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Stress and the Sleep Cycle

Have you wondered if what you are doing or how you are feeling during the day may end up affecting how well you sleep at night? Well, stress and sleep go hand-in-hand. When you’re stressed during the day, you may find it difficult to get to sleep of an evening…and when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, your stress levels can increase – it’s a cycle that some people find hard to break.

This blog will go through the connection between stress and sleep, how to recognise stress during the day and some tips on how to support your nervous system in order to help you get a good night’s sleep.


What is stress and why is it affecting my sleep?

Stress is a normal part of life and typically we are able to bounce back from the day’s stressful challenges, both physically and mentally. Sometimes, we may find ourselves under stress over extended periods of time which can hinder our body’s ability to bounce back as quickly as we’d hope.

The body’s stress response involves the release of various hormones to increase our heart rate, provide more oxygen to our organs and tissues and cause an increase in blood sugar levels so more energy can become available if we require it. These processes continue even when are stressed over long periods of time, eventually impacting our overall health and wellbeing.

Stress has long been known to be linked with sleep issues. It causes a range of reactions in the brain, the nervous system, the endocrine system and even the immune system. Experts have become aware of all of these elements of the stress response and have come to the understanding that the body, when under chronic periods of stress, will operate as if it is ‘on alert.’ When your body is ‘on alert,’ it thinks it’s in a state of danger and that it shouldn’t be sleeping. During times like this, you may be able to eventually fall asleep but you may often find you wake multiple times during the night.


Supporting your nervous system

Do you recognise when you feel stressed? Some people feel their heart race or their palms sweat, others may notice their breathing patterns change and some may feel overexcited and jittery.

Recognising your body’s way(s) of showing stress is an important skill to have so you can become aware of what may be affecting your nervous system during the day. Perhaps your stress stems from the traffic you face in the mornings on your way to work, the deadlines you’re trying to meet or the end of semester exams you dread. Although you can’t necessarily change these stressors, you can change the way you respond to them.

There are many ways to support your nervous system’s response to stress. The next time you notice you are feeling stressed, try any of the following:

  • Take several deep breaths - 3 counts on the inhale and 6 counts on the exhale
  • Enjoy regular breaks throughout your work day - get up from your desk, stretch, have a short chat with a colleague and then return back to your work
  • Get outdoors as often as you can - take your lunch break outside or enjoy a picnic in the backyard with the kids. Breathe in fresh air, immerse yourself in green space (i.e. out in nature) and enjoy the grounding and calming effect it has on the nervous system and especially on cortisol, our main stress hormone
  • Move your body - exercise releases endorphins, feel-good hormones that help reduce cortisol

Sometimes, we need an extra helping hand to cope with and recover from stressful situations. Consider Anxiety Relief, our herbal supplement that helps support the nervous system and reduce the symptoms of mild anxiety and nervous tension. It contains three herbal medicines that help the body adapt to feelings of stress while also helping to reduce fatigue and maintain energy levels.

Our Everyday Stress Relief B Complex is another popular choice for nervous system support. It contains B group vitamins and Western herbal medicines passionflower and oats to support healthy nervous system function and energy production.

In summary, daytime stress can certainly impact our quality of sleep. By recognising triggers and symptoms of stress, making some lifestyle changes and taking herbal and nutritional supplements, we can support our nervous systems during the day to help achieve a better night’s sleep.


Please seek advice from your doctor or health care professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are on medication.


REFERENCES

- Sleep Foundation Org. (2020), Stress and Insomnia, cited on 27.4.2020, accessed <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/stress-and-insomnia>

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