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Sleep Matters – understanding the importance of sleep and why everything starts with your brain.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation shows that  47% of adults struggle with sleep issues.  Are you one of this 47%? Perhaps you have trouble falling to sleep or do you wake frequently throughout the night? You might wake up in the early hours and find it hard to fall back to sleep. A lack of sleep can have a profound effect on your levels of stress, anxiety and mood – the good news is there are self-care techniques to help you and that’s why I am here.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the TV ads for the “best ever mattress” or the “most comfortable pillows”. You’ll perhaps take a warm bath in the evening, make sure you aren’t exposed to blue light or screens before you retire for the night ……there’s so much “out there” about this type of sleep promotion but actually, it all begins with your brain?

Sleep is vital for all human beings. It supports our immune systems, helps us to repair and  recover both physically and emotionally. Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on our minds and bodies yet so many adults simply accept that they don’t sleep well, and perhaps use crutches such as coffee and sugar to get them through the day.

All Sleep Is Not the Same

As we sleep, our brains cycle through two different types of sleep: REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep.

The first part of the cycle is non-REM sleep, which is composed of four stages.

  1. Between being awake and falling asleep.
  2. Light sleep, when heart rate and breathing regulate and body temperature drops.3
  3. Deep sleep
  4. Deep sleep continues

During REM sleep, the eyes move rapidly behind closed lids, and brain waves are similar to those during wakefulness. Breath rate increases and the body becomes temporarily paralyzed as we dream. On a typical night, you’ll cycle through four or five times.

If you have ever felt foggy after a poor night’s sleep, it won’t surprise you that sleep significantly impacts brain function. A healthy amount of sleep is vital to the brain’s ability to process what we’ve learned during the day and we have more trouble remembering it in the future. Those of you who have worked with me or read any previous blogs will know I talk about the “Stress Bucket” and the importance of emptying it. Poor sleep will mean your bucket remains full and you find it hard to function, your mood will suffer and your ability to make decisions and be productive will be affected.

Poor sleep is also linked symptoms of depression, seizures, high blood pressure and migraines. Immunity can be compromised, increasing the likelihood of illness and infection. Many of us will get a cold and say, “oh it’s because I am run down” – it’s true, being “run down” and tired can affect your physical health.

When I work with my client’s sleep is one of the first things we discuss, it is my barometer to measure how my clients’ mental health is improving as we work together.

How to encourage good sleep patterns

Understanding REM is the first step towards encouraging good sleep patterns which empty our ‘stress bucket’ but is also important to limit what we put in that bucket during the day to help to maximise the effectiveness of our REM. Knowing that what we choose to do and think every day can affect our sleep, who we spend time with, what we do and how we look after ourselves all contributes to our sleep experience.

One of the practical tools I teach about is the therapeutic benefit of essential oils, used during the day and at night to support our emotions and reactions to situations and experiences. Essential oils can affect a chemical change in the brain in as little as 20 seconds – they can be extremely powerful in creating a calm environment, not just at night. Part of the journey with encouraging good sleep patterns is to balance our emotions during the day as well as at night and oils can be supportive for this.

If you’d like to find out more about sleep and how to encourage good sleep patterns please click here to find out more about my upcoming “Chaos to Calm – Managing your mind to boost your mood” online course which starts on 18th January 2021. Sleep will be one of the key topics we explore as we look to helping us all regain our equilibrium after a challenging year.

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