If you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue one of the most important things you can do to be on your way to recovery is to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately it can be hard even for people without Adrenal Fatigue to be able to fall asleep. Understanding how your stress levels can affect your sleep will go a long way toward being able to sleep well at night. Your stress level is tied to the levels of cortisol in the blood, the more stress the more cortisol. Cortisol is likely what is responsible for disrupting your sleep.
When you are stressed about something it stays with you, it invades your thoughts and refuses to go away. This is especially true at night when there’s nothing to distract you from your stress. You may very badly want to go to sleep, but the stress keeps you up and prevents you from being able to relax.
If you feel “awake and alert” at night then it is likely due to your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is responsible for your body’s reaction to stress. It starts off high in the morning and steadily declines throughout the day. When it is high, your body wants to stay awake and when it is low your body can relax and sleep.
The 5 Stages Of Sleep
There are five stages of sleep and knowing each one is key to understanding your sleep problems better. The first stage of sleep is when you are halfway between asleep and being awake. You are still semi-conscious so that your arms and legs will move in response to mental images. Stage one does not have any paralysis of the limbs.
Stage two is when the legs and arms are slightly paralyzed. Stage three and four are considered the deep sleep stages where all of the rejuvenation of your body takes place. It is essential to feeling awake, refreshed and happy that you spend a significant amount of time in these two stages of sleep.
The final stage is the stage where vivid dreams occur, the time that we refer to as rapid eye movement. Individuals with healthy sleep patterns will go through all five stages of sleep in a cycle that lasts about 90 minutes.
Ways To Get Better Sleep
- Allow Yourself Time To Sleep
If you feel tired and you have that groggy, listless feeling, it is your body’s way of telling you that you need sleep. Now you may have come to the idea that you are too old for naps but if you start feeling that worn down during the day, you may just need one. Getting that nap, even if it is a short one will help your body recover and keeps the cortisol levels at a normal rate. If you just put through that fatigue and keep going, then it causes your body to produce even more cortisol, which is exactly what your body does not want.
Even if you only have a few minutes and you can’t really take a long break, lay down. You will get more benefit to your adrenal glands if you lay down, than if you try to rest while remaining upright. You may have a hard time finding a place where you can lay down at work, but the benefits will definitely be worth the effort. If you can’t find a place at work to lay down, you could also consider going to your car for some shut-eye.
Some of the most important sleep you will get is between the hours of 7 am and 9am, so it is important that you get this sleep if your schedule allows for it, if you want to recover from your Adrenal Fatigue. Your body especially likes to sleep during these hours because it gives your adrenal glands a chance to rest, allowing for your cortisol levels to rise. Usually cortisol levels rise quickly from 6:00 AM to about 8:00 AM, but quite typical in Adrenal Fatigue, these levels do not rise as high and/or drop faster than usual. Additionally, if your cortisol levels are lower, as is the case with Adrenal Fatigue, it takes longer to feel fully awake in the AM. You should always try and sleep when your body is telling you to, there is a reason why it is telling you to sleep.
You should be in bed sometime between 9pm and 10pm. If you like staying up late this may be hard for you, but getting enough sleep is essential to adrenal recovery. So you want to sleep between 10pm to 9am if possible. This may seem like a lot but it will speed up your adrenal recovery if you have the right amount of sleep cycles every night.
What Does Cortisol Have To Do With Sleep?
You may be surprised of just how much cortisol affects your sleeping habits. Cortisol is released when your body feels stress, it is what gives the body the ability to respond to whatever is causing the stress. However, if you are always feeling stressed or if cortisol is being released at the wrong times, it can cause major disruptions in your sleep patterns. It can create a never ending cycle because if you do not get enough sleep or you do not get good quality sleep, it can release even more cortisol into the body.
For a normal cortisol cycle, you would have high levels in the morning and low levels at night. The high levels in the morning help you wake up and then the low levels at night help you to fall asleep. Your body will also release differing levels of cortisol throughout the day as a response to stressful situations. If there is too much cortisol in the body at night when you are trying to sleep you will find your body being unable to rest and settle down. It may even cause you to wake up at night and be unable to fall back asleep.
There are a number of things that can cause your cortisol levels to rise at night. Try to avoid the following causes of elevated cortisol to reduce feeling stressed at night which will help you to sleep like a rose.
If you have so many things that you need to get done during the day or that you feel you need to get done every day, it may be preventing you from getting enough time to relax the body for sleep. Try to avoid any long term over-scheduling issues so that you can sleep.
- Overconsumption Of Caffeine
Coffee may be that force which gets you through the day and helps you feel full of energy but it may very well disrupt your sleep. If you sip coffee throughout the day, especially into the early evening, it can prevent you from being able to fall asleep.
It is best if you do not drink anything containing caffeine 6 hours before your bedtime. Try switching to a decaf option at night or stop drinking coffee altogether. This also holds for caffeine containing beverages and chocolate, because they too act as stimulants.
- Try To Avoid Thinking About Work
If you go to bed every night thinking about how to solve problems at work it can lead to anxiety which can cause you to just spend the night overthinking about work. So try and avoid thinking about projects you might be stressed out about right before bed. You should also try not to take on more work than you can handle or ask for help if you need it.
Some people may keep waking up between 01.00 and 03.00 am. Your liver may then be lacking the glycogen reserves needed for conversion by the adrenal glands to keep the blood glucose levels high enough during the night. If blood glucose levels fall low, hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) symptoms could wake you during the night.
This is often the case if you experience panic or anxiety attacks or nightmares at night. To help counteract this have one or two bites of a snack that contains protein, unrefined carbohydrate, and high quality fat before going to bed.
So What Can You Do?
The biggest and most important thing to do is stop ignoring the signals your body is sending. Obviously it is hard to get a break or take a nap while you are at work, but you really need to try and find a way to get your rest when you feel you need it. Getting better sleep and recovering from Adrenal Fatigue will reap far more benefits on your productivity than ignoring sleep will.
Good news if you cannot have any shut eye at work – a study conducted by the University of Connecticut revealed that taking 2 minute breaks 4 times a day has the same calming effect as 15 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation sessions.
Here is a challenge for you while at work:
If you are a night owl and you like to stay up late then you know all about the second wind you might get late at night. You are actually experiencing what is known as an inverted cortisol cycle where your cortisol levels are rising at night instead of in the morning. That second wind means you have stayed up too late. Once you start listening to your body, napping and sleeping in when your body wants to, you will stop the irregular cortisol cycles. As your body gets the rest you need, your body will only release cortisol when it is supposed to. This will lead to much better sleep and much more regular sleep over time. This happens because all that sleep is happening at times when your adrenal glands need a break. As you rest your body works to restore your adrenal glands and reduces the amount of cortisol released due to sleep-deprivation and stress. Then eventually there will be less cortisol in your body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
There are also a few supplements that you might find helpful on your path to better sleep. You can take 500mg of magnesium at night because it has been shown to help the body relax and enter deep sleep. Magnesium has also been shown to be beneficial to people with adrenal issues. Another supplement, GABA can also help you sleep because it has been shown to reduce stress and stop anxious thoughts that may be running through your mind. If stress is keeping you awake or waking you up at night GABA can be very beneficial.
Other Tips For Good Sleep
If you cannot find an immediate solution to your sleep issues then there are still a few things you can do to help you sleep while you try and reduce the stress in your life.
There is evidence which suggests that breathing in the scents of plants or their oils can help calm the body from feelings of stress and anxiety. There are also herbal teas with lavender, vanilla and chamomile that can have similar effects.
You can try different herbs and forms to find what works best to calm your stress for the short term so that you can sleep.
For this step you want to be comfortable in your bed with no distractions. Just lie still and start by relaxing the muscles in your head. Imagine your head just melting into the pillow. Once your head is relaxed, work your way down through the rest of the body. If you reach your feet and some parts of your body have become tense again, just go back over those areas.
There are people who are light sensitive and watching TV or looking at a computer screen keeps their melatonin from rising and inducing sleep. Normally, the pineal gland, a pea-size organ in the brain, begins to release melatonin a couple of hours before your regular bedtime. Melatonin reduces alertness and makes sleep more inviting. Light can keep the pineal gland from releasing melatonin, thus warding off sleepiness. So if you experience difficulty going to sleep and usually are staring at a TV or computer screen late at night, try having an 8:00 PM limit on these visual stimuli.
Sometimes it helps finding solutions to your problems if you write them down. So take a moment and write down the things that are causing you stress. Try and write down the possible solutions. If you find that this calms you and makes you feel more prepared for the next day, you can add it to your nightly routine. By thinking through your problems clearly and finding possible solutions, it may prevent overthinking and anxiety when you are trying to sleep.
Before going to bed you could watch or read something funny. Laughing will decrease the production of cortisol and allow your levels to decline. Laughing can also promote the release of relaxation hormones which can help you sleep.
Just clear your mind of all thoughts that you have. An easy way to do this is just picture a blank wall. Picture it painted in whatever color you enjoy and that will likely calm you. If you mind starts to wander just keep going back to thinking about the wall.
Make sure to get enough physical exercise during the day. Try to alternate the kinds of exercises you do, the intensity or when you exercise. Exercise is not just limited to sports. Walking, vacuum cleaning, taking the stairs are all excellent ways to increase your activity.
While it probably won’t make you fly it will probably help you sleep, and then you can dream of flying. If you are thinking about happy thoughts of moments when you were relaxed and happy it will instantly make you feel better. So try and remember your favorite thoughts before going to bed.
If you are not getting enough sleep it can affect other areas of your life. It can cause health problems, relationship problems, work problems and it can lead to emotional issues as well. You should learn about your stressors and understand how to avoid them so that you can get your good night’s sleep. Feeling well rested and ready to take on the new day really helps reducing your overall stress.
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