I came across this article in the Independent: getting less than six hours sleep a night increases risk of early death
And it prompted me to think: What causes a lack of sleep and what can we do about it?
Aside from a ‘whole number of factors such as having small children, having other health issues and environmental factors’ cited in the article by Lisa Artis of the British Sleep Council; many Clients I see state one of the largest causes of lack of sleep is stress.
Whilst stress is aggravated and worsened by lack of sleep, the article fails to mention how worry and stress also raised cortisol levels which can themselves disrupt sleep. Cortisol changes in our blood is an important part of our day/night rhythm as well as our fight or flight response.
It has long been known that ‘depression and other stress-related disorders are also associated with sleep disturbances, elevated cortisol.’ 1 Therefore it would be sensible to think that managing and working with stress and other stress-related disorders to reduce the levels of cortisol in the blood in general will improve your ability to sleep.
So how can this be done?
- Exercise can burn off adrenaline that is linked to cortisol production making less available for use.
- Meditation and relaxation can allow us to tell our body’s they are safe and in the present, reducing anxiety, depression and helping us to control the over-thinking that often happens in response to the problems and stress of life.
- If you have experienced trauma, abuse or have a chronic mental health issue, counselling can help you to find better coping strategies, find a way forward and share your fears and anxieties.
- Amy Cuddy 2 has shown how changing your body language can help change how you feel and your blood chemistry, lowering cortisol. To find out more check out her TED talk cited below.
All these strategies can help although they can take some time to work, particularly if your experience of stress has been chronic.
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- Arborelius L, Owens M, Plotsky P, Nemeroff C. The role of corticotropinreleasing factor in depression and anxiety disorders. J Endocrinol. 1999;160:1-12.
- <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are“>http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are