In today’s fast-paced world, a chronic lack of sleep is emerging as a significant public health crisis. The consequences of this widespread sleep deprivation are far-reaching, affecting both our mental and physical health.
Seeing all this, I’m not surprised at all that we are in a sleep epidemic.
In this blog, I’ll delve into the reasons behind this epidemic and explore how prioritising quality sleep can be the ultimate remedy for our well-being.
The natural rhythms of sleep
As human beings, we are inherently wired to follow natural sleep cycles. In fact, the organs and cells of our body follow an organic and natural 24-hour cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.
Think back to when you were a child; sleep came effortlessly, a vital part of our biological programming. However, as we grow older, we often forsake this innate wisdom in pursuit of productivity and busyness.
I often say that instead of remembering how to sleep, we have found ways to keep us awake instead. 24-hour news, social media and video games contribute to us staying awake longer, alongside the social myth that sleep is a form of laziness, where we should instead be up at all hours ‘hustling’.
The sleep medication paradox
It’s a perplexing reality: many individuals resort to medication to induce sleep after a day fuelled by huge amounts of caffeine. Sleep quality is terrible, and you wake up the next morning feeling groggy, reaching for more coffee!
This vicious cycle not only disrupts your circadian rhythm but also perpetuates the very problem it aims to solve. Instead of relying on pharmaceuticals, we must reclaim our natural ability to fall asleep and awaken refreshed.
Sometimes a severe lack of sleep means that you may need to resort to sleeping tablets but they should only be a short-term solution. It’s better to address the underlying issue of not being able to sleep rather than rely on an artificial substitute. Remember, sleep is one of the most natural actions you take, like breathing and blinking.
The importance of early bedtimes
Don’t get me started on Netflix binges and mindless scrolling through social media when we should really get ready for bed.
Early bedtimes are not exclusive to children or those deemed “lazy.” They are, in fact, fundamental to our mental and physical well-being. Getting adequate rest allows our bodies and minds to rejuvenate, promoting optimal functioning throughout the day. It’s a simple yet powerful step towards a healthier, more balanced life.
The role of REM sleep in stress management
Among the various stages of sleep, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep holds a special significance. This phase plays a crucial role in processing negative thoughts and emotions. When we skimp on sleep, we short-change ourselves of this invaluable therapeutic process. By embracing sufficient, uninterrupted rest, we equip ourselves to face life’s challenges with greater resilience and clarity.
I place a lot of emphasis on sleep in general during my 10-week programme of Solution-Focused Therapy. But it is REM sleep in particular that empties the stress bucket and can even prevent anything from going into it in the first place.
The stress bucket analogy
Imagine your stress tolerance as a bucket; every stressor, big or small, fills it up a little more. Sleep, however, acts as a release valve, allowing us to empty this metaphorical stress bucket.
When we consistently prioritise quality rest, we create space to absorb life’s inevitable stresses without becoming overwhelmed. You feel that you can face challenges head-on and you have the capacity to find creative solutions and have acceptance.
It’s a preventative measure that empowers us to navigate challenges with grace.
Breaking free from digital distractions
In the age of streaming services and social media, it’s all too easy to lose track of time in the evening hours resulting in a lack of sleep. Yet, mindless Netflix binges and endless scrolling can wreak havoc on our sleep schedules.
Establishing a digital curfew and creating a calming pre-sleep routine can pave the way for a more restful night.
Embrace the healing power of sleep
The sleep epidemic is a wake-up call for us all. It’s a reminder that, amidst our busy lives, we must prioritise the foundation of our well-being: sleep.
By returning to our natural rhythms, we can unlock the profound healing potential that lies within each night’s rest. Let’s reclaim the vitality, clarity, and resilience that a good night’s sleep offers. It’s time to recognise that, indeed, sleep is the best medicine.
Sleep really is free therapy.
Want to find out more about why I believe sleep is the best medicine? Wonder how you can use sleep to empty your stress bucket? Let’s have a chat!