Finding more calm has been a frequent theme for us this year. Even so, sometimes we forget the obvious.
Sleep is 25-33% of our day, and it has a huge impact of our ability to stay level-headed. It’s a big deal. In fact the sleep industry is a $30B industry!
Some reminders about the physical and mental importance of sleep:
- Sleep is essential for muscle healing
- Sleep is essential for brain health
- Sleep is recently implicated with dementia
For more on many aspects of sleep, check out this resource.
Sleep … and calm
Recently I’ve had many conversations about sleep. Many people are seeking better sleep or have been unusually restless. Not unusual during winter, with darkness looming larger each day.
This time of year, there are two common themes I hear in conversations with clients:
- Adults wanting better sleep to handle the seasonal stress from work, family, and the holidays.
- Parents frustrated with their children’s sleep challenges, knowing how it affects the overall household calm.
I’m a self-admitted sleep nerd. I love to listen to experts sharing the latest research on sleep, and splurged for the Oura® biometric ring last year to provide more detailed data on my sleep. (My insights are further down.) I’m sharing some of what I’ve learned and experienced in the hopes it may give you some useful insights and tips.
How does sleep help calm?
There are so many ways that sleep allows our nervous system to function more easily. Here are just a few:
- Sleep refreshes the brain. This is the time where oxidative stress is cleared and brain tissue cleansed.
- Sleep refreshes our muscles.
- Sleep provides time for our immune system to work.
- Sleep lets our physiological systems overall reset so they are good to go the next day.
When we don’t sleep well, the body pays a price
When you lack sleep the body’s stress hormones build up. This adds to pain levels and immune challenges by increasing inflammatory responses throughout the body.
Our stress hormones also put us close to survival mode. The flight/fight/freeze response is easy to trigger. This often leaves us feeling a little edgy, and those around us uncertain or anxious.
Poor sleep impacts our digestive health. This, too, impacts our ability to calm. Neurotransmitters are produced in the gut. Poor function of gut microbiome doesn’t regulate the balance of stress and calming hormones very well.
Lastly, poor sleep can impact our ability to breathe deeply. Being restless and/or waking frequently interrupts the deep sleep cycles where we tend to breath deeper and our heart rate slows.
So many basic reasons to want better sleep!
Simple tips for better sleep
I love listening to the Huberman Lab podcasts. Host Dr. Andrew Huberman often mentions sleep and the latest in neuroscience findings related to sleep and brain health. He put together a Sleep Toolkit which you can read here.
Here are a few of his simple, impactful ways to improve sleep.
- Keep a consist daily schedule with eating and sleeping times
- Dim the lights in the evening between 10pm and 4am
- Keep your sleeping area dark
- Keep temperatures low for sleeping
- Connect with outdoor light for 10-20 minutes in the morning and before sunset (To synchronize the daylight and your circadian clock)
Funny enough, these seem to align with how to get a baby into a good sleep schedule. Maybe what’s good for baby really is good for all of us!
Why does Bridging® help sleep?
My sleep is always better within a day or two of a Bridging® session. There are several reasons why it helps me and can help you too.
- Restores symmetry to sensory feedback allowing the nervous system to relax. The body can tell it is now secure.
- Restores the internal self-calming rocking ability of our body. We have an internal rhythm that is very soothing.
- Provides a calming re-set to the body and nervous system when trauma may have ramped up the autonomic responses.
Wondering if Bridging® can help you or a loved one to sleep better? There are several options for help. You can make an in-office appointment (link below), request a virtual session, or use the 7 Steps to Calm movements with your child (info below).
Here’s to sweet dreams!
My insights from my biometric gadgets
Yes, I have gotten a little obsessive about understanding sleep. My FitBit watch and my Oura ring supply data about my sleep and heart function. I use them both, compare their information, and over time I’ve picked out correlations. Each device’s data varies somewhat since each is designed for different objectives. I find the combination to be pretty accurate.
What have I learned in the past year?
- I really do sleep better when I go to bed in the time range suggested by the Oura analytics (10-10:45pm) but I don’t usually make it.
- Drinking alcohol ruins my deep and REM sleep. It becomes a choice with a trade-off that I’m less willing to take.
- Eating late (after 7:30p) or something heavy (meat or fat) ruin my deep and REM sleep. More choices in my lifestyle. Hmmm.
- Flying across time zones does take a couple days to acclimate.
- Warm environments absolutely mess with my good sleep.
- Bridging® can help settle my sleep when I’ve gotten into a disruptive pattern or am continually restless.
Our goal at The Bridging® Institute remains keeping your body’s micromovements optimally organized so you can self-regulate, focus and be active for the things you enjoy in life.