I had a patient that worked the night shift for a little more than a decade. You can imagine what that type of routine does to your sleep. When I met her, it’d been 23 years since she worked the night shift and yet, she still struggled to sleep. She stated quite often, “I worked the night shift for so long, I’m stuck in that pattern.”
And yes, it’s true that her body would have tried to create some sort of homeostasis, to find some type of balance, to survive this sleep cycle that goes against all internal systems. We’re designed to have specific hormones activated with light and dark. These hormones impact almost everything from immunity to energy production to fat storage and hunger.
This patient, not surprisingly, was struggling with depression, chronic pain, weakness, dizziness, and a whole assortment of challenges. And modern medicine was failing her. Instead of treating what was probably the underlying cause of all her challenges, she was given:
- Pain medications
- Sleeping pills
- Because of her weight gain she was on the fast track to diabetes medications.
These medications would likely disappear from her life if the docs had looked at her lifestyle and her habits and treated her sleep issues.
Sleep is Fundamentally Important to Mental, Physical, and Emotional Well-Being!
Without good quality sleep you:
- Eat more
- Feel more stressed and anxious
- Get depressed
- Feel exhausted (duh)
- And everything hurts after a while. What may have been a tolerable irritation becomes serious pain.
A Better Approach…
When looking at a deeply rooted lifestyle there are a few hurdles to overcome before you even begin to make changes.
The first step has to be a discussion about your beliefs.
- Do you believe that sleep can impact…? (depression, energy, etc.…)
- Do you believe that sleep is important for your health?
- Do you believe that if you got better sleep that you would feel better?
- Are you willing to make some changes to your sleep habits to see if these symptoms improve?
Willingness and motivation have to be present for the next steps. If you don’t believe that changes to your lifestyle will make a positive difference, then you won’t follow through. It makes sense, right? Why struggle with change if there’s benefit?
So, you have to want the benefit and you have to believe that change will provide it.
If you’re able to get to this point, then the next steps of lifestyle changes to promote better sleep would have been pretty straight forward.
- Get rid of stimulants after lunchtime
- No eating or drinking after dinnertime
- No light/electronic stimulation at least one hour before bedtime
- Minimal light in the bedroom.
- Gradual light to waken (natural sunlight is best but it’s darned near impossible to always wake with the sun. A Sunrise Alarm Clock is amazing for this. I’ve used one for about 6 years and it changes the way you wake up in the morning.)
I would also recommend a sleep journal so that you can track your efforts and your results. A journal is helpful for identifying patterns and providing you with knowledge to make changes that result in success.
For example, if you notice that you’re waking up every night at 2:00am you might look to see what you ate or drank the day before. Simple connections can be made when you keep a sleep journal. I generally just like to use a good old-fashioned composition book but a more detailed and organized journal like this one, Sleep Journal, may be right for you.
When you’re able to take small and positive steps toward getting more quality sleep, your life changes. Not only do you feel more energetic and able to manage your day, your body’s systems begin to repair and improve. You have improved immunity, a better metabolism, and your hunger and stress hormones are able to find balance.
Sleep impacts every area of your life from your sex drive to your ability to experience happiness. Don’t overlook this critical component of your health.
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I only recommend products that I have personally tried or that I feel may be beneficial to you in your path to better health. Likewise, I encourage you to share products with me that you’ve found to be helpful. Through sharing and stories, and the occasional link, we can all help one another thrive.