Sleep, need to re-learn

Even if we have sleep problems, most of them are minor, and after a few days, sleep often returns to normal. According to reports, more than 300 million people in China have sleep disorders, of which the incidence of insomnia in adults is close to 40%. “I was sleeping well before, but now I can’t sleep all night”, what is this because of?

Sleep is an indispensable physiological phenomenon, just like breathing, it is a natural and uncontrolled physiological activity. The “couch” and “sound sleep” were originally like an organ, a conditioned reflex. Our body has developed a conditioned reflex in countless sleep acts, and when the “body lies down”, “brain sleep” occurs. Then we can guess that insomnia must be due to some factors that prevent this conditioned reflex from occurring.

The most direct effect of insomnia is the shortening of sleep time, which leads to a significant increase in our waking time in bed. This inevitably leads us to develop another conditioned reflex – “lie down” and “stay awake”. As our insomnia increases, the amount of time we spend lying in bed and awake increases. This creates the conditions for a conditioned reflex between “lying down” and “awake”. Over time, our bodies gradually adapt to this new, unhealthy conditioned reflex, and override the previous sleep free, healthy conditioned reflex. So that when we lie down again, the likelihood of our body and brain “going to sleep instead of waking up” increases significantly, leading to a gradual and progressive increase in insomnia. The more insomnia we have, the more we want to rest in bed, even if we are awake. But this further aggravates the insomnia problem, thus creating a vicious circle that is difficult to break.

So, if we want to break this vicious circle, we need to break this unhealthy conditioned reflex – “lie down” and “awake”. So what we need to do is: not to lie down when you are awake. To be precise, when you are not sleepy, do not want to sleep, can not go to bed lying. Only do not sleepy not bed, we can gradually break the wrong conditioned reflexes, rebuild the right conditioned reflexes, can gradually restore the normal relationship between bed and sleep.

In brief, the following points need to be done.
● Even if it is already late, you should do not go to bed until you are sleepy, and only when sleepiness really comes, you can go to bed in your bedroom.

● When you wake up in the middle of the night, if you lie down for more than 15 minutes and still have no sleepiness, you should get up, leave the bedroom, go to another room, and do something boring and tedious with a view to sleepiness coming again. When you are sleepy again, you can go back to your bedroom to sleep.

When you wake up in the morning, you should get up and leave your bedroom in time, not to stay in bed. The same is true during the day, and if you have a lunch break, it needs to be limited to 30 minutes, again, no sleepy no lunch break.

The above three points stem from the cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and belong to its core elements. Through further careful and practical efforts, the problem of chronic insomnia will eventually be improved. In addition to the above three principles, there are still some issues that we need to revisit.

● Good or bad sleep is not defined by 8 hours. There is no need to be overly concerned about the length of sleep, because deep sleep is of more value to us, so even longer light sleep is of limited value. So, as long as sleep can satisfy our energy during the day, it is enough.

● Try to wake up at the same time every day. Waking up at the same time every day can make our “biological clock” and the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness more stable, which can help prolong the sleep time and reduce insomnia.

Regular meals, but do not go to bed on an empty stomach. Hunger can affect sleep, so a small snack before bed, especially carbohydrates, will help you fall asleep, but avoid foods that are too greasy or difficult to digest.

● Use caffeine-containing foods and beverages wisely. Various types of coffee, cola, tea, and chocolate all contain varying levels of caffeine. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant and significantly drives away drowsiness. Routinely, caffeine in the body is metabolized in about 6 hours. Therefore, caffeine-based beverages can be consumed in moderation in the morning to maintain energy. However, each person’s metabolism level is different, so it is necessary for us to use such foods appropriately according to our situation.

Avoid drinking alcohol. Although drinking alcohol can help us to fall asleep more easily by improving our nervousness, it is more likely to cause repeated awakenings at night and early awakenings afterwards. Therefore, in the long run, drinking alcohol is not the right choice for insomnia.

● Smoking can interfere with sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant. Try not to smoke at night when you have a sleep disorder.

● Don’t bring your problems to bed. Solve your various work and life problems as early as possible at night, or carefully complete your study and life plans for the next day so that you don’t lie down and still have your mind racing.

● Don’t wait for sleep. You can’t wait for sleep, and lying in bed early and waiting for it will only make the problem worse. Instead, turn on the lights, leave the bedroom, and do something different like reading or writing that will be more conducive to sleep.

● Put the alarm clock out of sight. Repeatedly looking at the time can cause frustration, anger and worry, and these emotions can interfere with sleep.

● Don’t talk too long about lying in bed. Don’t talk too long with your bed partner after lying in bed, and don’t talk about topics that can easily lead to agitation. Because this is the most common cause of acute and chronic insomnia, we need to be extra vigilant.

The bedroom smell and temperature needs to be appropriate. People have the habit of using incense and fragrance in the bedroom, and the right amount of use is good for relieving tension and relaxation, but if the smell is too strong, it is easy to cause excitement in the body, which also leads to insomnia. Temperature is also a very important factor, we can generally control the room temperature between 20 ℃ to 25 ℃, the bedroom temperature can be appropriately low, because the temperature is low in the state of the body’s sleep state is relatively better.

In short, we can see that sleep is vital to our health. Long-term chronic insomnia can only be got rid of by using cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia and getting rid of the bad conditioned reflexes formed between being bedridden and being awake. Likewise, there are many details of our work life that we need to be aware of. Only by relearning about sleep can we recover our lost sleep, reshape our bodies and minds, and restore our sleep health after insomnia.