If there was one thing you could do to help you sleep better, would you do it? I’m sure it would depend on what it was, but better sleep really may be that simple.
Everyday we are bombarded with the daily emails, appointments, meetings, recitals, games, the list goes on. And with constant access to anything at the tap of a button, the speed at which we live is faster than ever before, and continues to increase. The combination of busy schedules, a fast-paced world, and little to no “down time,” has created a stressed-out society.
Our last couple posts have been all about stress and its effects on different aspects of our lives. We’ve reviewed how it affects mobility and how it ages you faster. And this month, we’re diving into how stress can affect quality of sleep, length of sleep, and the process of actually being able to fall asleep.
Long story short: stress disrupts the balance between sleep and awakeness.
The feeling of chronic stress is often accompanied by frustration, hopelessness, racing mind, racing heart, and muscle tension – many of these symptoms can be traced back to prolonged high levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Cortisol isn’t all bad, but it’s important to understand how this hormone works and how to balance it for optimal health. When you wake up in the morning, there’s a natural spike in cortisol that eventually decreases throughout the day, until it reaches its low point when the body is finally in deep sleep.
When the body is completely at rest, in its deepest sleep, the brain’s activity and the hormones associated with sleep tell the body it’s ok to stop producing stress hormones and to rest.
Another important hormone to note is melatonin. Melatonin is naturally generated when the sun goes down and peaks at night. This hormone instigates physiological changes such as lowered heart rate and body temperature that promote sleep. Melatonin and cortisol work in opposition to one another throughout the day.
What can I do to help my sleep?
- Check your cortisol. Cortisol levels can monitored with a simple blood test and this is something you should do regularly.
- Reduce screen time at night. Try to be off your phone, computer, or TV at least 30 minutes before settling in to sleep. The blue light emitted by screens inhibits the production of melatonin.
- If overly tired in the AM, get a boost of exercise to balance cortisol levels.
- Consult with your health practitioner about supplements that can boost melatonin production. For example, magnesium.
- Mind what you eat. Stimulants, like sugar and caffeine are found in many processed foods. While it’s best to avoid these altogether, if you are going to consume them, have them early in the day.
- Get regular massage. It helps lower cortisol levels, slow the breath, and reduce heart rate, which are all tied to lower stress levels.
Sometimes, a little help is all you need.
The connection between our stress, sleep, and nutrition is undeniable. At times it may be difficult to pinpoint the cause of poor sleep, or high stress, so we recommend starting with nutrition.
This is an area that can absolutely be overwhelming. There is so much information. Between the fad diets, and detoxes, and cleanses, and plant-based, and paleo, and this and that, and it goes on.
Author Michael Pollan makes a simple statement about food that resonates with us,
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Sometimes a great place to start is with a coach. Mary Battista is a health and wellness coach located in Eden Prairie, who we cannot speak highly enough of. If you’re looking for some help and support for stress, sleep and overall wellness, this should be your next step!
“I am a national board certified health and wellness coach and certified personal trainer so I am equipped to guide my clients to develop a personal wellness vision statement followed by goals and action steps to get them where they want to go.
I also offer hands on healthy cooking classes and a healthy shopping tour of Lakewinds Natural foods giving you the skill power to succeed!
Whether your goal is to sustain a healthy weight, enjoy a fit body, a good night sleep or to prevent or reverse signs and symptoms of chronic disease, Prairie Health Companion will support you to achieve your goals so you can look and feel your very best now and in the future!”
Contact Mary for a complimentary 1- hour health coach consultation firstname.lastname@example.org (Mention the Massage Space)