Sanni Parkkinen

If you are able to fall asleep immediately when going to bed, you most likely do not get enough good-quality sleep.

If you do not feel yourself rested and lively when waking up, you most likely do not get enough good-quality sleep.

If you suffer from frequent colds, brain fog, memory issues or anxiety, you most likely do not get enough good-quality sleep.

Everyone sleeps badly sometimes but being constantly tired tells a different story. Being busy and tired has become the new normal and more and more people do not feel that there is anything wrong in being busy and tired all the time. But health does not wait for vacations or better times. A healthy, energetic, happy live is being build with every single choice one takes, with every single night one sleeps.

Night is a mystery with great meaning

Sleep is the greatest source of rest and recovery. Approximately 90 percent of physiological recovery takes place during sleep. This should not be taken for granted, though, as I’m about to explain later. All sleep is not necessarily recovering and thus, body’s need for recovery is not necessarily met during the night.

What disturbs the recovery is mostly stress. Difference between positive and negative stress can be easily detected via sleep. If the sleep suffers, the stress (that makes us move and accomplish things) has most likely turned negative. There is too much of it compared to the amount of recovery and paradoxically, in the long run body’s ability to recover deteriorates.

If the sleep suffers, the stress has most likely turned negative.

Long gone are the days that sleep was considered waste of time. An unconscious dead time that was a hindrance to achieving more. Sleep is actually an extremely active process in which the bodymind builds, heals and cleanses itself. It literally washes away the damages of the day on a cellular level. Sleep takes care of the ability to function, to focus attention and keep it focused, to learn new things, to have a balanced mind and to bear the setbacks of life.

Sleep is your superpower.

What is good sleep?

So, what is good sleep? As a general rule it can be stated that a person’s sleep is sufficient and good if he/she feels good, enjoys the life and wakes up rested, lively and ready for day’s challenges. More specifically, there are two defining components for good sleep: length and quality.

One should get a minimum of 7,5 hours sleep per night. This amount of sleep ensures that the bodymind has an opportunity to rest in the recovery state. According to the human physiology research, for optimal health and balance of the bodymind, at least 30 percent of the 24-hour day should be spent in the parasympathetic, recovering state of the nervous system. That is, 7 hours 12 minutes.

Sleeping constantly under 7 hours per night already results in almost all the adverse effects of sleep deprivation.

There are two main components defining good sleep: length and quality.

But what if the amount of sleep is sufficient but you still feel tired? According to the database of Firstbeat Technologiesthe share of the recovering, good-quality sleep is on average 60 percent of the whole sleep period. This means that approximately 40 percent of the night’s sleep does not recover or invigorate the bodymind. If you are an average Norwegian and sleep 7 hours a night, it may be that for 2 hours and 48 minutes of that 7 hours your nervous system acts as if you were awake.

In the following examples from Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessments, the first night did not recover, at all. Not for a single minute did the nervous system calm down and the parasympathetic switch take place. The second night, on the contrary, was extremely good and recovering. And since these are examples of my own assessments (first one in December, second one in March), I can say that I slept soundly through both of the nights.


Example of bad-quality sleep


Example of good-quality sleep

Most sleep problems are self-made

Nearly a third of the Norwegians experience sleep problems weekly. Approximately 15 percent of adults suffer from insomnia. About 80 percent of the people with sleep problems suffer also from mental or physical illness. And there is about 400 000 people in the country using sleep medications to be able to sleep better even though non-pharmacological treatments like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) have been proven way more effective than drugs. (Source: Folkehelseinstituttet)

Human being is the only creature that chooses to sleep less than is biologically needed.

I am interested in what leads to this kind of situation.

Human being is the only creature that chooses to sleep less than is biologically needed. Therefore, it is not usually even excess stress that creates sleep and recovery deprivation. It is the choices one makes. Priorities. The need to have ‘quality time’ watching Netflix late in the evenings. The need to take a morning run before work day. The need to live standing on the pedal (and use caffeine to boost the day even more).

When the pedal has been on the metal for too long, the bodymind forgets what the other state is like. How to calm down. How to fall asleep and stay in sleep. What it feels like not to be tired. A vicious circle is then easily created and problems with sleep become more and more common. A pill is not enough to remind the bodymind how to sleep. The nervous system has to be taught to let go again - with new priorities, with nurturing choices and habits.

When the pedal has been on the metal for too long, the bodymind forgets what the other state is like.

The best prevention for sleep problems and the easiest path to good-quality sleep is to slow down early enough. To remember to appreciate sleep every single day. To care for recovery and give sleep a sufficient amount of time. To hit the brake several times during the day, to close the eyes and breathe. To calm down the evenings and let oneself drift to sleep naturally when the time is right.

There is no shortcut for benefiting from sleep as your superpower. The access to the superpowers can be reclaimed only by sleeping.

More about Norwegian sleep statistics and help for sleeping better:

About the Author

Sanni is a breathing coach & educator, nervous system expert, yoga teacher and movement lover, spreading the wisdom of well-being, true embodiment and yoga in Norway.

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