Stressed out all day, wide awake at night

Stressed out all day, wide awake at night

Life is unusually stressful right now, especially for families with school-aged children. There are so many unknowns and so much unpredictability, two key ingredients of heightened stress. Add in the fractured political situation in our country right now and you have a recipe for sleeplessness and anxiety.

It’s important to get out of the mindset of taking a sleep aid at night, whether it’s natural or a medication. It’s how you manage the stress you encounter all day long that determines whether you sleep well at night. Keeping your stress hormones in the normal range throughout your waking hours will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Insomnia and stress are far more common among women, compared to men, and are often seen in those described as possessing type A personalities and who are susceptible to a depressed mood, rumination, chronic anxiety, inhibition of emotions, and inability to express anger. At bedtime, they are characteristically tense and anxious, and may ruminate about issues related to health, work, personal affairs, and death. The emotional arousal stemming from these traits causes physiological stimulation through both the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, contributing leading to insomnia.

Find out how you can calm this powerful daytime stress response to feel more clear-headed and relaxed during the day and able to get restful and restorative sleep during the night.

Physiological and emotional stressors trigger the hypothalamic release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which activates the HPA axis, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, and triggers fear, anxiety, depression, and arousal pathways in the brain. These activities suppress sleep. Not only does CRH suppress sleep but it also shortens the length of deep, slow-wave sleep, minimizing the energy restoration that occurs during this stage. Shorter sleep and poor sleep quality are associated with changes in diurnal cortisol rhythms and a higher cortisol awakening response, which simply means you awaken exhausted. Poor sleep over time increases the risk of depression.

Not only can we blame stress for difficulties in sleep patterns, but conversely, we can blame insomnia for increased HPA activity. Every 90 minutes our body cycles through light sleep (stages 1 and 2), followed by deep, slow-wave sleep (stages 3 and 4), and REM sleep. Deep, slow-wave sleep is where energy restoration occurs and the sympathetic nervous system shuts down in favor of calm, parasympathetic activity. Cortisol levels also decrease during deep, slow-wave sleep. Cortisol levels begin to rise again about an hour before you awake and ultimately act to terminate sleep, peaking about 30 minutes after arousal.

Sleep deprivation (and especially inadequate deep, slow-wave sleep) robs the body of its natural reprieve from cortisol, leading to prolonged and intensified HPA activity. Further, sleep deprivation increases CRH and cortisol levels, which have an excitatory action on neuronal tissue and stimulates HPA activity. It becomes a vicious cycle.

When addressing the root problems of insomnia and stress, supporting both issues with botanicals and nutraceuticals can be helpful until sleep quality improves, and stressors are either reduced and/or long-term stress management is adopted.

Botanical and Nutriceutical Support

  • Pantothenic acid, niacin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) support the adrenal glands.
  • The stress response can be temporarily curbed with the calming neurotransmitter, GABA, and its boosters, L-theanine, taurine, and glycine.
  • 5-HTP encourages the natural production of serotonin and melatonin to improve sleep quality.
  • Neurotransmitter transmission, cell-signaling and membrane health and fluidity is enhanced with phosphatidylserine and inositol, especially with stress-induced insomnia.
  • Anxiety and sympathetic activity often initiate tense muscle tone and an inability to relax. Magnesium and botanicals such as German chamomile and lemon balm promote both muscle and mental relaxation.
  • Adaptogenic botanicals such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, and magnolia gently reduce catecholamines and help increase resiliency toward stressors.

Various formulas are more effective for some and not others. Here’s a list of tried and true (with BeWell clients over 30 years) stress relievers. I suggest you either contact your clinician to help you choose one to try or ask us for a sample (we have a limited variety). Or use your intuition to select a product and try it for one bottle. If you don’t get the desired result, try a different formula until you find the right match for your brain chemistry.

Consider a Free 15-Minute Phone Consult so we can help you get the support you need. We can help you improve the quality of your days and the restfulness of your nights.


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