Even before I was an addict, I battled with sleep —not so much staying asleep but I couldn’t slow my mind down long enough to go to bed at a decent hour.
Some nights, I’d toss and torn while others, I was sick of pretending I was comfortable. So I’d get up at whatever time it was, usually 2:00 a.m. and start my morning routine.
I knew this wasn’t normal but nothing seemed to help. Over the years, I’ve tried basically every type of sleeping medication. They either worked too well and I was a literal zombie the next day (like it hurt to lift my arm and get out of bed tired, which is a side effect of most sleeping meds) or they wouldn’t work at all.
I remember one medicine in particular, that if you didn’t fall asleep by the time the pill was transmitted into your system, about 20 minutes, it would have the opposite effect. As an anxiety-prone person, this didn’t work well for me. I’d drive myself crazy thinking I was in the wrong position (even though I wasn’t; as long as you were relaxing, you were fine). I’d work myself up so that there was no chance of falling asleep.
It’s frustrating because most times, all I wanted to do was sleep, yet, it was the last thing I could actually follow through on.
And so, I realized, I was doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, which if you haven’t heard is the definition of insanity. As a result, I made it my mission to get a good night’s sleep. How did I finally do it?
With the help of Ambien —except it’s not in the way you think. It actually changed my perspective on sleeping medication altogether. You see, I was still sick of feeling groggy every morning. Yes, I actually slept when I took Ambien but I was still that zombie girl I was trying so hard not to be. Some night’s I’d read a magazine (or two) and wait for it to kick in.
Then I’d be out like a freaking log.
But I had worked so hard to not be dependent on prescription medication. I was going the holistic way when it came to my recovery so why wouldn’t I want to apply that to sleep? Plus, I’m sure, you too have heard those crazy stories of people doing crazy shit while on Ambien. My track record proved I was a little nutty so that scared me a bit.
Then, I started doing some research on natural sleep aids when my doctor told me about melatonin, which is actually something already found inside of us. Melatonin is a serotonin derived hormone that is produced by the pineal gland (a region in the human brain) that regulates sleep and wakefulness in both circadian and seasonal cycles. Most of the time, when you can’t sleep, it’s because you’re not producing enough.
By adding a melatonin supplement to your wellness cabinet, you can bridge that gap naturally.
Today, I’ll use around five-10 milligrams about 30 minutes before I want to go bed. I’ll turn off all of my electronics and zone out. Normally, I’ll do my nighttime routine prior to taking it. They say you should be in bed, equipped for sleep, when you’re ready for it. Why? Because it will reinforce that tired feeling more efficiently. Depending on what I have the next morning normally tells me if I’ll take five or 10.
Little by little, I was falling asleep faster. I wasn’t dreading nighttime anymore. I was actually looking forward to it. Once I started getting a decent amount of sleep, I actually felt better during the day —because sleep means more than just a good night’s rest. I want you to be able to say the same. I want you to sleep in and not feel bad about it either.
So here are four reasons why you should stay in bed and snooze.
1. You Can Improve Your Concentration and Productivity Levels.
Sleep is crucial for several aspects of how your brain functions. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity as well as performance All of these factors are negatively impaired if you’re sleep deprived. Seriously though.
Sleep helps your brain send new information to the memory portal (in your brain) through a process called memory consolidation. Experts suggest people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later on.
Here’s a prime example.
Researchers conducted a study on medical interns. Those on a traditional schedule made 36 percent more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep. And get this.
Another study found that not getting enough sleep can be just as detrimental to your brain as alcohol intoxication. At the same time, a good night’s rest has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance in both children and adults.
If your body doesn’t get a chance to properly recharge, you’re already starting the next day at a disadvantage. You might find yourself feeling drowsy or irritable. You most likely will struggle to take new information in at work (school too) —and remembering things won’t be as easy. Even your decision-making skills will lack.
If this happens night after night, it places a tremendous strain on your nervous system, body, and overall health.
2. Sleep Literally Helps You Heal.
We now know that sleep quality and duration has a major impact on many risk factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. A review of 15 studies found that short sleepers are at a far greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke as opposed to those who get a full night’s rest.
The key here is to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat. According to Harvard Health, sleep deprivation can alter your immune function, including the activity of your body’s killer cells. They say that keeping up with sleep may also help you fight cancer.
So turn over and get your sleep on, people.
As most of you know, I’m a type one diabetic. That said, when I don’t get adequate sleep, it can actually affect my blood sugar levels and reduce my sensitivity to insulin —meaning, when I sleep well, my numbers are more stable and I normally need less insulin.
For any non-diabetics, this is like gold.
In a study of healthy young men, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes. This was then resolved after one week of increased sleep. And it’s not just me or the people in that study. Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
3. It May Just Boost Your Mood & Immune System.
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. Research shows us that an estimated 90 percent of patients with depression complain about sleep. Those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without. And, poor sleep is even associated with an increased risk of suicide.
But there’s more. You ever realize that when you sleep well, you get sick less? Well to test this theory, a 2-week study observed the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the virus that causes flu-like symptoms. They found that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.
So get in bed with a book, caffeine-free tea, and that pink bouquet of roses your significant other got you, if you want to feel good and heal even better.
On top of it all, sleep can have a major effect on inflammation levels in your body, which is not a good thing —more inflammation, more physical pain. In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and can even damage healthy cells.
4. Sleep Helps You Stay Skinny.
Poor sleep is greatly associated with weight gain. People who sleep less tend to weigh significantly more than those who get an adequate amount. In fact, short sleep cycles are one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. The effect of sleep on weight gain is thought to be arbitrated by various factors, including hormones and your motivation to exercise.
Studies show that those who are sleep deprived have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. This is because a lack of sleep disrupts your appetite hormones —including higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses it. In short, those who sleep well, tend to have faster metabolisms.
So what are you waiting for?
I know this all sounds great in theory, but when you go to lay your head down, it’s like you’re instantly awake. All day you struggle to keep your eyes open and then at the very moment it’s acceptable to rest, you simply can’t. I hope you start changing it up.
Don’t be insane like I was for far too long.
There are ways to help you sleep better because like we’ve established, it’s more than some shut-eye. Sleeping well means better concentration. Deep sleep means healing. And staying asleep means happiness and good health. Because a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.