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