Dr. Erla Bjornsdottir has long studied sleep. Insomnia has a broad and subtle effect and is the cause of many serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, and depression.
Erla is the founder and chairman of Better Sleep. In her doctoral studies, she studied insomnia, mental well-being, and quality of life in patients with sleep apnea. Erla has specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (HAM-S) and is working on research in this field together with colleagues in Europe and the United States. She has published numerous articles in foreign peer-reviewed journals and also written about sleep at home. Erla has also given a number of lectures and seminars on sleep and sleeping habits.
Insomnia has a far-reaching effect
“Sleep is paramount and is the foundation of mental and physical health. We can have up to ten in exercise and diet, but if we do not sleep then we do not feel well and are not in good shape. I think we have been underestimating the role of sleep and how important it is. There is a lot to do with people and people are cheating on sleep and ignoring it, but it is very quick to get behind a person. These are very extensive and subtle effects. One may not always associate effects, such as anxiety, stress, and increased appetite, with insomnia. The effect is not necessarily just increased fatigue and lack of concentration, “says Erla.
She says that adults are told that they need to sleep about seven to nine hours every night. “There is a good gap in between as we are not all the same. Some factors affect our need for sleep such as age and even gender. Many studies indicate that women need a little longer sleep than men, can even remember half an hour there, “she says.
“The main thing is that we feel good when we wake up in the morning, that we are refreshed and have enough energy throughout the day. That we are not having to fall asleep watching TV, going to the movies, feeling unwell or drinking three cups of coffee just to be able to function, “says Erla, adding that it has become common for us to continue driving on artificial energy.
“We sleep little and then we will make up for it by drinking one strong Nocco and mass a day. But then we are moving forward on artificial energy and suppressing the message that the body is sending us, which is: “You are tired because you are not getting enough sleep.” It is a very important message for us. ”
Insomnia shortens our lives. You do not have to be awake for a few days to feel the effects of insomnia, if you sleep for four to six hours a night you will experience these subtle and far-reaching effects that Erla talks about.
“Research shows that after only one sleepless night, about four to five hours of sleep, we can measure increased inflammation in the blood and less sugar resistance. We know that increased inflammation in the blood is the cause of many serious diseases and we are increasing the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, and all this when we are dehydrated for a long time. Of course, we can tolerate losing sleep every night, it is only natural that it happens. But when this persists, we will see the effects. We also see it in young people, it is worrying how little young people are sleeping. We see that dehydrated adolescents are ten times more likely to experience depression and much more likely to attempt suicide. These are serious consequences that can result from this, “says Erla.
Insomnia can not be compensated
“Insomnia increases the risk of many serious illnesses and actually shortens our lives. It’s no joke to not get enough sleep in the long run. It is also clear that we are much worse able to cope with illness when we are not sleeping well. And we know that the immune system is greatly suppressed. For example, in times like these, with the flu and other things, we are much more exposed if we do not sleep well. Then our immune system is not as strong. It matters, “says Erla.
“It is also this common misconception that you can sleep little on weekdays and make up for it on weekends by sleeping a lot then. But it creates an imbalance, upsets our body clock, and increases the likelihood of us getting caught up in a vicious cycle of chronic sleep problems. We simply can not make up for lost sleep. Of course, we can regain energy and rest, but there is just so much that happens in our body and brain when we sleep every single night. We release toxins, renew cells, classify memories and stimuli. This does not happen ten times faster even though we sleep ten times more over the weekend. This needs to happen every night just as we need to charge our phone for it to work. So you have to try to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. ”
Do not take “all-nighter”
Many past and present students are no doubt familiar with having taken the so-called “all-nighter” before the final exam, studying all night and until the last minute to be as well prepared as possible. But that is the worst thing you can do for your performance, according to Erla.
“Sleep is a prerequisite for learning and for memory. We are fixing everything we learn, both in terms of factual information and skills. When we sleep, we keep such information in mind, so if we are, for example, taking an exam the next day, competing in sports or going somewhere where we need to do well, then sleep is the key to the night before. Because it is much better to go to bed earlier and stop studying at 22-23 than to take an “all-nighter”. Then you can not process the information and memorize it. They will not be accessible to you when you attend the exam. ”
What about caffeine, the artificial energy that strikes the message that the body sends us when it is tired, is it our enemy or is everything good in moderation?
“We know that caffeine sharpens concentration, increases metabolism and helps us wake up. That’s why we look for it when we’re tired. I do not go so far as to say that caffeine is our enemy and that we should abandon it altogether. I like to have a cup of breakfast myself, but we need to be modest. We need to realize that caffeine is a stimulant and lasts a long time in the body. It has a profound effect on physical activity. In addition to damaging sleep, caffeine can increase stress and anxiety, because we are increasing heart rate and metabolism. The half-life of caffeine is about 5-6 hours, so we do not recommend any caffeine after two o’clock in the day and to limit it until then. It is also good to be aware of this. I think caffeine consumption is often very addictive,
“Many of them are very strong, but also sweet and refreshing, so you might want to drink more than the coffee. We need to take care of this consumption much more than we are doing, “she says.
“Energy consumption among upper secondary school students has increased by 55 percent in the last two years and it was not small now. We know that this marketing is working. Influencers, high-achieving athletes, beauty queens and more are promoting these drinks so that young people associate them with health and beauty. As some kind of health drink. And I think that’s a definite problem because these are not health drinks, they are harmful to health if anything. I think there needs to be more responsible marketing on this. And the statements that are made in advertisements are heartbreaking because you know that young people are struggling with increased sleep problems to a great extent and this is one of the culprits in that context. ”
The most common mistakes we make when it comes to sleep
“I think the most common mistakes are irregularities. We are relaxing too much when we have a holiday and turn the clock around. Now many people are going to fall back into the routine after the summer holidays and have a difficult job ahead of them. We tend to do this as soon as we have the opportunity, “says Erla.
“It may also be that when we have a bad night, which is just normal and happens to everyone, the first thing that comes to mind is to make up for it. Like sleeping longer in the morning, going to work or going to bed earlier. But this is a very short-lived warm-up and behavior that often leads one into a vicious circle of chronic problems. What you should rather do after a hard night is to get up at your normal time, work hard during the day and go to bed at a normal time the next night and have a good night. Do not go to these emergency rescue operations. ”
Stop sleeping on your phone
We have become very accustomed to these powerful little computers in our pockets that allow us to chat with friends, watch funny videos, read news and share a picture of our food, all at the same time. Many of us spend a lot of time on the phone just before bed and are even scrolling through Instagram until we close our eyes. But the use of screens is having a much greater impact on the quality of your sleep than you suspect.
“Using the phone before bedtime clearly has an effect. It is both the light from the screen and then just the stimulus that I think is even more important. The brain is in a state of stimulation until we lie down on the pillow and it’s just that sleep needs its prelude. We need to slow down and relax before we go to bed. So I recommend giving yourself two hours before bed without a phone. I think because we are surrounded by so much stimulus all day long, the effects are so subtle. We do not wear it ourselves. ”
Erla knows the effect first hand. She set the rules for her teens to use the phone before bed and decided to stop using the phone at night to set a good example.
“I myself was often on the phone until I went to bed. I did not feel it affected because I slept quite well, but as soon as I began to take myself through to become a role model for them, I realized that this was having a subtle effect on me. I was falling into work at night or staying up longer than I expected because I fell into some recreation or something. This was a pinch of my sleep and making an impact even though I was trying to sell myself something else. I think it’s good for a person to take a break from all this stimulus. At least the last hour before we go to bed, “says Erla and adds that watching TV is fine.
“Because it’s a slightly different stimulus. Both of you are usually further away from the TV and this is a slightly more passive stimulus. You are watching some entertainment but you are not navigating between different activities, work and other stimuli as you do on the phone. There is not the same stimulation going on. But of course, it’s best to spend the last hour turning it all off, reading or even listening to an audiobook and just trying to be relaxed with yourself. The fewer stimuli in the evening, the better. Calm body and soul. ”