Poor sleep health is an early sign that we may be anxious and/or are giving more energy out than we are getting back. It may be time to re-think our priorities.
Of course, there are times in many of our lives where sleep health is inevitably compromised. Raising babies and young children carries a licence for broken sleep. It is a natural part of parenting, but still unfortunately risks the potential for detrimental mental and physical affects.
As already touched on, self-care starts with being self-aware. Just as it is important to know not only where our main stressors are coming from and how it affects our body, it is also important to be aware of our quality and quantity of sleep.
Quality sleep is one of our basic essential needs. Without sleep we fail to function optimally on many levels. Our immune systems weaken, we become more susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections, we age quicker and experience more free radical damage (sleep hormones have powerful antioxidant properties).
Mentally, our temper and mood can become negatively affected and our ability to cope with additional stressors is significantly compromised. We have an innate 24-hour sleep-wake cycle called the circadian rhythm, timed naturally with the rising and setting of the sun. Even though we can override the hormonal stimuli that tells our bodies when to sleep and when to wake, we can only get away with altering the rhythm for so long before we experience detrimental effects.
Optimal sleep looks something like this:
- 7-9 hours in duration
- Ideally between the hours of 10.00pm and 6.00am (give or take)
- Fall asleep within 15 minutes
- Wake feeling refreshed
- No need to rely on stimulants (coffee/energy drinks/sugar) to wake up or substances or sleeping pills to fall asleep
Though our brains are resting while we are asleep, our body is busy taking care of us. We’re recovering and rejuvenating from the day before, digesting food, absorbing nutrients, detoxifying, cleansing, anti-aging and fighting off bugs, just to name a few. We can never really make up for the sleep that we lack, so where possible it should be a priority to find a healthy sleep pattern for everyone.
There are many factors that can affect sleep health including:
- Stress and anxiety
- Irregular sleep/wake patterns
- Over consumption of heavily caffeinated drinks, including more than one cup of coffee or black tea a day, or drinking synthetic energy drinks
- Smoking near bed time
- Watching TV or being on a phone, tablet or computer close to bed time
- Bright lights, street noise, loud music, too many visual or audio stimuli
- High intensity exercise within three hours of bedtime (some people are more sensitive than others)
- Alcohol consumption and heavy meals close to bedtime
- Too much light in the room (including lights on phones, clock radios and other electronics)
Stress and anxiety reduction
Learning to manage stress and anxiety is a big part of being empowered to live a happier and more fulfilled life. Anxiety and worry can be paralysing and in more extreme cases lead to states of total overwhelm and panic. It is important for us to take time when feeling anxious to step back and take a breath (physically and metaphorically). The 3-minute breathing space meditation from week 3 workshop is a perfect way to reset and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Being mindful of where we are spending our time and energy is key to self-care. An imbalance, or over-expenditure of energy in one or more areas can lead to stress, and in the long-term anxiety and poor sleep health. One of the ‘Own Time’ activities this week is to identify the areas in your life where you are placing significantly more energy and focus, and to reflect on what is impacting your work-life balance. We will discuss this more in the group workshop. For now, think about your sleep health, your work life balance and your ability to manage stress - they are all related.
‘Own Time’ activities
Refer to Your Empower Journal.