Why Do We Need to Sleep?

Sleeping is an essential part of life. We all need to sleep at least few hours every night in order to function properly. Our mind and body suffer when we have difficulty in falling asleep or when we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to sleep again.

When we don’t get enough sleep, during the day we feel tired, irritable, have difficulty concentrating. Of course, there are exceptions. Randy Gardner when he was 17 years old set a world record of staying awake without using any stimulant for 11 hours in 1964. However, for the rest of us, we need to sleep every night.

Sleeping is biological imperative. Our body and mind get a good rest for several hours every night. During sleep several functions occur. Some of these are metabolic, immunological and hormonal.

Here are some of the functions of sleep. A good night sleep is an excellent restoration mechanism for the body. All the organs get a chance to rest. For example, it has shown that sleeping helps healing our wounds. Although all organs slow down, our brain maintains its full function.

In addition to taking care of the body, sleeping allows the brain to repair itself by removing wastes and the mind to improve memory.

Dreaming, specifically, helps to keep us emotionally healthy. Anxiety dreams and nightmares are the way our mind releases the built up tensions during the previous day. During the REM sleep, the brain blocks the activity of the bodily motor system. That’s the reason why we don’t move when we dream. Without this mechanism, we would move our body when we have nightmares, which would cause a complete physical exhaustion.

Now you know the functions of sleeping, you ought to make sure to get a good night sleep every night. Here are some tips:

  1. Do your best to go to bed at the same hour. Your brain love routines and if you maintain a healthy one, it makes it easy to fall asleep.
  2. Avoid strong lights 30 minutes before going to bed. If you must use a laptop or a cell phone in bed just before sleeping, make sure you dim the screen. A strong light into your eyes becomes a message for your brain to wake up.
  3. Avoid snooze button. Sleeping is made of several cycles of REM and not REM. When you wake up and then go back to bed to be waken up again few minutes later, you fall into a new sleep cycle. That’s why snooze enthusiasts drag themselves out of bed.
  4. Sleep in darkness. Avoid keeping a light on when you sleep. The light penetrates through your closed eyelids and communicates to your brain that it’s time to get up. It confuses your sleep cycle.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Although drinking a glass of wine may apparently make you feel drowsy, it actually interferes with sleeping cycles.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” Ghandi




Anxiety Freaks Me Out!

Anxious woman

A young North American woman, let’s call her Christine, requested an appointment for online consultation. She contacted me because she suffered from anxiety attacks, insomnia, and she also worried constantly. She explained that she had been anxious since she was an adolescent. Christine used to wake up several times at night thinking of different social situations that caused her anxiety. Another source of her anxiety was her relationship with her boyfriend. As she puts it, “all this freaks me out!”

Her symptoms were the typical of people with anxiety: over all tension, tightness in chest, shaky hands, dizziness and nausea.

Christine coped with her anxiety in different ways. She tried to avoid the typical anxiety-producing situations and when she couldn’t avoid them, Christine used to distract herself by watching TV as a way to get her mind off worries. At times she would fight her anxiety with positive thoughts such as “I should not get so anxious. I can be calm.” At other times she would also practice deep breathing in order to sooth her anxious feelings.

I helped Christine to overcome her anxiety in total of five online sessions. First we look at her strategies (avoidance, distraction, deep breathing and positive thinking) that didn’t give any lasting results. Then, based on our consultation, we arrived to few strategies that she started putting into practice. After several weeks Christine noticed a slight improvement and from then on she became more confidant about herself.

Almost two years later I emailed her to see how she was doing. Her reply showed that the positive changes were long lasting even though she had been going through a very stressful time! Here is Christine’s reply:

“Things are going well! I haven’t had an anxiety attack since our sessions and my anxiety rarely flares up these days. Since moving on from (a country) I’m able to reflect and realize that the isolation of where I lived greatly contributed to my anxiety. Also my partner at the time was a major contributor. I’ve since moved on from (that country) and that relationship and am feeling much better. As my confidence rises so does my ability to control my anxiety. A testament to this has been my state of mind for the past 9 months which have been some of the most stressful of my life so far. I’ve maintained ambition and a positive attitude through it all. I have not had to use any of the techniques you taught me in almost a year and a half. Thank you again so much for your help in such a difficult time.”

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Source: Philip Gradwell

Javier was a man in his late forties. He came to see me because he was unable to get a good night’s sleep. Having been prescribed anti-anxiety medication he would go to bed after taking his daily dosage. He would fall asleep normally but at around, 2 AM he would find himself wide awake. After an hour or so of tossing and turning, he would fall asleep again but then he would shortly wake up again. This pattern of waking up four to five times every night had taken a toll on both his peace of mind and his physical health.

He had gone to a private clinic where they did a thorough sleep analysis to get to the bottom of the medical causes of his insomnia. He had also been in therapy with a psychologist who had looked at all the psychological causes of why he wasn’t sleeping well at night. Together, the psychologist and Javier had discussed all the various things that were a source of worry in his life.
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