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Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia

Dr Sabina Brennan (left) at the Rolling Sun Book Festival, Westport, November 2019

Did you know that a week of sleep deprivation – say, 4 hours’ sleep a night – can put a person into a pre diabetic state?

While sleep issues have been one of my specialisms for several years, this week, I’ve been living and breathing them.

I’ve just been back in London and Essex for a week, staying at various friends’ homes and assisting on a yoga therapy training for Sleep Recovery with Lisa Sanfilippo for two of the days.

I’d been part of her first group back in 2014 and, with another former student, was assisting with mentoring and assessing the new students. It was an absolute pleasure and great revision.

While I used to teach a weekly Sleep Yoga class and have run various workshops and Sleep Well online programmes over the years, it was lovely to be back with Lisa and her transpersonal, integrative approach.

You can read more about it in her books Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery (Singing Dragon, 2019) and her upcoming book, Sleep Recovery (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Am definitely looking forward to running some Sleep Recovery 6 Week Courses in the new year – these self care tools work.

Something that had somehow eluded me – a former chronic insomniac from primary school until my 20s – was the difference between sleep deprivation and insomnia.

Sleep deprivation is where I am at the moment. Life is amazing. Am surrounded by loved ones and am also busy with work I love. Am also STILL settling into my new home so that’s taking more time than it will when I’m properly settled in.

As a result, while I keep MEANING to go to bed earlier, I’m regularly still up at 3 or 4am and then up a few hours later. I’m drafting this post long after I should have gone to bed but look forward to a bit of a lie in as a result.

My good mood is helping to counter some of the ill effects and I AM making time for rest and self care but I’ve been walking a fine line this past week.

Sleep deprivation is a million times better (for me) than I remember insomnia. Those endless wasted hours where I lay awake, torturing myself imagining how tired I’d be the next day, never feeling fully functioning and generally running on empty.

I had the pleasure of hearing a delightful interview this afternoon as part of Westport’s Rolling Sun Book Festival listening to Dr Sabina Brennan share some ways in which we can boost brain health and potentially avoid dementia.

Sleep, of course, is way up there (along with living a meaningful life, exercise, lifelong learning and social interactions).

Actor and neuroscientist, Dr Brennan was enlightening, funny, compassionate and inspirational. Having left school at 16, she went to university when she was 42 to study psychology and went on to become a neuroscientist specialising in older brains.

With her book, 100 Days to a Younger Brain (Orion, 2019) and author events, she’s on a mission to help people prioritise brain health as we already do our heart health and dental health.

One of my favourite elements from Dr Brennan’s talk was her humanity and pointing out that she’s not a saint but that KNOWING what helps us keep our brains as healthy as possible means we can do more of those things.

I’ll be sharing more in future blog posts and features but for now, am encouraging you to ask yourself:

a) Are you generally well rested? Feeling alert, refreshed and ready for whatever the new day might bring?

b) If not, what’s getting between you and regular good sleep?

You might want to journal around it. Your answers may be varied and this isn’t an exam of any kind.

Becoming more of a Sleep Detective and getting to know your own sleep supports and saboteurs means you get to CHOOSE what you’re going to do differently or continue doing.

You may decide to carry on drinking coffee, being on devices well into the early hours etc etc. But you’ll have a better understanding of what you can get away with and what are essentials for your new self care for sleep routines.

Progress not perfection.

If you’d like some support and my approach appeals, do get in touch.

And, of course, you can be your own self care coach. It’s amazing how even one or two tiny tweaks can make an enormous difference. There are several self care ideas in this free download.

Big love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor
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