Sleep, Why It Is Vital For Overall Health
When it comes to sleep and the mind it can seem to be a double-edged sword, stress can cause us to have a lack of sleep, and a lack of sleep can cause stress. This article examines these rolls stress can play in our sleep patterns and how we can work towards a better stress sleep balance.
A lack of sleep causing stress
There are many reasons why we may find it difficult to sleep at night. Whilst the first thought that comes to mind may be stress, there a few other reasons why falling or staying asleep might be a mission:
- Too much caffeine or caffeine too close to bed
- Not enough activity/ exercise in the day
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs/medications
- Lack of sleep routine e.g. shift work
- Poor sleeping environment e.g. excessive noise or light
Whilst each one of us likely has a unique set of reasons why we can’t get the sleep we need, we probably all have something in common, a lack of sleep leaves us feeling down in the dumps. The physical effects we’ve touched on, but how does this lack of sleep actually affect our mental health.
Whilst the exact mechanisms of emotional rejuvenation is highly complex and for the most part elusive, scientists have been able to conclude that a lack of sleep does impact our mental health on a chemical level. A lack of sleep affects both neurotransmitters and the release of our stress hormones. This leads to impaired thinking, decreased resilience to challenges and a lack of emotional regulation. This can not only cause negative feeling of stress and brain fog, but it can also amplify conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder.
Stress resulting in a lack of sleep
For some of us, not getting the sleep we need causes our mental health state to plummet. But for others, its stress and our mental state that result in a lack of sleep. In our previous article we discussed the concept of ‘tiredness’ and the role of adenosine. We require heightened levels of adenosine to reduce our arousal levels and eventually put us to sleep. Stress or a negative mental state can wreak havoc on this process preventing the body from falling asleep or reducing the amount of deep restorative sleep you are getting each night.
In order to overcome this problem, stress levels need to be reduced physically and psychologically so as not to interfere with the adenosine mechanism of sleep. There are a few ways to tackle this:
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation
- Take a warm bath
- Incorporate yoga or stretching into your routine
- Get regular massages
- Practice meditation
- Listen to soothing music
- Journal to empty the mind before bed
- Practice mindfulness
- Utilise deep breathing
A stress sleep balance
The relationship between stress and sleep can become a vicious cycle to deteriorating our mental health. In addition, a lack of sleep can reduce our learning potential and impact our emotional regulation and cognitive functioning. Employing the above-listed techniques may be useful in restoring your sleep stress balance for a healthier you.