Sleep & Stress
Episode #2 of the course How to manufacture the greatest sleep of your life by Austin Gill
In conjunction with our national sleep deprivation crisis, we also have a national stress crisis.
Stress is a physical condition associated with the release of various hormones by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is an adaptive system that allows us humans to maintain homeostasis or balance in our ever-changing environment.
But not all stress is bad. The HPA axis gives us jolts of energy and increases alertness when we need it most, like in fight or flight situations. It’s essential to survival.
Stress becomes problematic when environmental factors, like a stressful job, cause chronically elevated HPA activity, or chronic stress, a condition associated with high circulating levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), norepinephrine, and other hormones that lead to a variety of health issues, not the least of which is impaired sleep (Bush, 2010).
This isn’t a revelation, since most of us know we don’t sleep well when we’re stressed.
What you may not know is that this equation also works in reverse. While stress results in poor sleep, poor sleep or too little sleep induces stress.
Studies have shown that dropping from eight hours of sleep to only six increases morning circulating cortisol levels by up to 50%, so you’re stressed out before your day has even begun.
This makes it clear that getting a good night’s sleep can lower stress. So if you’re stressed out and not sleeping well, sleep more.
Which brings us to my first tip for sleeping like a champion.
Sleep Improvement Tip: Be Consistent
Your body loves consistency. It’s actually wired with an internal clock that’s designed to perform certain actions at specific times of day. It can’t be rewired, and it doesn’t like change.
Humans evolved to operate in sync with the sun in something known as circadian rhythm. Trying to fight against natural circadian rhythm wreaks havoc on your health (Fonken, 2013). So, to stay in rhythm with your rhythm:
1. Wake up at the same time every day, and make it early (preferably between five and eight). That goes for weekends too. Sleeping in on weekends throws off your rhythm for the week to come.
2. Go to bed at the same time each night. The optimal time is between 8pm and midnight, which ensures that you’re asleep during the early morning hours when your body cycles into that much-needed deep sleep.
Remember that you’re aiming for seven to nine hours EACH night.
In the next episode I’ll be talking about how sleep interacts with your metabolism and delivering a tip that will help you stay consistent by priming your body to fall asleep at the same time each night.
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