Its a familiar story… you're tired, and you come home. You try to finish all of your tasks for the evening, but you're not sure if your boss is happy with that presentation you've just made, or the number of emails that you have managed to reply to…and you're scared that you are going to lose your job! Your heart beats faster…your anxious and your tired.
It's been like this for several weeks, but guess what, it's now taking it's toll. Your partner is moody at you, as you seem completely disinterested, and you're scared that you are loosing your sanity and you'll go broke.
You watch TV, feeling more and more tired, but for some reason, unable to get to bed. You finally trudge up the stairs, and limp to the bathroom, your mind still racing full of thoughts, like ants running around inside your brain. You look at your self in the mirror, and you know you look like a mess, but you dare not admit it to your partner.
You get undressed, and you get into bed. It's already extremely late, and you've got to get up early tomorrow!
Your mind is still racing, and your sick of it!
This tired feeling numbs your senses, and you feel like you're a zombie. As you turn the light of, you know that you'll get 5 hours tops (and that's if your lucky!). You lie in bed, initially staring at the ceiling, then at the moonlit curtains that's casting a shadow over the dresser. You're scared! You need this job, or else
You close you eyes and try to sleep, but no such luck. Your heart is beating faster than normal, and you feel achy around your heart. Your head feels like it is extremely hungover, like you've just been out in town. It feels like a big heavy doorknob that’s sitting on your shoulders Your mind gets dreamy, and very blurry…
You wake up, exhausted, eyesight not fully sharp. You stumble out of bed, and almost fall to the floor, head feels dead. Within the next hour, you will force some cereal down your throat, and drive to work, hoping to keep the bad feelings of dread to an all time low, and figuring another way to survive another day…
It's the same old story for the millions of people who get stressed each day and loose sleep over it
It's estimated that over 40% of people are stressed at work, while over 25% claiming to be super stressed. And that's not all, it's also estimated that people having time of work due to stress is costing the US economy over $299 billion yearly!
Yet, the cruel irony, is that for many of us who get stressed, we tend to skip on the very thing that can reduce it.
It's a vicious cycle. Your stressed, so you try to get some sleep. But of course, that's easier said then done, and you can't focus. If you are paranoid, or have OCD, you will (of course) do your routine more than once, in an effort that some dreadful thing won't happen. This naturally keeps the mind busy, making it even more difficult to relax.
You go to bed (eventually) only to discover that your imagination has suddenly gone into 5th gear. You close your eyes, but you're nervous about tomorrow (assuming it's not already tomorrow that is) and you look at the alarm clock. When you do wake up, you're extremely tired, desperately wanting another couple of hours at the very least (but knowing you're not going to get it).
And then you have to go to a job, which is mentally and emotionally draining, and you get stressed. You come home, and the cycle repeats itself
Stress causes lack of sleep, which causes more stress, which causes more lack of sleep, which causes more stress…
…and so on.
Do this for a long period of time, and you begin to mentally injure yourself!
You see, we need between 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night, as lack of sleep can cause
- Reduction in cognitive functioning. It impairs:
- Problem solving abilities
- Makes it extremely difficult to learn something more effeciently
- You won't remeber easily what was learned in the previous day, as sleep helps the consolidation of the memories in your mind. Simply put, you won't remember much!
It has been noted, that sleep deprivation has caused some of the biggest accidents in recent history. The 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 nuclear meltown at Chernobyl. Drowsiness does slow reaction time, similar to drink driving. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that fatigue causes around 100'000 vehicle crashes and around 1'550 crash related deaths per year in the US.
3. Reduced sleep increases your risk of:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- An irregular heartbeat
- A stroke
4. Sleep deprivation can impair your own judgement
Getting regular loss of sleep decreases your ability to make accurate judgements of a situation or event, thereby causing you to make inaccurate assements and not act wisely, including whether or not you are getting enough sleep.
5. Lack of sleep can increase a risk of death.
Found in the, ‘Whitehall II Study', Researchers from Britain looked at around 10'000 British Civil Servants over 2 decades, for sleep loss, and found out that the servants who had reduced their sleep from 7 hours to around 5 hours (or fewer) almost doubled their risk of death from different sources.
6. Loosing your sleep can make you gain weight
According to a study conducted in 2004, the people who slept for less than 6 hours a day were 30% more likely to suffer from obesity than those who slept between 7-9 hours. Not only that, but there is a link between sleep and the peptides that regulate the appetite. Shortened sleep is strongly associated with a decrease in Leptin and an increase in Ghrelin, Leptin being a protein hormone that has a key role in regulating appetite and Ghrelin being a hunger-stimulating peptide.
7. Reduced sleep actually ages your skin!
Too much reduced sleep leads to fine lines, lacklustre skin, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don't get your sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone, Cortisol. This breaks down the protein that keeps your skin nicely smooth and elastic, Collagen. Reduced sleep also reduces the release of the Human Growth Hormone, which help promote growth when we are young. As we get older, it helps increase thickened skin, muscle mass and strengthens bone.
8. Reduced sleep makes you depressed
Sleep disorders and reduced or ineffective sleep patterns all contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a poll conducted in 2005, people who were medically diagnosed with anxiety or depression were far more likely to be sleeping less than 6 hours a night.
9. Reduced sleep can kill your sex drive
Yes, it's now official, lack of sleep reduces your sexual libido. Having less energy, increased tension (probably due to stress and anxiety) and feeling extremely tired or fatigued are most to blame.
10. Reduced sleep reduces your immune system
This is the same system that helps fight off colds and illnesses, and having a poor sleep schedule really helps in increasing your chance in catching a cold.
I could relate to some of this. Having suffered from OCD, paranoia and stress, I regularly got around 5 hours if I was lucky. You literally walk around in work, wanting to put your head on the desk.
I couldn't concentrate, had mood swings, and got depressed and stressed way too easily.
You see, we lead such busy lives, we have commitments, families to take care off, and getting a good night sleep seems like the furthest thing on your mind.
Or it could be the opposite. Getting a good night sleep is something that you are desperate to achieve. But for some reason, you simply can't get it.
You have tried everything, from hypnotherapy to sleeping pills. And if you're not careful, you're going to turn into an insomniac.
Yet due to the nature of technology, we believe we can do so much more, in the same amount of time.
This causes breakdowns of relationships, family issues, and puts a burden on your job. Ask any stressed out person, life simply isn't fun, and your not fun to be around!
But why is sleep that important to reducing your stress levels, and getting you life back?
It's because what sleep does, which is vitally important to your well being
Sleep reduces stress by revitalizing your body when you are dreaming, as well as:
- Increasing more plasticity (connections between the nerve cells)
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleeping enhances your emotional memory
- Increases learning skills, and decision making processes
- Cognitive functioning is increased during a healthy sleep
And cognitive functioning is a big one, because it's the one that allows you to function more sharply!
So you see, not only does getting your quality sleep matter, it's more important than you think
Don't forget, your sleep goes through stages. Non- REM sleep (REM- Rapid Eye Movement) and then REM sleep (each cycle lasting around 90 minutes).
Stage 1- The transition to sleep – Takes roughly 5 minutes, eyes move slowly under the eyelids and your muscle activity slows down- brainwave electrical activity around light alpha (alpha between 8-13hz)
Stage 2- Light Sleep – Takes roughly 10 to 25 minutes and is when your eyes stop moving, your body temperature decreases, and your heart rate slows – brainwave activity around theta to deep alpha (theta between 4-7hz)
Stage 3- Deep Sleep – If you are spiritual, this part would be when you lose your sense of self, or you have achieved connection to the universal source. If you were to be awakened, you would feel very groggy, and dis-oriented. The blood flow is directed from your brain to your muscles, allowing the restoration of your physical energy. Brainwave state, 0.5 to 3hz (delta)
Stage 4 – REM sleep – Normally between 70-90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep. It's called REM because your eyes dart back and forth, and you are dreaming. Due to having a sense of self, you actually go back up to theta. It is this state where your legs and arms are paralyzed and and your heart beats and blood pressure increases, while your breathing shallows. Images are very vivid (well, you are dreaming after all!)
It's stage 3 that is the crucial one. When you are in deep sleep, HGH is released, and you feel more refreshed. The only way to get more stage 3 deep sleep, is to start going to bed early i.e. spend more time in bed!
You will feel more refreshed, think more clearly, but most of all, feel alive!
But spiritualists also see sleep in a different light.
We have non-physical contact points, between the non-physical and the physical (the non-physical being part of the multi-verse). When we are asleep, life energy or Qi, trickles through these contact points, or votices. These votices are your chakras, and it is the chakras when you are sleeping that ultimately govern how refreshed you feel when you wake up.
Your chakras allow the Qi to nourish your vital organs, including your brain. This is why meditating is so important if you wish to have a quick dose of energy during the day. Just 10 minutes of meditation done during your lunch hour will helps re-energize you, as meditation can help open and all life energy to give you a burst of energy (I've done this successfully while sitting in my car, engine turned off).
However, your chakras are not the only reason why getting your sleep is vital in reducing your stress and anxiety levels for the short, to long run
A protein called the Circadian Rhythm is also important. This is essentially your internal body clock, and is responsible in stopping you having a good nights rest, especially if you are doing shift work in your job.
Simply put, the body requires routine.
If you go to bed at different times during the week, your circadian rhythm will be out of sync, and as a result, your deep sleep will suffer.
So not only are your chakras passing the vital life energy to your body, but your internal body clock is also happy, as well as your Human Growth Hormone helping you out while your in REM sleep, by:
- Building stronger bones
- Improving your sleep patterns
- Increases the synthesis of new protein tissue, helping muscles repair or recovery
- Helps improve the quality of your heart and Kidneys
- And (of course) produces more energy.
So as you can see, the Human Growth Hormone plays an important role in the development of your emotional and physical well-being, as well as physical healing.
But this does beg a question, how does one get sleep when one is super stressed?
The trick here is to (somehow) relax the mind.
You've got to break the cycle somehow. The best way is to relax the mind to a degree that you can nod off.
In a moment, I'll talk about quick ways you can relax the mind when you are stressed at work, but for now, let's look at some quick ways to help calm the mind enough for you to get to bed and get (at the very least) your 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep (and that's loads, by the way).
- Have a warm relaxing lavender bath
- De-clutter your bedroom
- Stop mind engaging activities 1 hour before going to bed
- Take up the art of mindfulness meditation
- Have a warm glass of milk before going to bed
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm
- Turn the clock the other way, so you don't get distracted by the time
- Read Heart Warming stories
- Listen to a Delta Entrainement CD (I recommend the ARVARI, as they guide you to Delta extremely well)
- And it goes without saying, but a nice air-cooled, comfy bed (and pillow) goes a long way!
But sometimes, you simply cannot get that restful sleep that you need, then what?
Believe it or not, there are tactics that you can use to get (some) refreshing energy to not only get you through your tough day in the office, but also get your mind remotely sharp.
- Learn to meditate in a private place, like your car
Just doing this for 10-15 minutes, either at break time or lunch, will help you feel some energy from your non-physical self. Try this as a quick test
- Do deep belly breathing for a minute
- Now listen to the breathing intently. Feel it and pay it attention when it enters your body and when it leaves
- Now close your eyes, and keep your attention on your breathing.
- Focus your attention for as long as possible, and you should find that a healing peace will flood your stomach area. You will feel very present, and you will have opened, or balanced your solar plexus chakra (the one responsible for personal willpower, ironically;-)
This will be enough to calm your mind down, so you can relax. If you can also balance this with feeling love flow and permeate your body, you will be able to feel re-energize and allow the Qi to make you slightly more refreshed and alert, as well as being able to de-stress you.
To feel love, try this:
- Again, take some deep belly breaths for about a minute. This will help calm and slow down the mind (controlling your breathing helps control the mind)
- Now, imagine hugging somebody you deeply love and admire. This could be your boyfriend/girlfriend, sister/brother, husband/wife, you get the picture;-)
- Really try to imagine hugging them in your favorite place (this is your imagination, so choose any place you like)
If done correctly, you should feel love emanate from your heart chakra, and permeate your body. This will be a very unconditional, healing form of love, and you will start to begin dissolving any current psychological or emotional issues you have (true love always heals;-).
Try using your imagination to, ‘guide' this love around your body. It should be pretty easy to do.
Using this with being present in the 1st exercise will not only help your mind stop racing, but will relax you, help you de-stress, re-energise you and give you a clear head. You can try this in your car (with the engine turned off, obviously) for about 10 minutes, and feel the difference..
2. Have a 15 minute Delta power-nap
If you do have a racing mind, and being in the present moment is simply too difficult, try buying a 15 delta power-nap mp3, and listen to it when you are in the car (again, engine turned off;-)
You can get some great mp3's that really help your brain reach near the delta state, and will allow you to de-tune fairly easily, and a power nap increases the cognitive function up to 40%. You can get a 10 min mp3 to a 35 min one here (I use a 15 min myself).
3. Learn how to feel the love while in the workplace
You can try this one you've mastered the above exercise, but this time, while inside doing your job. It's surprisingly easy to do once you get the hang of it, and when you let it spread through your body when you are sitting down, will help de-stress you in the moment and re-energise you.
4. Keep drinking the water
Not really a tactic, but I thought I must include it on this list, as not drinking enough water throughout the day will dehydrate your body, making the stress worst! So keep drinking the water, and avoid the caffeine. This alone will work wonders, and you will keep your organs ticking over
Lack of sleep and stress, when combined, make a deadly duo. But you can get your sleep, and as a result, your life back. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know below. I would love to hear from you;-)