Better sleep doesn’t just start in the sheets. It begins with a regulated nervous system. So, what does sleep, and your nervous system have to do with one another?
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone. Human survival doesn’t just rely on healthy food and water alone. It requires good, quality sleep.
I know how cranky and unproductive I get when my nightly slumber suffers. It makes for a hard night and even harder day.
We spend a third of our life sleeping and if it’s not quality, then our health is suffering.
Without the proper ‘ZZZZs’ we lack the ability to form and maintain the pathways we need in our brain to help us learn new things, create new memories, it becomes harder to concentrate and respond quickly.
Sleep is a complex and dynamic process that influences almost every type of tissue in the system including the brain, heart, lungs, metabolism, immune function, mood and disease resistance. If you have chronic lack of sleep, or poor-quality sleep, you could be at risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.
That is a lot to wrap your head around (and hopefully you just learned something new).
When it comes to sleep and the nervous system, where does the first domino fall in all of this? It begins in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS for short), which include the Sympathetic Nervous System (think Fight or Flight), Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest, Digest & Heal) and the Enteric Nervous System (Gut). The ANS is a vital part of our system and is essential in making sure our bodies function properly via body temperature, production of sweat, saliva, etc., digestion, metabolism, electrolyte balance, heart rate, emotional responses and the list goes on.
Sleep is the time of day when our body’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated to help us rest and recover, which diminishes the sympathetic nervous system response. Balance is the key word here. Our good night’s sleep creates rebalancing, which allows our body to replenish physiologically, to ensure our success for a productive day.
When we struggle to fully relax at night, and aren’t able to still the mind, then we can have trouble falling and staying asleep. That may make our hearts race, thoughts causing stress and the night of sleep may suffer. As this is happening, the sympathetic nervous system struggles to achieve its natural balance with the parasympathetic nervous system. Our bodies need this balance.
You may be relating to what I am speaking of. We all have bad nights of sleep on occasion, so don’t worry too much. Just know that there are amazing skills you can learn to help aid this natural sleep and wake cycle. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for your health and overall wellness. Here are a few tips to improve your quality of sleep:
1. Create a sleep schedule – routines bring us into a feeling of safety. Find something that you can stick to. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
2. Exercise is your friend for many reasons and sleep is one of them. Try to get in 20-30 minutes daily
3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol drinks that are later in the evening/ before bed
4. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t sleep, don’t just lay there. Get up, read, listen to music and go back to bed when you feel tired
5. Environment is Everything- make your room sleepy time worthy with low lighting, no loud sounds, comfy temperature, and keep screens out of the bedroom
6. Relaxing Habits- warm baths, light reading, soft music, meditation or other relaxing routines to cue your body into ease
7. Breathwork – Breathwork has a huge impact on your nervous system. Creating a practice with intentional, conscious healing breathwork and body connection helps regulate any nervous system back into the ideal balance