October 14, 2014

Can’t Sleep? Here’s Why & What to Do About it.


Have you ever been stressed, and suffered a bad night’s sleep, only to be so anxious you sleep even less the next night?

You’re not alone, although now we know why.

Technology has turned the lights, the news updates, and the entertainment on 24 hours a day. Television, smart phones, social networking sites, and email all combine to make tuning out the world and getting mental and physical rest at night almost impossible.

However the ever-shortening American sleeping hours are taking a terrible toll on health across the nation, increasing stress, and creating a cycle of anxiety, weight struggles, and sleeplessness.

One night of limited sleep can set you up for days of emotional roller coasters as your body deals with the aftermath. Studies find that young men deprived of sleep for just one night had higher cortisol levels the next day. Since cortisol is a stress hormone that means that the men were more anxious before bed on day two.

Now meet Leptin. You’ve probably never heard of this little-known hormone released by the body’s fat calls, but Leptin is remarkably important, since it suppresses the appetite. When you sleep less, leptin levels fall while ghrelin levels increase. Unsurprisingly, findings show that reduced sleep is linked to a higher BMI.

Guess what? Ghrelin makes you hungry, but it doesn’t stop there.

Research proves that just a week of sleep deprivation in healthy, young subjects leads to a spiked glucose levels.

The American Psychological Association reports that 43 percent of Americans are kept awake each month by their stress, and not sleeping is making 45 percent of adults with already high stress levels even more worried. With so many Americans feeling the pressure and probably experiencing lower leptin levels and ghrelin spikes, it makes sense that 38 percent of polled Americans also overate, usually eating foods that were bad for them.

We can assume they felt guilt about it too.

Stress levels are rocketing with economic troubles and lost job security. However as we become more stressed, we sacrifice our sleep. When we lose sleep, we become more stressed and start eating more foods that are bad for us. Cue more stress.

So what should we do to break the cycle?

Get a good night of rest by turning off all electronic devices, exercise, and institute a set time to relax before bed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the people who slept best are the ones who exercised.

Practicing yoga and breath exercises has been shown to cut the basal heart rate and reduce blood pressure. In an eight-week study, when stressed-out individuals practiced just 12 minutes of yoga and meditation a day they showed decreased stress levels and reduced activity in proteins that cause inflammation. Other studies show that cortisol, a stress hormone, levels fall with yoga practice. Benefits like these mean a calmer mind and body, and hopefully a better night’s rest.

Before bed, try a series of calming postures to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and slow down heart rate. A simple series takes you through Child’s Pose (Balasana), Reclined Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana), Leg’s Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), and Corpse Pose (Savasana).

You may find that when you are well-rested, troubles are easier to handle and junk food isn’t as appetizing.

Use yoga to de-stress, sleep better, and wake up happier.



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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: peasap at Flickr 

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