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The Busy and the Restless

What is it that makes us so restless? I get restless from time to time and feel the need to travel or to get out in nature. Other times I feel the need to clean out - clean house, organize, get rid of “stuff”. But for this post I’m actually referring to lack of rest or lack of sleep.

Why do so many of us lack sleep? Not get enough rest? Do we really think that because there are only 24 hours in a day that we need to be productive 20 of those hours and can get by on so little sleep? It’s a myth! A falsehood! An indisputable untruth. We all need rest and an adequate amount!

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems that can significantly diminish health, alertness and safety. Untreated sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes and other chronic diseases.” The list is long and the effects can be staggering.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that “Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.” They go on to say that    “Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other.  In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep.  Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.”

Getting enough sleep is good for your health. There are several recommendations when it comes to how much sleep you should be getting. The best indicator is how you feel when you get up. If you can wake up without an alarm clock and feel rested, you got enough sleep.  If you’re like most people, the ones that hit the snooze button over and over, you’re not getting enough rest. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. Everyone goes through periods of restlessness or waking up in the night. Chronic sleep loss is a big concern though. When you continually and consistently do not get enough rest, your health will suffer. There are a number of techniques to combat this health stealer. Techniques are great if you’re implementing them and they work, so here are a few:

 

  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule – Plan to go to bed at the same time every night (yes, even on the weekends) and get up about the same time each day allowing the prescribed 7-9 hours. If you’re used to getting only 6 hours, start with 6 and a half and progressively increase the number of minutes each night. You won’t miss the awake time as you’ll become more productive during those hours.

  • Consume your liquids early in the day. If you’re getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, then use the technique we use on our children, don’t let them drink before bed. The general rule of thumb is no caffeine four to six hours prior to bedtime, but I would include all liquids in that four-hour timeframe

  • Get regular exercise. When your body gets the amount of movement/exercise it needs each day, you are generally more tired by the end of the day and able to sleep better.

  • Cut out the noise and lights in your room. Make it dark and quiet. Many studies have shown how the body reacts to lights and sounds. When the sun comes up your body should naturally wake, and when it sets, it’s generally time for your body to rest. Try to keep the room you sleep in similar to that cycle.

  • If you need to, set an alarm to make sure you go to bed. If you need one to get up in the morning, then there is a good possibility you need one to remind you it’s time for bed.

  • If your struggle is falling asleep, then try some breathing exercises. The practice of meditation has been around since the beginning of time and the reason it is still around today is because it works. We just get a little too busy to remember to do it. Start by getting comfortable in your bed, then focus on your breathing. Breath in for two counts, hold it for two counts, then exhale for four counts. Repeat breathing in for three counts, hold for three counts and exhale for six counts. As you feel your body begin to relax on the exhale, continue this pattern breathing in for 2-4 counts, holding it for the same number and exhaling for double the count. On days when my mind is racing with thoughts of the day or what needs to be done, this little technique has done more to help me fall asleep than anything.

  • Researchers have found that a true vacation can help interrupt habits like working late or watching an electronic screen before bed. Our restless nights are often a result of the chatter in our heads about work related issues or the daily grind of what needs to be done and thoughts of our current situation. A great way to disrupt those thought patterns is by taking a vacation.

 

Naps can play a big role in your overall sleep. If you’re napping late in the day and cannot sleep at night, your nap may be too long or too late. If, on the other hand, you do not nap at all even though you find yourself sleepy throughout the day, a power nap may be in order. Here’s the scoop on power naps.

  • A power nap will boost your memory, cognitive skills, creativity, and energy level

  • The 20-minute power nap -- sometimes called the stage 2 nap -- is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.

  • Best time of day for a power nap is right after lunch - about 1-2 pm.

  • Set your alarm so you don’t sleep more than 30 minutes.

Rest plays a very important role in your overall health and wellness. If you’re not getting enough rest after trying these techniques, visit your doctor and consider doing a sleep study.  We all need adequate amounts of rest.

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.” ~Exodus 34:21