403-261-5085
·
305, 1167 Kensington Crescent NW, Calgary, AB
·
Mon/Fri/Sat - 9:00AM-5:00PM
·
Tues/Wed/Thurs - 9:00AM-8:00PM

Crash Course: The What, Why, and How of Better Sleep! Part 2

 

Achieving consistent and high-quality sleep strengthens both our physical and mental health.

In Part One of this two-part series, we explored the what and the why of sleep. In Part Two, we are exploring the how: strategies that can help us to get consistent and better-quality sleep.

 

 

The How of Sleep – Strategies to Support Better Sleep

There are two overarching themes to the strategies we’ll be discussing, those are Stimulus Control strategies and Counter Arousal strategies.

Stimulus Control

This is the practice of reconditioning the bed-sleep relationship.

Simply put, stimulus control is the process that helps to re-associate the bed with sleep for our brain and body. Thus, stimulus control is a method used to extinguish the potential negative relationship and conditioning of bed-wakefulness that often develops when people struggle with sleep.

 

Counter Arousal

These are the strategies used to oppose or counter the arousal system or your body’s drive to activate that impedes sleep. In other words, counter arousal techniques are ways to calm and relax the body and mind in order to prepare for and support better sleep.

Buffer Zone

This involves giving yourself a window of time before bed (30-90 minutes) which is dedicated to preparing for sleep.

For example, hygiene, bathing, relaxing music, meditation, reading, stretching, etc. This strategy provides a transition time for your body and mind between wakeful hours and sleeping hours.

2-minute Rumination Rule

This strategy is meant to curb or end excessive and cyclical thinking patterns before sleep. This involves giving yourself a 2-minute window for an intrusive thought and then once that time is up, if the thought hasn’t dissipated, then challenging it with these three questions:

  • Did I learn anything new?
  • Am I any closer to a solution?
  • Do you feel any better?

 

Relaxation Techniques

These are a cluster of methods that target relaxing the body and mind through focused attention, to bring both into a shared state of relaxation prior to sleep.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation – this is a method of systematically scanning the physical body, while simultaneously tensing and then relaxing each of the major muscle groups.
  • Deep Breathing – this technique involves directing attention to the breath, and matching the time spent on inhales with the time spent on exhales.
  • Imagery – this is a method that focuses on visualizing a situation or context that you find relaxing and calming. Deeply focus on this visualization, identifying pleasant and relaxing details within the scene that would help to bring you to a point of calm, peace, and happiness.

 

 

Now that we’ve explored strategies to support better sleep, here is another reflection point:

As you consider which strategies to either continue with or newly implement, it is important to start small.

Start with a single strategy, and once you’ve consistently integrated it into your sleep routine/ritual, then consider adding additional strategies to your routine.

 

 

I wish you great success in getting the sleep you want and deserve!

 

 

For more information and immediate support with improving your sleep experience through counselling support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

We have expanded our secure videoconferencing and telephone counselling to ensure you can access support even from a distance. Click on the button below to proceed with a complimentary consultation with a Synthesis Psychology Registered Psychologist or Social Worker.

Contact Us

 

 

By Aaron Telnes M.C.

Registered Psychologist

 

 

References:

Benefits of Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep

Carney, C., & Danforth, M. (2019, June). CBT-I: Evidence-based insomnia interventions for trauma, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, TBI, sleep apnea, and nightmares. Poster presented a 3-day workshop as a virtual seminar.

 

 

Managing sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be challenging. Yet, it is vital that we achieve a state of consistent, high-quality sleep to support both our physical and mental health.

In Part One of this two-part series, we will explore the what and the why of sleep, to help you to better understand the function and components of sleep.

 

The What and Why of Sleep – Understanding Sleep

Several theories outline the purpose behind sleep:

The Inactivity Theory suggests that sleep evolved to help us to stay out of harms way during times when we would be particularly vulnerable (i.e. nighttime).

 

The Energy Conservation Theory describes sleep as a method to conserve an individual’s energy use, particularly during times when it would be inefficient to search for food.

 

The Restoration Theory suggests that sleep is a way that our body can restore and recover from our experiences while we were awake.

 

The Brain Plasticity Theory explains that sleep and brain plasticity play a vital role in brain development, as well as learning and memory, across the lifespan.

 

To further understand and manage sleep effectively, it is important to also identify and understand the fundamental components of sleep:
  1. The Homeostatic Sleep Drive (Sleep Drive) is the sleep energy or sleep
    “pressure” that builds up throughout the day as we exert energy from interacting with our environment. Scientists hypothesize that the build up of sleep drive is linked to the build up of adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a by-product of energy consumption by cells, which dissipates with sleep (hence, as does sleep drive). A strong Sleep Drive is important to facilitate high quality and continuous sleep!

Here is an analogy: Building strong sleep drive is like completely filling a balloon with air, until it is taut, so that when that balloon is released it spends the most time possible releasing air around the room. Similarly, we want to expend as much energy as possible throughout our day in order to increase the amount of sleep pressure we have to release at the end of the day, so that our sleep is high in quality and continuous.

 

  1. The Circadian Rhythm (Biological Clock) is our individual sleep timing preference and most people fall into one of three broad categories or chronotypes – Advanced, Conventional, and Delayed.

Advanced (Lark) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. A Lark chronotype, for example, might have a sleep schedule of 9 PM – 5 AM.

Conventional chronotypes are individuals who have a more typical sleep schedule. They might have a sleep schedule of 11 PM – 7 AM.

Finally, the Delayed (Owl) chronotypes are individuals who typically go to bed later and wake up later. An Owl chronotype might have a sleep schedule of 1 AM – 9 AM.

Take a moment to identify your preferred and actual sleep chronotype. Are they the same or different? Being aware of your patterns gives you key information to support optimal sleep.

 

  1. The Arousal System (Emergency Alerting System) is an “Emergency” activation switch in our brain that can override our sleep drive in order to allow us the ability to appropriately respond to dangers. The EAS can be activated by stressors in our external environment (the context or situation you’re in), or your internal environment (your thoughts and/or emotions). An overactive EAS can disrupt the quality and quantity of sleep.

At Synthesis Psychology, we’re working on strategies with clients whose concerns about the uncertainties of COVID-19 are activating their Emergency Alert Systems and disrupting their sleep.

 

 

As you contemplate the what and why of sleep, I invite you to think about the functions of sleep and your own sleep experiences. By understanding your own patterns, preferences, and experiences of sleep, you’re better able to understand the essential components that support getting high quality sleep.

In the second part of this series, we will explore the how of sleep, to help you to consistently get better sleep.

 

 

For more information and immediate support with improving your sleep experience through counselling support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

We have expanded our secure videoconferencing and telephone counselling to ensure you can access support even from a distance. Click on the button below to proceed with a complimentary consultation with a Synthesis Psychology Registered Psychologist or Social Worker.

Contact Us

 

 

By Aaron Telnes M.C.

Registered Psychologist

 

 

References:

The Drive to Sleep and Our Internal Clock. (2007, December 18). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/internal-clock