There's almost nothing worse than feeling constantly tired! Well ok, there are worse things in the world but it's pretty unpleasant.
Anyone who's been there knows how tiredness makes it hard to concentrate; hard to make decisions; it makes us much feel much more stressed and anxious; makes us grumpy and depressed; even stops us looking after ourselves properly - it's so much easier to reach for the quick carb fix and shun exercise when we don't feel up to it!
And it's not always a matter of not getting enough sleep. Hands up who's woken up thinking they've had a decent night's sleep, only to find you're actually more exhausted than before you went to bed? What's going on..?
It's all about quality
Sleep is a more complex beast than it first appears. During our REM sleep phase, our brains work really hard and expend large amounts of energy to process the emotional experiences we've had whilst awake. If we get just the right amount of REM all the time we feel great - our stress levels stay under control and we're able to function from the logical, rational part of our brain.
The whole thing goes haywire though when our REM patterns get messed up. Too little REM and we can't process our experiences fully - we wake up with 'excess baggage' in the primitive 'fight or flight' limbic system of the brain, which increases our stress levels and makes us anxious.
Too much REM and we wake up feeling exhausted - as we said, it takes a lot of energy to process those experiences, so if we overdo it we literally tire ourselves out while we're asleep. This tends to make us wake up feeling exhausted, depressed and wanting even more sleep - a real vicious cycle.
When we've got a lot on our plates and our stress levels are high, sometimes the brain will recognise that it's going to take too much REM to process everything in one go - so we wake up in the middle of the night, feeling stressed and anxious (that familiar feeling of your mind going round and round...). Of course, this makes us more stressed and more tired...
So what can we do to get back on track?
There is lots of helpful advice out there about how to wind down before bed, and certainly a routine free from technology and with lots of relaxation will help (as will a regular bed time - we are creatures of habit, after all!).
However to really break those vicious cycles we need to do two things:
1. Reduce our stress levels
2. Get the right balance of REM sleep
If you're really struggling with stress, overthinking, anxiety or depression or just can't switch off, I would be happy to chat to discuss how we can help you overcome it. Please do get in touch and we can really get to the root of the problem,