Serotonin, tea, and yoga… Getting enough Zzzzzzzz’s

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It’s something we all do, even if we tell everyone otherwise. We’re all guilty of doing it when we really aren’t supposed to be and we use it for all sorts of things: as a way of procrastination, a way to curb that boredom, a way to really get away from the world.

Yes, I’m talking about sleep.

Have you ever wondered why, after coming back from a particularly heavy night out at 5am and then getting up again a measly four hours later, you end up feeling horrible for the rest of the day (other than because of the hangover you’re nursing)? Have you ever wondered why, after days of no sleep whilst trying to finish an essay, when you feel you should be jumping for joy after having turned it in 2 minutes before the deadline, you just feel terrible? Have you ever just told yourself ‘oh it’s probably just lack of sleep’ and accepted that? I know the answer for most people is yes.

However, I was thinking recently that although we don’t understand sleep fully. It affects us so profoundly when we don’t get enough of it; surely sleep must be more than just our body getting a chance to recharge. After some quick Googling I found that there is more to sleep than meets the eye – or the eyelid. Serotonin is linked with sleep and furthermore, lack of sleep is linked to low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is thought to be a mood regulator, hence low levels of serotonin can play a role in development of depression and anxiety.

It’s not so much that serotonin is controlled by sleep, but rather the other way around. Links have been found between insomnia and low serotonin levels, and furthermore, between lack of sleep and depression. It’s no wonder you’re feeling pretty rubbish, then, after your all-nighter. However, by no means am I saying that because you feel sad and groggy after a sleepless night that you’re depressed – it doesn’t quite work like that. However, I am suggesting that people should pay more attention to sleep, to what a lack of sleep is doing to your body, and what it’s telling you about your body.

But what about if you go to bed, ready to get your NHS-recommended 8 hours, and you just can’t sleep? Rather than drifting off, your mind is racing around and full of thoughts. Well, luckily there are a few things you can do to help combat this:

1) Drink camomile tea.

It’s great, it’s cheap and it’s caffeine free.

2) Meditate

I know it sounds like it’s for hippies but trust me, it works. It is difficult to start meditating off the bat as it takes an ability to control your thoughts. I’ve come to think of meditation as a skill that I’m trying to develop and I’ve found some good things to help me. I’d recommend an app called Buddhify (no, they’re not paying me to say this) as it offers a lot of led meditations of varying lengths that are specifically created for different situations.

3) Yoga

It sounds slightly counter-intuitive considering yoga is a practice where you move about; however, there are many yoga poses that can be used to help you get some more sleep. Moving your body may allow you to slow your mind, so once you’ve completed the pose you can get some shut eye.

Now, go catch some z’s.

Eve Jackson

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