You arrive home exhausted with only one, overwhelming, desire – to quickly leap under the blankets. After hitting the bed, you begin to drift off, slowly being drawn into that wonderful, all-embracing stillness of sleep… and then you suddenly wake up. The sensation is horrible, as if you’ve just fallen from a tall building and smashed into a thousand pieces. Your eyes are wide open and that’s it, as far as your good night’s sleep is concerned.
Insomnia nervosa or sleep deprivation is another common, contemporary phenomenon. We are not discussing those occasional sleeping problems that happen to all of us from time to time, but rather the topic of chronic insomnia. It is a condition that often lasts for weeks, and in some cases even months, turning life into a nightmare.
Dr. Jessica Payne, head of the Sleep, Stress, and Memory Lab at Notre Dame University, and advisory board member for the NeuroLeadership Institute believes that
The sleep situation in our society has become a terrifying problem.
Nowadays more attention is often paid to diet and fitness activities; however, sleep may turn out to be more important for one’s overall health. This lack of understanding and recognition is reflected in the fact that sleep deprivation is not considered an illness by employers. Anyone who has suffered from severe insomnia consequently knows the feeling of having to keep ploughing on, no matter what.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and research published in the Sleep Journal, in 2011
sleep deprivation cost the US economy $63.2 billion
The authors of the report in Sleep Journal were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life, stating that the scale of the problem was not sufficiently appreciated by society at large. The issue was not one of absenteeism, but rather of lost productivity in “an information based economy”.
This impact on productivity is directly attributable to the poor focus and lack of concentration stemming from sleep deprivation, and as Dr. Charles Czeisler at Harvard Medical School notes, a few days of sleeping for 4-5 hours causes massive brain function impairment.
Dr. Payne believes,
Simply adding an extra 20 minutes to your sleep cycle increases performance two-fold.
I once personally experienced severe sleep deprivation. It lasted for six months and caused clinically diagnosed depression. My metabolism, digestion and hormones were impaired as a consequence and it took about three months to regain my normal sleeping patterns, and over half a year to normalise other bodily processes.
In this article I am going to share some tips, based on my personal experience and data from various pieces of research, on how to overcome sleep deprivation.
- Schedule sleep
It is vitally important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even during weekends or holidays. The idea of catching up with lost sleep during your time-off is a tempting prospect, but in reality can be harmful. When you are going through a sleep deprivation period it is crucial to stick to a routine. I recommend setting this schedule according to your work hours. If you have to wake up early in the morning, five days a week, then get out of bed at the same time during the weekend.
Always stick to the mantra that you MUST have a minimum of eight hours of solid sleep per night. Never sacrifice your sleep to have fun or socialize.
A couple of words at this point about early morning cardio.
It is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial practices for your health. However, if you feel that you can’t wake up one hour earlier, simply accept this and try to include more activities during your daily routine, or weave 10-15 minutes of highly intense cardio into your schedule before and after your evening workout.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
Take light herbal sedatives (or prescribed medication), grab a book and try to relax by reading.
DO NOT watch TV or log onto social media.
Using a Kindle is also not helpful. It has been scientifically proven that bright monitor light keeps us awake; it is perceived by the body as daylight, artificially inducing us to keep going. So, good old-fashioned ‘hardcopy’ books are your best friends in the fight against insomnia.
- Create relaxing bedtime rituals.
These could include a night-time bath with aromatherapy oils, or a cup of your favourite herbal tea, meditation or simply listening to calming music. Try all of them and finally you will find a suitable option. My personal preferences are reading esoteric literature, burning aroma candles and sipping camomile vanilla tea.
- Use your bed only for sleep and love.
Humans are very prone to conditional behaviours, so limiting the use of your bed to sex and sleep will generate subconscious patterns that will help you to fall asleep. Never work, eat or watch TV in your bedroom: Aside from the activities I’ve just mentioned, nothing else should be done in the bed.
- Make your bedroom relaxing.
Keep your bedding clean and fresh, aerate the space properly, and don’t forget about curtains. Create a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom, eliminating all unpleasant distractions.
- Don’t overeat.
A new study suggests that quality of sleep is directly related to the type of food that you eat. If you are hungry at night, take a light, and healthy snack. Do not torture yourself by going to bed starving. Research has shown that the old maxim ‘do not eat after 6 pm’ has no scientific basis. However, heavy foods full of saturated fat like red meat or cheese should be avoided. Do not over-consume carbohydrates before sleep either. Be careful with fluids, alcohol, watery vegetables and fruits as waking up a few times during the night to visit the bathroom is not recommended. The ideal option is to consume leafy vegetables, reduced fat yogurt or cottage cheese with some nuts (optional), steamed white fish, sea food, and eggs.
- Exercise regularly.
Research shown that people who regularly exercise have fewer problems with sleep and other bodily functions. Regular smart physical activities regulate hormones, stimulate blood and liquid circulation and boost the immune system. In other words, fitness helps the body to purify itself and maintain all of our bodily processes.