When it comes to daily factors that can rob us of good sleep, pressure, stress and anxiety are right up there on the list.
How can stress affect sleep?
The stress response is a natural one. When we feel pressure or out of control, or even just a little frustrated at something or someone, adrenaline and cortisol flow through the body from the adrenal glands helping to mobilise sugar from the muscles into the bloodstream to be used for energy to fuel the stress or ‘fight or flight’ response.
There are two things to be wary of with the stress response.
1. In our modern environment, it’s much less appropriate to either fight our way out of a situation, or to flee the scene. It’s much more likely that we have to bite our tongue and internalise any frustration, so we are continually producing stress hormones without using them in any productive way. This can disrupt the daily chemical balance of our body.
2. Life is busy and change is constant so it’s likely that we’ll experience the stress response many times every single day. After a while we can begin to overlook low but constant levels of stress because we just ‘get used to it’. This isn’t necessarily a positive situation. If you think that stress in any area of your life might be affecting your sleep, it can be helpful to keep some notes and record moments in the day when you feel your usually calm and focused approach has been disrupted. This will help build up a clear picture of what’s really going on.
Repeatedly producing these stress hormones through the day means they build up in our system. If this happens, we then try to process them and regain a physical balance later in the evening. Creating work for the body with this rebalancing process can prevent us from unwinding and falling asleep at night.
Many people lose sleep because they struggle to unwind in the evening and can’t switch off at night. This usually happens if you’ve had a busy day, up to and including the period right before bed. You may even still be busy when you get into bed – one of the down sides of smart phones and tablets is that they enable us to blur the line between daytime activities and nighttime sleep.
We can’t stress enough the importance of reviewing your daily and evening routines in relation to your ability to unwind and relax into quality sleep.