Sleep is one of the foundations for good health along with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It repairs tissues, consolidates memory and keeps us fresh and alert. Unfortunately, not all of us get the sleep we need. And, in today’s highly driven world, stress levels can wreak havoc on our health if left unchecked. According to a Gallup poll, eight in 10 Americans say they experience stress frequently or sometimes in their daily lives. Just 21 percent say they rarely or never do. Getting enough sleep can help manage stress and tackle stressors better.
A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that sleep loss leads to elevated cortisol the next evening. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that the adrenal glands produce in response to stress, both good and bad. It helps reduce inflammation, regulate metabolism, and aids in the formation of memory. Ideally, cortisol levels should neither be too high nor too low.
Sleep drops cortisol to healthy levels, and when you don’t get enough of it, your body continues to produce more. You wake up feeling more stressed which makes it harder to sleep the next night. And so the cycle continues. It does not just sleep that elevated cortisol affects; if it continues to remain high, it can lead to headaches, high blood pressure and even trouble sleeping, which exacerbates the problem.
You’ve probably noticed how refreshed you feel after a good night’s sleep. You feel stronger and ready to tackle the stresses that come with the day. Sleep is a restorative process that’s important for brain health. It flushes toxins that can accumulate in the brain. During sleep, your brain also consolidates memory so that you’re able to recall it properly when you wake.
Being emotionally balanced is important as you’re able to deal with stress in a more rational manner. Sleep reduces anxiety and depression by healing your system and preventing you from being emotionally sensitive. In a study, researchers found that sleep deprivation keeps the amygdala – a set of neurons that processes emotions – in a heightened state of activation which increases anxiety and hampers emotional regulation.
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If you’re stressed about something and constantly think about it, you will find it harder to fall asleep. Your mind is hypervigilant and even if your body needs rest, it simply can’t because you’re just too awake. You may also develop sleep problems like insomnia. The less you sleep, the more anxious you become, and unless you learn to deal with stress in a healthy manner, you’ll rack up sleep debt and set yourself up for health consequences like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
This is a great way to combat stress as it disengages your mind from what’s bothering you and shifts the focus to your actions and your body. Take long, slow breaths and move your focus away from distracting thoughts. After a few minutes of this, concentrate on the part of your body and mentally release physical tension from there. Guided imagery is another relaxation technique where you need to conjure images of soothing scenes to relax you.
Avoid using your phone, tablet or laptop at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from them can suppress the release of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep. Being on your device will also keep you alert and may prompt you to check work emails etc. that will only stress you out.
A warm shower – or better yet, a bath – is a great way to relax especially before bedtime. It also lowers your core body temperature and induces sleep. Don’t do it too close to bedtime otherwise, your body temperature will be high. Take it about an hour and a half before so you have time to cool down.
Darkness signals your body to produce melatonin so switch the lights off or use a dimmer to turn them down. You should also use comfortable pillows and a good mattress so that you can relax and drift off to sleep.
Nuvanna is a mattress that’s designed to give you better sleep. It was created by an industry expert with more than two decades of experience. It has a triple layer construction, and each has a role to play in your sleep. The top layer draws body heat away and disperses it with the help of phase-changing gel particles. The middle layer absorbs motion so that you and your partner can move freely without disturbing each other. The bottom layer keeps the spine aligned, supports individual body parts, and prevents you from sinking in.
Stress is a part of life, and we can never escape it. A little stress is good for us too as it drives us to perform better. But too much of it can hamper our health and prevent us from leading a healthy, balanced life. We can learn to structure our time such that we set aside enough hours for sleep so that we wake up feeling fresh and raring to go. We can also learn to manage stress in order to sleep better.