• Trouble Sleeping? The Solution Could Lie in Our Ancestors' Lifestyle and Taking Rests Like a Caveman

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    We live our
    lives at a frenetic pace these days, with technology leading us
    all the way – there’s rarely a moment without email, Twitter, text
    or a phone call to nudge us onto the next task.

    All this rush
    can be exciting, if at times stressful, but far more insidious is
    the effect it has on your sleep.

    For, according
    to a new book, our inability to unwind during the day is a major
    cause of insomnia. That’s because the brain is denied the short,
    regular periods of rest it needs – leading to an over-active mind
    that refuses to switch off at night.

    As the author
    of Tired
    But Wired: How To Overcome Your Sleep Problems
    , Dr Nerina
    Ramlakhan, explains: ‘We live in a high pressure, fast-moving world
    driven by the wonders of technology.

    ‘But the struggle
    to keep up can find us reaching for caffeine and energy drinks –
    anything that will help us to fuel the manic need to do more in
    less time.

    ‘We rarely
    allow ourselves to go "offline". At night we crawl into
    bed desperate to rest and find we just can’t relax because the information
    overload in our brains has created a "buzz" it can’t switch
    off.’

    Dr Ramlakhan,
    a sleep therapist and former insomniac, has described this phenomenon
    as ‘tired but wired’.

    The problem
    is universal, she says – as a clinician she treats everyone from
    City executives to over-stretched mothers, teachers and school children.

    And the best
    way to tackle this form of insomnia is not with the usual advice
    – warm drink, hot bath, darkened room, and possibly sleeping
    pills.

    Dr Ramlakhan
    recommends taking a break every 90 minutes to daydream, walk about,
    or, more controversially, nap.

    This goes against
    conventional wisdom because most experts believe if you have a sleep
    problem you should resist the urge to nap, to ensure you’re tired
    enough to sleep properly at night.

    Dr Ramlakhan
    devised this approach after suffering from ‘brain overload’ for
    many years. ‘I was a rather hyperactive child and a real bookworm,’
    she says.

    ‘I’d get so
    caught up in what I was doing or reading I often found I couldn’t
    switch off my brain at night.’

    At university
    (where she studied physiology and psychology) her problem intensified:
    ‘Because life was so full-on during the day and the sensory stimulation
    was intensified by noise, alcohol and caffeine, I would go for days
    with hardly any sleep at all. This pattern continued for the next
    15 years.’

    But now she
    sleeps ‘brilliantly’ and can even sleep on trains, planes and in
    cars – ‘something I once found impossible’.

    ‘The key has
    been building a little rest – and brain downtime – into my day.’

    WHY WE NEED
    DAYTIME BREAKS

    Our ancient
    ancestors are to blame, says Dr Ramlakhan. They were programmed
    to rest at regular intervals throughout the day rather than sleep
    for eight hours every night.

    ‘Passing out
    for hours at a time may not have been conducive to our safety and
    survival, so throughout the day we rested in short phases, whenever
    we could, to build our energy for hunting and gathering and to maintain
    our wellbeing. Rest became a substitute for sleep.’

    These days
    it is widely accepted that human sleep patterns are governed by
    the ‘circadian rhythm’ – the 24-hour cycle of being awake and active
    and then, when it becomes dark, resting and sleepy.

    Read
    the rest of the article

    May
    22, 2010

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