This is usually the first question your loved ones ask you in the morning. Sleep is vitally important for our overall wellbeing. It guides our reasoning, our memory and our health; we spend approximately one third of our life in this very special condition; and generally we don’t think too much about it.
Sleeping preserves our precious energy level. When we are sleeping, our body switches into standby mode – our muscles are relaxed, breathing and heart rate are slow and regular and our blood pressure is low. At least this is true during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which makes out about 80% of our sleep. The rest is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep where irregular breathing and an irregular heart rate as well as involuntary muscle jerks can occur. This is the time where dreams are happening.
As sleeping is relaxing and recharging our body, also dreaming is both relaxing as well as activating our mind. According to C.G. Jung, dreams are a way of communicating with the unconscious. They aim to guide you, when you are awake and often offer a solution to an issue bothering your mind.
How much we sleep varies according to our age and our entire constitution. A little baby sleeps up to 16 hours per day; its grandma maybe just 5 or 6. In general an individual should get about 8 hours sleep per night in order to function well.
Sleeping well is a very fragile construct which consists of many little parts that have to fit together in order to provide your exhausted body and mind with this so urgently needed rest. If this construct is shaky or if a vital part is missing, sleep will either not come at all, far too late or we wake up in the middle of the night being victims of our thoughts and our bodily functions.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Rubin R Naiman, the lack of sleep is a severe lifestyle issue and has a direct impact on our physical, spiritual and emotional health. Studies show that there is a direct link between lack of sleep and obesity. Lack of sleep gives a spike in insulin production which may cause diabetes. Further he states that “the chronic loss of dreaming may be the most critically overlooked factor in clinical depression”.
There are various strategies for more restful nights. We are so aroused by stress, caffeine and emails that we often forget the value of a good night sleep or even worse: we forget how to literally switch off our mind.
Meditation is a good way of calming your brain and your thoughts and in the long term it will help you to control various forms of anxiety that hinder your sleep. But also physical activity will help you to calm down and get physically tired. Limiting caffeine and alcohol are well known strategies but often forgotten. Also heavy food in the evening may hamper your body rest completely.
Develop a routine before going to bed to let your body know that it is time. Take your time and don’t rush your body to find sleep – have a herbal tea before or read a few pages in your favorite book for example. For others a hot bath might be the key.
Dr Rubin R Naiman coined the term Deep Green SleepTM, whereby “Deep” refers to the quality of our descent into sleep and “Green” to the optimal sleep environment. Reduce sleep smog in your room by taking care of a good mattress and a “green” bedding utilizing organic cotton, wool and natural latex. Critical and very do-able: Let fresh air into your bedroom! Furthermore, common house plants have been shown to function as efficient air filters (top of the range: Areca palm, Lady palm, Bamboo palm, and Rubber plant).
“Natural sleep onset requires a willingness to spend a few moments alone with ourselves in the dark.” – Dr. Rubin Naiman