A Feb 2013 survey reports that 52% of Americans are losing sleep because they are stressed out. The number of people with sleep problems is on the rise, in 1997 a similar survey showed that 40% of all adults said that they “lie awake at night because of stress”.
Elevated cortisol causes a disruption of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This person typically has trouble falling asleep. They are never able to unwind. They go to bed, but they never fall asleep. They toss and turn the whole night. And just when it feels like they are falling into a deep sleep, the alarm goes off. These stressed out people can also have difficulty waking up and getting around first thing in the morning
Managing sleep may be the greatest determination of developing serious long term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
In the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism August 2001; 86:3787-3794 - Scientists have found increased blood levels of stress hormones in people with chronic insomnia, suggesting that these individuals suffer from sustained, round-the-clock activation of the body's response to stress.
The researchers suggest, treating insomnia must go beyond improving the quality or quantity of their patients' sleep and seek to reduce this hyper functioning state of arousal. Prolonged increased hyperarousal states is a major risk factor for both psychiatric and medical illness.
This study monitored the sleep of 11 patients with insomnia and a control group of 13 people without sleep disturbances. Blood was collected every 30 minutes for 24 hours, and levels of stress hormones (adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol) were monitored. The average levels of both hormones were significantly higher in the insomniacs than in the control group.
Vgontzas stated that “Insomniacs with the highest degree of sleep disturbance secreted the highest amount of cortisol, particularly in the evening and nighttime hours". This means that insomniacs are experiencing stress hormone changes in their bodies, which prevents them from sleeping.
The investigators propose that chronic insomnia is a disorder of hyperarousal present throughout the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. Increased production of stress hormones is likely to lead to depression, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis.
This information could help doctors who are treating insomniacs refocus their therapeutic goals. Instead of aiming to simply improve nighttime sleep, doctors may now work to decrease the levels of physiologic arousal from increased stress hormones.
Sleep deprivation is such a chronic condition these days that you might not even realize you are suffering from it. Science has now established that a sleep deficit can have serious, far reaching effects on your health. For example, interrupted or impaired sleep can:
- Dramatically weaken your immune system
- Accelerate tumor growth—tumors grow 2-3 times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
- Cause a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, which can keep you awake
- Seriously impair your memory even a single night of poor sleep meaning sleeping only 4 to 6 hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day
- Impair your performance on physical or mental tasks, and decrease your problem solving ability
- Impaired sleep can also increase stress-related disorders, including: Heart disease, Stomach ulcers, Constipation and Mood disorders like depression
- Premature ageing interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep
- One study has even shown that people with chronic insomnia have a three times greater risk of dying from any cause.
Lost sleep is lost forever, and persistent lack of sleep has a cumulative effect when it comes to disrupting your health. Poor sleep can make your life miserable, as most of you probably know.
Step To Improve Your Sleep
1. Start taking iStressedOut chew 1 tab 2 hours before bedtime, then chew 2 tabs 30 minutes before bedtime.
2. If you're staying up late watching TV, surfing the Web, check email or working, it's time to set some limits. Determine a set bedtime for yourself, just as you do for your children, and avoid watching TV or using electronics for about an hour prior to going to bed. These activities are stimulating to your brain, making it more difficult to "shut down" and fall asleep. Start to wind-down doing something that soothes and relaxes your mind. You may want to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea, washing your face, or reading a calming or spiritual book. One of my favorites is to listen to calming music.
4.Use your Relaxation Rutiuals audio cd to learn to meditate, put the DVD on pause . . . there are 11 additional relaxation techniques available on this great resource.
4. Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
5. Make sure that your workouts are finished earlier in the day. Going to workout at 8pm for an hour will make sleep problems worse.
6. Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin.
7. Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.