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Monday, May 31, 2010

Sleep Sleep Sleep...How to Get More Sleep

Rose knows sleep may be what you’re dreaming about, but that’s not enough to make you bright-eyed and sharp. It’s not that fourth cup of coffee either. I found some interesting information on lifescripts, read on:

You need rest, which isn’t the same as sleep, says psychiatrist Matthew Edlund, M.D., a former Brown University medical professor and author of The Power of Rest (HarperCollins), due out next month.

Besides “passive rest” (like sleep and napping), we need “active rest,” a conscious resting of your mind, body and spirit, says Edlund, director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota, Fla.

But getting rest – active or passive – is no easy task. Up to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, according to the National Institutes of Medicine.

How much sleep do people really need? Check your body. [Think about] how much sleep you get a night on vacation. Are you feeling really refreshed [when you wake up]? That’s a good idea of how many hours of sleep you need.

Is there an average?Some people need nine hours, others four, some seven. Most perform pretty well with seven or eight hours, but it absolutely varies by person. I treat patients who sleep two to three hours a night – and that’s all they need.

Picasso would work all night and through most of the day. Then he’d sleep two hours and go back to work. It was perfectly fine [for him]. But most of us can’t do that.

Sometimes we get more sleep than usual and feel worse. Why?We’re meant to have a certain amount of activity and rest. If people have to lie in bed for 24 hours and they can sleep as much as they want, they feel awful. It’s about balance and doing what your body needs.

What about napping? I love naps. If you can get 10- to 15-minute naps a day, it can be really helpful.

Power naps can improve memory and learning, yet avoid the slow, deadly feeling of sleep inertia that comes with longer [siestas].

How do you rest in your own life?I do deep breathing and self-hypnosis – I mix and match different techniques, like different parts of a meal. It makes it more interesting when I need to relax.

Any advice for people who have trouble falling asleep?There are lots of things to do, such as taking hot baths, not looking at the clock and putting on an eye-mask so you can’t see the time.

Why not look at the clock?It’s a great way to keep you up all night.

Sleep is about conditioning. Your body clock will put you to sleep if your body is calm enough. The problem is that we’re so aroused [from our daily activity and stress] that we just can’t do it.

But there are many ways of calming down. I’ve been a sleep doc for more than 20 years. I found that I could solve people’s sleep problems, but that wasn’t enough. I had to teach them to rest.

What’s the difference between sleep and rest?We renew, rebuild and rewire the body [with rest]. It’s either conscious or unconscious. Sleep is a form of passive rest – we don't know what's going on. In active rest, we directly and consciously control [our bodies].

Active rest seems contradictory. Can you explain?It’s goal-oriented and directed. You rest your mind and body at will. We need active rest as well as sleep.

There are four types of active rest: physical rest, where you pay attention to your body processes to calm, relax and concentrate; mental rest, where you focus attention to obtain a sense of relaxed control [such as with self-hypnosis]; social rest, where you connect with people in different ways; and spiritual rest, where you connect with things greater than one’s self, such as meditation.

Physical rest means that you focus all your attention on a single muscle group, which when done properly, causes the rest of your body to relax.

In mental rest, you pay attention to something in your environment. [For example,] by focusing your mind on sounds and objects in your room, you reset perceptions while controlling your frustrations, letting the "steam come out of your ears" as you relax in periods of major stress.

Do we need active rest if we get enough sleep? The population has a sleep deficit almost as big as the federal budget deficit. Look at mothers who work and have kids: They’re averaging a little over six hours of sleep a night and they just feel chronically exhausted.

If they can learn active rest techniques, it can make it easier to get through the day – even if they’re not getting enough sleep.

What’s social rest?Humans are social animals, and [the number of] friends, colleagues and acquaintances we have is a large part of our overall health. It’s as big a factor as smoking or high blood pressure is.

When people know they have a connection, they start using it regularly. [It should be] someone you feel [very] close to, so you can say, “If I have a real problem, is it OK if I call you anytime?” That’s very powerful [social rest].

How do social connections boost health? When people are together, they [experience] changes in adrenaline levels and, in many cases, oxytocin (a hormone that stimulates the brain’s feel-good centers). When we have people we can talk to, it tends to be profoundly restful.

Studies at the University of California at Berkley in the late '70s showed that when people had more social connections, they had fewer heart attacks, strokes and, in many cases, cancer and depression.

It’s a tremendous stress reducer. The data is pretty good that if you [socialize], you’re going to live longer.

We see our hair and nails grow. People don’t realize it, but our brains grow too.

Most people spend most of their lives at work. Can you get rest there? Yes. [If] you’re having a bad day, just walk over to a colleague and talk to them about what’s bugging you. Take a walk with [them] at lunch.

You’re talking about work and your kids, and you’re also getting physical activity, which can be profoundly healthy.

How does physical activity help with sleep?Physical activity actually leads to brain-cell growth in memory areas during sleep.  

Are there other ways to rest at work without compromising the job?Many corporations will reprimand you – or even fire you – if they catch you napping.

So I developed the UnNap Nap, which uses a relaxation technique to get people rested and relaxed in 30-60 seconds. They’re still alert, but they’re also able to rest at their job.

How does that work?[By focusing on] one muscle group at a time. There’s a technique developed by psychologist Edmund Jacobson, Ph.D., called paradoxical relaxation. He found that paying attention to tiny, different muscle tensions – from one muscle to another – causes the rest of the body to relax. You relax by not relaxing.

You don’t have to do very much. You don’t have to do self-hypnosis, concentrate on relaxation, or stretch. All you have to do is notice things.

How to Have an UnNap Nap

1. Find the tensest part of the body.

2. Sit down comfortably and touch that area; touching it focuses your attention on that area.

3. Put your arms and hands down at your sides.

4. Close your eyes and focus on the tense area.

5. Don’t try to relax the area – just notice it, feel it, sense the tension for a few seconds (5-10 seconds).

6. Open your eyes and notice how the rest of your body relaxed while you focused on the tense area.

“The paradox is that the part of the body you’re paying attention to may not relax at all, but the rest of the body does,” Edlund says.

7. After you focus on one tense area, move to another. Include muscles you’ve never noticed before in the neck, arm and leg.

“Find these tiny differences and focus on them for a few seconds or 10 seconds at a time, then go onto the next,” he says.

Good Day,
Rose Sheepskill 

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