'FIGHT OR FLIGHT'
I am sure you’ve heard about our ‘fight or flight’ system. This is the system that kicks in when we perceive danger. Our heart beat increases, stimulating hormones like adrenaline and cortisol get dumped into our blood stream, our breathing rate increases, increasing our alertness and focus. This is a good system to have to for short periods of perceived danger, helping to keep us safe. This system should not be turned on, and kept on, for long periods.
When you are sleep deprived, or your quality of sleep is affected, your sympathetic nervous system is heightened or ‘turned up’. As we have seen there are a lot of potentially negative consequences of not sleeping enough.
When we are anxious, we have an increased ‘fight or flight’ response.
When we are sleep deprived, we have an increased ‘fight or flight’ response.
Anxiousness can make it harder to fall asleep.
Reduced sleep can make us feel more anxious.
There was a heightened sympathetic nervous system response in almost every sleep study done where sleep quality and/or quantity was reduced.
Fight or flight, let’s talk about this. What does this feel like?
What does the fight or flight process feel like? When we are faced with something frightening, you can feel your heartbeat quicken, you may start breathing faster, and your entire body becomes tense and ready to take act. You may experience sweaty palms and feel nauseated or sick to your stomach. Shaking and tremors can also occur.
Anxiety is an emotion that can be helpful or harmful. When we think of this emotion we need to focus on 3 things. The frequency of our anxious feelings, the duration or length of time that this emotion is lasting, and the intensity, or how strong this emotion is. Finally, what is the impact that anxiety has on our daily life?
FREQUENCY - DURATION - INTENSITY - IMPACT
We need to pay attention to our emotions and process what might be triggering them. If the effect on our ability to do our job, succeed in school, or on our relationships is negative and preventing us from thriving in these areas then we need to act.
I can just catch up on my sleep over the weekend.
Get too little sleep throughout the week and your sleep debt is too big to repay on the weekend. You are unable to ‘pay back’ your sleep debt over the weekend if you are sleeping 6 hours a night during the week. Sleeping 5 nights at 6 hours per night and your sleep debt is now an extra 10 hours to add to the nights you are sleeping on the weekend.
In an attempt to improve your feelings of anxiousness, distress or worry, getting enough sleep each night can significantly improve how you are feeling.
Imagine you are driving a Jeep Wrangler with large off-road tires up a treacherous, rocky trail. The road looks difficult, and your Jeep is just the vehicle to get you to the top. Reduced sleep is like flattening 3 of the 4 tires, emptying half of the oil out of the engine, puncturing the radiator, basically taking away the mechanical function of your Jeep, making it much harder, if not impossible now to navigate the trail.
Life is going to throw rough trails and obstacles at us. There will be tough times. The better your physical health and the better you handle the trials of life.
Not getting enough sleep is like hijacking your Jeep. It makes the trail that much harder, or even impossible.