With so much on our minds these days, it is a miracle to have a solid, consistent, adequate amount sleep each night. For many this is a non-issue. For some, they have not had a history of healthy sleep patterns. And for many more, these current circumstances in the world have led to a major disruption in sleeping, rest and maintaining health and wellness.
Sleep deprivation can wreck your mood, throw off your metabolism, stress you decision making skills, reduce your athletic ability and impair your judgment. There is a reason sleep-deprivation is considered a form of torture. Perhaps there is an uptick in alcohol consumption, a less-than-stellar diet, and inability to find time to exercise these days. Most likely there is the subtle but pervasive drumbeat of stress in the background, always reminding you that the future is unknown and the world is in a perpetual state of anxiety. This does not have to mean that YOU are in a consistent state of anxiety, one that robs you of sleep and prevents you from maintaining your optimal immune system.
It is not what happens to you, it is how you handle it.
A byproduct of being surrounded by so much uncertainty in the world is the stress that interrupts a night of sleep, perhaps precipitating racing thoughts and fear of the future. This differs from the exercise of replaying past events of the day. These pervasive thoughts are about future events, “catastrophizing” about the worst that will happen. So what actions can you take when this is happening to you?
Several tools can help you sleep through the night so you maintain optimal health especially as we go into seasons that are going to test our immune system. The most noted suggestion is to make sure you have alone time each day, even for twenty minutes, when you are not multi-tasking, looking at a screen, or engaged in some other activity like driving.
The key is to take time out of your day to process information around you, and reflect on your thoughts, since your body is forcing you to do that in the middle of the night. The brain manufactures information when there are pauses to process it, and if you are constantly distracted and on the move, surrounded by people, movement and things, you are not giving yourself the chance to reflect. Taking time to pause and reflect does not need to be sitting in lotus position and meditating, it can mean taking a solo walk, sitting in a chair looking out the window, or driving to the beach and watching the waves.
The goal is for you to give yourself a moment, and let the concerns surface. There will be a pattern in how you think about your fears and there will be themes that repeatedly resurface. When you are able to do this more consistently, you are giving yourself the gift of time, and you are choosing the time, rather than the repetitive thoughts choosing the time for you. Try it, and you may just get the full night of sleep you need. Sweet dreams.