Sleep, a Natural Way to Reset Your Sympathetic Nervous System

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Your body does more than you can even imagine when you are asleep. During your nightly rest and repair your brain collates and processes information, it lowers your cortisol levels, moves you from REM to Non-REM, and it even locks your muscles during REM so you don’t accidently hurt your partner while you’re fighting your dragons. Ever have sleep paralysis? This is when your body forgets to unlock those muscles and leaves you in a half sleep half waking state where you can’t move, wake or sleep but you get the joy of acid free hallucinations you will not forget in a hurry. But I digress.

Sleep is a huge part of your mental health in that it allows your Sympathetic Nervous System to relax, let go, and rest. Your sympathetic nervous system is in charge of your fight, flight, freeze, and fawn trauma responses. When the sympathetic nervous system resets, these four trauma responses also have time to rest, giving your brain and body a much-needed respite from your daily high alert trauma response. What can ruin this sleep generated relaxation response come morning is a harsh alarm or any other startling or high-speed morning activity. Get an alarm that plays something pretty on a soft volume and grows in volume so you are awakened slowly and without a startle response. By avoiding a morning startle response, you avoid releasing adrenaline and will have a calm, more productive day. Another tip is to move slowly through your morning. I pray, meditate for half an hour and then slowly move through my house, doing all the things I need to do to get myself up and out the door with a mindful calm. Think, “I am meditatively walking into my day and I set the intention to remain calm and relaxed.”

Eight hours is the doctor recommended number of hours of sleep the human body needs each night. Personally, I like to sleep for nine hours each night. I’ve found that nine hours is the perfect number for me. If you have a history of trauma, it’s highly likely that you will need more sleep then next door’s Suzie, who had nice parents and a cute dog to pad her perfect childhood. And a good sleep hygiene protocol will tell you to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Also, avoiding caffeine is just a good rule of thumb if you have trauma. All stimulates will help keep you in high alert and help activate you four trauma responses causing your body to spiral through aggressive hormone flooding and the shaky aftermath were taking care of yourself feels next to impossible. And if you have a partner who thinks it’s fun to scare you…find someone new. Anyone who thinks triggering your trauma responses is funny doesn’t deserve you.

I love you. Get a good night’s sleep. Walk and move with calm. Be peace to know peace.  

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