Greetings my better rested friend!
Are you starting to feel the effects of more quality sleep? Even if you’re still testing out your daily sleep ritual, you should be well on your way to training your mind + body for rest. This is a big step in the right direction and makes my heart happy – way to go!
Remember, like anything else, change takes time and this is a learning process. Don’t give up or put off what we’ve recommended thus far because you think it won’t work — don’t knock these suggested action steps until you try ’em!
Ps…they really do work!
Today for you we have prepared part 3 of our 3-part blog series on SLEEP. That deliciously sweet slumber our bodies and mind crave!
In today’s final blog, you’re going to learn the vicious cycle of sleep + stress: how one effects the other and how this can wreak havoc, both mentally + physically. We’ll end with a “nightcap” on specific action steps you can use to minimize your stressors and finally enjoy quality sleep!
SLEEP + STRESS: THE VICIOUS CYCLE
Have you ever sat in traffic after a shitty night of sleep? Ha, yeah been there! The anger, shouting, pleading and eventual emotional collapse is awesome.
How about after a good night of sleep? “Turn that music up, baby, it is my time to shine!” – Coach Matty B sitting on I-271 after a bout of great sleep.
Stress isn’t something you have, rather stress is the reaction your body has to certain events. And that reaction not only has a profound impact on your daily mood and energy, but also your daily sleep cycle as well.
As you’ve experienced, stress can cause shitty, inadequate sleep, which in turn causes more stress and then, well you get the point…… Stress is a bitch, eh?
#1. How Stress Effects Sleep:
Cortisol is a stress hormone that typically peaks in the morning (around 6am) and slowly drops throughout the day. It should begin rising again throughout the night again and continue its cycle of gradual rise and fall.
For those with elevated cortisol due to high stress activity, this cycle can wreak havoc on your sleep. Not only can you lie in bed hoping for sleep that simply won’t come, it can completely disassemble your sleep/wake cycles by causing hyperarousal. Essentially, the stress response you get to activity doesn’t just change as you sleep, it causes the same effects in a less conscious state.
Do you commonly blast awake at 2-3am? This is a very common sign of elevated cortisol levels. Instead of a gradual release throughout the night cortisol levels can peak causing you to wake suddenly with an elevated heart rate.
#2. How Sleep Effects Stress:
The quality of your sleep can have a profound impact on your day to day stress balance. Research shows after only one night of less than 5 hours of sleep, cortisol levels were elevated 37% above normal levels. After two nights? 45% higher. Daaamn!
So what does this mean for you and your sleep? If you don’t balance out the stress seesaw in your favor, your body will be figuratively crushed under the stress…..UH-OHHHHH!
HOW YOUR BODY REACTS TO STRESS
Rest and relaxation isn’t an annual vacation thing. It is not even a weekend thing. Recovery is something you do (or don’t do) every day in pursuit of a balanced and happy life. Now, I don’t mean recovery in the sense of foam rolling and stretching, I am talking about true, pure rest and relaxation.
I know we are not elite athletes in the prime of our lives but humor me with a look at what a typical elite athlete does on a daily basis. They train hard, practice for hours, hone-in their physical skills but then they relax. They take naps, ice baths, sit in a sauna, get massages, meditate, and a million other things to promote recovery time for their bodies. They do this because the alternative is to let that stress pile up and wreak havoc on their bodies.
Now, I understand that you (Mr. or Mrs.) Businessperson aren’t training to be an NFL wide receiver and therefore don’t train for 5 hours per day. However, the physical demands of the stressors on your body are the exact same as an NFL receiver. Though not physical – meeting deadlines, working on projects, sitting in meetings, providing for your family, managing money, and shuttling kids to their events among so much more – create a physical response in your body. And that response, when not in check, is stress.
Sympathetic activity, or anything causing a “fight or flight” response in the body, leads to higher levels of circulating cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These can be physical, such as those of the NFL player, or more emotional such as those of the average person. They all add up and when out of sync can cause anxiety/depression, sleep disruption, altered sex hormone activity, and cravings among others.
WHY YOU SHOULD MANAGE YOUR STRESS
In last week’s blog on 5 Steps to Better Sleep, I touched on the importance of having a sleep ritual or activities to actively calm your mind and body – better known as parasympathetic activity.
What we are looking for is balance in regard to parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. You will always have stressors, many that you can’t control, so what can you control? You can control whether you partake in relaxing activity every day.
Think of this like a seesaw: One on end, your stressors are like a rock that will always be there. On the other end, you must consistently add little rocks (relaxing activity) to keep that seesaw from completely plummeting to the ground and pinning you under the weight.
What is the best kind of parasympathetic activity you ask? The one that works for you. Here are some common examples:
- Reading fiction
- Taking a warm bath (adding some Epsom salts, mayhaps?)
- Sitting in a sauna or hitting the spa
- Listening to some relaxing music with a glass (not bottle) of wine
- Having sex (didn’t you mention this last week?)
- Having some tea and zoning out
ACTION STEP: HOW TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Much like last week’s article, your action step for today and forever is to do SOMETHING relaxing and calming every day for 30 minutes. Find what works for you and do it consistently. Pick a daily activity and throw in a trip to the sauna or spa every once in a while, to Treat Yo’ Self.
Coach Matty B’s Sympathetic Activities: I meditate two times per day for 15 minutes at a time. Once upon waking no matter the time, and once in the afternoon or evening. I also take a contrast shower and read fantasy books for at least 30 minutes per day.
Like we keep saying, quality sleep has such a profound impact on the way we look, the way we feel and our quality of life. And as we grow wiser in our years, quality of life is something none of us want to take for granted so naturally, it makes sense to proactively take initiative and better manage things like stress and sleep.
If your goal is to be healthy and enjoy a long life, all of your lifestyle habits need to reflect this. Exercise and eating healthy just aren’t going to be enough. Your body + mind need quality sleep. You need healthy, consistent outlets to manage and control your personal stress.
Make it your priority to start working on this today by choosing just one parasympathetic activity to relax and calm your body each + every day.
You are worth it, we promise!
PS…Don’t forget to pick at least one calming, restful “parasympathetic” activity form the list above and try it out for 30 minutes the rest of the week. Reply back with any questions, concerns or if you just want to chat ’bout your sleep habits!
Berardi, John. “Good Stress, Bad Stress: Finding Your Sweet Spot.” Precision Nutrition, 5 Feb. 2018, www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress.
Bonfiglio, Juan José, et al. The Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Network and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis: Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Involved. Neuroendocrinology 94 (2011):12–20. DOI: 10.1159/000328226
Herman, J.P. et al. Neural regulation of the stress response: glucocorticoid feedback mechanisms. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research (2012) 45: 292-298.
Kavey, Neil. “Stress & Insomnia: Help & Reasons.” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/stress-and-insomnia.
Leprault, R, et al. “Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening.” Sleep, 1997, doi:10.1093/sleep/20.10.865.