115 sleep and savor
Welcome to Joy Lab!: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Henry: Hello. I am Henry Henry Emmons, and welcome to Joy Lab.
aimee: And I am Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab we infuse science with soul to help you build your resilience and uncover your joy. We are talking about sleep today and it is a perfect self-care practice to focus on. So, coming on heels of resolutions, uh, and our downsides of self-care conversation. Here is something really good to focus on sleep. And we're also gonna highlight a few other self-care practices, the rest of these Saturday episodes, [00:01:00] uh, for this month. So I'm gonna start off with a poem from William Shakespeare here it is:
"Weary with toil I haste me to my bed. The dear repose for limbs with travel tired. Then begins a journey in my head to work my mind when body works expired."
So we're not really talking about sleep, I guess more, more about sleeplessness, right? So, but we are gonna talk about some strategies to recover sleep and rest and hopefully get rid of those words like work and toil when it comes to sleep.
Henry: Well, as you probably know Aimee, I have built a bit of a soapbox regarding sleep. Partly because it's something I've struggled with myself on and off. Of course, it is such a common problem. I think everybody I know has had occasional problems with insomnia, you know, just a [00:02:00] night or two here and there. But there's also huge numbers of people who have chronic insomnia, which means it's just become a long-term problem.
And if any of you listeners have ever gone through that, you know how important it is to get some relief from it. Almost everything in our world, our body, our mind and everything around us seems to work better when we get decent sleep. But really the, the main reason for my soapbox is that sleep has such an impact on depression and anxiety. You know, which is largely the kind of things I work with.
So if you fix your sleep problem, you have just doubled your chances of recovering from something like depression. On the other hand, if you go through a bout of insomnia, your chances of becoming depressed are about twice as great. There is nothing else I know of that has that kind of [00:03:00] direct, strong impact on mood. And that's why I consider it the non-negotiable pillar of mental health.
aimee: Yeah, it is profoundly shocking how much mood can be impacted by sleep, but I don't think you realize it, or at least I didn't until I was able to sort of come out of depression. Then to see how severe the impacts can be. You know, you sort of get lost in the, in depression that sometimes it can be hard to see what is causing some of those shifts. So, yeah, let's work on it. Now is the best time to do so. Um, and I mean now, like right now, 'cause actually sleeping better starts way before getting into your bed, and so we'll kind of get into that as well. So there's a model for sleep that we want to share because I think it can highlight and kind of actually prioritize some really effective strategies to improve sleep.
And so this model is sometimes called the psychobiological model. and it highlights the factors of good sleep.
first is cognitive [00:04:00] de arousal. The second is physiological de arousal. The third is daytime facilitation of nighttime sleep. And the fourth is sleep stimulus control. So we'll cover these 'cause I, these terms are not great. But according to this model, insomnia results from sort of this chronic inhibition of these four factors.
So we'll talk about each. So that you can check in and see maybe which one might resonate with you most. And then we'll link out to some resources, for each of those so that you can take some focused action to support your sleep. And we'll also note which lessons you may wanna focus on from our Sleeping Well Workshop, that you can find in our resilient community. So. You might find it most helpful to, as we're going through this, to take one or two quick strategies that resonate with you from this episode and then as you're working on those, go through the full Sleeping Well Workshop to build some more support. I'm gonna start with that first factor of cognitive de arousal, [00:05:00] which is really the practice and ability to calm down your brain.
To reduce rumination, reduce cognitive busyness, and other unhelpful thoughts that might surge as you are trying to fall asleep. So if that sounds like you, you are not alone. I resonate here. Sort of on top of those unhelpful feelings or reeling thoughts that I'd get, during most of my twenties and thirties, I kind of felt like sleep was a waste of time.
Like a weird FOMO of missing a great idea, insight, or opportunity at 2:00 AM feeling like sleep might take too much of my life here on earth. Maybe resonate there too. It's like this, um, reluctance or this lack of appreciation for sleep. I've since really shaken that illusion for the most part, but it still snags me now and again.
And so this factor of cognitive de arousal I really resonate with. I love this actual wisdom from Heraclitus, the philosopher. He notes:
"Even a [00:06:00] soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world."
So whether you have a busy mind or FOMO, here are some strategies that you can consider if you're having a hard time with cognitive de arousal. Uh, first one I like here is logging off the internet or social two hours before bed, or at least not surfing the internet within that timeframe, because essentially what you're doing is letting that algorithm dish you content, which is only intended on keeping you sort of busy in your mind and clicking.
So goal there is to log off of everything, if you can put the device down or at least engage in something that is not controlling your behavior. Uh, related, second strategy is to not watch scary stuff at night, which is very true for me. Or don't read scary books or content that might kind of get your mind running, not doing work late at night if possible. Third Joy [00:07:00] Lab program, a great strategy to consider specifically the Loosening The Grip of Thought experiments that we do in the program. These are really helpful to learn and practice some mindful, sort of comforting cognitive de arousal skills.
Henry: Shifting to physiological de arousal, which really just means that your body also needs to get out of this arousal stage and you need to shift into the sleep stage. So during the busy hours of the day, I don't know if folks already know this, but it is normal for our stress hormones to rise when we're at our most busy and active. And it's part of what helps us stay focused and motivated in those work periods of the day.
You know, it's useful to remember, we've said this before, that a little bit of stress is a good thing. If it's [00:08:00] at the right time. But at the end of the day, really starting about late afternoon when, you know, most of us are starting to get a little fuzzy headed or you know, our, you can tell our productivity is slipping, these stress hormones start to recede and they continue to go down and down so that within an hour or two of bedtime they have gotten low enough that it's much easier for our body to just kind of relax and let go into sleep. It's, it's as if the body's gotten the message it's okay to stand down at that time of day.
You don't have to be vigilant or on all the time. There's no danger around, you know, the work is done. It's okay to let go and rest. And that letting go has to happen in order to feel safe enough to allow that sleep system to engage. But obviously that isn't always the case if we're carrying extra stress, our cortisol levels may never get low enough to [00:09:00] really allow sleep to take hold. And then, you know, you, you stay in a, just a, it might be a mild form of fight or flight, but it's enough to keep you feeling a little restless and agitated, you know, the signs of fight or flight. Your breathing might be quicker and more shallow. Your heart rate is racing a little bit and especially notable is that the mind stays overly active. So there are some quick fixes for this. Some things that can help, although many of us when we, when this gets locked in, we also need to look at some longer term strategies. But here are some simple and pretty quick options.
One is to use heat. For example, take a hot shower or a bath or even using a heating pad. And I find it best to do this about an hour or more before bed so that your body is actually cooling down as you're going to sleep. It. It's more conducive to good sleep.[00:10:00] I actually have these little teeny little hot packs that I heat up in the microwave and I put 'em on my eyes when I lay down.
The purpose is to try to help with dry eyes, which I have, but it also is just really relaxing and it's, become kind of part of my sleep ritual. It's like a signal. Okay, once I lay down and put these things on, it's time for sleep.
Second thing that you can do that's super simple is to try using aromatherapy. There are a lot of really great calming essential oils that are safe to put on your skin. You wanna make sure that's the case. Um, so you could put it on your, your neck or your face and different oils actually might work better for, for different people. So, use our resilience types 'cause we, we've, got some suggestions for each of those. We'll put a link in the show notes.
Third thing, try magnesium. [00:11:00] If you've listened to me much before, you know it's one of my favorite supplements, and it's so simple. It's relatively inexpensive and it can be super helpful for calming the mind. It helps take tension outta your body and it can really be helpful for sleep directly. So we'll also list some of our favorite products for that too. And you know, it's useful too to remember that you can get magnesium that gets absorbed through your skin. Doesn't have to be taken by mouth if it upsets your tummy. And I love this for sleep to get a magnesium lotion or ointment that you might rub on your feet or on tight muscles. Or you could even take an Epsom salt bath and then your whole body gets immersed in magnesium and you do absorb some of it. So even if you just don't love taking supplements by mouth, it's a really nice alternative. And then, you know, if, you're, if you want more, we got a lot [00:12:00] more of these kind of suggestions, both quick and easy and longer term in lesson seven and eight in the sleep workshop that Aimee had mentioned earlier.
aimee: Yeah. Epsom salt baths. Big stamp of approval on that one. We just had a fix of our bathtub, so I hadn't taken a good bath in like five years, and I just poured in salt, like it was coming out of a mine into my bath water, grabbed a book Lessons in Chemistry, which was fun to read, and I came out feeling like everything just kind of eased a bit. It's surprising how effective Epsom salt baths can be.
So all right, let's roll into that third factor. it's daytime facilitation of nighttime sleep. I see this as really about managing stress during the day.
Employing skills to not let stressors consume you and then, hop into bed with you later on. So, this factor might be particularly relevant if you're experiencing a lot of stress or depression or [00:13:00] anxiety, this factor may also be great to focus on if you've had a hard time sort of judging your sleep, which can be called paradoxical insomnia. It's that kind of insomnia where objective measures like a sleep tracker might say that you are sleeping like a champ, but then you wake up and you do not feel like you slept like a champ. You would have said you were up all night. So this can be an interesting factor to address that.
And our element this month actually savoring is great for this factor. There's some interesting research to specifically support savoring as a strategy to support this daytime facilitation of nighttime sleep. And I think also this factor highlights how important but sort of underutilized and understudied it is to examine and to practice strategies that may positively affect sleep experiences, right? So it's not just about avoiding insomnia, but we can actually engage in practices that enrich [00:14:00] our sleeping lives. Make them more nourishing. So for somebody that thought sleep was a waste of time, like this is an epiphany for me.
We can make that period of our life even more enriching. I think that's kind of fantastic. So I think savoring and really actually all of our Joy Lab elements really apply here. These positive inner states and cognitive processes can enhance sleep in ways that might not be measurable by the usual sort of quantified metrics of good sleep.
Like time to sleep onset or number of wakings, or time in the sleep cycles and things like that. But you may wake up feeling more ready for your day, more refreshed by sort of addressing this factor. So some of the strategies here, Joy Lab Podcast, you are already doing it. We offer so many coping skills and emotional regulation skills, all of these tools to help get us out of chronic stress and navigate stress more skillfully.
Actually, the podcourse that we just wrapped would be great here. So I will link to that page [00:15:00] where you can find all the episodes of the podcourse a little bit easier. You can find those in one spot. And then, as I said, Joy Lab program is a second strategy because it really helps us work more with stress and mood.
Henry: So the, the fourth of these categories is sleep stimulus control. Which basically means getting into good patterns with your sleep and then doing the things that help promote sleep. So the importance of this became really clear to me, when I used to work for several different colleges as their consulting psychiatrist.
And one of the reasons I love that and did it for so many years is because it's an age when a lot of mental health problems first are, are first beginning. And so if you can catch something early, there's so much more you can do about it to change the course of the illness over time. So this, it's really when I learned how important sleep was for [00:16:00] changing the, long-term trajectory of an illness like depression or even bipolar disorder. I, I swear that if a young person with one of these conditions, if they can really learn how to manage their sleep, their risks of developing recurrent episodes goes down dramatically.
So, and as you might have guessed, that's also that college population that has just really terrible practices for sleep onset and, you know, I mean, they're just all over the map. Which is kind of a, it, it's a really obvious way to see how disruption of this circadian rhythm can impact people's mental health.
So I'm gonna give you my number one most important suggestion for good sleep hygiene. Get up at the same time every day. Or at least within about an hour of the same time. So [00:17:00] if you have a late night, let's say on a weekend, you know, and you just want to sleep in, my advice is don't worry about getting your usual eight hours of sleep.
Let yourself have a short night of sleep. 'cause you'll be able to catch up on that. But don't let yourself sleep in too much. You can sleep in by an hour without throwing things off, but much more than that, you're gonna have trouble the next night or two or three nights falling asleep at your normal time.
This one simple strategy can prevent a bunch of problems with your mental health. See, I do have a sleep Soap box here, Aimee.
aimee: I'm with you.
Henry: I'm gonna calm down here. Getting to bed at about the same time every night is also helpful. It's not quite as important as the time you get up in the morning, uh, but it is still helpful.
But if you can get up at the same time, then the following night, your natural sleepiness telling you it's time for bed. It [00:18:00] should kick in and make you want to go to bed at your usual time. And then all you have to do is go with it. Let yourself get in bed and fall asleep. Which is what your body wants you to do.
But, you may have noticed that if you push through and you stay awake beyond the time when your body was sleepy, you're gonna get a second wind. The reason for that is because your natural melatonin has been released at its usual time, but it's impact is short-lived, and so once it's gone, it's gone and you don't have a normal signal to go to sleep.
Now that's a, a good reason I think to use occasional melatonin as a supplement, maybe for a couple of nights if you've gotten off your sleep schedule, just remember it takes 30 to 45 minutes for melatonin to kick in. So you need to take it early enough, not don't wait until the right, before you go to bed.
And then here's one other suggestion. A bedtime routine is not just for little kids. Create [00:19:00] your own a ritual, a series of things you always do in the the same order about the same time of night. It just gives your body a signal that it's time to snooze. So put on your favorite jammies and tuck yourself in. And there's a lot more about this in the sleep workshop in lessons two and five.
aimee: Yeah. my sleep routine is a mirror of my five-year-old's sleep routine. And it, you know, it took me how long to realize like, oh I have the same physiological response. Uh, so those are our four factors. I hope if you're struggling with sleep, you've maybe found a place to point your attention. Something to try or even, the encouragement to start some practices that make your sleep even more nourishing. Now, to close, I want to share a lullaby. This is over 400 years old now Lullaby. And it comes from a play from Thomas Decker, Henry Chattel and William Houghton. You might recognize it [00:20:00] though, from the Beatles 'cause they used it in their song, Golden Slumbers. Or if you loved the movie Sing, they also have it at the beginning there. So if you've had that soundtrack on replay like we do at my house, you've heard it, so soak into it. Here it is. "Golden slumbers kiss your eyes. Smiles awake you when you rise. Sleep pretty ones, do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby. Rock them, rock them, lullaby."
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