Sleep, and its greatest enemy: stress


Sleep, and its greatest enemy: stress.

Getting enough zzz’s feels as great an indulgence as bathing in Bolly.

An indulgence I can ill afford.

Whilst I often don’t allow myself the luxury of a good night’s sleep, I know that when I do want some slumber, it will come very easily to me. I could do a 12-hour stint quite happily, I can snore (attractive) my way through pretty much anything.

However, I’m becoming increasingly aware that I am one of the lucky few. This doesn’t make me feel smug, just a tad sad. The number of people who struggle to sleep is worryingly high. The reason for it even more so: stress.

Unfortunately there is a bit of a vicious cycle when it comes to sleep and stress. If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those hormones. The next day, you feel more stressed, the following night you find it harder to fall asleep, and so on.

Not fun. And not goof for you. Lack of sleep affects you in lots of ways, stress being voted the worst. It also slows your metabolism down (a problem for anyone on a fat loss programme), decreases energy levels, limits the time your body has for muscle and bone repair, necessitates way more make-up. The list goes on…

But don’t despair! There are things you can do about it. Wear a silky smooth eye mask and sprinkle lavender on your pillow? Don’t drink caffeine for the 23.5 hours preceding your bedtime.

COME ON. No! We can do better than that.

1. EXERCISE.

Reason number 1,000,001 to finally commit to regular exercise: it has been proven time and again to improve your sleep. People who work out both find it easier to fall asleep and tend to wake up less during the night, netting better overall sleep. And that means waking up feeling more refreshed—and more likely to have the energy to exercise the next day. See how that works?! The better sleep you get, the better workouts you’ll have, and those better workouts will eventually help to promote a deeper sleep. So sleep helps you exercise and exercise helps you sleep.

Worth noting here, that there is a caveat…regular exercise does contribute to better sleep, but it may not be immediate. It may take weeks or months to significantly change. So you’ve got to stick with it.

What else can help?

2. SEX:

Sex is meant to stimulate…not send you off to sleep. But I am of course talking about postcoital slumber. In a nutshell, sex lowers cortisol (stress hormone), and having an orgasm releases prolactin which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. What’s more, ladies, sex boosts oestrogen levels which apparently enhances your REM stage and gives rise to an even deeper sleep. Men aren’t far behind on the soundness of their slumber, the French rather brilliantly refer to it as “le petit mort”.

What’s more, the more sleep you have, the higher your sex drive. So once again, you enter into a very positive cycle.

3. MAGNESIUM:

“Miracle Magnesium”, “nature’s Valium”, “the original chill pill”.

Magnesium is heralded as relieving insomnia by restricting the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, that can keep you up at night.

You can bath in Magnesium flakes (a friend of mine baths her children in Mag flakes and swears that it has a seriously soporific effect on them). But you can also take it orally. I have bought various people a brand called ReMag, from Botanica in Rusthall. I trust them implicitly in there – they really do know their stuff. They are also honest enough to tell you that it tastes VILE (really, really it does), but every gag and retch is worth it! Trust me, I’m not a Dr.

No I’m not, so I’m not allowed to give advice, I’m unashamedly utterly unqualified. All I can do is share my own personal magic formula:

By day: exercise.

By night: have a shag. Down a spoonful of Mag.

And you’ll be in the Land of Nod before you know it.

Sources:

Sleep.org

Livestrong.com

BBC.com

Bebrainfit.com

Disclaimer:

I am not a dietician or a nutritionist, and make no claims to the contrary. What is written on this site should not be taken as fact or advice. It is merely an opinion blog.


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