Calm mind, good sleep, which comes first?


It’s hardly news that a good night’s sleep is the root of mental and physical health and wellness. But when you’re stressed, agitated, or anxious, it’s hard to sleep. So which comes first, a calm state of mind or a good night’s sleep? If you’re sleep-challenged right now, this is a good question. And it’s kind of a chicken/egg problem.

When you’re stressed and low on sleep, it’s hard to clearly see how much your mood is influencing how you’re looking at your life challenges. When our nervous system is in an extended state of high arousal – aka stress, there are actual physical changes that affect what we see. When our brain is in high alert mode, our vision physically shifts, our heart rate rises, and muscles tense, as our entire system gets onboard. So you feel trapped because your brain will only let you focus on the problem until it’s resolved. It’s a survival function that kept us out of danger and still does. It’s also easy to trigger and harder to turn off, especially during times of uncertainty.

We’re more susceptible to bias than we think we are.
Here’s a very fun study to illustrate this point:

Selective Attention Test

Yes, there are all kinds of things you can focus on if your goal is greater health or happiness. But if that goal involves habit change, you’ll need a steady foundation for managing your mindset (aka attention) and the choices you make as a result.

So focus on sleep, and use simple breathing exercises to help you notice your stress pattern before it escalates.

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