Sleep answers from sleep expert Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

Sleep answers from sleep expert Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

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Collage of Yunuen Bonaparte. Photo courtesy of Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith.

When Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith began to suffer from burnout about 10 years ago, she assumed she just needed to sleep better.

Therefore the internal medicine physician try to understand it better, by learning about sleep technology, the process by which we achieve deeper levels of sleep, and more.

“I got to a place where I really felt like I couldn’t sleep any better…[and] I was still tired,” she says. “Honestly, it was really depressing, because it’s like, OK, I’m doing what everyone says I should be doing to feel energized, and I’m just not doing it.”

Dalton-Smith, who is based near Birmingham, Alabama, also began to see the same pattern with her patients, fueling her investigation further.

“I’ve had so many people say the same thing to me: ‘I do all these things that people tell me should help me feel more rested, but it doesn’t.’ “, she says.

“That’s when I started to really look, OK, so if sleep doesn’t solve my fatigue, then what kind of fatigue do I have? There’s something else that’s not identified .

This breakthrough in his research is what led Dalton-Smith to arrive at the seven types of restwhich she talks about in her book “Sacred Rest: Recover your life, renew your energy, renew your sanityand that’s perhaps what she’s best known for.

According to Dalton-Smith, sleep and rest are not the same thing. In fact, humans need seven different types of rest to thrive: physical, mental, social, creative, emotional, spiritual, and sensory.

Initially the list was much longer, but after practicing with hundreds of patients “from every type of background you can imagine”, Dalton-Smith narrowed it down to these seven types, which she found insufficient. in most of his patients at all levels.

Once she identified the types of rest people needed, she could focus on finding solutions to get it. It’s not the same for everyone, of course. Knowing this, Dalton-Smith offers his patients and readers many options along the way.

For example, a mindfulness technique like journaling or meditation may work for someone trying to achieve mental rest, while a complete information detox may be key for someone else.

“There’s a kind of self-discovery involved in understanding your rest needs,” she says.

The first step for everyone, however, is to identify where the deficits are in the first place.

One way to do this is to take Dalton-Smith for free rest quizwhich she says “provides the best insight into what [one’s] the problems are. The quiz only takes about 10 minutes and I found the results to be pretty perfect.

The types of rest I scored highest on were emotional and mental, signaling that these are the main types I miss in my life and should focus on.

To be emotionally rested, according to Dalton-Smith, means to be able to freely express feelings and reduce people’s pleasure. As someone who doesn’t like confrontation and always wants everything to go well, this rings true. Some suggestions for how to get better emotional rest include risking vulnerability and identifying people who are draining you.

Being mentally rested means being able to quiet the chattering brain and focus on what’s important. Good ! Rather than sleep, I spent half of last night replaying a text conversation in my head that I wish I had handled differently and analyzing the bad choices made by the characters in “Euphoria.” So that one really hit home.

Among Dalton-Smith’s recommendations for helping with a mental rest deficit are taking short breaks throughout the day to remind you to slow down and keeping a notebook by the bed to jot down nagging thoughts that come to you. prevent you from sleeping at night.

Another way to identify your deficits, Dalton-Smith says, is to think about where you spend the most energy in your day and whether you’re doing enough to replenish those areas.

If making sure you’re getting the right kind of rest in seven different areas seems overwhelming, Dalton-Smith’s advice is to start by focusing on just one.

“Usually for most of us there are one or two rest deficits that are most important, so we specifically focus on those,” she says. “You start to see the benefits without being overwhelmed.”

I asked Dalton-Smith to share how she gets herself the right amount — and kind — of rest. Here is what she said.

Dalton-Smith wants to clarify one thing. When she talks about getting the rest you need, she’s not necessarily talking about taking a big sabbatical or epic vacation.

“It’s really about how do you fit… those restorative, restful activities into the middle of a busy day?” she says.

She does this in her own life, seeking to rest wherever she can so she never feels totally exhausted. If she feels like she’s holding stress in her neck, for example, she’ll shrug a few shoulders as she walks from room to room in the hospital.

“It’s those little things that we do to keep bringing ourselves back to a place of restoration and a place where we feel better about our bodies,” she says.

As you can probably imagine, an important part of making sure you get the rest you need is having good boundaries.

“I always say, ‘Rest is not for the weak,'” says Dalton-Smith. “It takes a brave person to take ownership of their boundaries, because a lot of us have this fear of confrontation.”

She thinks it’s this fear – along with the guilt that comes with letting others down – that often drives us to engage in people-pleasing behaviors and say yes to things we know we don’t have. neither time nor energy. As someone with a high emotional rest deficit, Dalton-Smith relates to this.

She managed to set boundaries by setting priorities for each season of her life and sticking to them. While some seasons she’s focused her energy on her career, right now with two sons in high school, her family — their birthdays, ball games, etc. – goes first.

“When an opportunity comes along that’s going to take my time or my energy, my first question is, ‘Does this match my priorities this season?’ If the answer to that question is no, and…it’s not something I’m really passionate about,” she says, “I’m likely to say no.

Even with a plan in place, it’s not always easy, of course. Dalton-Smith loves helping people, so saying no often means giving up on something that would actually bring him joy – but at what cost?

“I had to learn that I can’t sacrifice myself to the point of not giving my best,” she says. Whether it’s with his family or his patients, giving a yes for the wrong reasons doesn’t help anyone. “I think I just had to be very honest about it.”

When Dalton-Smith gets out of bed in the morning, the very first thing she does is assess her energy level.

“I do it immediately when I get up, because unless I start to process it and be aware of it [right away]”, she said, “the day will just go downhill from then on. “

Nine out of 10 mornings, she wakes up eager to leave, but when she doesn’t, she thinks about what she could have done the night before and which exhausts her.

Usually she herself is overbooked. She tends to work a lot, she says, and she often plans a bunch of things without remembering to leave room for self-care.

Dalton-Smith isn’t ritualistic in that sense, keeping a set schedule for walking and exercising — she likes to be a little more intuitive. This is precisely why she runs out of time if she is not careful, paying the next day.

“Honestly, it’s a good reminder to me that I can’t do this,” she said.

Although self-care activities may not be on her schedule, Dalton-Smith tends to stick to a sleep schedule quite closely. She tries to go to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. (although sometimes she is pushed back a little later because of the children’s extracurricular activities) and wakes up between 6:30 and 7:30 in the morning.

Before going to bed, she practices what she calls sensory degradation by dimming the lights on her computer, phone, and even the lamps in her house.

“A lot of times people try to turn off their brain and body like a switch and just try to fall asleep,” she says. “I think it doesn’t work.”

She tries to avoid consuming anything too graphic or stimulating before bed, even books, as she prefers mysteries and thrillers, which she finds very mentally engaging. It is a question of emptying the head and the senses to make room for rest, (therefore, sensory restone of seven).

Once in bed, she takes stock, as she does in the morning, wondering if something hurts, is tense, tense, if she needs to stretch.

“There were many times I jumped out of bed to stretch because,” she says, “the moment I hit the bed, I can say, OK, I’m not going to get past this until until I get up and stretch.

In addition to stretching, Dalton-Smith takes regular walks and enjoys running half marathons. She loves spending time outdoors, hiking and enjoying nature, often with her husband – it’s how they find their creative rest, and it’s also a good way to keep in touch.

Dalton-Smith tends to follow the keto diet for long periods of time, mixed with low carb periods, because she has a family history of diabetes.

She may have a glass of wine if she goes out to dinner, but it’s not something she does regularly. Most of the time, she doesn’t wake up feeling refreshed after drinking, and she thinks it disrupts the sleep cycle, so alcohol isn’t a big part of her life.

As Dalton-Smith says in his TEDxAtlanta Conference in 2019, “Sleep alone could never bring us back to the point where we feel rested.”

Now that we understand the seven types of rest, “it’s time to start focusing on law type of rest,” she says. “It’s time for a rest revolution.”