Friday, 27 September 2013

And so to bed...

Hi all,

Apologies for the month break in my blogs, I finally moved house (yeah), so needed a bit of time to get settled in and get logged on!

I thought I would tackle sleep this month after seeing a great TED talk by Russell Foster on the neuroscience of sleep. It made me wake up (excuse the pun) and really take sleep seriously, after all we spend 32 years of our life in the sleep state!

How much sleep do I need?

Most people need between 7 to 8 hr sleep a night. One sign if you're not getting enough sleep is if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow (afraid its not a sign of you being an amazing sleeper).

Research suggests that consistently sleeping less than 6 hours a night can increase the risk of stroke and diabetes.

Research has also shown that there can be negative health effects by having too much sleep (more than 9 or 10 hours a night), just the same as you can get too little. So its all about getting the right balance.

What happens when we sleep?

We go through several stages during sleep. 

The first stage lasts about 10 minutes and it's when we have our eyes closed and we start to go towards light sleep. People can often feel like they are falling at this stage. The next stage is light sleep where the heart rate falls along with our body temperature as our body gets ready for deep sleep, this second stage lasts about 20 minutes. Then we enter deep sleep which lasts about 30 mins. 

After deep sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep starts, which is where we dream. REM sleep lasts about 10 minutes and then we re-enter parts of the sleep cycle, reaching REM at the end. Each time we progress through the cycle, the REM sleep period lasts longer and longer until it reaches its maximum length of about an hour.

Polysomnograms show brainwave patterns in REM to be similar to that recorded during wakefulness. Heart rate and respiration speed up and become erratic during REM sleep. During this stage the eyes move rapidly in different directions. Intense dreaming occurs during REM sleep as a result of heightened brain activity, but paralysis occurs simultaneously in the major voluntary muscle groups.

It is understood that we process memory during REM sleep including working through what has happened to us during the day. This probably explains why we dream during REM and why it is important to understand the context of our dreams so we can interpret them more effectively.

What does your sleep position say about you?

Plus looking at this issue, I came across information as to what your sleeping position says about you and your personality. This seemed really relevant for me, as I've just completed a paper for my psychotherapy diploma on personality types, (admittedly I stuck to traditional models such as Freud' illness model and the Jungian functions rather than sleeping positions). 

Which one are you??
Here's some key points regarding sleeping positions, can you spot yours?
  • Foetal: According to a recent survey, more than half British adults sleep in the foetal position, a position apparently favoured by worriers as it provides comfort from the day stresses. People who prefer the foetal sleeping position are conscientious, ordered and like things in their place but are also in danger of over-thinking problems and worrying unnecessarily.
  • The Log: The next most common sleeping position after foetal is the log (lying on your back or side with your arms by your sides). This position shows a persona is inflexible and rigid in their thinking, set in their ways and stubborn.
  • The soldier: lying on your back with arms relaxed. This position shows someone as quiet and austere, who doesn't complain easily and holds themselves to a high standard.
  • The starfish: lying on your back with arms and legs out stretched. This position indicates an easy going personality who is a good listener and happy to help others, but often doesn't like being in the spotlight.
  • The Yearner: Another common sleeping position is called the yearner, meaning you sleep with your arms stretched out in front. This position means they want more from life and are willing to “go out there and get it with both hands”, eager to face the next day.They can be their own worst critics, expecting great results in everything they do and giving up quickly when things don’t go their way.
  • The freefaller: "Freefallers" is another position, which is sleeping face down with arms outstretched. Freefallers often clutch a pillow as if they are holding on for dear life. 
    So-called freefallers can wake up feelings anxious, or believing they still have issues and tasks left over from the previous day.Those who adopt it can feel as if life “happens around them” and they are just “hanging on for the ride”, believing they lack control over what will happen the next day.

    Going on the above, I seem to be a mix of "the Yearner" and "Foetal", with a bit of the freefaller mixed in for good measure, which does represent where I'm at in my life right now (being a mixture of stress and anxiety and excitement about the future).
Top tips for a good nights kip
  • Establish a regular routine for going to bed and waking up;
  • Bedrooms should be dark, quiet and ideally a few degrees cooler than the other rooms in your home;
  • Establish a winding down routine before you go to bed;
  • Finish exercising at least 3 hours before bedtime;
  • Discover your optimal sleep pattern (try to go to bed at the same time for a few nights and see what time you naturally wake up without alarm clocks);
  • A 5 or 10 minute meditation session will help you wind down;
  • Try to avoid caffeine after 2pm;
  • Avoid spending time on the computer/watching TV at least 30 mins before bedtime.
So a good night to all and have a very happy snooze!

Till next month,

Take care