Going through a lot of stress impacts the quality of sleep you get come bedtime. Sometimes the mind simply does not shut down so that you can finally fall asleep. Often, the stress can even wake you up several times through the night.
If you have been going through this yourself, you would know first-hand how frustrating this situation is, and how it can negatively affect your day AND your health.
Why does it happen when you are stressed? What can you do to reduce your stress and be able to get a good night’s sleep? We must first take a look at how sleep patterns work in order to fully understand the effects of stress.
Circadian Rhythm: Cortisol and Melatonin
We all have a built-in body clock, and it is called the circadian rhythm. It is the several different mental and physical phases we undergo, as the day and night cycles through. The body releases two major hormones that controls this rhythm – Cortisol and melatonin.
As the day breaks, the body will start producing stimulating hormones called Cortisol, and the brightness will wake you up so you can start your day. Cortisol is at its peak levels in the morning, and gradually decreases as the evening comes. And as the sun sets and darkness comes, the body starts releasing Melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone. As you can already guess, it is at its peak levels during the night to help you get to sleep. It wanes as the morning comes and Cortisol starts going up again.
This cycle — or rhythm — can become disrupted. The two hormones become imbalanced. Cortisol may be peaking at the end of the day instead of in the morning, causing you to feel alert and wired during the night, and tired in the morning. Or Melatonin may be quite low, causing poor sleep quality, and consequently, making you feel sluggish or tired in the morning.
This could be due to various several reasons for most people. And the biggest trigger for this imbalance is… stress!
The Higher the Stress Levels, The Greater the Released Stress Hormone
When the body is stressed, it causes a fight-or-flight response to act up within the sympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for releasing adrenaline, the stress hormone, and more cortisol so that you stay alert, ready to deal with the stressor.
This is highly useful when actually needed. It is the human body’s survival instinct. However, when tremendously stressed, the body pumps out more of these stress hormones. This largely impacts the circadian rhythm, throwing it off balance. Melatonin production is then affected as the night comes, resulting to poor sleep.
There’s A Natural Way to Help!
If you feel that your circadian rhythm is out of whack due to high stress levels, here are some tips that could help you get back your z’s:
A vital mineral that reduces cortisol and increases melatonin levels and relaxes the muscles, essential to a restorative and healing sleep.
A herbal medicine famous for its anxiolytic and sedating effects that helps calm the mind and body. If you are struggling to fall asleep, take some lavender 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. If you have trouble staying asleep, take it as you go to bed.
A potent herb that is used to help reduce anxiety. It is best for when you had a stressful day or event that has you feeling anxious. It decreases stress hormones, calming your mind and body, and helps you to fall asleep easily.
An herb that works to increase GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid), the body’s main mood soothing neurotransmitter. It also helps to feel calm and relaxed as you start to wind down after a long tiring day.
5. Mindfulness Meditation
You may use guided meditations and breathing exercises. Do this 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Writing down what you went through during the day, what you were worried about, what caused your stress, is likened to transferring your troubled thoughts onto paper to get that weight off your chest, even just for the night. This allows your mind to wind down, and may help you fall asleep faster and easier.
Final Words On Sleep and Stress
The circadian rhythm is our body’s way of getting us going throughout the day, and feeling sleepy at night in time for sleep. This helps us to have a productive day, and a restorative sleep during the night. Going through a stressful event can begin to disrupt the body’s natural clock, causing an imbalance in the hormones that assists in the rhythm.
Stressors are certainly everywhere and feeling stressed is a normal part of life. It is all up to us to find what will help keep the balance to ensure quality sleep. Talk to a Practitioner who can work with you to address the stress and give you the support that you need to make peaceful, quality slumber part of your normal way of life.
Meanwhile, here are more do’s and don’t’s for better sleep.