by Andy LaPointe
The first step to coping with stress is to better manage your sleep cycle. According to a survey conducted for Targeted Medical Pharma, 83% of Americans do not get enough sleep. This means only 17% of the entire U.S. population feels rested and ready to conquer the day when they awake. The results of this survey was revealed at the Sleep 2013 conference in June.
So how does getting a poor night’s sleep affect an individual’s ability to cope with the stress of daily life? When dealing with a stressful situation, either real or perceived, your body immediately goes into the primal “fight or flight” mode. Stress does cause physical changes in your body including shallow breath, heightened sense of awareness and the release of adrenaline. All of these changes are preparing your body to immediately run from danger or face the threat head on. Unlike days gone past, when stress was usually caused by being confronted by a predator or other physically harmful situation, today the majority of stress is caused more by non-physical confrontations liking missing a deadline at work or arguing with the kids.
However, since physically fighting or running away with co-workers or your kids wouldn’t be appropriate in today’s modern world, your body still reacts the same way. Thus, if your body’s stress is triggered several times per day and you don’t resolve it, you may end up with chronic stress. Chronic stress is where your body is continually in a “stress-out” state. This makes dealing with simple everyday situations (traffic jams, being late for an appointment, car repair issues, etc.) difficult to deal with and more complex issues, (relationship conflicts, work-related issues, etc.) nearly impossible.
As time passes and stress continues to build, the individual may soon find it difficult to relax. Since relaxation is vital to enjoying a restful night’s sleep, falling asleep and staying asleep becomes more difficult. “Losing sleep” over a real or perceived situation not only makes it difficult to fall back to sleep but an individual may also find themselves waking up several times during the night.
Strategies to Getting a More Restful Night’s Sleep
Several simple strategies are available to get a more restful night’s sleep naturally. The first strategy is to create pre-sleep meditation or night-time rituals. For example, avoid watching television and using electronics (computers, iPad, iPhone, etc.) at least an hour before bed. Electronic devices stimulates brain activity and prevents your mind from slowing down and relaxing, which is vital to falling and remaining asleep. The second strategy would be read a non-business related book to slow the mind prior to going to bed. In addition, avoid alcohol within a few hours of going to sleep.
According the published research in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research drinking alcohol prior to going to sleep increases your chance of waking up during the night. In addition, it has been long known alcohol also reduces REM sleep, thus lowering the overall quality of sleep.
Finally, drink a glass of tart cherry juice before bed. Tart cherries are Mother Nature’s top source of naturally occurring melatonin. One ounce of tart cherry juice concentrate mixed with seven ounces of water delivers over 130ng (nanograms) of melatonin. According to Dr. Russell Reiter from the
University of Texas, to date no other fruit or vegetable has been discovered that provide more melatonin than tart cherries. Dr. Russell Reiter is often referred to as the “Dean of Melatonin” by his peers.
In addition to Dr. Reiter’s work on tart cherries, in 2010 Dr. Wilfred Pigeon a researcher at the University of Rochester conducted sleep research with tart cherry juice, too. The results of the research showed the participants who drank the cherry juice, slept an average of 17 minutes more. According to Dr. Pigeon, ‘Given the side-effects of some medications, it is encouraging to have a natural alternative.’
So the next time stress and anxiety are preventing you from getting a better night’s sleep, create a nightly ritual, avoid drinking alcohol and enjoy a glass of tart cherry juice each night before turning in.
Image Credit: Jöshua Barnett