There are multiple benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. From increased productivity, a faster metabolism, and more energy to a lower risk of heart disease, a decrease in inflammation and a stronger immune system. However, despite sleep being something we are all born with the ability to do, it has become one of our most precious commodities; especially now as we navigate our way through a global pandemic that has given rise to a collective soaring of stress levels. Losing loved ones, economic uncertainty, a fear of getting sick, self-isolation and multiple lockdowns have taken their toll, and our sleep is bearing the brunt. Let’s talk about the impact of stress on your sleep.
The impact of a pandemic
‘As the pandemic disrupts our lives, so too does it disrupt our sleep. For some constant worrying may make it hard to fall asleep, while low mood and depression will see others sleeping too much. Prolonged periods indoors due to lockdown, especially in the winter, means lower levels of natural light, This can throw off our circadian rhythm, disrupting our natural sleep patterns. And a totally altered schedule or no schedule at all will also affect the quality and duration of our sleep.’ explains consultant neuropsychiatrist, and medical director of the London Sleep Centre, doctor Irshaad Ebrahim. Throw in juggling work and homeschooling, increased screen time, a lack of exercise, increased alcohol consumption and comfort eating, and you’ve got a recipe for mental and physical stress.
‘When we sleep our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. This is the function responsible for stimulating digestion, activating metabolism, and helping the body relax. However, stress leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, better known as our fight or flight response – which causes an increased state of arousal. As a result of this heightened arousal, sleep disruption and insomnia ensue, and this can lead to a vicious cycle of chronic sleep issues,’ explains Ebrahim.
And while dealing with stress is bad enough, an impaired immune system, obesity, high blood pressure, heart failure and strokes are just some of the most serious problems that chronic sleep deprivation can cause. So, if you’re stress levels are impacting your sleep and vice versa now’s the time to make stress management a priority.
Read on to discover our 3 top tips to reduce your stress levels before bed for a better night’s sleep
Lavender is one of the most studied essential oils and is ideal for those of you who find it hard to slow down and switch off when your head hits your pillow. To encourage deeper sleep, spritz some Sleep Better Pillow Mist onto bedding, or swatch the Sleep Better Pulse Point Roller Ball over pulse points just before you want to snooze and it should help slow down the nervous system and decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
Ditch the booze
Your favourite tipple may make you feel relaxed and de-stressed, but while a drink before bed will help you fall asleep more easily, it can actually negatively affect your sleep and hormones. By altering the hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle – aka melatonin – you won’t only have one bad night’s sleep, but you’ll impact your next night’s sleep too. So try a relaxing warm bath and a calming cup of chamomile tea instead.
Breathe away anxiety
Implementing relaxation techniques before bed has been shown to improve sleep, and one of the easiest and most impactful methods is to simply breathe. Slow rhythmic breathing can help calm and relax the body, in turn reducing stress hormones that inhibit all-important melatonin. 4-7-8 breathing is one of the easiest techniques to follow. Simply inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds for a total of five minutes or until you feel more relaxed.
Written by Amerley Ollennu, Beauty and Lifestyle Editor and Brand Consultant.