Self-help is about unlocking your potential through activity, and yet the key to a better life rests on a good night’s sleep.
Poor sleep, makes your more likely to die early. That is the conclusion of Warwick University, who after conducting a meta analysis of sleep studies, discovered, sleeping to little increases the risk of premature death by 12%, and sleeping too much increases it by 30%. Poor sleep, also makes a person susceptible to a host of physical health problems: High blood pressure, diabetes and dementia. From the proliferation of free radicals in the brain, to inflamatory cytokines in the body, without sufficient sleep, we become dysregulated.
Sleep is especially important to mental health. Studies have shown people with Borderline Personality Disorder particularly, are more likely to struggle with insomnia, nightmares, and other nocturnal disturbances like Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic limb and Sleep Paralysis. If BPD is a dysregulation disorder, it goes to reason, not even sleep will be unaffected.
The limbic system is the brain’s emotional control centre: Comprising of the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus and prefrontal cortex, it is responsible for regulating emotions, awareness and cognition. Interestingly, we now know the same areas of the brain involved in mood disorders, are also implicated in sleep disorders too.
A Bad Night’s Sleep
Those of us with BPD are prone to frequent nightmares because the amygdala is hyperactive, and the hippocampus is having trouble processing memories. Our cicardian rhythm body-clocks, are out of sync because the Thalamus is unable to switch off, finally the malfunctioning prefrontal cortex is unable to stop worries.
Of course this a simplification, but scientists tell us its true. Whether these changes occur due to a underlying genetic predisposition towards emotional intensity, or trauma has damaged these cerebral structure by excess stress hormone cortisol, the results are the same. As the Spanish artist Goya once said, ‘the sleep of reason breeds monsters’ so we know emotional instability and insomnia go together.
Next Day Exhaustion
Everything becomes important or irrelevant when we are tired.We cry more often, or take impulsive risks. Sleep deprivation, throws us into emotional and behavioural turmoil, by disrupting the brains reward system, and short-wiring the limbic system circuitry.
Decreased activity in hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex, brought on by sleep deprivation, means we have trouble recalling information, forming new memories, and making rational decisions. Subsequently we wake up on the wrong side of bed. Meanwhile a disconnected amygdala and prefrontal cortex, creates a fragmentary overall service of wakefulness. The amygdala overestimates threat, and the prefrontal cortex can’t relay the message “stay calm” back to it. The result is explosive emotional reactivity and poor judgement.
Sleep Your Way to a Better Life
In today’s postmodern world of 24/7 activity, sleep is inconvenient. However, without it, our mental and physical health will suffer. For those of us already dysregulated with mental health problems, it’s a formidable challenge, yet with practise, not unassailable.
Rituals for better sleep.
Make your bedroom a shrine to the slumber god Hypnos. The linen should be cosy, the mattress soft, the temperature ambient, the lighting dark.
Next take of yourself physically. How many hours do we lose each night, because of aches and pains? Go to the doctor, and get sorted out.
Avoid stimulants, however tempting, and substitute appropriately. A cup of soya milk, instead of coffee. Cherry instead of Sherri.
Instead of watching the newest Game of Thrones episode, set aside 30 minutes for mindful meditation. Light a candle, have a bath, practise sitting.
Worry thoughts are like fish-hooks, they only hurt when we grab on. Guide the mind through still waters by using self-hypnosis, relaxation or meditation tapes.
Finally develop patience, and remember it’s it’s ok, to feel tired and frustrated. If you don’t sleep tonight, tomorrow will be better.
Life hacks for better rest
Identify life-toxins. Many of us don’t have the luxury of eliminating stress completely, nevertheless, we can counteract it. Take up meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi and learn how to inhabit your body mindfully.
Interoception is the mind’s ability to sense how the body feels. Are you anxious, fretful or agitated? Recognise the body’s feeling along with their cognitive correlate, and consciously breathe out pain.
If you suffer from lethargy, remember to eat a healthy and balanced mean. Iron, protein and slow-release high energy foods will help.
Create a schedule. It’s not to be boring or fastidious, but to create a sense of order and purpose to the day. You can finish what you start, and tackle worry head-on.
Make some serious life choices. Do you want a high powered chief executives job, with a 50k salary? The cost is high. Would you rather take a paycut and get what’s priceless.
Sleep disorders and mental illness go hand in glove, or pillow in case. Nevertheless, by practising good habits, and more importantly finding ways to calm the body-mind down when awake, it’s possible to get the body-clock in line.
**Visit www.rightresilience.com to find out how to introduce a sleep hygiene protocol**