Research studies have shown that stress can negatively impact both quality and quantity of sleep. It is no surprise that most of us are dealing with some sort of sleep issue during stressful times, whether it is difficulty falling asleep or frequently waking up from your sleep. And even if you are not having any sleep issues and getting 8 hours of sleep, you might find yourself not waking up refreshed during periods of stress.
Benefits of sleep are many including improved mood, increased energy, increased productivity, and a general sense of well- being. And there is also the added benefit that a good night’s sleep can boost your immune system.
Here is my ABC approach to help you sleep better when you are under stress
If you are work from home and have a dedicated office space, that is great. Try to stay disciplined about using that space.
If you do not have a separate office space, at least try not to work from your bedroom. But if you really have to work from your bedroom, at least set up a chair and desk in that room and try not to work, sitting on your bed. It is difficult to separate our emotions from what we are doing and the location we do it in. We associate work with productivity and efficiency, and sleep with rest and relaxation. And if we end up doing both at the same location, then you may negatively impact both work and sleep. Use your bed only for sleep or intimacy.
And when it comes to making it easy to fall asleep during stressful periods, take the extra step and create a relaxing ambience. Whether it is listening to soothing music or using a diffuser with a relaxing essential oil, experiment and find out what helps you get in the mood for relaxation.
It is difficult to work or do any other mentally engaging activity until bedtime, then lie down and expect to fall asleep immediately. First set a daily bedtime routine and go to bed at the same time. Plan a buffer time, at least 1 hour prior to bedtime, to help you transition from your busy day. Fill your buffer time with a relaxing, non-screen time related activity such as reading. Better yet follow a meditation routine. Use an app such as Calm or Headspace, if you prefer guided meditation.
Control / manage your stress
Stress negatively affects sleep and poor sleep impairs our stress coping mechanism and the vicious cycle continues. Take steps to manage your stress better.
- Stay informed but not inundated with news and news stories.
- Staying active is one of the easiest ways you can manage stress. Take a walk if it is safe for you to do so in your neighborhood, practicing social distance or follow a work-out video online if you need some ideas. Exercise will improve your mood and help you sleep better.
- Eat a healthy diet. We tend to crave sugary foods or carbohydrate rich foods when we are under stress and soon get into the habit of mindless eating. Balanced, nutritious diet will improve your mood and immune health.
- Practice relaxation techniques – make use of online resources and take a yoga or tai-chi class.
- Limit your coffee intake and do not drink coffee later in the day.
- Drink a chamomile or lavender herbal tea especially in the evening to promote relaxation.
Naturopathic Approach to chronic sleep issues
If you have had sleep issues for a long time and have already tried the steps mentioned above, here is a list of naturopathic medicine approaches that can be helpful. Note: As herbs and nutritional supplements can interact with medication or may not be appropriate if you have certain health issues, please consult your Naturopathic Doctor or nutrition focused Physician before taking them.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that reduces anxiety, enhances the effectiveness of neurotransmitter GABA and improves quality of sleep. It is naturally found in tea, especially in green tea and certain mushrooms and is also available in a supplement form.
L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is important for the body to make serotonin and melatonin, improving mood and restful sleep. It is available in supplement form. Food sources with highest concentrations include turkey, chicken, cow’s milk, tuna, and oats.
Melatonin is a diurnal hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland at night. Excess light at bedtime reduces or delays melatonin secretion, making it difficult to fall asleep easily. This is another reason why you should keep your buffer time, free of screen time. Melatonin is available in supplement form. Though generally well tolerated, it is a hormone so it is better to be taken under the supervision of your Physician. Most common side effects of melatonin are dizziness, nausea, headache and drowsiness.
Magnesium is a mineral that is well known for reducing anxiety symptoms, relaxing muscles and reducing constipation symptoms. Lesser known is its effectiveness in supporting sleep especially in the elderly. As a supplement, several forms of magnesium are available. Magnesium glycinate would be a better form when it comes to helping with sleep issues. Food sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables.
As a tea or herbal extract, valerian root when taken at nighttime is well known to induce sleep as well as increase deep sleep. Valerian root may work better when combined with other calming herbs such as lemon balm, passionflower, and lavender.
If you have tried several natural supplements and continue to suffer from chronic sleep issues, in addition to routine lab work, you may need to have your diurnal hormones such as cortisol and melatonin and neurotransmitters evaluated using functional lab tests. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor or Integrative medicine practitioner to find out which tests may be right for you.
If you are looking for additional ideas on managing stress, download my free ebook on simple strategies to manage stress.
The information and other content provided in this blog are for information purpose only, and not intended and should not be considered as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider before you make any changes to your diet or lifestyle.
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