The world has become more aware of mental health problems. In fact, there is an increasing trend of people suffering from these issues, one of which is stress. According to health fund Medibank, the number of stressed Australians increased by about one third in the past ten years. Whether it be triggered by the workplace, in the home, or even by social media, stress is a common condition in modern society, and no one is exempt from the risk of experiencing stress. Let’s better understand what stress is, it’s relation to sleep, and how to de-stress and get better sleep the natural way.
What Is Stress
Stress is a natural reaction of the body to change that demands response. It enables our body to react to stress-related situations, more commonly known as “fight or flight response”. Stress is not always negative. Stress can help us avoid danger by keeping us alert. Adrenaline is released, and a hormone called cortisol triggers the release of glucose that causes a burst of energy. Stress becomes negative when it is prolonged. This is called “distress”. It has negative health effects, physically and mentally. This includes headaches, an upset stomach, menstrual problems and sexual dysfunction, as well as anxiety and depression, and panic attacks. Moreover, prolonged stress can also worsen diseases including fatal ones.
There are two types of stress. One is acute stress, a short-term type of stress needed to manage dangerous situations. The other is chronic stress, which lasts for weeks to months, and is caused by serious stressors. How do we know if we experience stress? If you’re experiencing insomnia or bad sleep, fatigue, irritability, shortness of breath, craving for sweets, and loss of libido, you may already be stressed. Moreover, signs of chronic stress include diarrhea or constipation, pains, weight loss or gain, and forgetfulness/lack of focus. All these mentioned symptoms, when experienced after encountering a stressor are most likely signs that you are experiencing chronic stress.
Sleep and Stress
Have you noticed that you find it hard to sleep when you’re all stressed out? Or perhaps you are more stressed when you have lack of sleep. Sleep and stress are highly related. Lack of sleep induces stress. A survey shows 44 per cent of Australians claim that sleep deprivation is a main factor of why they are experiencing stress, so it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep a day to enable the body to relieve stress. On the other hand, stress causes insomnia or disturbed sleep. How does this happen? The state of alertness caused by stress can delay the onset of sleepiness, and can even induce anxiety which keeps one awake or disturbs one’s sleep. Both stress and sleep deprivation have detrimental effects to one’s physical health, so it’s important to manage both since they are closely related.
Understanding stress and sleep deprivation feels very negative. Now let’s move on to the good news: there are actually natural ways to de-stress and improve sleep, at little-to-no cost! Let’s dive into it.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Magnesium for Relieving Stress and Improving Sleep
In our past blog, we’ve mentioned several benefits of this essential mineral. Magnesium, one of the seven essential macrominerals that a person needs in large amounts. It is something that our body does not produce, hence can only be sourced through diet. Magnesium can relieve stress and help you sleep soundly. Magnesium regulates GABA levels. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows brain activity. When GABA is low, the brain is in heightened activity that prevents it from relaxing. That is why Magnesium is often called “nature’s Valium”. Aside from GABA regulation, Magnesium also controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Also, Magnesium’s anti-inflammatory properties addresses brain inflammation, which manifest in the form of anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Lastly, Magnesium increases brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to make new or repair connections between neurons, which is linked to alleviating anxiety.
With all of these being said, Magnesium intake is essential in both relieving stress and improving sleep. Not to mention, Magnesium deficiency also negatively affects the gut, which, as mentioned in our previous blog, is called the “second brain”.
When it comes to essential vitamins, Vitamin B-Complex is our winner in helping you relax and sleep soundly. A research by Swinburne University showed reduced levels of stress with higher Vitamin B Complex. The same study also showed that chronic stress depletes Vitamin B6. But how exactly does Vitamin B relieve stress? A certain group of the complex maintains the health of our nervous system, which is essential in coping with stress.
We can dive into some of the complex to understand their actual effects to our body. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) stabilizes mood, maintains nervous system health, and helps in memory and focus. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) keeps the nervous system calm and stabilizes mood as well. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) also stabilizes mood and controls blood sugar levels. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) makes neurotransmitters and support adrenal function. Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) Support proper brain function and helps mood. Lastly, Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) helps brain function and development, and helps in producing melatonin and serotonin.
Like Magnesium, the Vitamin B-Complex can be found in our diet. Foods rich in Vitamin B include broccoli, nuts and seeds, dairy products, mushrooms, spinach, and fish.
Ashwagandha is an herbal medicine popular in ayurvedic medicine in India. It literally means “smell of horse”, although you will not smell like one when you consume it. However, it is believed to give you the same vigor and energy as a horse. Studies show that Ashwagandha helps in relieving stress and anxiety. Its apoptogenic nature regulates the release of cortisol which, as mentioned, is the hormone that increases when a person is stressed-out. Moreover, Ashwagandha also reduces insomnia.
Now where can we get Ashwagandha? Luckily, we got you covered!
Another herb used in Ayurvedic medicine is the Boswellia. Boswellia is an herb from a tree from India and the Middle East. Its resin is what is extracted to treat inflammation. This happens when Boswellia’s acid inhibits the enzymes responsible for inflammation. This makes the herb perfect for muscle recovery. Boswellia also helps in maintaining a good mood and a sound sleep.
Looking for a product with Boswellia?
Lifestyle Changes to Help you Sleep when You’re Stressed Out
Because stress and sleep are interrelated, it is important to do something about either of the two. An improved sleep relieves stress. The same way, relieving stress enables a person to sleep peacefully. There are natural ways to achieve them. Whether it be changing your lifestyle or consuming foods and herbs rich in certain vitamins and minerals, relieving stress and improving sleep is not a hopeless case. So, are you ready to make a huge difference in your health?