I am sure you have heard it a million times in your life, make sure you get enough sleep. Over and over, time and time again. The thing is no one really tells you why. During this quarantine retreat I have been sleeping an extra 60 minutes each night, which has been awesome! My dreams have been quite vivid, yet I awake rested and ready for my day. Granted, my day isn’t quite as full as it once was, but I can handle the spikes in my anxiety level more effectively, I can learn things much quicker and new ideas come to me much easier. One of the biggest reasons why sleep is so important, is the amazing work being done during the REM or rapid eye movement stage. On average an adult has 5 to 6 REM cycles per night and the first cycle happens about 90 minutes in. This stage is important for brain development, learning and memory consolidation. I promise! I’m going to try and not geek out and go into a deep dive into neurobiology. Instead, I will use an analogy into what happens during your REM stage of sleep. Let’s imagine your brain is a great big lush garden and during the night, if you get an adequate amount of quality sleep, synaptic pruning occurs…just like those overgrown rose bushes. Basically, the synapse is the space between our neurons, or nerve cells, where communication occurs. So, the pruning helps to clear away all the miscellaneous and random information that we pick up that doesn’t serve us, so we have the ability to store new information in its place. Can you believe that every little thing you see, smell or hear during the day is stored in your cells? That truly blows my mind! The bottom line is, if you don’t get enough quality sleep, you carry all that junk into the new day and that is why you might feel groggy when you wake up. Who knew? It was once thought that this pruning stopped in your 20s and that you couldn’t grow new nerve cells. Fortunately, that has been debunked by the Salk Institute. I included a few links below for your reference just in case you want to learn more. I can tell you that I am relieved by this new information because I know I killed off a lot of brain cells in my party days! So, the next time you decide to stay up a little longer to watch the Halloween movies for 100th time in your life, reconsider. So, what can help? Yoga, meditation, pranayama (breathwork), Reiki, exercise, fresh air, singing, and avoiding alcohol before bed. I know that last part probably has you say, hell no I like my glass of wine before bed! The bad news, alcohol is a neurotoxin to your neurons and has the potential to seriously damage your brain. In the short term, if you have anxiety already, alcohol has been shown to worsen your sleep quality and disrupts the REM cycle. If you wish to indulge try to do so earlier in the evening.
If you want to learn more about a yoga home practice or Reiki for sleep difficulties or insomnia, please contact me.