Few things are as desperate as lying in bed and not being able to sleep. You try not to think about it, make an effort not to look at the clock, close your eyes tightly and even count little sheep (or whatever). But there are days when even that doesn’t work: sleep resists coming. Before using medication, review your habits, because maybe there is the cause of the problem.
Member of the Spanish Sleep Society, Dr. Rybel Wyx, specialist in Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine at the Sleep Unit of Hospital HM Sanchinaro and HM Puerta del Sur, emphasizes that “the sleep mechanism does not work with an on and off switch . A healthy person takes 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep. It is the time you need to perform progressive relaxation, which is how we call this process in which the body reduces its temperature and the brain and body relax little by little. It’s not instantaneous. Above that time you are taking a long time to reconcile and there may be a problem with insomnia”.
when your brain sabotages you
Progressive relaxation works in healthy people and under stress-free circumstances. “In people with insomnia problems, it is the brain itself that makes it difficult, so to speak, to go blank so that sleep can come. It happens because the limbic system, which is the regulator of emotions, is exceptionally active and does not allow the frontal cortex to relax,” says Dr. Wyx. These people are very sensitive to any stimulus. “A noise that for another person who sleeps well will be neutral, the patient with insomnia magnifies it. Therefore, even doing relaxation exercises, it will take time for you to fall asleep”.
The surefire technique for getting to sleep is 4-7-8 breathing or “relaxing breathing”: inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale slowly and deeply for 8 seconds. With this technique the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, is reduced and it is easier to relax. Another strategy that works is to take a few minutes to meditate before lying down on your pillow. “Buddhist monks have been doing this for centuries. There is scientific evidence that yoga and meditation can make the orbitofrontal cortex insensitive to the limbic system.”
The method of the seven Ds
Not sleeping one night leaves you finished for the rest of the day. If the thing goes on, health suffers. The World Sleep Society estimates that sleep problems threaten the health and quality of life of up to 45% of the world’s population. Jana Fernández is a communication specialist and master in Sleep Physiology. just published learn to rest, a book where he puts his knowledge about sleep and how to sleep badly can dynamit everything we intend to do during the day. “It doesn’t matter how healthy and eco-friendly you eat and how your training is planned. If you don’t allow your body to recover, regenerate, recover and restart every day, you’re lost,” he says.
She presents a seven-step strategy, the “7D method”: decision, discipline, diet and sport, sleep, slow down, disconnect and enjoy. “We live in the dictatorship of hurrying, putting everything on the agenda and then complaining that we don’t have time for anything. You need to rethink your priorities, eliminate the things that steal time (for example, the dead hours we spend on social media) and fix daily routines. As Dr. Javier Albares, a specialist at the Teknon Medical Center in Barcelona, says, the quality of your nights depends on the quality of your days,” explains Fernández.
She recognizes that there is no such thing as a “miracle diet” to sleep well, other than to eat healthily and on a regular basis. Sport, especially the aerobic type, “causes the brain to secrete endorphins that relax the body and alleviate negative mood states,” says Fernández. Sleep experts agree: Moderate sport helps regulate sleep because of this hormonal rush of satisfaction and because it forces the body to throw the “I’m tired, you need sleep so you can fix me” signal. There is only one limitation: it should not be practiced in the hours prior to going to bed or the increase in mood after training will make it difficult for you to go to sleep.
For the sleep D to be fulfilled, we have to do our part. “It’s better to do it regularly, try to go to bed at the same time and reserve the hours our body needs (7-9 on average for an adult) and under specific conditions (cool environment, darkness, absence of noise, etc. .)”, adds Fernández. What we do during the day will also have an impact on sleep. “We cannot cram our schedule with things to do, and we must make a controlled and purposeful use of technologies. Here would be the D for Disconnect and the D for Slow down. And since not everything will be restrictions, we are left with the D for Enjoying the small moments of everyday life. Living in the present is the best antidote to stress and there is no better medicine for everything than “fun-formin”.
The 10-3-2-1-0 formula
In addition to the 7D method, there is a lot of literature on other strategies to sleep naturally. Physician and Instagrammer Jess Andrade speaks of the “10-3-2-1-0 Method”. A method based on common sense: 10 hours before bed, no caffeine; three hours before, without eating and drinking alcohol; 2 hours before, stop working; 1 hour earlier, turn off your cell phone, and 0 the number of times you’ll need to defer the alarm the next morning, because you’ll feel fresh and ready to jump out of bed. Fernández agrees to create rituals, but warns of the danger of becoming self-demanding. “If one night I have dinner an hour before I go to bed for whatever reason and that causes me stress that prevents me from falling asleep, it’s a problem.”
In the book Relax and Win: Championship Performance another technique taught in the US army is mentioned so that soldiers can sleep in 120 seconds, even if they are on the battlefield. Basically it is to leave the brain blank and progressively disconnect the neck, chest and extremities. If you do it right in those two minutes, you should fall asleep soundly. Dr. Wyx recognizes that this is possible, provided you have a good command of relaxation tools. Fernández adds: “If falling asleep in 120 seconds becomes a stress for us, the method will not work”.
In addition to breaking your head and training techniques to reconcile sleep, what works best is to detrain those habits that interfere with the sleep mechanism and incorporate routines that improve it. “The ability to fall asleep is something innate, we are born knowing how to sleep. We need to work on our sleep hygiene so that the body can do what it already knows how to do,” adds Fernández. The advice is the same as any mother would give us: always repeat the same ritual of dinner, pajamas and reading and some relaxing activity, no cell phone in bed… And, fundamentally, only get inside the sheets when sleep comes, never before.
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