We’ve all been there. Sleep-deprived because of stress, or not sleeping enough causing stress. With so many moving parts contributing to modern life, finding the right balance between managing everyday tasks and ensuring we get enough zzz's can sometimes feel like we're walking an extremely fine line! We're talking about that line between choosing to stay up all night and get a job done but compromising on prime sleep time OR going to bed to try and sleep only to be kept up all night stressing about the things you need to do. A rather vicious little loop that affects up to 37% of adults sleep experts like to call this your sleep-stress cycle which can impact everything from our mood to physical stamina, productivity and mental wellbeing.
With no clear beginning or end, this concept can feel like a lot to digest, so let's think of our sleep-stress cycle like a round trip on a sightseeing bus. At some point, you got on and will get off. You can, of course, choose what you'll explore first, but if you want to cover everything (and break the cycle) you’ll need to visit all areas. Cue site one, stress!
How stress impacts sleep
At night, stress can present itself differently to everybody. A fidgety body, a series of dreams that wake you up, even that sense of panic as you remember an email you forgot to send can be a reflection of an unsettled, stressed-out mind. And it's true, the more stressed you are the less likely you are to sleep and the less you sleep the more likely you are to stress! While the short term effects of stress can sometimes be written off as 'just a bad night', sleep is not an expendable resource, meaning each night wasted by worry can cause serious harm to our long term health, so what can we do?
Get ahead of the stressful situation!: If you know you're about to walk into a stressful meeting or interview, roll our Calm Essential Oil Roll-On on your pulse points to help ease your feelings.
Write it out of your head: One of our favourite tools for managing stress is our Journal Kit which invites you to write down your feelings before you go to bed. This encourages self-reflection and a mental unwind, as you physically offload your thoughts onto paper. Jotting down your to-do list for the following day has also been strongly advised, with researchers linking it to eliminating overthinking and improving rates of falling asleep.
Try breathing exercises: A form of meditation, breathing exercises have been shown to distract the mind from overthinking and increase your oxygen intake aiding in a natural all-over calm. Clinically proven techniques such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique (based on yogic breathing) work to bring both mental ease and induce sleep. Hot tip: Roll our Calm Essential Oil Roll-On on your pulse points to further transform your unwind as you inhale relaxing aromas of lavender, mandarin and chamomile.
What if my lack of sleep is causing stress?
We hear you! Sometimes sleep (or lack thereof) can be the root cause of our stress. This brings us right back to that rather nasty cycle we touched on at the being of this journal entry and if you’re playing along, back to our bus analogy, and onto site two.
Along with physical fatigue and fog, inadequate sleep can lead to an increased level of anxiety and sensitivity to situations that cause long term stress. If you find yourself struggling to get the right amount of sleep in the first place, here are a few of our favourite tips:
- Keep your room dark: The easiest way to improve your sleep is to ensure that your bedroom is suitable for it! We suggest making your room as dark as possible to avoid external distractions and keeping your room temperature cool. Sleep aids like our 100% Mulberry Silk Sleep Masks and Silk Pillowcases can help you sleep without distraction and regulate body temperature.
- Say no to your phone! Phones connect us to everything, which includes all of our work emails, so if you’re looking to unwind at night leave your work stressors outside of your bedroom. Phones also emit blue light which can trick our brains into thinking it's daylight and stop us from nodding off in peace. Instead, try switching the late night scroll for a late night read with your favourite book.
- Explore sleep aids: Essential oil diffusers and light-blocking eye masks all go an extremely long way to ensuring you put your best foot forward as you step into bed. Did you know? You can explore some of our favourite products by sleep concern under our shop tab!
Be mindful of what you consume at night: Some foods and alcohol can trigger reflux responses and stimulate our bodies. As a general rule, we suggest stopping the consumption of spicy or acidic dishes at least 2 hours before bed and keeping your late-night snacking to a minimum! It will also help switching that cheeky glass of red with dinner for a herbal tea before bed.
How does sleep help cope with stress?
If you’ve just woken up from a great night's sleep, you’ll be able to vouch for us when we simply say that, sleep benefits mental health. In fact, sleep itself can be our most powerful tool to combating stress. Healthy levels of sleep promote all over restoration that can improve cognitive function, mood and judgment /decision-making. When our cognitive levels operate at their best, we're also much more likely to make smarter, more calculated decisions that help us avoid stressful situations in the first place. If we do find ourselves facing inevitable situations that cause stress, this same cognitive restoration helps regulate our emotions, reduce our impulsiveness and position us in the best shape to manage our feelings.
Stress isn’t the enemy!
It's important to stress (pun most certainly intended) that stress as an emotional response is not the enemy. Every time we feel spikes of stress, we engage our autonomic nervous system (ANS) to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which work together to trigger our natural fight or flight response. This response raises our heart rate to circulate blood to vital organs and pushes our muscles to work more efficiently, something that during earlier stages of human evolution, played a vital role in ensuring our survival. Although our life and death threats have far lessoned to those of our instinctive ancestors, stress today can still be a positive force that helps us achieve tasks and push us to go the extra mile- think, exam time, on the gym floor or during a performance!