The Sleep Blog No.1
My name is Cheryl McCullough. My work is divided into my role as a Wellbeing Practitioner for the NHS, working with vulnerable individuals to access, social, emotional and practical support and my role as a Wellbeing therapist in Liverpool, Merseyside. I practice reflexology, acupuncture, massage and nutrition. Most recently I incorporated (Integral Eye Movement Therapy) to my work to cater for people who are struggling with mental health issues. I offer bespoke therapy sessions that cater for individual need.
My work in therapies started when I could see a gap in body-mind holistic support and how not looking at the person as whole and solely from a medical reductionist perspective, in some cases can do more harm. This has been as a result of my work in both mental health and physical health services.
I am passionate about community spirit and guiding others, especially to inspire creative ways to support mental and physical health. My mission is to provide a safe retreat to empower people with the resources and tips that they can use lifelong to support their wellbeing.
What follows is a 4 part sleep blog incorporating a practical video.
TIPS ON SLEEP AND WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE IT A PRIORITY FOR WELLBEING
True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. William Penn
Why is Sleep positive for our Health and Wellbeing?
(i) Immunity; Sleep improves effectiveness of T-cells (immune cells that safeguard the body from pathogens which is a bacterium or virus that causes disease)
(ii) Emotional support; A restful deep night’s sleep has a positive relationship in terms of reactivity to emotional experiences. For example, we do not act as impulsively. If we feel hurt or angry, we can tend to emotionally respond automatically on impulse, a state of fight or flight. However, sleep can help us deal with these emotions and regulate and see the situation for what it is, without the emotional intensity. In traditional Chinese medicine, the “Shen” (spirit, mind, emotions)” resides in the “Heart”. The Shen retires to sleep during the night. If Shen is unbalanced and disturbed, insomnia may be prevalent. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views not being able to sleep, partly due to a disharmony of the spirit/shen. A restless spirit, grief, prolonged stress, insomnia ensues. The Shen is viewed in the eyes bringing forth the spirit, which is not dependent upon age. Can you recall seeing a person who has a lot of years behind them, but still have a shine of the spirit, of youth. Without rest of the spirit/sleep it can dull the spirit and the senses.
(iii) Brain power; Can help improve cognition; learning, improve improving.
(iv) Contributeor cause Weight Gain. Weight regulation hormones (Ghrelin and Leptin) can become out of sync and dysregulated without adequate sleep. Ghrelin increases your appetite, whilst leptin decreases hunger (which helps satiety) - stay full for longer after a meal. If you are sleep deprived, it may result in increasing ghrelin levels, hence heightened levels of hunger. Lack of sleep can also cause higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This will also increase your appetite.
(v) Blood Sugars. Lack of sleep can affect insulin fluctuations (allows your body to use sugar) - possibly set the stage for diabetes 2.
(vi) Antiaging – Provides your mind and body with restful time to rejuvenate and repair. As your brain is switched to rest mode during sleep, the contrary is true for your skin. Blood flow to the skin increases, which feeds it with valuable nutrients. When we sleep, the skin makes new collagen to repair and heal itself, supporting the firmness and plumpness of your skin, looking more youthful. HGH (the human growth hormone). This is naturally produced by your body during sleep, to help regulate organs and build strength to your muscles.
(vii) Brain Function/disease – detoxification. In deep sleep mode – we are also activating the detoxification process of waste clearance from our central nervous system. The glymphatic system, this is most active during sleep – waste clearance from the brain. – think of a plumbing system, which is much more active during sleep. This has been noted to possibly be one of the factors that can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Sleep is very difficult if your central nervous system is responding to patterns of the past. The identical chemistry is produced whether here is danger or imagined. Therefore, your brain cannot differentiate between imagined and what is real. This can be produced by old stored memories. This can happen when you are safe in bed but your system is still feeling an imagined threat.
If you do not discharge what is causing your subconscious to keep you awake at night, you will repeat the same old patterns and you will only find a temporary resolution. Your mind believes it is keeping you safe (for survival), by keeping you awake, to prepare you for the day ahead. You brain can be on automatic drive derived from the experiences that it has learned from the past. One of the central aims of the subconscious mind is survival of the organism. It can make errors regarding what is actually a threat to survival. Your subconscious mind can still believe that you are under threat at night. For example, an animal instinctual survival fight or flight may be stimulated by a visualising a lion, when there is no visualisation and the lion is no longer present, it will no longer relive the experience. However, humans, stress response also is incited when you merely imagine the danger, also producing cortisol, and adrenaline.
For long-term sleep issues, a solution is Meditation
Transcendental Meditation (TM): which consists in the silent repetition of a meaningless sound, a "mantra". Research has demonstrated that the stress of not sleeping over time accumulates and TM helps you to abandon this sleep debt. Neurologists have discovered that TM naturally increases serotonin, (this is a neurotransmitter that governs a central role in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles.) Optimal levels of serotonin induce restful sleep. The practice of TM also reduces the levels of stress-related hormones, which will support melatonin – sleep/wake cycle. Also brain waves showed increased coherence throughout the brain. Coherence is when your brain (thoughts and decisions) are in sync with your heart (emotions) and body (actions you take). It is a state of unity between your mind, body, and spirit, therefore, breeding ground for a peaceful sleep.
Action of TM. Silently repeat a mantra you have decided upon twice – one when you inhale and again when you exhale. If you become aware of thoughts that arise, just merely register them, but then softly return on the mantra.
Mindfulness: This is based on the premise that being in the now (grounded in the present). To be fully present and not to be reactive or engulfed by what is happening around us. A conscious awareness – key to accepting things how they are in that moment. The stress hormone, cortisol in studies have been shown to lower with this practice. This practice is grounding and calming the central nervous system. Studies have demonstrated a higher amount of neurons and connections in insula (emotions), right frontal cortex, (concentration). Also a decrease in the amygdala which is involved in arousal, fear and, emotional meanings to our memories and many other functions.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”― Lao Tzu – This state will promote a good night’s sleep.