Are You ‘Twired?’

by georgia hartmann

Women’s Health Expert

(adj.) Too exhausted to do anything, too wired to sleep.

From the moment you wake to the moment your head hits the pillow, you’re exhausted. Though when it comes time to sleep, you lay wide awake, frustrated by the fact that your body and your mind are operating on completely separate schedules.

Can you relate?

I so commonly see two areas that are compromised in those who are twired.

1. Chronic elevated, uncontrolled stress

We live in a world that has lost its regard for rest. When we ‘rest’ we are cleaning the house, doing the laundry, the groceries, reorganizing the wardrobe, preparing meals. Though my question is─how restful do you truly feel after these activities?

Whether you experience chronically elevated stress from work, from family commitments, from financial strain, from relationships, from trauma, you can be assured that if left uncontrolled you will soon enough become twired. This happens in response to constantly elevated levels of stress hormones (primarily cortisol, which is a product of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). [1] 

So how do you balance your levels of stress hormones? Breathe. And I mean actually breathe. 

Consider how you have been breathing while reading this article─were you taking slow, deep breaths or more shallow, rapid breaths? Were you breathing from your belly or from your chest? Are your neck and shoulders relaxed or quite tight?

Focusing on your breath is widely known to assist in blood flow, improve vagal activity (which lowers pulse rate and blood pressure), and reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system─our ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response. [2]

So, stop right now. Sit up straight. Drop your shoulders back. Breathe in for 4 counts (expanding your belly), hold for 3, and breathe out for 4 counts (contracting your belly). Repeat this two more times. Can you feel the immediate relief? Perhaps you noticed more saliva in your mouth. That is your body switching on the parasympathetic nervous system─our ‘rest and digest’ system, keeping us nice and calm. I encourage you to practice this consistently in bed every morning and evening. Commit to doing this consistently for four weeks and notice the difference. [2-4]

2. Chronic sleep deprivation

Sleep is essential for life. If you are not getting the required amount of sleep─7 to 8 hours every single night─you increase the risk of anxiety, depression, memory impairment, headaches, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, trouble trying to conceive, and increased appetite (hello subsequent weight gain). This is primarily due to the constant increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system─remember, this is our ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response. We don’t want to consistently activate this system. [5]

The problem is that many of us prioritize work and daily activities and fit sleep into whatever time is remaining at the end of the day. If you are continually prioritizing work and daily tasks over good quality sleep, eventually you will hit a point of exhaustion. For some it may take a day, a week, a year, five years. Rest assured, if you do this long enough, be ready to say hello to the new reality of being twired.

So, if you are in need of improving your sleep, here are the first steps you need to take:

First, create a strict boundary with work and life commitments so that you are in bed by 9 or 10 pm every single night (even on weekends─at the moment this is easily done considering we are all in coronavirus isolation). No excuses. (Shift workers, I know this is challenging. For you, the goal is to ensure you are getting a total of 7 to 8 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period). [6]

Second, wake up at the same time every morning, preferably 5 or 6 am (even on weekends). No excuses. Even if you wake tired, it’s important that you get up and get going. (Insert ‘Fluidform at home’ class, ideally practiced outside or near a window with exposure to morning light). I warn you, the first week may be challenging but I promise it gets easier and you will feel better for it. [7]

The key to improving your sleep is to be consistent and persistent. So, commit to prioritizing sleep and adopting this routine for four weeks.

[1] Adam, E.K., et al. Diurnal Cortisol Slopes and Mental and Physical Health Outcomes:A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocringoloy, 2017. 83. PMID: 28578301.

[2] Hopper, S.I., et al. Effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing for reducing physiological and psychological stress in adults: a quantitative systematic review. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 2019. 17(9). PMID: 31436595.

[3] Gerritsen, R.J.S., et al. Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity. Fronteirs in Human Neuroscience, 2018. 12. PMID: 30356789.

[4] Laborde, S., et al. Influence of a 30-Day Slow-Paced Breathing Intervention Compared to Social Media Use on Subjective Sleep Quality and Cardiac Vagal Activity. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2019. 8(2). PMID: 30736268.

[5] Medic, G., et al. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, 2017. 9. PMID: 28579842.

women’s  health expert

by georgia hartman

Women’s Health Expert

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