Help, I’m an empath! Why you can’t sleep at night and what you can do about it.

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” (Walt Whitman, Song of Myself)

Navigating through life as an empath can become quite the draining experience on one’s body and general energy levels.

Due to this circumstance, sufficient time spent alone is a necessity for empathic people in order to regain control and recharge their internal batteries.

Intense thoughts, emotions, and feelings during a prolonged period of time lead to negative consequences to the overall well-being of an individual. An outcome most likely contributed by the disrupted sleep pattern caused by rapid, ongoing information processing.

The hyperactive mind

Memories and past experiences typically fuel an emotional response in the average individual. However, when it comes to empaths, those responses tend to be immensely overwhelming. Fear, anxiety, panic, and even paranoia tend to creep in uninvited. In result, the brain is persuaded to believe a genuine threat lies ahead.

This so-called ‘fight-or-flight’ response is, in evolutionary terms, a reaction of the nervous system in order to ensure survival. Having said that, it plays a damaging role for empaths, especially if habitually overused.

Consequently, it all comes down to the adrenal glands which are responsible for the production of energy-releasing hormones. When we are exposed to continuous high levels of anxiety or stress, lead an unhealthy lifestyle such as little to no sleep, a poor diet, and/or stressful relationships, we assign constant, unreasonable demands to those glands.

Overstimulation and Quick ‘Fixes’

While being only the size of a walnut, located in the lower back area, they are powerful. They benefit our concentration and stamina so that we are able to react appropriately to pressure. Nevertheless, over-stimulation to our adrenal glands causes the production of energy, which poses obstacles when trying to rest or sleep. This constant feeling of being on high alert burns them out and may induce a malfunction.

Therefore, our levels of energy during the day are insufficient and reach a low point. Quick fixes such as consuming high in refined salt or sugar foods, as well as caffeine-based drinks, become a temptation. A vicious cycle is then initiated, as junk food burns energy extremely quickly leaving us with none to spare. 

Damaged Sleep Pattern

Cortisol levels (one of the hormones produced by our adrenal glands) are important reasoning behind the weakened sleep rhythm. They typically increase throughout the night while reaching a climactic point a couple of hours before we awaken. Hence, this ensures an energetic, fresh start of the day.

When the adrenal glands are drained, feeling tired after a ‘supposedly’ peaceful 8 hours of sleep is an expected side-effect. Moreover, when experiencing stress and uneasiness, cortisol levels may reach the highest point late at night, explaining the difficulty to enter deep sleep.

With the mentioned glands not being able to work as intended, fatigue, irritability, anxiousness, and dizziness present a day-to-day struggle to cope with. Moreover, heart palpitations, low or high blood pressure, as well as overall indecisiveness, add to the challenging experience of the condition.

What can you do?

It takes a great deal of time in order to tend to the adrenal glands and entirely repair them. However, there are changes one could make in order to observe tangible, immediate changes.

1. Meditation before sleep:

you can tame your intrusive thoughts with mindfulness, shifting the obsessive attention from them to the ‘present’. With daily practice, you can learn to avoid triggering the hormone-induced physiological response.

2. Strive for balance:

getting up early, thinking positively and exercising (not too heavy though) lead to building a better sleeping pattern, as it lessens the overstimulation of the adrenal glands.

3. A healthy diet:

a balanced and healthy food choice (unrefined sugar and unrefined salt), can nurture and recharge our adrenal glands.

4. Spending time with family and friends:

surrounding yourself with positive energy and having a support system is an invaluable part of the journey. Take as much time as you can to spend with family and friends who lift you up.

5. Tackle the problem causing you stress:

last but not least- there is always a problem underlying your mental struggles. Although you may not see it as obvious (due to the stress you’re experiencing), make the conscious effort to figure out what keeps you down in life at the moment and how you can realistically deal with the issue. This will definitely be the cornerstone on the road to bettering your mental health

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