The holiday season is officially wrapping up. Soon all the kids will be back at school, the workplace will be heating up and Christmas and New Years will be nothing but a distant memory. 2016 is well and truly rolling and with that comes all the stresses of balancing life’s hectic schedule.
A mind that is full of worry and constant thoughts is a massive barrier to getting a good night’s sleep. A busy daily schedule, a long to-do list and a million thoughts racing through your mind aren’t conducive to getting a rest that will have you waking up feeling fresh and reinvigorated.
The Links between Stress and Sleep
One of the biggest causes of stress is a lack of sleep. The connection between sleep and stress is a two-way street. Stress interrupts sleep and a lack of sleep then causes more stress. It really is a viscous cycle that if left unattended can become a serious health concern. When we’re stressed, our minds race with thoughts instead of shutting down; this in turn inhibits important functions involved in memory, muscle repair and mood. Stress makes us toss and turn and all those hours of restlessness add up and add up.
Stress Hinders the Quality of Sleep
Not only does stress cause us to miss many hours of valuable sleep each and every night, which adds up, it also causes us to miss a better quality of sleep. The sympathetic nervous system doesn’t shut down, and your brain remains hyperactive, limiting your amount of deep, restorative sleep.
Sleep and Mood
Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. A bad sleep leaves people waking up more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. Again, it’s a two-way street; these feelings increase agitation and arousal, which make it hard to sleep. People who are under constant stress tend to have sleep problems and difficulty sleeping is sometimes the first symptom of depression.
How to Manage Stress and Sleep Better
- What is causing you stress? The first step is assessing what is causing you to lie awake each and every night in worry and fear. Once you figure this out you will be in a better position to find ways to minimise it. Is it pain? Too much work? Co-workers? Travel? Once identified, try to find ways to rectify them.
- Exercise: As we’ve seen stress and sleep is linked, as is exercise and sleep and therefore exercise, sleep and stress. Exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, and sleep is inherently linked with how we exercise. They all contribute to how we function on a day to day basis, year after year. Exercise will help you in getting a good sleep and a good sleep will help with your exercise. Both will then help manage your stress.
- Change your Diet: Eating large amounts of fatty foods and refined sugars can stress your body and make you feel sluggish and lethargic. This can place a significant demand on your digestive system and in turn affect your sleep. If you eat well chances are you will be in a position to sleep well. If you sleep well chances are you will be in a better position to eat well too. Getting enough sleep and eating right are important contributing factors to good overall health and important elements of reducing stress.
- Mindfulness / Meditation: Mindfulness is simply attention. It is a practice of concentrating on our breathing and using it as an anchor to the present moment. We become aware of any thoughts and feelings that occur and observe them as they come and go. Mindfulness calms the mind and the body and helps alleviate stress, worry, anxiety and fear, all major impediments to getting a good sleep. Mindfulness teaches us how to watch our thoughts and in turn how to let go of them without getting so caught up and driven by them.
Sleep better in 2016 by taking control of your stress today. A nice, new mattress couldn’t hurt either…
(Photo courtesy of science.howstuffworks.com)