesting”, then let’s nurture our natural ability to dream (and sleep)!

 

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