Stress And Sleep
If the body is exhausted from stress, why doesn’t it fall asleep?
Stress is the physical and emotional response to a threat of danger. It is a natural protective response. Stress hormones are activated to help the body fight the threat or run from the threat. Thousands of years ago this activation was to protect us from wild animals. The very act of fighting or fleeing helped to release the stress hormones.
Fast forward to modern stress, and the picture looks very different.
Rather than being chased by sabre tooth tigers, modern day stress is harder to run away from. Modern stress comes in many forms, but common ones are excessive work hours, financial pressures, poor diets, loaded with sugar, caffeine and/or alcohol, sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, relationship issues and loneliness.
These modern day stresses, are harder to run from, and arguably harder to fight. They are more pervasive and intangible. What would happen if you started to punch up the bank teller or run away from your credit card debt? This would make the stress worse rather than better!
But there are things you can do to manage stress.
Change the way you look at things. Thinking errors or unhelpful thinking styles impact how we perceive stress and in turn whether it feels manageable or not.
[Link to perceived stress lesson]
Apart from changing the way we think, you can change other things which are stressful on the body, such as eating too much sugar, drinking too much alcohol and consuming too much caffeine.
These foods and drinks have an anti-nutrient like effect on the body, meaning that in order for the body to process them, it needs to use and lose a lot of nutrients. For example, eating high carbohydrate loaded foods, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolates and lollies leads to a loss of magnesium, zinc and vitamin C. Alcohol leads to magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins loss and caffeine leads to vitamin C, magnesium and calcium loss.
Eating a healthy diet, means you have less stress on the body, more nutrients for the brain to use to make the right chemicals for sleep and to help you be more energetic.
The next thing you can do to help lower stress, is to move your body. The body has evolved to move daily and exercise stimulates a lot of anti-stress chemicals, lowers blood sugar levels and supports emotional health.
Relaxation exercises, such as listening to peaceful music, dong breathing exercises every day and spending time in nature can help to lower stress chemicals, improve mood and release muscle tension.
By doing things like this everyday, even though the source of the stress hasn’t changed, the way you cope with it will.
Releasing stress hormones, making counter balancing anti-stress chemicals and supporting the natural processes of the body will go a long way to helping you manage chronic stress and therefore improve sleep.