“I stay awake worrying.”
This is a comment I hear very often at the beginning of work with clients who feel stressed. We all know how important it is to consistently have a good night’s sleep. We cannot expect ourselves to function well, physically, emotionally or intellectually during the day if we spend the night lying awake worrying.
Trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, “jerky” sleep and nightmares can be attributed to stressful events of the day, unresolved issues and overuse of substances. Learning to activate the relaxation response within the body and mind is often a side benefit of this work.
Stress can create sleepless nights and a habitual pattern becomes programmed. Being unable to move into a relaxed state becomes the norm. A sleepless night decreases our ability to manage stress and can be a vicious cycle. I often say that we sleep how we live.
People who are stressed often have wonderful active imaginations that have not been disciplined. Stressed people are also often very active thinkers who have not yet learned to guide their thinking and have yet to fully comprehend the mind-body connection. Individuals who tend to,
If our waking hours are spent in a state of hurried, anxious, uncomfortable patterns then what else can be expected at bedtime? We cannot run our bodies and minds in high gear all day and then expect them to shut down quickly just because it is a designated bedtime. A high state of arousal during the day becomes a conditioned pattern. A state of relaxation must be conditioned for sleep time.
Those stressed individuals who do sleep adequately, do so with the help of sleeping pills, alcohol or through sheer mental and exhaustion. "Type A" or “thinkers in over-drive” often inadvertently train the primitive mind to rely on sleep aids. These measures rarely provide us the deep restorative sleep our bodies and brains need to be productive and reach our goals.
The mind/body connection is no longer in question. It is an accepted fact and we need to respect the interplay between our parts. The bottom line is that we are healthier, more effective, creative and productive in our many roles when we are well-rested.
Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW