Sleep Is As Important As Diet and Exercise- Only Easier!

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: April 7, 2014

Does daily stress keep you awake at night?  Stress is a natural part of daily life. While many different situations can cause stress, reactions to them, and accompanying stress levels, will differ from one person to another. What is common for people under considerable stress are sleep problems such as insomnia.

Some Helpful Tips to Remind You that

“Sleep is as Important as Diet and Exercise — Only Easier!”

Stress is probably the most frequent cause of short-term insomnia. Stress and your body’s reaction to it can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep; stress can also affect the quality of your sleep.

Stress comes in a variety of packages — excessive workloads, family situations, financial setbacks, health or medical problems, and even the Christmas holiday season are a few typical “stressors” for America’s adults.

Even “good” stressors can disrupt sleep; for example most of us would not sleep if we won the lottery earlier that evening. Recently, the stress levels of many Americans have been raised because of the threat of terrorist attacks and the all too vivid details of war in many parts of the world, which television brings into our living rooms and sometimes our bedrooms.

National Sleep Awareness Week®, March 5 – March 11, is a good time to pay attention to the stressors that disturb your sleep, whether it be infrequently or on a regular basis. A good night’s sleep is important for optimum health, safety and productivity. The theme for this year’s annual week-long campaign offers a good reminder – “Sleep: As Important as Diet and Exercise (Only Easier!)”

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) sponsors National Sleep Awareness Week®, joined by many partners throughout the country, including the Red Hot Mamas®.

“Sleep is important when you feel stressed and/or anxious. It is an essential part of our daily lives and well-being,” says Richard L. Gelula, NSF’s chief executive officer. Lost sleep robs us of the opportunity to restore ourselves physically, emotionally and even cognitively.”

Karen Giblin, president and founder of the Red Hot Mamas®adds, “Getting a night of seven to nine hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep is particularly important when you’re dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms and consequences of stress”.

“Without sufficient sleep, the impact of whatever situation is causing your stress can be exacerbated. Concentration, decision making, memory and reaction time are all affected by sleep deprivation,” she adds.

There are several studies that show the impact of stress on sleep. Researchers in Sweden found that when workers faced a difficult next day, their apprehension resulted in a decreased amount of slow wave sleep, a deep level of sleep that accounts for about 25 percent of total sleep time. In another work-related study, Swedish researchers found that stress resulting from a poor work environment doubled the risk of the onset of sleep problems. And as an example of how stress can impact health, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that acute stress affects heart rate variability during sleep.

Stress can affect the levels of some hormones and high levels of these hormones may make falling sleep more difficult. Hormones such as cortisol can be a stress barometer. Cortisol levels vary throughout the day; it is highest in the early morning soon after awakening, and falls to its lowest level by 11:00 p.m. or midnight, preparing us for a good night’s sleep. High nighttime cortisol levels may mean a person is not relaxing or “winding down,” and may have difficulty falling asleep.

While stress usually disappears on its own, NSF and the Red Hot Mamas® offer these eight tips for dealing with insomnia that may be stress-related:

  • Exercise. Regular exercise is a good way to relieve stress, however, don’t exercise too close to bedtime.
  • Relax. Give yourself plenty of time — about two hours — to “wind down” before bedtime; engage in a relaxing, non-alerting activity such as reading or listening to music. Soaking in a warm bath or hot tub can also be relaxing.
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially close to bedtime. Alcohol is not a sleep aid; don’t use it to try to help you sleep.
  • Do not eat or drink too much before bedtime.
  • Cut back or eliminate caffeine. Excess caffeine has the potential to disturb sleep at night.
  • Go to bed only when you’re tired. If you don’t fall asleep within l5 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and try a relaxing activity such as reading. Return to your bed when you’re sleepy.
  • If you’re having a problem sleeping at night, don’t nap during the day.
  • If your stress and/or insomnia continue, talk to your doctor.

Red Hot Mamas®is a National Sleep Awareness Week® 2007 Sleep Awareness Co-Sponsor working with NSF to help educate people in our community about the importance of sleep. More information about menopause and sleep see our Sleep Section.

National Sleep Awareness Week® is a registered trademark of the National Sleep Foundation. Use of this trademark and the related logo in advertising or promotion of any sort is limited to 2007 National Sleep Awareness Week® Corporate Contributors, Community Sleep Awareness Partners® and Sleep Awareness Co-Sponsors.