The effects of sleep on quality of life for HSPers
Many HSPers report that their symptoms, their walking or otherwise getting around are not as bad when they are well rested from a good night’s sleep. Conversely, they say that their symptoms are noticeably worse when they are not sleeping well.
Mainstream studies increasingly point to the necessity and the benefits of a good night’s sleep for everyone… HSP or not. Good sleep is associated with energy, alertness, concentration, relaxation and an overall feeling of well-being. Poor sleep is associated with feeling tired, not sharp, unable to focus, stressed, tense and moody.
Prolonged periods of one’s life in which good sleep is experienced relate to good health and well-being, while chronic poor sleep patterns are associated with illness, compromised immune system, stress and depression. Both versions are associated with spirals… good sleep with an upward spiral, poor sleep with a downward spiral.
Good sleep and how to get it
Good sleep means:
- Early to bed. The quality of sleep for people who are in bed by 10 PM is significantly better than for those who retire at 11pm or later.
- Between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, with eight hours a good average number.
- Few interruptions – waking up no more than twice a night, and being able to get back to sleep fairly easily.
Now comes the hard part – how do you achieve a good night’s sleep?
- Eat right, eat light… especially at night, and finish all eating at least three hours before sleeping.
- Reduce or eliminate stimulants such as tea and coffee, cola drinks, energy drinks (these all contain caffeine), smoking or other sources of nicotine, and alcohol or other drugs.
- Eliminate stimulants we expose ourselves to in the last hour before going to bed. This includes TV, loud music, video games, e-mailing or Internet surfing, vigorous exercise, high-energy discussions or anything else more likely to have us wound up than calmed down.
- Bedrooms are for sleeping – move the TV out and be sitting rather than lying down when you are watching it. Your body can learn/relearn that when you hop into bed and turn the light out, that’s the signal for sleep. The same goes for reading – if you do read in bed, make it no more than 15 mins and make sure it is something soothing or calming. Eliminate as much light, and noise, as possible e.g. with heavy curtains.
- Be as consistent as possible with the time you go to bed, and with the routine in the last hour before sleep.
- Use relaxation and calming tools and techniques to prepare you well for good sleep either in the last 15 mins before bed or as soon as you hop into bed. http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm
- If you have a restless partner or one who snores and disrupts your sleep, raise the issue with them and seriously think about sleeping separately. It is not the end of the world and may actually improve your relationship. If someone tells you that you yourself snore, and you regularly wake up tired and washed out, raise it with your doctor – you may have a treatable condition called sleep apnoea.
- Invest in a good bed. This does not mean that you need to spend thousands of dollars… just make sure you are not sleeping on a lumpy clunker – too hard, too soft, or swoopy in the middle. Throw it out and buy something that you personally choose. The same goes for your pillow… again, choose one yourself.
Challenges to good sleep for HSPers
Good sleep can be more difficult to achieve for HSPers. Apart from all the usual suspects that conspire against a good night’s sleep for anyone, HSPers can have other issues that impact sleep quality and quantity. Muscle spasm and spasticity, restless leg syndrome and incontinence are probably the main ones. If these are affecting the quality of your sleep, mention it to your GP, to your neurologist, to your physiotherapist – and ask them what can be done to minimise the symptoms that interrupt your sleep.
Taking action… Improving your sleep
If you want your sleep to be consistently better, then reflect on and think about the various points in this article.
- Identify the two or three major impediments to good sleep for you.
- Which of these can you exert some influence on?
- What ideas appeal most for doing things differently?
Because sleep is such a personal issue, you need to be the one in charge of improving your own sleep. You owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to ensure a good night’s sleep.