4 min read
Are you one of the many Canadians who believe stress is a necessary part of everyday life? Do you find yourself chasing a good night’s sleep night after night, and suffering from sleep deprivation? One in five Canadians experiences “stress response” symptoms daily, ranging from headaches to life-threatening heart and circulatory troubles, while approximately 60% are sleep deprived – getting on average, 6.9 hours of sleep a night even though experts recommend between seven and nine hours.
Research shows that the surge in adrenaline resulting from severe emotional stress can cause the blood to clot more readily, increasing the risk of heart attack. Studies prove chronic work stress produces chronic elevations in adrenaline levels, increasing heart disease risk.
Depriving your body of sleep over the long term may result in a weakened immune system, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. Sleep is necessary for your body to recover from the day’s activities: you repair damaged cells, and your nervous system gets its much-needed recharge.
The good news, however, is that there are some natural remedies that can help you manage these conditions and get you onto the path of feeling better.
Natural Health Products for Stress Relief and Sleep
B Vitamins: Physical and mental stress cause the body to use up more vitamins, especially B vitamins, contributing to stress-related health problems (general malaise, fatigue, and inability to focus).
5-HTP is an amino acid that increases the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and promotes a feeling of well-being.
L-Theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea, and it supports feelings of relaxation and can lower the body’s response to stress, resulting in a more restful sleep.
Sensoril® Ashwagandha Extract supports adrenal health and can help the body build resistance to fatigue and stress. It can produce a relaxing effect, increase energy levels, reduce fatigue, enhance memory, provide cognitive support and help combat anxiety and promote relaxation.
Rhodiola Extract is an adaptogenic herb, helping the mind and body adapt to and recover from stress. It enhances mental clarity, increases energy, and relieves anxiety during times of stress.
Magnesium is a natural sedative. Deficiency of magnesium can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain.
Melatonin helps people fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling alert and refreshed. It has a regulating effect on your body’s circadian rhythm.
When we are under stress, we immediately think that we need to have coffee or caffeine to “keep us going”. This is not always the case. Caffeine can have a pronounced effect on sleep, causing insomnia and restlessness. In addition to coffee, tea, and soft drinks, look for hidden sources of caffeine such as chocolate, cough and cold medicine, and other over-the-counter medicine.
Foods to help you sleep
Choosing the right food can improve the quality of your sleep. Oatmeal is a natural source of melatonin and vitamin B6, an anti-stress vitamin, useful in reducing stress hormones. The result is a boost in serotonin, stimulating a feeling of calmness. Another great food is a banana, as they are a source of potassium and magnesium which support a healthy nervous system, act as a muscle relaxant, and are also a natural source of melatonin. Lastly, cherries as a bedtime snack are a good option as they are also a natural source of melatonin.
Although sugar can give a burst of energy, it is short lived and can cause uneven blood sugar levels. This can disrupt sleep in the middle of the night as blood sugar levels fall. The most significant internal stressor is blood sugar fluctuation. Minimize blood sugar changes by:
- Eating regularly – no skipping meals!
- Eating a little protein with each meal
- Eating low-glycemic index foods
- Increasing fibre intake with whole grains or with a fibre supplement like Fibre4. Fibre is great because it helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and keeps you feeling full longer.
Do not overindulge. Too much food, alcohol, or caffeine – especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns.
Lifestyle hacks to improve stress and sleep
We are told over and over again about the benefits of exercise and that this, along with relaxation techniques, have profound benefits on reducing stress and improving sleep. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Even if it is just a short walk, it can help get blood circulating and relax cramped muscles. Also, the simple act of pausing for a moment several times a day to take deep breaths and consciously relax can be quite effective in letting go of stress and promoting a more peaceful frame of mind. But do not exercise too close to bedtime, or it may keep you awake!
The simple act of pausing for a moment several times a day to take deep breaths and consciously relax can be quite effective in letting go of stress and promoting in a more peaceful frame of mind.
Keep a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will program your body to sleep better. Also, avoid napping during the day. Napping will make it much more difficult to sleep at night. If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes and make sure you are awake for at least four more hours before bedtime.
Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping your room dark, cool, and quiet. You also need to refrain from using electronics (smartphone, laptop, tablet, tv) within 30 minutes of bedtime. Lastly, engage in relaxing activities before bed, such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or practicing mindful breathing and gentle stretching for a few minutes.