Is stress impacting on your sleep?

Are you sleep deprived? Do you find it difficult to get to sleep or wake in the early hours?

 

The National Sleep Foundation recommend getting between 7-9hrs sleep every day – how does that compare to your own sleeping pattern?

If you aren’t fitting into that bracket, you’re not alone – 65% of UK adults report having some form of sleep problems and 88% of those say it is caused by stress!

 

The responsibilities we all carry, the amount of tasks we try to pack into our day and the busyness we have in our minds are all potential contributory factors to us not getting to sleep, not staying asleep and not getting a good quality rest.

I like to think of our minds as filing cabinet, it only has so much capacity and once we’ve stuffed it to the brim, that’s it, no room left and bits start to spill out. On top of that, it has been scientifically proven that continuous stress over a prolonged period of time starts to change the structure of the brain e.g. that filing cabinet could start to get smaller and the drawers get mixed up. Hence why our memory diminishes, we find it harder to problem solve, our focus reduces and our productivity slackens when we are experiencing.

Both stress and sleep deprivation can make us less tolerant, impatient, irritable and irrational and we are more likely to go into our ‘old brain’ which is our ‘fight, flight and freeze’ reactions rather than take our time and respond how we want.

We are also more at risk of many health issues such as heart disease, stomach issues, depression, weakened immune system and diabetes.

It can be a vicious circle: Stress causes lack of sleep. Lack of sleep impairs our ability to deal with difficulties, which causes further stress. And round and round we go.

So what can you do help reduce sleep issues and give your body and brain that much needed rest? After all, you aren’t a robot so stop treating yourself like you are never going breakdown!

Here’s my 5 tips to help you get a better night’s sleep and quality rest:

  • C’mon let’s be realistic in what you can do in one day! Look at your diary and stop packing so much in your day.  If you looked at it now what 3-4 things could you take out of this week or your day?
  • Writing in a journal before bedtime. Make it part of your ‘getting ready for bed’ routine before you get changed into your PJ’s and brush your teeth. Just write and don’t think too much about it.  Write all your feelings and thoughts for at least 20mins and don’t’ re-read it (you will just be putting it back in!) Buy yourself a nice wee A5 pad and don’t let anyone else read it.
  • Get natural sunlight. Research shows you need a minimum of 4hrs each day to get a good night’s sleep so if you can’t get outside buy some natural day light bulbs, which work a treat in our consulting room and myself and my clients notice the difference especially in the winter months. They’re only £3-£4 each.
  • Less of – caffeine, smoking, sugar, alcohol and screens before bedtime. More of-exercise, cuddles and sex (dopamine hormones released during love making will help you feel more relaxed and ready for bed. If you have an orgasm, then the hormone oxytocin is released, which will make you even sleepier. Now you know what to say to your partner if they have sleep difficulties!).
  • Try a sleep meditation. There are some great apps available or try this one of my own HERE
“Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” Mesut Barazany

 

Sleep is just as important to your health as eating, drinking and breathing so take sleep issues seriously. If you are suffering from persistent sleep problems or are concerned about your health please talk to your GP or contact us for information on how our services can support you through stress and anxiety. enquiries@direction.org.uk