You’ve had a long, tiring day, and you’re ready to switch off the lights, wind down, and get comfy in your bed. Sweet dreams are calling out to you. But instead of falling asleep, your mind is suddenly filled with racing thoughts and feelings of anxiousness.
If stress is keeping you up at night, know that you’re not alone in this struggle.
In fact, 36.3% of Canadians who experience chronic stress also reported that they get insufficient sleep. There is a strong link between our sleeping patterns and daily stress. Just as chronic stress could be preventing you from getting rest, a lack of sleep can also contribute to more stress. How can you avoid this vicious cycle and make sure your healing hours aren’t cut short?
Read on for a deep dive into the relationship between stress and sleep, along with tips to beat stress and ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep & your overall health
While we’re asleep, there is a natural increase in the production of immune cells, such as cytokines and natural killer cells. It’s while our bodies are resting that we give these immune cells the opportunity to fight off any harmful pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and other infectious compounds. On top of that, our brains require deep REM sleep in order to process the information we’ve taken in during the day and store it in our long-term memory. Researchers have also found that stress and lack of sleep can lower the number of beneficial bacteria within our gut microbiome, reducing our microbiome’s overall diversity. Over time, the combination of stress, irregular sleeping patterns, and an unhealthy gut can go on to increase the risk of developing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease.
So, it’s safe to say that if stress is getting in the way of quality sleep, we’re not at our best.
The stress response & sleep
Stress triggers a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), responsible for controlling our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and more. The ANS is regulated by hormones released from the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys and help regulate the stress response.
Two of the main hormones that are released during the stress response include adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline prepares the body to fight the perceived threat or run away from it, and cortisol is our body’s primary stress hormone, responsible for keeping us alert. These hormones increase our heart rate to efficiently circulate blood to essential organs and muscles, ultimately preparing the body to take action.
How does stress impact sleep?
The increase in adrenaline and cortisol causes your heart rate to increase, keeping you awake and alert. This leads to those racing thoughts that you may be familiar with, which prevent your body from getting the rest it needs. As a result, high-stress levels prolong the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and even make it hard to get continuous rest throughout the entire night. This can get in the way of your body being able to do the things it usually does during sleep, including processing memories, working on muscle repair, fighting harmful pathogens, and more.
Beyond that, a loss of good-quality sleep only further triggers the body’s stress response, causing an overproduction of cortisol. Ultimately, this leaves us with increased stress and poor sleeping patterns, a negative loop that no one enjoys.
Ways to reduce stress and improve sleeping patterns
There are many different ways you support your body to lower stress and create healthy sleeping patterns. Trying out various methods can help you get a better understanding of what works best for you.
Healthy sleep hygiene involves creating a routine that encourages consistent, uninterrupted sleep at night. Sleep hygiene can look different for everyone, and developing this nightly routine can help communicate to your body that it’s time to get some rest. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Take a warm shower or bath – A relaxing, warm shower can help you de-stress and wind down for the night. It also lowers your body temperature, allowing you to fall asleep faster.
- Journal – Writing down everything that’s causing you stress before bed can help you get it out of your system. This can help reduce those anxious and racing thoughts, bringing your mind to a relaxing state and preparing you for bed.
- Create a healthy sleep environment – Creating a sleep-inducing bedroom can help you feel more inclined to shut your eyes and get some good quality rest. A healthy sleep environment starts with low lighting and limited noise, and a temperature around 18.3 degrees Celsius.
- Try out calming adaptogenic herbs – Herbs such as ashwagandha, lemon balm, and valerian can be great additions to your nightly routine to go to bed feeling a little lighter. CanPrev’s Sleep Restore is formulated with these calming herbs in addition to GABA and L-theanine to help relieve tension, soothe stress, and ease into a better bedtime.
- Load up on sleep-supporting minerals – Magnesium is involved in over 800 enzymatic reactions within the body. One of its main roles is to support nervous system health. If you’re looking to increase your intake of this mineral, try CanPrev’s Magnesium + GABA & Melatonin for Sleep. It’s formulated with a therapeutic dose of 125mg of magnesium bis-glycinate, GABA, and melatonin to promote relaxation and help you doze off easily.
- Sleep at the same time every day – Going to bed at around the same time daily can help your body and mind understand when it’s time to wind down.
Move your body
Your habits during the day are just as important as your nightly routine. To reduce stress during the day, try incorporating regular physical movement. Exercise has been shown to promote better sleep in those with generalized anxiety disorders.
Additionally, limiting screen time right before bed can also promote sleep and prevent your mind from staying alert. The blue light from screens like your phones or tablets can disrupt the production of your sleep hormone, melatonin, and without sufficient melatonin levels, we won’t be able to doze off.
Another tip to lower your stress during the night is to schedule worry time. It may sound counterintuitive, but it works! This technique involves setting a specific time of the day to worry about everything that’s on your mind. Commonly used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), this method can help address your worries before they spiral out of control and turn into anxious thoughts at night.
Our eating habits and the nutrients we take in from food also have an impact on our stress levels and sleeping patterns. Try to eat 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Eating right before bed keeps your body awake and digesting the food you just ate instead of getting restful sleep. Additionally, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption can help you get undisturbed sleep because they are known to impact the way our bodies handle stress.
Certain foods can help induce better sleep. This includes foods that are high in melatonin and magnesium. Since melatonin is the body’s main sleep hormone, increasing your intake can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. And magnesium helps promote sleep by calming down the nervous system. Try eating foods rich in melatonin like almonds and tart cherries and foods high in magnesium like walnuts and dark leafy green veggies such as spinach.
If you’re still struggling to lower your stress levels and get uninterrupted sleep, CanPrev has got you covered. If you’re looking to reduce stress, Adrenal Chill is a therapeutic blend of KSM-66® ashwagandha and l-theanine. Ashwagandha is clinically proven to reduce cortisol levels, stress, and anxiety, and l-theanine helps to promote relaxation without sedation.
Looking for another comprehensive formula to support a healthy stress response? CanPrev’s Healthy Mood can also be a great addition to your health regime. Formulated with saffron, GABA, 5-HTP, vitamins B6, B12 and folate, magnesium & zinc, Healthy Mood is designed to help promote relaxation and foster healthy mood balance.
With a better understanding of how stress impacts sleep, habits to reduce stress, and formulas to support mental health, a good night’s sleep is well within your reach.