Stress and insomnia – is there a correlation?
Short answer is YES!
The long answer and reason is this…
Stress is a normal physiological occurrence in our body. It is designed to amplify our bodies to defend ourselves from a potentially life threatening situation.
Interestingly though, we can generate this life-saving response when our lives are NOT UNDER THREAT but simply through thoughts, emotions, situations, events, memories of past events, through food reactions, etc.
When we experience this “fright or flight” response, we secrete stress hormones. These include adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and testosterone.
These hormones (our body’s messenger system) get our body to prepare to fight or run.
The hormones get the muscles to release glycogen (sugar) so the muscles can use it quicker, (so blood sugar rises), your heart beats quicker to pump blood around the body to take the extra sugar to the muscles and your blood pressure goes up. It amplifies our “awake state” so we can process information faster and act accordingly. Remember this whole process is designed to save us from a bear that is threatening to rip our heads off.
So when we secrete this hormones during times that are NOT life threatening the hormonal effects can be negative.
Extra blood sugar in our blood stream means, extra insulin that can lead to belly fat.
Faster heart rate can lead to a feeling of anxiety, stress and palpitations.
Increased blood pressure can lead to hypertension (and all the long term effects such as kidney damage, retinal damage, capillary damage) and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
A more awake state means that we are more alert and are unable to relax.
The Body’s 24 hour body clock
With regards to our 24 hour body clock, cortisol , the waking hormone and also a stress hormone, normally signals to the body that we are awake, it is day time and picks up our alert state and energy.
Every person has a circadian rhythm which is our natural body clock.
By the time we are adults it is a 24 hour body clock.
Typically at the break of dawn, while we are still asleep, light changes in our bedrooms, and this stimulates receptors at the back of our retinas (through closed eye lids). This in turn leads to the secretion of cortisol.
Once this hormone is circulating we want to wake up and start the day.
Cortisol should peak at 10am – 12pm and this is when we are most alert.
As cortisol drops (around 8pm) the opposite hormone melatonin kicks in.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone. It makes us drowsy and puts us to sleep and peaks at 1am. It will naturally drop off by early morning as cortisol kicks in.
Any disruption to these hormones will confuse the body and lead to insomnia.
So why do every day people accidently increase cortisol late at night?
This is what I find:
1. Working late at night can increase stress hormones and cortisol (especially heavy thinking tasks and financial tasks)
2. Looking at hand held devices (research is showing that the light from these devices makes the body think it is morning)
3. Watching scary movies, TV shows, distressing news increases stress hormones
4. Fighting, arguing and putting yourself in “on-guard situations” increases stress hormones
5. Drinking or eating stimulating products (eg green tea, coffee, black tea, pepper) preservatives E 412, E 415, 621- 635, 160a, 160b while natural they are well known stimulants and increase stress hormones
6. Sugar can generate a stress response and stimulate our bodies… items such as soft drink, alcohol can lead to insomnia
So if you would like to sleep better, try to manage your stress better and avoid the above common pitfalls.
If you would like to know what your hormones are doing, I have a saliva test kit and consult package for sale, click here.
And to bring stress hormones down try meditation, relaxation, warm baths and lavender oil and chamomile tea help relax the body.