Stress and Sleep – Part 1

So how are you sleeping nowadays? Need a little work perhaps?

Everyone needs their sleep, but for any business executive, sleep and renewal are important for two key reasons:
• To repair the physical wear and tear of a day of business.
• To “subconsciously process” the stressful events of the day, thus helping to reset our emotional “clocks” for the next day.

Sleep and Emotion:

Research has proven that REM (rapid eye movement or “dreaming”) sleep is crucial for the processing of stress. REM-deprived laboratory subjects are demonstrably less able to handle the normal stresses and strains of daily life.

They are much more likely to make mountains out of molehills. They are much more likely to over-react and to make poor decisions.

Along with a reasonable quality of sleep (i.e. at a dreaming level) we also need a reasonable quantity of sleep for optimal recovery.

Just how much is “enough” sleep is highly individualistic, but something in the range of five to eight hours is considered “normal” – that’s five to eight hours of sleep, not tossing and turning, and “horizontal worrying”.

Strategies for Better Sleep:

  1. Ensure that your room is DARK. Light is a switch that turns the brain on. You are just another energizer bunny battery pack!
  2. Cool rooms induce sleep more certainly than warm rooms, but a higher body temperature during sleep deepens sleep and increases the body’s production of melanin. (The more melanin you have, the better functioning is your Pineal gland, the more awake you are in the daytime and the deeper you sleep at night).
  3. If you exercise regularly, doing so after 4pm is likely to leave you physically “discharged” and so to induce sleep.
  4. Reduce or abstain from caffeinated products (tea, colas, aspirin, chocolate) for at least 4 hours before sleeping.
  5. Don’t drink liquids after 7pm. A walk to the toilet disturbs sleep patterns unnecessarily.
  6. Reduce or abstain from nicotine (powerful stimulant) after 7pm.
  7. Do not drink alcohol to induce sleep. While it can induce sleep, studies suggest it interferes with the duration of REM sleep. You may sleep 8 hours on a couple of scotches, but will wake feeling less refreshed than from non alcohol induced sleep.
  8. Generally it is not a good strategy to take medication designed to induce sleep. Like alcohol, these interfere with REM, and introduce tolerance and dependence issues you can do without. But there is an exception: Where the “habit” of sleeping for an extended period of time without interruption has been so badly eroded that a “re-boot” is required, it may be useful to use a short course (say 7 nights) of a light-dose sleeping assist to reestablish the habit. Then move off the medication (by progressively reducing the dose to nothing over the next week) to allow your system to find its own new rest pattern.
  9. Establish a regular pattern of preparation for sleep, starting 15 minutes before you intend to lie down. Even if disrupted by travel, attempt to maintain the same actions and sequence whenever possible. Do this for a night or two and you’ll actually feel yourself beginning to become drowsy as you go through your motions.
  10. If you have chronic sleeping problems reserve your bed for ONLY sleep, so that you associate it with only this activity. Avoid writing letters, eating, or watching TV in bed.
  11. Turn your bedside clock around. This is especially helpful for clock watchers who worry so much about sleep they’ve missed, that they miss some more checking to see how much they have left! Cure: For 3 weeks, set a “mental alarm” to wake at the same time each day, and a physical alarm (smart phone or clock) somewhere out of sight, but within hearing. Don’t be surprised if, after a few nights, you begin to wake naturally, a minute or two before your alarm. You now have a new habit and a knack for waking when you want just by setting your brain to do that.
  12. If, after some period of time, you have not fallen asleep, get out of bed, go to another room, do not eat or drink, and do not watch TV, do “fun” things, and don’t do “work”. Read quietly, or meditate, and only go back to bed when sleepy.
  13. If you need to nap during the day, limit these to power naps of less than 20 minutes. This avoids the groggy hangover of a siesta, provides refreshment and avoids the risk of interfering with your regular sleep period.

So there you have it.

I think I’ll just take a little nap. See you next time.

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