Isn’t it interesting that while we think and care about our different body parts (the back that hurts from sitting too much, the tummy that feels weird) we rarely think about our brain? It’s one of those organs we tend to forget, albeit neuro science’s incredible discoveries of neuro plasticity in the last few decades. Similar with sleep, we still don’t really consider that it might be our brain that needs looking at. We tend to look at external reasons and quick fixes, rather than considering the control room for sleep, our brain, and with it our mind, the place where we process.
Why Digestion And Sleep Have A Lot In Common:
I love comparing our mind to digestion, the parallels are fascinating. What we put into our body food wise, has to be the right balance. We can get away with some low quality foods but we all know that a balanced diet will keep the system intact. It’s the same with our mind. If the basis of our intake is balanced (good quality and right amount), some negative input will get diluted and the system still works. Eating heavy foods at night is like watching the news at bedtime, you give your system a whole lot to ‘digest’ while expecting it to switch into ‘relax and reset’ mode.
REM Sleep Is Great But It Is Limited:
Our brain’s ‘digestion’ system REM sleep (rapid eye movement), processes at regular intervals during our sleep what has happened during the day via dreams. Similar to filling up on foods, our so called ‘stress bucket’ in our mind fills up through the day. With thousands of thoughts a day, the quality of these will determine if the bucket is comfortably full or overflowing. REM sleep helps empty that bucket, but its effects are limited. If too much is going on, people then tend to wake up at night, unable to go back to sleep. We then start our day with a half full stress bucket which often leads to vicious cycles of unproductive days and again sleep-less nights.
So, What Things Can We Do To Get A Better Night’s Sleep?
Stop Overfeeding Your Mind:
Our lives are busy and any free moments filled with social media scrolls. Life in the fast lane is like nibbling, a constant feed of information filling up your system which eventually overloads and breaks down and sleep is the first that changes. Poor sleep easily switches on anxiety or depression, poor concentration brings fear of failure and low self-esteem. Worrying then stops us sleeping again and the vicious circle is born.
Create (Even Short) Moments Of Nothingness:
Ideally we’d all take some daily walks. But even 5-10 minutes of doing nothing allows your system to process and tick things off your list for the well-deserved sleep at night. It really is as simple as that!
Improve The Quality Of Your Thoughts:
We have an amazing built-in protection tool: our primitive mind (fight-flight-freeze). Like a body guard it is with you all day scanning your environment for dangers. But by nature it is negative. More importantly, it does not make the difference between what is imagined and real. If we imagine bad things happening (like a potential world war), we’ll kick-start our fight-flight system into producing stress hormones, which in turn makes quality sleep difficult.
Could watching the news once a day be enough? Practicing good thought hygiene will affect how you feel as your brain beliefs what you think. If you worry someone doesn’t like you or your work isn’t good enough, your brain is believing all those things. No wonder it feels overwhelmed. Thinking something does not make it true.. Question your thoughts and beliefs.
Get Enough Vitamin D:
This produces serotonin which facilitates good sleep. The best way to do that is by going outside (sunlight). Day light also helps your circadian rhythm (day and night), allowing your system to understand when to switch on and off.
Consider Your Alcohol And Tobacco Intake:
Both alcohol and nicotine influence REM sleep. Often our ‘go-toes’ when stressed, be aware of those false friends..
Use Your Built-In Relaxation System:
Breathology is the new kid on the block. The right breathing can be extremely powerful and have quick effects. The ‘vagus nerve’ is connected to our organs. To initiate relaxation simple imagine holding a hot chocolate. Breathe in through your nose smelling the goodness, and breathe out through your mouth cooling it down. The inbreath has to be shorter than the outbreath. Repeat a few times.
Hang Out With Positive Friends:
Then you’ll produce oxytocin, which helps you feel great and connected. When we meet people, our brain cells copy each other (mirror neurons). Like meeting a grumpy person will affect you, a positive person does too. Choosing your friends wisely can have a huge effect on your well-being.
Start with the one that feels the easiest? Which one is that for you?
I’d love to get your feedback, leave me a comment below…
About The Author
Veronique Mertes works as a fully qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and works with clients 1-2-1 and in group settings, online and in person. She has a background in children’s development, disability and family therapy. Veronique helps her clients to breakthrough and overcome the things that are holding them back from living the life they want. Be that anxiety, sleep problems, phobias, general overwhelm or something else, her work is all about helping people feel back in the driving seat of their own life and getting back onto a clear and enjoyable path.
After suffering for years from depression and what she did not know then to be anxiety, learning about neuro science transformed her life so much she wanted to share that with others. Combined with the positivity of solution focused work (brief therapy) and the gentle effectiveness of hypnosis, she has found her perfect match.
Originally from Belgium, she now lives in South Devon with her husband, two teenagers and their dog, Bindi.