Updated: Mar 15
Do you roll out of bed in the morning feeling like you haven’t slept a wink and immediately become overwhelmed and rushed with the items on your impending to-do list? Do you fall back into bed at night exhausted but only to toss and turn while you’re supposed to be sound asleep because you are thinking about all of the things on the next day’s to-do list? You may feel exhausted, but your mind is racing and just won't shut down to allow you to rest.
Physical and mental restoration only occurs when you are consistently getting the appropriate amount of quality, deep sleep. For adults, this means 7-9 hours every night.
Disruption to your sleep worsens your ability to cope with stressors and anxiety, it lowers your immunity and also lowers your energy levels. The stress hormone, cortisol, rises when you are getting less sleep creating the vicious cycle of feeling more stressed, getting less sleep, more stress, less sleep and so on.
Chronically elevated stress levels make it harder for you stay healthy. The results of stress creep up slowly over time and can show up as weight gain, hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, mood disorders and can eventually lead to the major chronic disease issues that are becoming more and more common in recent times. Unresolved, chronic stress is also a major factor in gut health which is the basis for the health of the rest of your body.
Stress literally kills.
In addition, a lack of sleep is linked to an increase in inflammation which depletes your energy in the long run. Sleep is one of the most important factors in your overall health and wellness. You need sleep for energy, immunity and optimal function of your body.
If you are stressed and tired but can't sleep...here's why
Not being able to fall asleep at night is due to a maladaptive stress response that actually alters chemicals in your body knocking it completely out of balance, or homeostasis. You eventually become emotionally addicted to those chemicals.
Cortisol and melatonin are hormones that need to be in balance in order for you to be awake during the day and sleepy at night. A chronic maladaptive stress response alters these hormone levels that dictate the sleep/wake cycle. When this happens, your body and cycles are out of balance and you will not be getting the deep, restorative and healing sleep that you need.
You can survive like this for a short period of time, most likely not noticing it too much, but in the long term you will eventually start feeling the effects of the stress/lack of sleep cycle.
Why is melatonin important?
When the stress hormone, cortisol, is high then melatonin levels are low. In order for your sleep/wake cycle to work appropriately, you want your cortisol levels to rise in the morning while melatonin lowers and vice-versa in the evening when it is time to sleep. This can, however, get of balance if high levels of stress cause cortisol levels to stay elevated in the evening when melatonin needs to be stepping in to do it's job and help you fall asleep.
Benefits of healthy melatonin levels:
Improves metabolism of carbohydrates
Stops the secretion of cortisol
Allows for deep sleep
Inhibits atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries)
Stimulates antioxidant activity
Helps DNA repair and replication
Lowers triglyceride levels
Heightens the immune response
Try adding melatonin-rich foods like Bing cherries, bananas, ginger, tomatoes and radishes into your diet instead of supplementation. Also starting your day with natural sunlight as soon as you wake up can help balance melatonin and cortisol levels.
Effects of a Lack of Sleep
High stress hormones affect your mitochondria and prevent them from producing the energy that you need to feel good. Being in a chronic state of stress, or a fight or flight mode instead of a rest and digest mode, over time wears down your body, creates a burden on your metabolism and then creates systemic inflammation which is a cause of chronic fatigue.
A lack of adequate sleep is linked to:
A decreased attention span
Low energy levels
Increased weight gain
Higher risk for chronic diseases
Manage your stress and optimize your sleep
Stress management and sleep optimization go hand in hand if you want to feel energized and to stay healthy. It is necessary to essentially break the maladaptive stress response by repeatedly and consciously practicing stress management and relaxation techniques. This in turn allows you to get deep, restorative sleep, have energy and feel great during the day.
While stress in life is normal, too much stress is dangerous if you are not able to respond appropriately. This may mean evaluating the stress in your life and developing ways that work for you to handle it.
Stress can be in the form of emotional stress, poor gut health and digestion issues, poor diet, lack of sleep, environmental toxins, relationship issues and much more. It is pretty much unavoidable in our day to day lives. Nobody is immune.
Chronic stressors eventually drive us to exhaustion.
For this reason, stress management must be a DAILY top priority, every single day! It is important for everybody to take some time to themselves, practice self-care and focus on managing stress. Learn what techniques work best for you to manage your stress and increase your resilience.
Examples of simple stress management techniques to use before bed:
Soaking in Epsom salts
Using lavender essential oil
Removing the largest source of your stress or reframing what causes you stress in your life, allows you to refocus your perception, regain empowerment and take back your energy.
What can you start doing today to manage your stress so that you can sleep well at night?
If it feels impossible to turn off your to-do list from running through your head when you are trying to fall asleep, grab this free guide with 5 steps you can take tonight to shut down your busy mind and get a good night's sleep:>
I'm here to help! Want to learn how to go from exhausted to energized and start living your life without the fatigue? Schedule a free 30-minute call:>
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About the Author
Kristi Ryan is the founder of Kristi Ryan Holistic Nutrition and the creator of the Abundant Energy Method for Busy Women. As a holistic nutrition and health coach specializing in energy wellness she supports, educates, motivates and empowers busy women with nutrition, mindset and lifestyle transformation using her proven methodology to bring abundant energy and vitality into their lives.
Disclaimer: The information I share is for general information only and is not intended to replace medical advice. I do not diagnose, treat or cure disease, prescribe treatments or medications, or recommend medical treatment or surgery. You should speak to your physician prior to making any changes to your diet, lifestyle, exercise or medications or acting on anything you have read or discussed with me. If you don’t, you are doing so at your own risk.