“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

Thomas Dekker

Everybody needs ‘down time’; a break from the daily stresses and strains of life and time to regroup and build strength. Your cells are no exception. In today’s world, with so much stimulating entertainment right at our fingertips, even when we’re in bed – in the form of smartphones and tablets, many people are forgoing sleep (i.e. true restorative body-down-time) in favour of Social Media, watching films or surfing the internet. However, although this practice may be considered a sign of a enjoyable, social living, it may also be having a negative effect on the individual’s physical health and wellbeing by delaying the onset of restorative sleep and disrupting sleep cycles.

It’s estimated that between 10% and 30% of adults experience insomnia at some point in their lives. Although there are different definitions, this generally means difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night and/or waking unrefreshed and tired. Various studies have been carried out exploring the effects of disrupted or reduced sleep and it’s been shown that less-than-optimal-sleep can negatively impact our nervous system; leading to cognitive problems such as poor memory, depression, increased risk of accidents and our immune system (potentially increasing symptoms of inflammation and pain). In addition, sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer!

Do you ever experience:

  • Waking up feeling tired or achy?

  • Excessive daytime fatigue?

  • Feeling you’re in a ‘boom bust’ cycle of energy?

  • Waking often during the night (for whatever reason)?

  • Finding it hard to get to sleep at night?

  • Are you fed up of how ‘unpredictable’ your symptoms or health seem?

If you've answered 'yes' to two or more of the questions above,
you may well benefit from some assistance in optimising and maximising your nightly sleep! Read below for some ideas...

Unfortunately, when people experience chronic sleep problems, they are often prescribed medication which may bring about improved sleep in the short-term, though with certain physical side effects and potential long term consequences such as tolerance, addiction or increased toxicity within the body. Wherever possible, the underlying cause of the insomnia needs to be addressed (which is usually where the other aspects of The Jigsaw come in). In the meantime, ensuring good ‘sleep hygiene’, i.e. living in a way that is most conducive to sleep is essential. For some key points about ‘sleep hygiene’, see below.

Even if you’re a ‘head hits the pillow and I’m out for the night’ kind of sleeper, it may still be possible to optimise your sleep habits to achieve more optimum health and longevity. For example, the type and quality of our sleep varies throughout the night. Before ~3am, we generally experience more non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep than REM sleep. After 3amour sleep cycles are composed of more REM sleep than non-REM. Sleep after 3am is often lighter too, so we can be more easily aroused and disturbed. Both kinds of sleep are important; REM sleep (when we experience dreams) is the time we process the thoughts and experiences from the days we’ve just finished. Non-REM sleep is the deeper, restorative sleep, during which our cells have the greatest opportunity to repair, build resources and eliminate metabolic waste. This means that the old saying of ‘an hour before midnight is worth two after midnight’ has some truth in it with regards to the life cycle and optimum health of our cells.

When it comes to recovery from chronic illness, sleep and its quality (or lack of) becomes even more important. Although often overlooked in conventional management programmes, when working with The Optimum Health Jigsaw for Recovery, the Protection Jigsaw Piece needs to be focused on in great depth. Especially since ‘Protection’ does not simply address the restorative sleep needs of the cells, but also the need for appropriate ‘pacing’ in terms of managing activity levels as appropriate to the state of the individual’s cells.

Other ways to work on your PROTECTION Jigsaw Piece and start to maximise and optimise your sleep:

  • Sleep in a Comfortable, Quiet Environment (for example):
    • Use heavy curtains or actual blackout curtains or a comfortable eyemask to block out light to help regulate circadian (daily) rhythms of wakefulness and sleep.
    • Use very gentle music or relaxing nature sounds to block out distracting outside noise.
    • Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable. Check your mattress for signs of wear at least twice a year and replace it as soon as possible if it is too hard, too soft or too lumpy or bumpy.

  • Unwind before bed (for example):
    • Although it’s probably hard, try and avoid interactive or stimulating ‘screen-time’ for 60-90 minutes before bed. This starts to calm down the brain and also helps to avoid night time exposure to the blue light emitted by electronics, which has been shown to disrupt sleep by inhibiting secretion of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
    • Avoid working late into the evening wherever possible; allow your body and brain time to slow down and get into the ‘sleep vibe’ rather than working at top speed until you actually climb into bed.
    • Take a leaf from ‘baby-sleeptraining’ advice and create some ‘sleep associations’: train your body to associate a certain scent and certain sounds with falling asleep. Use a diffuser to fill your bedroom with the smell of an essential oil you particularly enjoy (Lavender and Chamomile are both gentle relaxing scents) and play any gentle music (‘alpha music’ is supposed to be particularly effective) consistently at bedtime.

  • Don’t forget about sleep during the daytime!(for example):
    • Minimise your intake of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol; throughout the day and especially in the evening, when you’re trying to get your body and mind into a more relaxed state for sleep.
    • If possible, stick to a regular exercise regime. Exercise not only helps release pent up energy that can be caused by daily stresses, it also generates ‘feel-good’ endorphins which are beneficial to general health. However, exercise close to bedtime can actually disrupt sleep, so ensure to manage your timings carefully.
    • Take time to play! Relaxation and ‘good times’ are not only therapeutic and enjoyable in themselves, they can also get your body in best shape for a good night’s sleep.

Remember, the suggestions above are only a few simple recommendations – if you’re looking for a more comprehensive ‘Sleep Support’ programme, work with a sleep specialist or talk to us!

When it comes to recovery from chronic illness, sleep and its quality (or lack of) becomes even more important. Although often overlooked in conventional management programmes, when working with The Optimum Health Jigsaw for Recovery, the PROTECTION Jigsaw Piece needs to be focused on in great depth. Especially since ‘Protection’ does not simply address the restorative sleep needs of the cells, but also the need for appropriate ‘pacing’ in terms of managing activity levels as appropriate to the state of the individual’s cells. (we call it ‘Pacing Heroism’ since many people don’t understand the strength of character and determination and persistence required to say ‘no’ after a lifetime of saying ‘yes’!)

“If you’d like to discuss which aspect of the Optimum Health Jigsaw should be your priority, or which implementation(s) would be most appropriate for you personally, please contact me via our contact form or on 01743-718-324 or email here. I look forward to working with you!”