Article from guest author at sleephelp.com about helping your stress, better sleep hygiene and acupuncture.
Decrease Stress with Acupuncture and Better Sleep Habits
While modern life is full of conveniences and perks like the ability to look up information from a device held in the palm of your hand, it also comes with high stress levels. Stress often causes sleep problems, which, ironically, only magnifies the effects of stress. There are natural ways to reduce stress like acupuncture or melatonin supplements. When used in conjunction with good sleep habits, you can manage stress and more fully enjoy your daily life.
When You Need Stress and When You Don’t
Stress serves an important purpose—survival. You feel stressed when your body perceives danger, which then causes it to release adrenaline and cortisol. Together, these hormones give you the ability to run faster and make split-second decisions to save your life. Once the danger has passed, your hormone levels are designed to return to normal. However, if you’re experiencing chronic stress, your adrenaline and cortisol levels stay abnormally high even when you’re not in physical danger.
Chronic stress often leads to sleep deprivation, creating a continuing cycle wherein one triggers the other. Sleep deprivation causes the emotional center of the brain to become more sensitive to negative stimuli. At the same time, the activity in the reasoning area of your brain goes down. That means that stressful situations seem even more stressful when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Consequently, you get less sleep because you’re even more stressed.
Common methods for treating both sleep deprivation and stress can actually make the situation worse rather than better. Drinking caffeine to stay awake after a stress-induced sleepless night affects the release of cortisol. Others may reach for an alcoholic drink to relax, but alcohol also increases the production of cortisol and, once again, stress levels go up.
Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can lead to:
- Memory problems
- Digestive problems
- High blood pressure
How Acupuncture Can Help
Your health, relationships, and work life can all improve as you learn to manage stress long-term. Acupuncture has been used for hundreds of years to treat any number of conditions, including stress and sleeplessness. As a natural form of therapy, it connects both mind and body by helping to regulate the nervous system without the use of drugs. A natural treatment like acupuncture doesn’t have the harmful side effects often associated with medications like memory damage, drug resistance, or addiction.
When it comes to stress relief, acupuncture can be used to help the mind and body relax. That relaxing effect reduces stress and anxiety, making it less overwhelming. As you relax, it becomes easier to get the solid seven to eight hours of sleep you need. But, acupuncture does more than relieve anxiety. It has also been found to increase the nighttime release of melatonin, a powerful sleep-inducing hormone. The more sleep you get, the easier it becomes to regulate your emotional response to stressful situations.
Getting Better Sleep
The quality and quantity of your sleep are affected by far more than the habits surrounding your bedtime, although those are important. Everything you do throughout the day can come back to enhance or disrupt your sleep.
Start by taking a look at the environment in your bedroom. Your bedroom should be solely devoted to the two main purposes of the room—sleep and sex. Your mattress should support your preferred sleep position and prevent wakefulness due to discomfort. At night, the room should be as dark as possible with the temperature between 60 to 68 degrees, allowing the body temperature to drop at the onset of sleep.
With the right sleep environment, it’s time to take a look at the habits in your life that can help (or hinder) your sleep quality.
Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule: The body runs on regular 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms that control your sleep-wake patterns. Consistent bed and wake times support these rhythms and help the brain know when to release sleep hormones. Try to keep your regular bedtime and wake time on the weekends to prevent yourself from falling into sleep debt on Monday morning.
Bedtime Routine: Bedtime routines help trigger the brain to release sleep hormones. They also give you a chance to relieve stress and tension that may have built throughout the day. A good bedtime routine can consist of anything that leaves you calm and relaxed. Meditation, reading a book, or warm bath are just a few ideas of what a bedtime routine could include.
Eat Smart and Healthy: A well-balanced diet is always a good decision. But, when it comes to the quality of your sleep, it can have a big effect. Regularly timed and spaced meals contribute to the timing of your circadian rhythms. Eating an early, light dinner helps prevent digestive problems before bed. If you need a late night snack, try eating foods like bananas, almonds, and dairy products that promote the production of melatonin.
Regular Exercise: Like eating healthy, regular exercise has many benefits for the mind and body. When it comes to sleep, it helps wear out your body, so you’re more tired at night.
Exposure to Natural Light: Natural light signals the brain to release sleep hormones. Spend as much time as possible in natural light. Try using your regular exercise as an excuse to get some sunshine.
Avoid or Limit Screen Time: The bright blue light from electronics can suppress the release of melatonin. For that reason, some electronics have a setting that reduces blue light. If your devices don’t have this feature, try shutting off your screens at least two to three hours before bedtime.
Consider Supplements: Melatonin supplements can be bought over-the-counter. They are usually taken about an hour before bedtime, and many people find them an effective way to make themselves feel sleepier at night.