Let’s talk about sleep

This post is part of the series self care

Other posts in this series:

  1. Let’s talk about food
  2. Let’s talk about self care- introduction
  3. Let’s talk about sleep (Current)

Almost all of my patients struggle with sleep problems.

It stands to reason, a symptom of many mental illnesses is disturbed sleep. Furthermore, sleep disturbances destabilise mental illnesses and makes them worse.So, for many of my patients addressing sleep problems is a serious priority.

It should be for you too. 40% of South Africans are not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is linked with chronic illnesses like hypertension, heart disease and stroke. It drops your immunity, so you end up with constant colds and flus. Being sleep deprived makes you moody, depressed and leads to cognitive decline and memory problems. It can make you fat. Yes, fat. The longer you are sleep deprived, the higher your cortisol levels are (which increases your appetite) and the lower your leptin and ghrelin levels are (which are your “feel full” hormones). You crave bad-for-you foods, sweets and processed carbs, as your body tries to produce serotonin to calm you down. To add insult to injury, your sleep deprived body does not metabolise the sweet stuff optimally. Your mitochondria shut down, not using sugar properly, and resulting in high blood sugar; a recipe to make you tired, fat and at risk for diabetes.

If you are struggling to get a full night’s sleep, you have to make getting sleep a priority.

Adriana Huffington calls it a “sleep revolution”. We have to wake up to the need to get some sleep.

So, if your children are prone to still waking you through the night, you have to prioritise going to bed early to make up the hours. I know that when the kids go to bed it finally means that you can have a glass of wine or three, answer a few emails and hang out with poor neglected hubby. Embrace an early bed time. Hubby would prefer to have occasional date nights with best you, rather than deal with moody, fat you after a long day. Trust me.

About that glass to bottle of wine. It may help you unwind, but it will mess with your sleep. You may fall asleep quicker, but your REM sleep is interfered with. That is why you wake up in the early morning hours after an evening of drinking alcohol, feeling exhausted and disorientated.

Your brain is not a computer. You don’t simply switch it off. If you have been studying or working late, you need to give your brain time to unwind before trying to fall asleep. Have a long bath, read a magazine, go talk to poor neglected hubby.

The reasons for sleep deprivation varies. As do the solutions. Come armed to the revolution. Research sleep hygiene, try supplements, look at your diet and exercise routines. Speak to your doctor. Make sleep a priority in your quest to take mastery of your self care.


Further reading:

  • Book: The sleep revolution- transforming your life, one night at a time. By Arianna Huffington
  • Breus, M. (2016). Sleep and Mental Health Disorders. Psych Central.

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