Welcome to the second part of our Stress Awareness Month Series on the WeSleep blog.
We hope you are all keeping safe and well and are looking after yourselves – a bit of self-care goes a long way in times like these. At the same time, it can feel tricky to stop the worries and ease the stress that comes with an unusual situation like the one we are all finding ourselves in.
That is why, today, we will dig a bit deeper into what stress actually is and how it influences our sleep before sharing some tips to help us alleviate its impact on our sleep.
What is stress ?
We all know the feeling and nowadays we see a much higher number of people suffering from stress and burnout than ever before. According to the Mental health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. And in the United States, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, according to the American Institute of Stress.
Constant availability, demanding work schedules, balanced with family life and always being online can all contribute – but what sits behind stress? In a nutshell, stress is our body’s reaction to a threatening situation that needs adapting to. It can be useful for us when trying to achieve tasks, but too much of it negatively affects our mental and physical health. It is also completely normal in the current situation to feel stressed, even though most of us are at home, assuming this should feel relaxing. The situation we are in is so unusual and unknown, it can make us feel nervous, anxious, exhausted and tired, that’s even if we’re not running around all day. Our mind can still be racing and stressed.
Why and how does it affect our sleep?
This is mainly due to elevated levels of cortisol, the hormone being released into our system when a threatening or unknown situation arises. Cortisol is helpful in that it makes us more alert so we are able to deal effectively with the threats we encounter. It can, however, interfere with our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. It can fail to make us feel active at the appropriate time of the day if released at the wrong time; or make us feel unnecessarily stressed if released at a high level. If this happens to be at night, when we aim to rest, our body is alert and we will struggle to sleep – Scientists assume that this is an evolutionary attribute, so our ancestors could wake up and protect themselves if attacked by predators during the night.
If we are stressed during the day, we are likely to have shorter and probably restless nights (once we do manage to fall asleep!), leaving us tired and edgy the next day – this is due to our bodies being flooded with more stress hormones. If this happens to you occasionally, do not worry, it should not experience too much of an overall impact. But if it does turn into a stress-sleep vicious cycle where you stress about not being able to sleep and then can’t sleep, and vice versa, it becomes not only difficult to deal with but can also impact your medium to long term health.
If the problem becomes quite big for you, it is advisable to get professional help from your general practitioner or physician who can also refer you to a specialist or therapist if needed. You can explore complementary and alternative therapies such as Emotional Freedom Therapy EFT (also called “Tapping”), Hypnosis or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Let us reassure you that there is help out there and you are certainly not alone in this. Many of us have been there and our own experiences have led us to set up WeSleep in the first place.
If you are usually able to cope with stress but are struggling with sleep at this time, we hope the explanations about stress and our better sleep tips above can help you understand what is going in your body and brain, and achieve a better night’s rest.
Stay safe & healthy! And stay tuned for our next blog post in a couple of weeks time, subscribe below and we will let you know each time a new post is ready. Take good care !
- The WeSleep Team –
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