Researchers report that too much sleep appears to double the likelihood of dying (Dr Francesco Cappuccio, University of Warwick’s Medical School.) Oversleeping has been linked to a host of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and increased risk of death. We find it very difficult to resist sleep when we are exhausted, fatigued, immuno-suppressed and under-restored.
We don’t get adequate quality sleep so in fatigue and perpetual drowsiness, we increase the quantity. We sleep 1.5-2x more than we need with half of the value, in general.
Position impacts greatly impacts quality of sleep. Sleeping in fetal position restricts diaphragmatic breathing causing shallow sleep depth (low quality rest and recovery). Sleeping on your back induces severe snoring leading to restless shallow sleep. Sleeping on your stomach prohibits neutral spine, pressures joints and impinges nerves. Sleeping on your side produces optimal biomechanics (especially on your left side) as it increases blood flow, maintains neutral spine, releases pressure from joints and nerves, prevents snoring and releases diaphragmatic breathing; these combine to allow deep, quality sleep.
Nutrition content and timing are the usual suspects. Research shows that food and sleep have a connection in terms of eating too much or eating too late. Avoid heavy or spicy foods just prior to bed. These meals can interfere with sleep by causing heartburn or aggravating a hiatal hernia. Avoid anything caffeinated or containing alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Half of the caffeine consumed by 7pm remains in your system until 11pm.
Limit liquids of any kind for at least 90 minutes before bedtime if the need to urinate wakes you up in the middle of the night. It takes about 90 minutes for the body to process liquids.
Exercise can increase your odds of getting a good night’s sleep. But avoid intense exercise within 3 hours of bed as this will boost adrenaline and reduce deep quality sleep. Studies have shown that exercising more than 3 to 6 hours before going to bed has the best effect on falling and staying asleep. Light mobility and low intensity yoga decrease residual tension and as a result can induce restful sleep if done even immediately before bed.
In most cases, 7 hours is the optimal duration for rest and recovery through sleep; less than 6 leads to health problems and more than 9. This assumes the other quality sleep issues are fulfilled.
Excessive stress keeps the sympathetic nervous system aroused, and as a result sleep is shallow and low quality, compelling us to longer durations.
If you find yourself thinking about stressful issues while trying to fall asleep, you will release hormone which prevent quality sleep, as your nervous system cannot differentiate between a true, physical threat and an imagined one. Don’t think about things that trouble you before sleep. Read a book, rather than watching television. Meditate on all of the things you want to happen in your life, how you would best act in a situation to bring about the changed you desire, to displace and reframe catastrophizing thoughts.