If you're lucky, you'll spend about a third of your life asleep. That process, of resting the body and rebalancing the emotions, is perhaps the best thing anybody can do for their physical and emotional health, so it's really important to consider your sleep patterns.
Many people think they never dream. In fact, all of us dream, mainly during our R.E.M. sleep, and those dreams serve one really vital purpose – to complete the unmet emotional expectations of the previous day. All of us have emotional needs which are unmet, and expectations which were not fulfilled, so various clever parts of our mind enable us to dream in metaphors to rebalance our emotions, waking the next day feeling refreshed.
Where could that go wrong, perhaps? In reality, our minds find it difficult to distinguish between real and imaginary disasters and catastrophes. If you are prone to worrying, and you have a good imagination, your brain may believe that many of the catastrophic scenarios you’ve created during the day may have actually happened. You retire to sleep, to rest, but your cistern of emotional arousal has become a pressure cooker. You then have too much R.E.M. sleep because you need it to resolve all those unmet emotional needs, and your body simply does not get enough rest. Your reality generator is overworked and you wake exhausted, barely able to haul yourself out of bed, and you start to lose interest in doing things that used to give you pleasure. The circle starts again, with the added worry of not having slept well. This can quickly slide into stress and depression if it remains unchecked.
So, what should we do about it?
Most people who suffer from poor sleep do get more sleep than they believe. Take a complete disinterest in what time it is, unless the alarm goes off. Just keep your eyes closed, as the moment you open your eyes you have switched the TV from standby to full-on high definition, with all the accompanying stimulus. Challenge your own negative thinking – imagine great success. That’s not encouragement for you to be blindly optimistic - far from it. Think of it this way - your worries are negative fantasies, and they disturb your sleep. Positive expectations are positive fantasies, and they encourage peaceful and restful sleep.
Try not to have your brain stimulated too much for at least two hours before going to sleep. Nothing startling on T.V. and no books which keep you thrilled and in suspense. Remember, the light from TV and iPad screens will inhibit the release of melatonin, the natural chemical which we all release which switches off some of our circuits we need when we're awake.
Strongly resist the temptation to self-medicate with alcohol, or anything else. Alcohol may make you feel a bit drowsy, and offer the illusion of a good night’s sleep. However, it also has a tendency to suppress R.E.M. sleep, and you may well awaken feeling rested after a long sleep, but you may not have emptied that buffer of unhelpful emotional arousal. Small stressors during the day may then have a disproportionate effect on you, as you woke up already highly aroused.
Leave your technology out of the bedroom. Having your phone by the bed in case something important appears on antisocial media is a signal that all is not well in your life, and may be worth further examination and discussion.
Limit the caffeine you take during the evening – it is a stimulant.
Take exercise, but take it before noon. Hide your clock, and just set the alarm for when it’s time to get up.
Make your bedroom cooler at night and keep that space just for sleeping, mainly.…!
Relaxotherapy soundtracks can help talk you into a relaxing and peaceful sleep. It’s not hypnosis, but it will just guide you to a restful night.
Drift off into a peaceful and relaxing night's sleep with the Better app guided audios. Designed to help you relax and ease your mind, enjoy guided sleep audios by world-leading mental health experts every week when you subscribe to the Better app paid plan.
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