I heard a report on NPR today about a recent study on sleep duration. They found that the amount of people who are sleep deprived is up from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2019.
“The researchers didn’t examine why sleep time is dwindling. But Jagdish Khubchandani — professor of health science at Ball State University who headed the study — speculates one of the biggest reasons has to do with stress, which is on the rise among Americans.” (NPR show transcript HERE)
Most of us don’t need a study to confirm what we already know. We are stressed. We are trying to do too much: to be the perfect parent, the hardworking breadwinner, the involved community supporter. And because of our 24/7 connectivity, it is oh so hard to relax, let go, and unwind. Looking at our phones has become the last thing most of us do before climbing into bed, and the first thing we do before even getting out of bed in the morning. And then there’s the endless chatter in our minds… of what we should have done better today, or what is on our list to do tomorrow!
Sleep is an important time for our mind and body to heal, process and regenerate. Whether we are going to bed too late, having difficulty falling asleep OR trouble staying asleep, this sleep deprivation does have health risks. From the same NPR article: “Less than optimal sleep puts people at increased risk for a number of severe physical and mental health problems, Khubchandani says. Sleepless individuals are more prone to obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as mental health problems such as anxiety, unstable moods and even thoughts of suicide.”
So, what do you do?
Some simple steps can make a difference, like setting an earlier time to go to bed, and committing to it. Try using the hour before bedtime to create a ritual that lets your body know it’s time to prepare for sleep. Maybe have a cup of relaxing chamomile tea (My current favorite it “Relaxed Mind” from Yogi Tea). Take a warm bath. Turn off your computer, TV and your phone, and pick up a book. Or write in a journal. Maybe even create your list of things for tomorrow, so you can let those things drift from your mind without worrying you’ll forget them.
And my favorite all time sleep aid? Meditation, and Yoga Nidra (Yogic Sleep). (I sometimes use an app called Insight Timer when I need some help detaching from my over thinking mind at night.) But these tools work best when they have been practiced time and time again, so the brain becomes more attuned to new patterns of relaxation.
To help you learn these tools, I invite you to try a couple of our workshops at The Gentle Place. We offer a monthly YOGA NIDRA workshop, (11/3 and 12/1) as well as a MEDITATION workshop (11/10 and 12/15) with the amazing Cheryl Wolf which will give you the experience of deep relaxation and inner peace.
Come join us, and give it a try. Let go of your stress and see what it feels like to really relax.
Your whole being will be happy you did.