Don’t Let Poor Sleep Ruin Your Life

Sleep is such an important subject for health, because repair for the body and the mind occur primarily during sleep. Because of this, long-term sleep issues can make physical and emotional issues worse. They can also contribute in an increase in irritability, fatigue and low performance. For example, statistics show that people who are short of sleep are more likely to suffer from an accident in the workplace.

Let’s go straight into the subject by clarifying what is a healthy sleep. Individual requirements for sleep actually vary widely, from as few as 4 hours to 9 hours of sleep every night. It can be OK to sleep as little as 4 hours if this is complemented by a nap during the day (to accommodate work schedules or through customs).

What manages sleep in the body?

Medically, sleeping patterns are considered to be driven by the hormonal system: the levels of the cortisone hormones in the blood tend to rise just before waking up, and fall before going to bed. In parallel, the pineal gland secretes the melatonin hormone when it gets dark around us. Melatonin is indeed sometimes referred to as the “sleep hormone”. However, as in general for health, it is not as simple as that: many people can sleep in full light, or during daytime, and with practice most people can achieve “power naps” (a 15/20 minute sleep).

Sleep issues are actually not a disease but a symptom that can have many causes. Insomnia is defined as a partial or full lack of sleep during the night. It is the most critical sleep problem.

Disturbed sleep, excessive perspiration, difficulty to get to sleep or a feeling of being un-refreshed and tired when getting out of bed, are however equally damaging on the long run, and can also lead to problems.

How can I manage my sleep naturally?

Lifestyle has a big part to play in poor sleep patterns, and simple steps can have huge effects. The main approach is to be as relaxed as possible when going to bed. Follow this simple advice:

1. Do not to watch any TV, computers or play video-games one to 2 hours before going to bed. These are big exciters for our brain, and will definitely disturb the levels of cortisone and melatonin just before sleep. Try and replace this with a relaxing or a social activity.

2. Ensure that your diet is low in refined carbohydrate, soft drinks, coffee or tea. You may have sleep issues because of what you eat: foods that keep your brain active are likely to disrupt your hormonal system.

3. If you think that you are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies (WiFi, mobile phones, DECT phones), then try and not use them one hour before sleep, at night put the DECT phones on their bases and switch off your WiFi and mobile phone. See if it improves over 2 weeks. Electromagnetic Field Sensitivity is not really accepted by the conventional medical sector in France and in the UK but it has been recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2005, and is also recognised among other countries in Germany, Russia and Switzerland. Its main symptoms are headache, insomnia and minor edemas. This can be improved with holistic approaches.

4. Also, strong spices or artificial additives like glutamate (MSG) have been linked to sleep issues. So if you suspect this to be an issue, try and stay off them for a couple of weeks to see if it makes a difference. – Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day. Many people are not good at spotting that their body is not hydrated. A poorly hydrated body is usually under stress, and this can lead to anxiety and sleep issues.

5. Practice some form of relaxation or meditation to train your mind to “calm down”.

6. Finally, herbal tea like chamomile, passiflora, valerian or hops can help you find sleep. However, especially for valerian and hops, I have seen people being sensitive to these herbs.

Click here for more tips on a healthy lifestyle and nutritional advice for the nervous system, that will both help sleep in the long run.

What happens if the issue is so deep that the above advice does not help?

Since starting about 7 years ago, I have been seeing many people with sleep issues in my practice. This is definitely a 21st Century issue!

"sleep", "insomnia"The most common cause is emotional (anxiety, depression or linked to a trauma). Homeopathy can help a lot here. Finding a remedy fitting the cause and the symptoms can bring amazing results. If you feel you know the cause, get a first-aid kit and see if you can find the relevant remedy (feel free to contact me for guidance).

The second type of issue is linked to a disturbance to the hormonal system/brain’s built-in clock. This is common after taking some conventional medications, or a long period of poor lifestyle. It can also be linked to a medical condition, like sleep apnoea, nasal polyps Alzheimer’s or even a stroke. In these cases, a consultation is required.

The other big cause is related to life patterns, such as for air pilots/air hostesses or after having to tend a dying relative or a young child. If the issue does not go by itself after a change of lifestyle or diet, then a consultation can help.

What happens if I am taking medications to sleep, and I want to stop?

If you have been a long term user of conventional sleep medications, and find you cannot stop them, then it is because the actual cause of the sleep issues has not been addressed. In most cases, it is best to consult Your health practitioner will have to first help you with any underlying issue impacting sleep and then work in cooperation with your GP so that the latter can reduce your medications slowly and gently.

We hope that your found this article helpful. Please share your experiences or advice on sleep issues by leaving a comment below.

Have a good month and a restful sleep!

Images reproduced from nutritiondietnews.com & sijo.hu

Sleep Sharpens Your Memory

A good night’s sleep is important for many reasons and researches have found another good reason why it is so important to rest calmly during the night. Your memory sharpens during sleep, when your brain puts all the information you acquired during the day in order. This phenomenon has been investigated for years now and a new study published in the Journal for Experimental Psychology consolidated that we are learning during sleep.

In this recent study people were asked to learn words associated to others and recall them a day after. It was found that those that had a good night sleep had a significantly improved ability to remember than those who had not slept well.

This study confirms many other studies that have been performed previously. It is striking to note, that the study was performed twice, using the same individuals but swapping the roles, i.e. those with a bad night’s sleep previously were granted a good night’s sleep the second time. The results showed the same results in both cases with those that had slept well performing much better in the memory tests.

It is generally known that pupils and students perform better in exams if they have slept well during the nights leading to exams. However, what is probably more interesting, is the question what ware the effects on memory and cognitive functions long-term. There is emerging evidence now, that long-term sleep deprivation has very deleterious effects on short-and long-term memory functions. Sleep has a profound effect on both procedural (how to do things) and declarative (facts and knowledge) memory and all phases of sleep are important, including REM and non-REM sleep. Thus, napping for a few hours here and there is not efficient enough to compensate. The brain needs full sleep cycles to process information, a god night’s sleep in other words. This adds a new dimension on the importance of sleep.

There are many factors that influence sleep, but broadly they can be divided into physical and psychological factors.

Physical factors include things like back pains, diet, temperature, noise etc.; in other words your environment. That can be adjusted easily in many cases. Often a better mattress helps or consulting a physiotherapist if you experience pains when you lay down. In any case, you should tackle these issues as an important sleep is vital.

Psychological factors can include stress, relationship problems, problems at work etc. Often we underestimate what profound effects these factors have on our sleep.

If you are interested to get some tips on how to prepare yourself for a better sleep, you can read Sloan Sheridan-Williams’ article here.

Images reproduced from http://4.bp.blogspot.com and http://www.tasanteenunclic.org

Dreams and their Significance

I dream that I am here
Loaded with heavy chains,
I dreamt the brilliant life
In which I late saw myself.
What is life” A lie,
A patch of shadow, a fiction.
Fortune? An illusion.
All life is a dream,
And dreams—O mockery—
Are themselves but a dream.

‘La Vida Es Sueno’. X. Calderon.

How much do you know about your dreams? In a period of human history when all disposable energy is spent in the investigation and examination of nature, very little attention is paid to the real essence of mankind, which exists in the form of psyche. The still deeply shrouded areas of the human mind that govern the psyche are being unexplored in favour of more concrete concepts that deal with more conscious tangible functions of the mind.

In his book ‘Man and his Symbols’ Dr. Carl Gustav Jung points out that the human mind just like any geographical terrain is made up of its own evolutionary history derived from the plateau of the unconscious which retains many traces left from earlier learning.

To know and understand the psychic life process it is important to realize that dreams and their symbolic images have an important part to play. Various schools of thought consider symbolic ideas to be the vital link to a healthy development of the personality. From the sixth century B.C. to the sixth century A.D. dream interpretation was a popular practice. The Chinese were one of the first civilizations to actually deeply probe into the phenomenon of dreams and to offer principles of interpretation.

Two important literary classics that emerged were Japanese astrologer Abe No Seimi’s ‘Book of Divination by Dreams’ first published in 1772 and Pierre Vattier’s French translation of Gaddorrchamon’s Arabic manuscript ‘L’onirocrite Musalman on Doctrine et Interpretation des Sanges Selon les Arabs’. These texts were significant because they were the first of their kind to attempt to explain dreams as groupings of images and symbols.

At present there exists many popular theories of dreams all offering Scientific, Physical, Psychological or Psychical explanations. The chief theories currently being; (i) The physiological or heavy supper theory, (ii) The personal reminiscence theory, (iii) The theory of racial reminiscence and (iv) The premonitory theory.

The physiological theory put forward by Aristotle over two thousand years ago operates from a digestive model and proposes that dreams are caused by other bodily disturbances which occur as a result of internal evaporation. A heavy meal by drawing blood for the digestion affects the circulation to the brain and gives rise to the dream.

The personal reminiscence theory views dreams as basic mental images that are released by everyday experiences which carry strong significance for the dreamer.

The premonitory theory which proposes that dreams are important because they are in fact ‘gateways’ to the future which is supposedly predetermined for each individual. In order to accept this theory in its entirety, we must believe that the future is fixed and that there exists a possibility of our knowing it.

Anatomical studies have revealed that the brain is the most complex and single most important organ in the body made up of a series of inter-linked structures that are associated with language, thought processes and sensory experience-all necessary for the production of dreams. Humans sleep on average eight to ten hours each night. This means that one third of our life is spent sleeping, so by the time we are seventy five years old, we have slept and dreamt for twenty five years!

As a physical and mental restorative sleep is unequalled. The first concentrated experiments in sleep deprivation were performed by physiologist Marie de Manaceine in the second half of the nineteenth century.The consequences of sleep loss are; restlessness, irritability, photophobia, fearfulness and bizarre reactions to food. According to Prof. J. Empson author of several books concerned with sleep research, persistant insomnia in middle age or earlier is commonly associated with affective illness; i.e. depression, drug abuse, alcoholism and respiratory difficulties.

Psychiatrist Dr. Ernest Hartmann of Boston State Hospital’s Sleep and Dream Laboratory has interestingly linked personality types with length and character of sleep and discovered that short sleepers as a rule tend to be very energetic, decisive, ambitious and socially adept individuals who fit into the extrovert band speculated by philosophers such as Galen and Hippocrates. Long sleepers on the other hand tend to be, according to Dr Hartmann, highly creative speakers who have a tendency to be non-conformist and critically selective in their social views.

Sigmund Freud interpreted the introverted type of personality as an individual morbidly concerned with themselves. Carl Gustav Jung on the other hand held introspection and self-knowledge in high esteem and valued its importance. Beyond doubt, man and woman becomes whole, integrated, calm, fertile and happy when the process of personal individuation is complete. When the conscious and unconscious have learned to live at peace and to complement one another.

On a relatively simple level, dream language is often figurative and our dreams are trying to tell us something. They do not use words to express their meaning but communicate through visual imagery and, to a lesser extent, through the other four senses- sight, smell, taste and hearing. Imagery, in dreams often takes the form of the symbolic and representational, implying that persons and places represent specific principles or situations in the dreamers actual life. When the dream has been explored and a symbolic meaning discovered it can then be applied to the dreamer’s circumstances.

Below is a dream which make sense when we recognize that the characters do not represent real people but rather principles.

I am house hunting and decide to investigate a house that captures my interest. Externally the house is very attractive but once inside, feelings of oppression overwhelm me and force me to flee from the building in a state of terror.

INTERPRETATION

This dream highlights the dreamer’s fundamental insecurity regarding new experiences which relate to adult independence. On the surface, the dreamer appears to be looking forward to the challenge of independence as represented by the ‘attractive house’ but is really subconsciously afraid as represented by the dreaded feeling of terror that they may not be up to the task and will want to flee from the responsibility of adulthood instead.

Shahnaz Khan is a Psychotherapist & Writer. She offers both weekly private individual and group dream therapy sessions for those interested in understanding their dreams and improving their relationships. As well as dream interpretation she also offers astrological analysis. Shahnaz received her training with the late Prof. Petruska Clarkson in Harley Street, London in the mid 90’s.

Image reproduced from retiredindelaware.blogspot.com

Finding it Hard to Wake Up in the Morning?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about waking up energised in the morning. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Thank you for your question regarding the fact that you find it difficult to wake up in the morning. I often hear my clients say they got out of bed the wrong side that morning and they ask how to wake up full of positivity, joy and gratitude ready to embrace the day ahead of them.

There is no one easy answer. Different things will help different types of people, for example if you are an S (Sensory) type personality practising simple morning rituals may help set an elevated mood for the day ahead. By setting out these morning tasks – be it a skincare routine, a leisurely breakfast, morning meditation or yoga – we are telling ourselves that we are important and that we matter. For those N (Intuitive) type people, the concept is still the same but with a little more sponteniety. It is still important to do something spiritually, emotionally or physically important to us before we get carried away with the daily necessities of life and get swept up into our schedule of tasks.

Tony Robbins, a well-known NLP practitioner amongst other things developed the Hour of Power, since then there have been many adaptations to this power hour but the overall end aim is the same. Some divide the hour into three chunks of twenty minutes, be it for meditation, exercise, learning, growth, beauty and health whereas others use it for improving sports performance perhaps running or even rowing. Whatever you decide to do, using this power hour for positive affirmations is an amazing way to start the day. It is my suggestion to spend fifty minutes doing such and the last 10 minutes being grateful for what you have already received the previous day.

However most people reading this are busy professionals and it seems practically impossible to take a whole hour out of your day especially in the morning to give time to yourself. Understanding this, it is a good idea to give yourself five minutes each day and maybe even stretch that to ten or fifteen minutes. Even by adding a few minutes each day you can take extra time for yourself before your heavy workload begins. In five minutes you can do some stretches; in ten minutes you can journal; some people even use their time to make a smoothie in the morning to give them that extra boost of energy and all those antioxidants which are great for the skin.

Whatever you choose to spend time on in your first hour, even if you have to use it commuting, remember this hour sets the tone for the next 23 hours before us and what we do daily can become part of who we are. Perhaps on your commute reading inspirational material will help create positivity in your life. Those who live closer to work could perhaps leave ten minutes early and walk to work instead of taking the bus or another mode of transport.

The morning is a wonderful time to write lists, especially if you are goal-orientated in personality type. It allows your Reticular Activating System to remember that the day is full of potential and will start seeking out ways for you to achieve not only that which you desire but also deserve. There is no one set rule to creating the perfect morning for you but when you next get ten minutes to yourself perhaps look at these questions:

1. What would I need to do to get my day off to the best possible start?

2. What would my body need me to do to enable it to not only look its best but feel its best?

3. What do I need to do to increase my positivity in the morning?

4. What do I find exciting and/or inspiring to do on a daily basis that only takes 5/10/15/20 minutes (or whatever time you have been able to make available for yourself)?

If whatever you have been doing in the past has not been working for you then the best thing to do is break the pattern – be your own pattern interrupt and do something totally different with your physiology. For example, if you normally exercise in the morning perhaps look at cutting down and including fruit smoothies or a nice herbal green tea or even journaling in the morning.

Alternatively, if you have quite a sedate morning full of positive affirmations and gratitude perhaps intersperse this with exercise or taking up a new hobby – be that yoga or meditation indoors or perhaps something outdoors during the summer months like running and or even power walking with a friend.

A good morning can only be as good as the night before, therefore make sure that you get a good night’s sleep and do not drink too much alcohol for your body – and if you do break either of these that you some sort of remedy in the morning be it a natural supplement like milk thistle to detoxify your liver or a pick-me-up in the form of a nice strong coffee if that’s what you desire after a late night.

Whatever you choose to do to feel more energised to embrace the day ahead, remember to take it slowly, step by step, and little by little and these changes will eventually become part of your daily routine and help you feel better about yourself.

Images reproduced from nextnature.net and truthworks.org