So, how has your stress level been lately? That’s probably an unnecessary question for most of us in these unprecedented times.
We are worried about our health, our loved ones, our jobs, and how we are going to pay the bills. Every time we think that political rhetoric can’t get more heated up, it does. Every time we get ourselves to a peaceful place mentally, there is some new piece of disturbing news or someone losing their cool that sets us off again.
It all adds up to disturbed sleep. This may look like insomnia, restlessness, or frequent awakenings throughout the night. Our bodies are not getting the deep, restful sleep that they need, and it’s showing.
Restful sleep reduces stress hormones like cortisol, and disturbed sleep has the opposite effect. And it turns into a vicious cycle of continued disrupted sleep and progressively more stressful days.
Tempers and coping skills are spread thinner, minds are not as sharp, motivation is dragging, and carb cravings have spiked. What’s going on?
According to the University of Chicago behavioral neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, poor sleep disrupts the endocannabinoid system, leading to a cascade of effects including disruption of sleep, immune response, and metabolism. This leads to cravings for salty or sweet starchy foods that we call carbs, or commonly, munchies.
Good Sleep Habits
There are a few habits we can look to in order to address this problem:
- Take breaks from the news, especially before bed.
- Try to stay on your normal sleep schedule, even if your normal routine is on hold.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. For some people, this will even include chocolate!
- Prioritize spiritual time, even if your normal worship routine is on hold.
- Make sure your room is dark at night, giving special attention to finding creative ways to cover the lights given off by various charging electronics.
- Prioritize exercise, and look to apps or streaming options for exercise-at-home routines.
- Use meditative breathing strategies to override the stress and adrenaline response in your body. A simple one is to slowly breathe to the count of in-2-3-4, hold-2-3-4, out-2-3-4, hold-2-3-4.
Quality supplements also play a role in getting the deep and restful sleep your body requires.
A simple way to start is with an organic herbal non-caffeinated tea. Chamomile is a favorite choice, and other ingredients to look for include: hops, lavender, catnip, valerian, and lemongrass.
Herbal teas can be a soothing and relaxing ritual, and are a great way to take your supplements!
Make sure that your supplement lineup includes an adaptogen, mother nature’s original stress tamer. Adaptogens help the body to cope with daily stresses, both physical and mental. Look for organic and non-GMO options, including ashwagandha, holy basil (tulsi), turmeric, and boswellia.
It may be time to look into a quality CBD oil if you are not currently using one. This helpful substance works by balancing out both the central nervous system and the limbic system. CBD also helps chronic pain sufferers get a break from their pain and get needed rest.
Do a little research before buying, and look for a full-spectrum CBD that is subject to third-party testing. Buy from a trusted manufacturer, and consult your healthcare practitioner for recommendations and optimal dosing.
And don’t forget the power of essential oils to aid in restful sleep! Diffuse a few drops in purified water in your bedroom, or mix in a carrier oil and apply a few drops to your pillow, behind your ears, or on your temples.
There are several oils that are effective for promoting relaxation and sleep, and they include lavender, orange, bergamot, Roman chamomile, sweet marjoram, cedarwood, and clary sage.
What about melatonin? Research shows that melatonin has a favorable side effect profile and is safe for adults, even in long-term use. It is a good idea to start with a low dose and move up as needed, sticking with the lowest dose that you find effective. Run any questions or concerns by your healthcare provider.
The day will come when life goes back to what we think of as normal again! But today’s stresses will be replaced by new ones, and sleep issues may pose a problem again at some point. Your best bet is to have an arsenal of sleep hacks at your disposal, and use an effective combination to assure you get the best regular and restful sleep possible.