Category Archives: Sleep

Do You Experience A.S.M.R? ( Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

Although my grade 7 French class was often the most chaotic part of the school day, with students speaking out of turn and generally taking advantage of our kind, soft spoken teacher, for me it was the most relaxing time of day.

As the other students flirted, doodled in their notebooks, did anything but pay attention, I zoned right in on the lesson. This wasn’t just because I was ultra respectful, I must admit.

It was because the gentle sound of our teacher’s voice, the soothing way her delicate hand wrote on the chalkboard, her incredible focus despite all the disruption going on all made me feel profoundly relaxed. My scalp would tingle, and my shoulders would feel like I was getting a massage. Had my grade7 French class been longer than 40 minutes, it very well may have put me to sleep each day. Not because it was boring, but because it was blissfully peaceful and relaxing.

I didn’t tell anyone this of course. It seemed too bizarre. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a weirdo, getting pleasure from observing a sweet old lady write on a chalk board and talk.

It wasn’t until years later that I got my first opportunity to discuss this strange phenomenon with someone, and realize I was far from alone in my experience.  I suffer anxiety, and before I started taking medication I often had a lot of trouble falling asleep.  One night as I sat up surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. I noticed my brother was awake and online too. I started up a chat to complain about my insomnia, and he offered me amazing advice.

“You’re probably going to think this is really wierd, but try watching this. It’s super relaxing.”

He sent me a link to an instructional massage video by a lady called “Lita”. As I started watching, I realized my brother was right. The sound of her voice,  and watching the calm, focused manner of her massage gave me the same tingly, relaxing feeling I used to get during gr. 7 French class. After my brother and I exchanged a few humorous messages making fun of ourselves for enjoying watching someone else get massaged, I read through some of the video comments, and realized many others were experiencing the same sort of thing.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is defined as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or cognitive stimuli. So feeling tingly when someone brushes your hair, or whispers in your ear counts as ASMR. Triggers for ASMR vary slightly between those who experience it, and not everyone does experience it.

There isn’t a lot of scientific data available on ASMR yet, although a quick internet search will show you there are many anecdotal reports of it out there.

What interests me the most is how it can be used to help relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. First of all, if you are lucky enough to experience ASMR, you will realize that when those sensations are being triggered, you automatically become mindful.  You totally focus on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, because it feels so darn nice. Unpleasant feelings of sadness or anxiety are pushed away.  Watching videos designed to bring on ASMR can give great relief to someone suffering mental illness.  I think it’s a worthwhile place to start trying out being mindful for someone new to the practice.

I also do not believe its a coincidence that many common ASMR triggers involve someone giving some sort of care to another.  To be cared for is a universal need among animals.  It is also something that lacks in the lives of many who suffer mental illness. Perhaps indulging in some ASMR could encourage sufferers to put more effort into their own self care, or even to seek out care from others.

My goal for this article is to bring awareness to the topic of ASMR. It’s a real thing.  Although it’s not widely recognized, if you experience it, you are not strange, you are fortunate! I encourage you to explore how it can help you feel less anxious, less lonely and how it can help you relax enough to fall asleep. Check out the links below to see if ASMR can benefit you. Unlike alcohol, drugs, or other potentially harmful methods you might use to cope, this is 100% safe. It is certainly worth a try!

http://www.last.fm/music/ASMR

http://www.tingle.fm/mobile web/channels/

http://www.asmrlab.com

http://www.m.youtube.com/watch?v=UedaJPNGzoo

Also search “Disney Collector”  videos on You Tube.

******************************

Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

Sleep Like a Baby?….I Wish! 8 Ideas To Help Those With Anxiety/Depression Catch Some ZZZs

You’ve been longing for this moment all day. Exhausted, you burrow under your cool, crisp sheets, snuggle into your pillow. Sleep at last. A few moments pass. All of a sudden, you are more alert than you’ve been all day.  You are so alert in fact, that your eyelids can’t even relax enough to close.  You get itchy all over, feel too hot and too cold within the same minute. Your mind races.  You look at the clock and start worrying about the precious moments of sleep you are losing. There’s no falling asleep now. It’s going to be a looong night. Again.

If you suffer anxiety/depression chances are this situation sounds familiar. Sleep deprivation is one of the most damaging symptoms of many mental Illnesses.  Over time, it changes your hormone balance so all symptoms of anxiety/depression get worse. These changes also make it even harder to get a proper sleep.   It is a torturous, terrible cycle. It makes you absolutely miserable.

There is hope though. The cycle can be broken.  Some of these ideas you might have heard of.  All of them are worth trying. Your mental health is worth it.

1.) Shut all screens off (including T.V.) at least 1-2 hours before bed:

You may have heard this one before. Have you tried it?  It’s hard, I know. At the end of the day all you may feel like doing is zoning out with TV or Internet.  The thing is, you don’t actually “zone out”. There’s a whole lot going on when you look at a screen, and it stimulates your brain, putting it into “fight or flight” mode. If you suffer anxiety, your brain tends to be in that state already.  Screen time before bed and anxiety do not mix. Try cutting it out.  Whenever I muster up enough willpower to do this, I must say it makes a huge difference.  Save the last hour or two of your day for a relaxing bed time routine instead.  You won’t regret it.

2.) Stop eating 2 hours before bed time:

Our digestive system creates a lot of heat when it digests our food for us. This extra heat in our bodies makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep, because body temperature naturally lowers during sleep. If you must have something, make it small and easy to digest, for example toast or yogurt.

3.) Be careful what/how much you drink before bed:

Cut out the caffeine as early in the day as you can.  Be sure you know which foods and drinks you enjoy contain caffeine.  Sodas, many teas (including green tea) have caffeine; and sadly, so does chocolate.  Alcohol might be something you’ve come  to lean on if you suffer from anxiety/depression.  This “self medication” does help you fall asleep easier, but it disrupts the deep, restful, REM sleep that starts happening approximately 90 minutes in.  So, you fall asleep easier, but are likely to wake up and be restless later in the night.  Try your best to avoid drinking alcohol before bed.  Camomile or Valerian tea are excellent alternatives.

4.) Definitely Exercise… just not close to bed time:

Psychiatrists urge sufferers of anxiety/ depression to exercise daily.  It increases the body’s production of serotonin, which helps you feel better, and is important for sleep.  During and immediately following exercise though, our body also releases the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which stimulate your brain. So following your workout your body may be exhausted, but your mind will be wide awake. Make sure there are at least 2 to 3 hours between your workout and bed times.

5.) Try taking a calcium/magnesium supplement:

Among other things, calcium and magnesium relax the muscles and calm the nerves. Many people with anxiety/depression actually have a magnesium deficiency.  Stress hormones cause the body to lose magnesium, and if you suffer anxiety/depression, you have lots of stress hormones floating around. Try taking a calcium/magnesium supplement at supper time.  Adults can take 1000 mg calcium, and between 600mg to 700 mg magnesium.

6.) Go to bed in complete and utter darkness:

We produce a hormone called melatonin when our bodies prepare for sleep. Lack of melatonin can cause sleep problems. One way to help your body produce more is to be sure your room is totally dark. Even go as far as covering up light from digital clocks or charging phones. It’s worth a try.

7.) Have a good, long snuggle within 2 hours of bed time:

Snuggling causes your body to produce oxytocin, which causes relaxation and sleepiness.  Think of how many animals in the wild sleep curled up with each other. Snuggling and sleep go together, naturally. Plus it just feels nice.  So, snuggle up to your partner, your children, your pet every night.  The longer you snuggle, the better. The healing power of love is real, and immense.

8.) Create a relaxing sleep routine for yourself, and stick to it:

You may not do an awful lot for yourself if you are suffering depression.  Make bed time the time you show yourself a little love. Take a warm shower or bath, moisturize your skin, listen to relaxing music, light candles, do breathing exercises and some stretching.  There are many excellent relaxation exercise recordings out there.  Find one you like, listen and practice it every evening.  Children are not the only ones who benefit from bed time routine. Do the same things, in the same order each night to help signal your body and mind it’s sleep time. Try to go to bed at around the same time each night too. Consistency is key. It will help relieve anxiety around sleep, and you might even start looking forward to bed time if you stick to the routine.

Sleep is vital for our mental health. When I look back, I realize the times I’ve suffered most with anxiety/depression were times I was also sleep deprived. If you suffer sleep deprivation, put all the effort you have into fixing it. If you have tried everything and still can’t get relief,  please make an appointment with your doctor.

Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

*Please feel free to add your ideas to this list in the comment section. I would love to hear them.

Sources used: dr.lwilson.com, livestrong.com, webM.D.com

*I also used information I learned as part of my education (Hon. BSc Nutritional Science)