Elijah Knew What Was Up
It’s a nice thought, right? That you wouldn’t experience or have to endure any stress. The eradication of all stress is not a goal that we should be trying to achieve. It’s just not possible.
Stress is an important part of our evolution – and it turns out that a little of it is good. We can experience stress when we are excited about something – working on a goal or moving towards something that brings us joy. Mentally, these things can challenge us and excite us, but also cause some of the same physiological reactions in our body as some of the negative or bad stresses.
It is not uncommon for us to have stress (both good stress and bad) coming at us from multiple directions. Homelife, career expectations, and all the little things of life can all add up to become chronic stress when there is little to no time to recover between the events. Stress can have multiple negative consequences on our health, but one of the most noticed areas is that of our sleep.
It is frequently a conversation of the ‘chicken or the egg’ when discussing sleep and stress. Does stress cause us to sleep more poorly? Or does poor sleep cause us to become more stressed?
The short answer is yes.
Stress and sleep have a back-and-forth relationship when one is aggravated, the other is likely to be as well. The upside in this case, when one is improved, the other is also likely to be improved. When experiencing higher stress we can see it in multiple body systems because the sympathetic division of the peripheral nervous system is typically engaged (the fight, flight, or freeze). You might feel more on alert, waiting to deal with the next stressful thing to come your way. This results in increased heart rate and increased blood flow to muscles. At night this might result in feeling ‘wired but tired’. You might also wake up more often through the night and feel less rested when you get out of bed in the morning.
To combat the negative effects that stress has on everyday life and specifically sleep, there are a few key things you can do to help with getting better rest when you climb into bed for the night;
Implement sleep hygiene strategies: Pick a few regular activities to help with getting better sleep. You do not need to create a list of 10 different things. Two to three things done regularly will provide more benefit than 10 things done occasionally.
Create a sleep routine: this will strengthen the mental cues your brain needs to help wind down at night. Your sleep routine can be as simple as turning down the lights and turning off electronics.
Create a caffeine cut-off: While caffeine might be one of the things you’ve traditionally used to get past the 3 pm afternoon slump, it will perpetuate your poor sleep, adding to your stress. For most people, this should be no later than noon, but if you are sensitive to caffeine, it might need to be earlier in the day.
Cut out the alcohol: While alcohol is a depressant and makes us feel sleepy, it produces a poorer quality of sleep overall. It helps to induce sleep quickly, but the sleep is shallow and non-restorative. Try finding alternative drinks for relaxing, herbal teas or mocktails can still give you the ritual you are looking for, without the negative effects on your sleep.
Starting by working on your sleep (Elijah knew what was up in 1 Kings 19) is one easy way to help work on the stress-sleep cycle. When things feel like they are a bit out of control and spiraling, focusing on just one thing (improving sleep à improving the body’s ability to cope) that can have an exponential impact is a simple place to start.
Working with a health coach is an easy way to clarify and create a simple health routine that can help you meet your goals, including sleeping easier to reduce stress. Schedule your free 20-minute consult to help clarify and create an action plan to sleep better and reduce your stress by clicking HERE.