We all know from experience how important a good quality night’s sleep can be to our health and wellbeing. And yet, the idea of getting your eight hours undisturbed every night has become a joke. Dismissed by many as an unimaginable, utopian luxury. In fact, it’s a basic necessity! If you're asking "how can I sleep better" - read on.
Why Your Body Needs Sleep
Unfortunately, a very high proportion of us go without. And this is a problem. According to sleep advocacy group, The Sleep Council, 40% of people in the UK suffer with sleep issues. And 25% of schoolchildren don’t get enough sleep, either. Yes, there are people that can and do manage on a few hours, but just ‘managing’ is not always healthy. Human beings deserve to thrive, not simply run on autopilot. One part of our mission to improve lives is to help everyone get a good quality night’s sleep. After years of research, it’s exciting to hear from Sensate owners that it really works.
_“Have not slept as well for very many years and feel relaxed during the day.” _ ~ Jon E, London
Quality sleep plays a role in the healthy functioning of a huge variety of biological and psychological processes. Good, restorative sleep has been shown to have beneficial effects on your mood, memory, energy levels, weight and concentration. Lack of sleep can prevent your body from regenerating at the necessary rate, creating deficiencies and problems that are detrimental to normal functioning.
While You Sleep, Your Body Does Vital Work
More extreme chronic sleep deprivation is detrimental to cardiovascular health, and significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Critically, research published in the journal, Science, indicates your brain actually needs hours of sleep to perform vital self-cleaning. Clearing out the waste products that brain cells generate as a result of normal daytime tasks. This is an important find for helping people optimize cognitive functions but also in approaches for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
Mind Feels Full? You're Not Alone
Sleep mechanics are very complex, and there are a variety of different ways for understanding sleep. I find that Chinese medicine provides a framework that works for most people and is not complex neuroscience.
The concepts of Shi and Xu describe two basic forms of sleep problems. These represent Fullness and Emptiness. Shi sleep disturbance means taking a long time to get to sleep because the mind is too full and busy.
Xu sleep disturbance involves waking frequently during the night because of one of several types of deficiency in the body. One person can have a combination of both forms of sleep disturbance - and many do.
Stress and anxiety are among the most common causes of chronic insomnia and other forms of sleep problems. A stressful working life, for example, makes it difficult to switch off the mind and accept the quietness of sleep. This can lead to Shi-type sleep disruption. The frequent waking of Xu-type disruption, on the other hand, can link to anxiety. The anxious mind may perceive any unexpected stimulus as a potential threat and rouse the body to respond. Whatever the hour.
How Can I Sleep Better?
Learning to self-regulate stress and increase your resiliency is one of the most commonly effective ways to reduce sleep disruption. There are many tried and tested methods, including:
- Managing breathing. Under stressful conditions, your body tends to start breathing more rapidly and taking shallow breaths. Learning to calm and slow your breathing, especially before bed, can reduce symptoms of stress and improve the health of your sleep quality.
- Meditation. As well as helping to train your breath, meditation increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This triggers the unconscious processes which the body uses to slow down functioning, relax and repair itself. It helps counter the effects of stress, which stimulate the fight-flight-freeze processes of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
- Herbal medicine. Ancient and modern herbal medicine practices offer a variety of ways to help encourage peaceful sleep and promote good health. The simplest is brewing herbal tea using appropriate ingredients. For example, peppermint, turmeric or liquorice for Shi-type disruption, or camomile, goji or rosebud for Xu-type.
Make Tech and Science Work for You
For many years, these were the only ways towards decent sleep, and while they worked brilliantly for some, that wasn’t the case for everybody. Today the ante is upped with brand-new tech. Tech (and our almost universal addiction to the hand-held device) can cause stress. But it’s also a superpower that we can harness for optimum health. Wearable tech such as our Sensate device is used to directly stimulate the PNS.
Sensate uses infrasonic technology to stimulate the vagus nerve, a crucial part of the PNS, almost miraculously reducing the physical symptoms of stress. It's just science. Placed on the chest, the portable device produces engineered tones the body feels rather than hears. This enables users to experience digital music as whole-body sound. As well as being deeply relaxing in itself, this conditions the vagus nerve. This provides many of the same benefits as extended meditation practice, with less of the time commitment.
We eat well to keep our body in good health. We stay hydrated to help our brain and muscles perform well. Why wouldn’t we regard it as just as normal to work on improving our sleep? If you struggle with sleep disturbance of any kind, the first step is taking matters into your own hands. Do your research, start looking for the methods and aids that could work for you, and reclaim your basic need for restful, restorative sleep. It’s an investment you’ll never regret.
About the author
Stefan Chmelik has spent a lifetime in natural health and 30 years as a practitioner. He is founder of New Medicine Group, the UK’s premier integrated healthcare team. Stefan is now focused on his new company BioSelf Technology. Developing Sensate – wearable technology to enable anybody to experience the many benefits of relaxation-on-demand in the shortest possible time.