High-quality sleep can have a hugely positive impact on our health, including a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can even boost your mood and cleanse your skin. One of the most impactful benefits, however, is the effect it can have on stress levels.
While some stress is natural, too much of it can be detrimental to your health. Some stress can be caused by different internal and environmental factors, but it is largely impacted by how much sleep you get, or don’t get. With a growing number of overly-stressed adults, getting enough sleep has become an increasingly important and healthy lifestyle choice. Here are some of the ways that sleep can affect your stress levels, and how to make sure you’re consistently a good night’s rest.
Sleep decreases cortisol levels
A lack of sleep can cause the body to react as if it’s in distress, releasing more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for your fight or flight reaction to danger, increasing your heart rate in anticipation of a fight. Too much cortisol, however, can lead to weight gain and cardiovascular issues over time. This often occurs when poor sleeping habits prevent the body from regulating its hormone levels overnight. In fact, getting less than five hours of sleep a night has been linked to cortisol-related issues, like high blood pressure.
Getting more rest can significantly decrease cortisol levels and restore balance to the body’s systems. In a preventative step, try to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night to avoid the rise in hormone levels altogether, and reduce existing feelings of stress and anxiety.
Regulates immune system
Sleep’s ability to regulate the immune system, and even improve it, is an essential aspect of a stress-free life. We all know sickness isn’t fun, but it also adds a lot of burden to an already busy body. Along with mental stress, illness in one part of the body puts a lot of physical stress on the rest of your systems, causing them to overwork and strain themselves to exertion.
While you sleep, however, your body takes stock of itself and produces substances that fight infection and defend against illness. Therefore, getting the sleep you need to maintain your immune system can improve your response to illness, shorten the time it takes to recover, and allow you to get back to normal life.
Researchers have found that losing too much sleep can activate a region of the brain that controls emotional processing and worry. While those with an anxiety disorder are much more likely to feel the mental effects of a lack of sleep, it can still impact anyone who doesn’t get sufficient rest. It can overwork the heart and cause serious stress, negatively affecting your mental health and how you handle social situations.
Adequate sleep, however, has been proven to drastically reduce feelings of anxiety by improving your ability to process stress and react in an appropriate way. Specifically, a good night’s sleep can boost your mood, outlook and temperament.
Getting better sleep is easier than you might think
Stressed out yet? Don’t be. Stress is a serious thing, but there are a lot of ways to update your sleep patterns and reduce it.
Start with getting enough sleep. Doctors suggest that average adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Make sure you’re keeping your body in a scheduled nightly routine that includes adequate hours for sleep. Don’t be afraid to adjust your bedtime if needed, just be sure to transition slowly: about 10-15 minutes every day.
Then, make sure your bedroom is set up for successful sleep. Your bed should be composed of a sturdy, quiet box spring, and foam mattress topped with pillows made of adaptive, but supportive material. Dark and heavy curtains will also help keep out distracting noise and lights, no matter what time of day you sleep.
Lastly, consider exercising in the morning or early evening. Additional physical work tires your body out and forces it to crave the restorative benefits of sleep. Just make sure your exercise isn’t too close to bedtime, as it can increase your heart rate for about an hour afterwards, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Sleep and stress go hand in hand. A stressed-out mind can keep you up into all hours of the night, and a lack of sleep can raise anxiety levels. Make sure you balance your sleep schedule in order to reduce stress and look after your health.
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