This week I will be following up on my post from November on Adrenal Fatigue, as well as connecting to my post from September about Sleep. If you are like me, stress, fatigue, and poor sleep are a daily fact that you are trying to ignore. However, understanding what is contributing to these issues may enable us to better manage and reduce the effects of this chronic problem. All of us have stressors, but each person deals with and reacts to stress differently. Also, insomnia can include the inability to fall asleep, the inability to stay asleep, or even difficulty getting into a deep sleep cycle. And both of these can contribute to feeling of fatigue, malaise, and depression.
In an article from Designs for Health, researchers look at the connection between stress and insomnia. They emphasize that there is a strong correlation and that it is “… increasingly difficult to know which issue to address first.” People living with both stress and fatigue (often due to insomnia) is becoming more and more common in our modern world. So, what is causing this and what can we do about it?
In this article, the writers provide some updated information about the, “… the phenomenon formerly known as adrenal fatigue.” Clarifying that the associated chronically high catecholamine levels and insufficient restoration of energy are now being described as part of “… the vicious cycle of stress and insomnia, stemming from the more modern concept of HPA dysfunction.” They go on to describe how activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system lead to insomnia. Various physiological and emotional stressors can trigger the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which initiates this activation.
This stress/ insomnia relationship is not one-sided either, the effect goes both ways:
“Not only can we blame stress for difficulties in sleep patterns, but conversely, we can blame insomnia for increased HPA activity. Every 90 minutes our body cycles through light sleep (stages 1 and 2), followed by deep, slow-wave sleep (stages 3 and 4), and REM sleep. Deep, slow-wave sleep is where energy restoration occurs and the sympathetic nervous system shuts down in favor of calm, parasympathetic activity. Glucocorticoid levels also decrease during deep, slow-wave sleep. Glucocorticoid levels begin to rise again about an hour before you awake and ultimately act to terminate sleep, peaking about 30 minutes after arousal.”
I ware a Fitbit watch which, among other things, tracks my sleep (including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep). I have noticed that I average between 45 and 75 minutes of deep sleep per night, where I should be getting between 90 and 110 minutes of deep sleep (according to what I could find online). This means I am getting half of the deep sleep I need on the low end and 68% on the high side. Given that these problems compound each other I think I need to do something about it. Read the full article below for their take on what to do (Warning, Designs for Health is a manufacturer of supplements, so that is their solution. They do make great products though, and while I don’t sell them, I am willing to help you order them at a discount, should you be interested.):
P.S. a couple of practical things that might help:
- Engage in some physical activity each day to reduce your stress.
- Disengage from electronic devices an hour before going to bed (blue light can promote insomnia).
- Expose yourself to red light just prior to going to bed (red light helps promotes sleep).
- Keep a lavender plant in your bedroom or use lavender oil before going to bed (lavender reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, levels in the blood.)
- Confide in someone about your troubles and problems. Often, just talking about issue with someone you trust and who will listen can ease your mind about things.