Sleep deprivation has profound consequences on your physical and mental health, thus affecting your daily routine. Here is a natural cure to restful sleep.
Like most people, you have undoubtedly experienced a sleepless night. You crawl into bed and under the covers, arrange yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes and wait for sleep to come. But, it does not. Your mind simply won’t shut off and let you rest.
You try every trick you can think of – counting sheep, removing all electronic devices from the room, wearing a mask to block out light. Nothing helps!
You eventually doze off, but wake up tired and cranky the next morning. The result – you are partially sleep deprived; you have had some sleep, but not enough for you to be alert during the day.
If you do not sleep well, night after night, your sleep deprivation can become chronic.
The Sleep Mechanism
Sleep is actually a complex mechanism regulated by two bodily systems – the circadian system and the sleep-wake system.
The circadian pacemaker in the brain is the heart of the circadian system. It manages our bodies’ rhythms, the highs and lows in our energy, alertness and body temperature throughout a 24-hour cycle.
The sleep drive, is the part of the sleep-wake system largely responsible for the timing of sleep. As we move through the day, our drive to sleep increases. Once we are asleep, the drive decreases until we eventually awaken.
Why Can’t You Sleep?
There are many reasons for partial sleep deprivation, including a mind that is too active. People can lose sleep due to illness or colds that impair breathing; by environmental factors, such as noise or too much light; and by emotional events (e.g., a death) or stressors (e.g., an upcoming presentation at the office).
Shift workers, who rotate between day shifts and night shifts, are also prone to sleep deprivation, because their bodies do not have predictable schedules. Jet lag and aging can also lead to partial sleep deprivation.
Effects Of Sleeplessness
Whatever the reason, partial sleep deprivation is not fun and it is not healthy.
“Sleep serves to reenergize the body’s cells, clear waste from the brain, and support learning and memory. It even plays vital roles in regulating mood, appetite, and libido,” John Peever, director of the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory at the University of Toronto, and Brian J. Murray, director of the sleep laboratory at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, told Scientific American.
Sleeplessness has deleterious effects on both the body and the mind. It affects our decision-making skills, including the ability to assess risk, assimilate changing information and revise our strategies for solving problems based on new information.
Sleeplessness Damages Your Body!
It also has an impact on our memory and our attention; issues can include maintaining focus, dwelling on ineffective thoughts and actions, avoiding inappropriate risks and an inability to change our behaviors based on new information.
The physical impact of sleeplessness can be equally severe. It can put you at risk for weight gain and for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Since sleep is important in allowing your body to heal and repair your blood vessels and your heart, deprivation can also put you at risk for heart disease.
Your immune system also suffers when you lack proper sleep. As you sleep, your body produces antibodies to fight infections. If you do not produce them, you will take longer to recover from illnesses and may be more susceptible to problems like the common cold and the flu.
Need To Sleep Better – Meditation To The Rescue!
With the stakes so high, it is important to get eight hours of sleep nightly. One solution is to use meditation to ease your body toward sleep. With meditation, the lens of the brain begins to relax.
One can liken the brain to a muscle that can feel cramped if it focuses too long, preventing restful sleep. By meditating, you can bring intent and consciousness to that “muscle”, telling it to relax and release tension.
If the brain stays in a conscious state of attention without experiencing a release, sleep quality is negatively affected.
Once you meditate regularly, it becomes a habit that is familiar to the brain. The brain no longer resists rest, making it easier to sleep.
Regular meditation is a key to training your brain and turning it toward sleep. Training the brain to rest becomes easier with repetition. It brings with it benefits that include restful sleep.
To access the benefits of meditation when you are stressed over the inability to sleep, meditation can help you to learn to be conscious of your breath. The breath is an important ally in fighting the deleterious effects that stress have on health, sleep, and emotions.
Learning to be aware of one’s breath and to control it consciously assists people in remaining calm, even in stressful situations, including the inability to sleep.
By practicing a conscious awareness of breath, less maintains you should be able to draw on that calm and quiet when you anticipate stress.
Not meditating yet? It is easier than you think!