Understanding the Link between Sleep and Stress
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
However, in the times we live in, everyone is busy trying to burn the candle at both ends. Self-help gurus spout pearls of wisdom such as “You can sleep when you’re dead” or “They call us dreamers but we’re the ones who don’t sleep.”
And on and on it goes. That’s exactly why millions of people around the world are under constant stress. Studies have shown that sleep loss causes a rise in cortisol levels the following day.
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone… and it’s linked to obesity. This explains why obesity and belly fat has reached epidemic proportions.
The consensus is in – You NEED your sleep.
So, just how many hours do you need?
It depends on the individual. Some are fine with 5 hours, while other may need 8 or 9 hours. The best way to find out will be to go to bed early for 3 days and time just how long you sleep. Wake up without an alarm clock.
After 3 days, average the total hours by 3 and that’s how much sleep you need a day. Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to manage your stress.
The English dramatist, Thomas Dekker once said, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” You need your sleep to be in the pink of health… but as always, there may be problems that crop up.
- Don’t fear the bed
Some people struggle to fall asleep. They toss and turn for hours on the bed and get more and more aggravated because time is passing but they’re still awake. The mind associates the bed as a stressful place.
If you can’t sleep, get off the bed and go read a book. Never struggle to sleep. You can lie down when you’re feeling tired and sleepy. It’s important that your brain not treat the bed as a combat zone.
- Less is NOT more
Taking short naps in the afternoon doesn’t mean that you can sleep less at night. In fact, if you have problems sleeping at night, you should avoid afternoon naps.
Burning the midnight oil to pursue success will be pointless if you end up sick and stressed out. Your health is your greatest wealth.
- Are the conditions right?
Make sure that your room is dark and cool. Avoid using portable devices such as tablets and mobile phones that emit blue light. These will stimulate you and make it harder to sleep.
Ideally, you should avoid using these devices 2 to 3 hours before bed. Never use them while on the bed.
- Supplements and stimulants
Supplements like magnesium, melatonin, kava, chamomile tea, etc. are great for encouraging sleep. Stimulants like coffee, fizzy drinks, energy drinks, etc. should be avoided.
It’s interesting to note that caffeine has a stimulating effect for 6 hours or more. In fact, after 6 hours, only half the effect would have worn off. So, even if you sleep, your body will still be stimulated and unable to truly rest well.
This is why so many people wake up feeling drained. Their body couldn’t fully rest and recharge. Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before your bedtime.
To conclude, never underestimate the effectiveness of sleep when it comes to reducing stress. It is one of the very few activities where your conscious mind gets to take a break and the body truly relaxes.
Long walks and yoga may be good stress relievers… but nothing beats a good night’s sleep.
Shane Griffin CNP, ROHP