A good night’s sleep

We know a good night’s sleep is essential to repair and restart our bodies. But what does stress do to our sleep and how does it affect us?


Sleep and stress share multiple pathways in the central nervous system and endocrine system. When we are stressed, our bodies release hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. 

These hormones prepare us for flight-or-fight response. This response normally stops when the perceived threat disappears. The flight-or-fight response can also occur during stressful times: worrying about jobs, relationships, money, etc. 

Chronic stress can cause the nervous system to stay in a heightened sense of arousal and this can greatly impact our health. 

Vicious cycle

According to the American Psychological Association, only 20% of adults are happy with their sleep patterns. When you are anxious, it can cause sleeping problems. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety, which becomes a cycle. Having muscle tension and pain can also affect our sleep and this can lead to more muscle tension and headaches. 

When you are stressed, you often lay awake at night and let your mind run rampant about the various situations that are causing you strain. When you don’t get enough sleep, you can experience a wide range of symptoms, such as feeling irritable and overwhelmed, you lose patience with others, and it can lead you to not want to exercise or eat healthy. 

Sleep deprivation or poor sleeping habits can affect your judgement, your ability to work and your relationships as you become cranky and your mind slows down. 

Side effects of lack of sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not getting enough sleep can lead to:

  1. Obesity
  2. Heart disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Stroke
  5. Depression
  6. Arthritis
  7. Kidney disease
  8. Hypertension

HOW TO HAVE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

Meditation

There are many ways to meditate. 

Try creating a calm environment. Set yourself a time limit where you can focus on yourself and well-being. 

Focus on your breathing, inhale deeply and exhale slowly (this is slow deep breathing, not to hyperventilate). 

Let your mind lead you, breakdown the stressful situations in your mind and slowly work yourself to a positive outlook or solutions to those problems. Give yourself time to practice meditation; it’s a personal experience that is unique to all. 

Exercise

When we are exhausted and stressed, the last thing we feel like is hitting the gym. Our beds look far more appealing than the running shoes next to our bed. But research has shown that 30 minutes of exercise can improve our mood and reduce our stress levels. Always remember to exercise within your limits and if necessary speak to a biokineticist. 

Lifestyle changes

  • Lower your caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Set a time for when you put your phone away and stick to it. With having the world at our fingertips, being under stress can lead us to research the different things we are stressed about, or find things to distract us.
  • Drink a calming tea before bed, such as camomile tea. 
  • Lavender aromatherapy oils have shown to reduce stress.
  • There’s a lot happening right now around us and sometimes we feel like we can’t talk to the people around us. This is when a psychologist or life coach can help and if necessary refer you for other management. 
  • Avoid fatty, heavy, spicy foods before bedtime.
  • Look at your sleep environment. Having a cluttered room with too many distractions can interfere with falling asleep as well as the room being too bright.
Kyara Bergstrom is the head of research at Netcare Breast Care Centre. She is also the COO of the Pink Parasol Project (www.pinkparasol.co.za), a website-based directory listing conventional and complementary therapists and practitioners.

MEET THE EXPERT – Kyara Bergstrom

Kyara Bergstrom is the head of research at Netcare Breast Care Centre. She is also the COO of the Pink Parasol Project (www.pinkparasol.co.za), a website-based directory listing conventional and complementary therapists and practitioners.


Header image by Freepik

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