I’ve been discussing ways to manage stress in the last few articles and today I’d like to discuss one of the most important factors in mitigating our stress, which is our sleep. Sleep is the most important aspect of maintaining your overall health and is vital to managing stress as most people, easily, spend one third of their life in this state.
The benefits of sleep are many including improving concentration and productivity when you are awake, strengthening your immune system, keeping your heart healthy, stabilizing your blood sugar and helping your tissues and organs repair and heal. The way that lack of sleep affects your ability to deal with stress is through hormonal and neurologic effects.
When you do not get enough sleep, your body goes into distress mode and will release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. These hormones are usually released when you are facing a danger or a threat and put you into fight or flight mode. Lack of sleep can result in a perpetual fight or flight state, which will not allow you to effectively respond to real stress in your life. Lack of sleep also will result in decreased focus and concentration, which will not allow you to effectively deal with any stress, threat or challenge that comes your way.
The question is then, how do you ensure that you are getting adequate and quality sleep. There has been a lot of research done on this topic, which I will summarize.
1. Do not eat within two hours of sleep, because you do not want your digestive system active while you are trying to relax. Any process in your body that consumes energy will take away from your body’s ability to simply relax.
2. If you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, make sure the last one you drink is before 2 PM, because caffeine is a stimulant and will affect your ability to get to sleep.
3. Limit the use of toxic substances such as nicotine and alcohol, especially in the evening.
4. Eliminate all screen time in the two hours before you actually go to sleep, including televisions, laptops and smartphones. The blue light that these devices emit can distort your natural circadian rhythm and adversely affect your sleep quality.
5. Engage in relaxing activities in the two hours before you actually go to sleep, such as reading or meditation.
6. The earlier you sleep the better. This is because you allow your body to slow down with the natural 24 hour day and night cycle, which is healthier for your overall physiology.
7. Only use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy.
8. Make sure that your bedroom is completely dark and cool in temperature, which both help you get and maintain quality sleep.
9. There is no universal ideal sleep duration, as everyone has different needs and schedules, but you should plan to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night and you should try to get to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday.
10. If you get up in the middle of the night, do not distract yourself with food or your electronic devices. Use the bathroom if you have to and get back to bed as quickly as possible and close your eyes while you fall into a relaxing state. Meditate if you have to in order to get back to sleep.
If you follow the above rules, it will ensure that you will get the right quantity and quality of sleep, which will dramatically improve your health, your ability to deal with any stress in your waking hours and enhance the quality of your life.
If you want to attend a free webinar, where you will learn your three biggest obstacles to optimizing your health and healing and the chance to ask me any general or specific questions you may have about health, healing and stress, then register at the following link.
Dr. Nauman Naeem