If you are one of my clients, you know I encourage everyone to listen to your body for signs of emotional distress. Neglecting our physical health can cause emotional and cognitive trouble. Sleep is one of the four areas for healthful living that I repeatedly emphasize. It turns out that no matter how much an overachiever you may be, or how much stress you can handle, the lack of heavy, regular doses of sleep will create more trouble than you can cope with happily or effectively.
Get outside. A tiny piece of our brains called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) detects the dimming of daylight and causes melatonin to be produced. Melatonin is a hormone that settles your minda and body, making you drowsy and ready to sleep. To work effectively, the SCN has to have plenty of daylight in the first place. Spending endless hours inside contributes a great deal to the insomnia suffered by an estimated 23 percent of American workers. Artificial light is not a substitute for sunlight, so that little SCN does not detect the waning of the day needed to keep our circadian clock regulated.
Turn off the computer and television. Another culprit is the blue light rays emitted by television and computer. That light in the spectrum keeps us mentally stimulated and again prevents melatonin from being produced.
How much sleep you need to function at your cognitive, physical, and emotional best is not as easy as saying we all need eight hours a night. We have different needs according to age, developmental stage, times of stress, and general energy level. What we do know is that prior to the miracle of electric light, we slept most of the nighttime hours, so, close to ten hours a night.To think that a massive change in our biological requirements occurred with technological advancement, stretches the limits of reason. We still need to eat, sleep, work and play in roughly the same ways we have for thousands of years. But in the span of less than a hundred years, we have changed our habits to include some very unhealthy lifestyles.
Some scary notes about sleep deprivation:
It isn't more prescription or over-the-counter sleep medication you need. It's a reliance on your own healthy body to interact with nature (the dimming and brightening of sunlight) to get the sleep you need. When, after exercise, healthy nutrition, and regular "play" time, you are still unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, it will be time to look at the emotional issues you are trying to cope with and address those with professional, again non-medication, help.
Marilyn Miller, MS, LPC ~ Psychotherapist
...Delighting every day in helping people find peace in their lives, relieving anxiety, depression, and promoting self-care.