by Jodi Cohen

sleep is a foundation of resiliance

Sleep is one of the foundations for resilience.

Restful, restorative sleep has been shown to increase resilience, making it easier to cope with stress and regulate our emotions. Sleep even impacts how well your brain adapts and how you are able to process emotion.

More specifically, your brain cleans house while you are sleeping. During sleep the metabolic activity of your brain goes up about 10 times. Research shows that the neurons in the brain actually shrink by about 60% to make room for the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through our brain to remove toxins and deliver oxygen and nutrients.

This cleanup function strengthens and recharges your brain’s capacity for resilience, helping you adapt and change by building new connections which enhances your ability to regulate your emotions and behavior.

Sleep deprivation compromises your ability to focus, connect and make thoughtful decisions.  Resilience requires energy and poor sleep depletes your energy reserves.

When you don’t get enough sleep, small day-to-day stressors like coping with work pressure or relationship hiccups can feel more overwhelming. Simply put, when you are physically exhausted, you have less capacity for resilience.

How Sleep Makes You More Resilient

Sleep helps to enhance mental strength and resilience.  This is one reason it may feel easier to respond to life’s difficult times when you are rested.

Research shows that sleep enhances cognitive function. A study at UCLA has shown that sleep deprivation negatively impacts brain maintenance and repair and compromises mental acuity and optimal brain activity.  This impacts your ability to focus, slows your reaction time, compromises your ability to make decisions, to multi-task and store new memories.

The Better Sleep Council found that 79% of people would feel better and more prepared for the day with an extra hour of sleep. Sleeping only 6-7 hours, you are twice as likely to be involved in a car crash, and sleeping less than 5 hours increases your risk 4-5 times.

Additional research has found that continuity of sleep is important for memory consolidation.  This study found that during restorative sleep, important memories are consolidated and creativity is boosted as well.

Sleep also appears to restore our emotional brain circuits, supporting healthy levels of mood supporting hormones, including serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol, that affect your tools of resilience, including your thought, mood, and energy.

Your Prefrontal Cortex Needs Sleep to Function

Research correlates poor sleep with diminished function of the prefrontal cortex and finds “the prefrontal cortex is disproportionately negatively influenced when an individual is low in sleep quantity or experiences poor sleep quality.”

Your prefrontal cortex is foundational to resilience.  Your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain located behind your forehead, supports not only your “executive function” and your ability to organize, plan, and make decisions, but also your emotional intelligence, and your ability to understand, engage self-control and manage your emotional response.

Research on emotion and the prefrontal cortex finds that “the prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in the generation and regulation of emotion.” In other words, this region of the brain needs healthy stimulation and blood flow to support healthy emotional regulation and  value-based decision making, including the following nine emotionally supportive aspects of the prefrontal cortex identified by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel in his 2007 book The Mindful Brain.

When you are short of sleep, we have less glucose fueling the pre-frontal cortex, enhancing your resilience to handle both the expected and unexpected challenges of daily life.

Neurophysiological research indicates that resilience and self-regulation relies disproportionately on the prefrontal cortex to calm the amygdala ((which controls our perception of threat) regions of the brain.

Poor Sleep = Poor Glucose for Prefrontal Cortex Function = Compromised Resilience

According to the study: “Glucose fuels such brain activity in general  and has been linked specifically to self-regulation. Data indicates that decrements in glucose lead to impaired self-regulation, and restoration of glucose repairs self-regulation. Brain glucose is utilized throughout the day and replenished during sleep, as evidenced by neuro-imagery delineating a decrease in cerebral metabolism during sleep deprivation.   Indeed, sleep difficulties have been clearly linked with decrements in activity in the prefrontal cortex.”

Resilience and self-regulation relies disproportionately on the prefrontal cortex and amygdala regions of the brain.  If the prefrontal cortex is lacking energy and cannot suppress your perception of threat from the amygdala, your ability to tap into your higher cognitive function and resilience is compromised.

Poor sleep reduces connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex regions of the brain, resulting in lapses in attention, poor risk assessment, analysis and management (important for self-regulation as you choose among alternative strategies for goal-directed action).  The study noted that “avoiding choices where risks are disproportionately higher than rewards requires utilizing the prefrontal cortex.”

The Role of Sleep in Mental Health

Sleep and mental health are closely connected as sleep plays an essential role in helping you regulate your emotions, behavior, and mood.

In fact, it is not uncommon for those who struggle with mental health problems to also suffer from sleep challenges. Sleep deprivation definitely takes its toll on your mental health. For example, research has found that many as two thirds of patients suffering from clinical levels of anxiety or depression also suffer from insomnia.

The correlation between mental health and sleep problems is so common that research actually recognizes sleep challenges as a causal factor in the development of mental health disorders. For example, research found that insomnia more than doubles the risk of future depression and anxiety.  Similarly, chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population.

This could be attributed to the impact between sleep and resilience and sleep and memory.  More specifically, research on sleep-dependent emotional brain processing found that sleep helps with support healthy emotional-memory processing.  Poor sleep can contribute to anger, impatience, irritability, and lack of energy. As a result, poor sleep may make you more likely to remember negative events, and less able to focus on the positive.

Healthy sleep patterns are also associated with positive personality characteristics.  Research found that those who suffer from sleep challenges also report lower levels of optimism and self- esteem.

Essential Oils for Sleep

Essential Oils can help calm the mind and the body before bed to both fall asleep and stay asleep for 7-8 hours per night.  This allows the body to rest, regenerate, repair, detoxify, balance blood sugar levels, burn calories, support immune activity and reset our energy reserves.

Several calming and relaxing essential oils are known for their sedative properties that can help promote restful sleep.

Lavender essential oil is most often correlated with enhanced sleep. Research has shown that lavender may actually be able to alter brain waves and reduce stress.  For example, research has found that essential oils, like Lavender™, can bind to the receptors on your cells that receive your body’s calming neurotransmitter, Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), and help balance your brain’s level of excitation and inhibition which is vital for normal brain function and a healthy nervous system.

Lavender has also been found to relieve anxiety and calm your nerves. One study even suggested that lavender works as well as the anti-anxiety medication Lorazepam for calming anxiety. When your mind and body relax, it allows your pineal gland to release melatonin so you can easily drift off the sleep.

Scientists also concluded that inhaling Lavender essential oil can calm the nervous system and improve brain waves appropriate to a sleep state. “Lavender oil caused significant decreases of blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal. In terms of mood responses.”

The study also found that lavender oil increased the power of theta (4-8 Hz) and alpha (8-13 Hz) brain activities that help promote sleep – improving sleep quality, and increase time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep.

Researchers monitoring sleep cycles with brain scans found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, which helps slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles, which allows you to sleep more soundly.

A variety of issues may be impacting your ability to fall asleep and stay  asleep. Once you understand the root cause of your sleep challenges, it is easier to resolve them.

For Help Falling Asleep: Our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle known as the circadian rhythms are regulated by the sleep hormone, melatonin which has an antagonistic relationship with the stress hormone, cortisol.  Chronic and prolonged stress triggers the release of excess cortisol at night, driving down melatonin and making it difficult to fall asleep.  If you struggle to fall asleep due to stress or racing thoughts, consider Circadian Rhythm™, which triggers the pineal gland to naturally release melatonin.

For Help with Night Waking:  Waking up in the middle of the night can be attributed to detoxification, blood sugar or hormonal issues.

Blood Sugar Wake Ups:  Waking up and feeling so wide awake that you could go clean the kitchen can suggest blood sugar issues.  If blood sugar plummets during the night, the adrenal glands release adrenalin as an emergency blood sugar raising tactic. This adrenalin surge is what wakes you up.  The pancreas then has to kick into high gear to return blood sugar levels to normal.  Supporting the pancreas in this effort with Vibrant Blue Oils Pancreas™ blend helps  return the body to balance so you can fall back asleep.

Detoxification Wake Ups:   When you wake up between 1 a.m. – 3 a.m. but are still groggy enough to fall back to sleep, that is often because the Liver is overloaded.  During the night, the liver is busy rebuilding the body and cleansing it of accumulated toxins.  The liver is most active between 1 – 3 AM, often peaking at 3 AM.  When you awaken at this time, it is often a signal that the liver needs a little support.  Vibrant Blue Oils Liver™ blend applied before bed and during night waking can help you return to a restful slumber.

Other Essential Oils formulations that help support sleep include:

Sleep™ blend contains Spikenard which is known for its relaxing qualities.

The Calm™ blend and Lavender™ are also very relaxing and work well on small children, especially when added to a Healing bath before bed.

Featured Oils:

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