Stress & Sleep
Stress and sleep loss are often associated with each other. Most of us have experienced the classic scenario of waking up in the night and struggling to get back to sleep because you’ve started worrying about something you’ve had on your mind.
Almost everyone knows what stress feels like. It can make you feel irritated, worried or anxious and impact your life in many ways. You may feel like you’re unable to switch off and have trouble sleeping. But there are ways you can manage your stress, so you can get a good night’s sleep.
Get a good night’s sleep. People who don’t sleep well at night tend to be more forgetful than people who sleep soundly. A good night’s sleep is essential for consolidating memories. The most common reason for poor sleep is insomnia—difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Unfortunately, many medicines used to treat insomnia can also impair memory and general brain function. That’s why it’s best to try improving your sleep habits first and turn to medication only if those steps don’t help. If you do need sleep aids, use the lowest dose for the shortest time needed to get your sleep back on track.
When you’re asleep, your immune system is usually working hard to protect you. It produces infection-fighting antibodies and cells which are used to fend off bacteria and viruses that stop you from catching illnesses.
There’s a link between your mental health and your immune system. Feeling stressed activates your body’s stress response, starting a number of physiological changes designed to support you with what’s called ‘fight, flight or freeze’. When this happens, you might feel a whole range of sensations as you prepare to deal with the threat. Sensations include:
– a racing heart
– tense muscles
– feeling very alert
Often stress is temporary or short-lived, but if it carries on over days, weeks or even months, the ongoing stress response can negatively affect your immune system. For example, it can increase inflammation in your body which can disrupt how well your immune system works. As a result, this can actually make you more susceptible to illness.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t get the same chance to produce these protective cells, so your body won’t be able to fend off nasty infections and you may be more likely to become unwell.
High blood pressure
People who are sleep deprived may also be at higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Sleep can help your nervous system to remain healthy and regulate stress hormones. So if lack of sleep becomes a problem, it could hurt your body’s ability to regulate these hormones, leading to high blood pressure.
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