If you’ve tossed and turned after a tough day of work, you’ve experienced the classic side effect of stress. Even when you’re tired and your body needs a good night sleep, you stay in a perpetual state of worry and anxiety. But this phenomenon feeds off itself – the lack of sleep can, in turn, become the biggest contributor to your stress levels the next day.
Whether you’re a nurse at the hospital, work in the finance sector or work at the gas station till late hours of the night – the lack of deep REM sleep can lead to a serious disruption of your health, both physically and emotionally. People who suffer a lack of sleep due to stress, not surprisingly, are vulnerable to a wide range of stress-related conditions, including depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach problems, weakened immune systems, and infertility.
What’s the connection? First, the brain releases a hormone called CRH. This hormone prompts the pituitary gland to produce ACTH — the next link in the stress chain reaction. ACTH is the messenger that tells the adrenal gland to release adrenaline and other stress hormones. These are the hormones that make a person feel “stressed out.” They’re also the hormones that, over time, can set the stage for stress-related illnesses. A deep and restful sleep, however, serves to block this exact chain reaction. A lack of sleep, however, can ensure that this chain reaction never ends.
Missing one night’s sleep is one thing; struggling with sleeplessness for weeks or months will really turn up the volume on stress. The research found that those with the worst sleep produced especially large amounts of ACTH and stress hormones throughout the day and night. The levels of stress hormones — and, thus, levels of stress — were highest from afternoon until early night, a time when most people get to wind down.
How to make sure you step out of this vicious cycle? Well, you need to sleep. At least 8 hours of good sleep is required for your body to be sufficiently rested, even if you think you can get by with less than that. One way of doing this is to keep all electronics, books, screens etc away from your person after 10 pm at night. This would induce sleep without too much stimulation. While this could be tough, a lot of people see much better sleep results with it. Another, and perhaps a more drastic step (but very effective) would be to make the bedroom primarily a sleeping area. This would mean that you shouldn’t work, be on the laptop, keep a TV or anything in the room so that your brain associates the bedroom with only sleeping.