Stress: Sleep Deprivation, Disorders and Sleep Apnoea
“Rest well. I sleep peacefully, and I awaken with joy.” Louise L. Hay
Sleep disorders are on the increase in our modern society. Stress is a common factor that causes insomnia or sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes an imbalance in the brain and body, which only gets worse with time.
Alarmingly, approximately 60 million Americans do not get sufficient sleep. Although South Africa doesn’t have accurate sleep disorder statistics readily available, we certainly have statistics confirming our country’s stress related problems. And, since stress and sleep disorders go hand in hand, these statistics are of valid consideration pinpointing the foundation of dysfunctional sleeping patterns, which should not be discounted.
According to a 2013 Bloomberg study, South Africa is the 2nd most stressed country in the world; a mere 0.1% behind Nigeria. Fast track to 2016 with our current stressful economic and political climate, we’re most likely the most stressed country in the world. Additionally, a shocking 49 murders take place daily in South Africa, but a whopping 210 people die every single day in South Africa of heart related diseases, and stress is a major contributor thereof. Furthermore, absenteeism is costing corporate South Africa approx R19 billion annually due to burn out – again, stress is the major culprit.
These statistics are critical indicators of the detrimental impact stress related issues are having upon our lifestyles, individually and collectively. Therefore it is imperative to manage one’s lifestyle and time wisely because quality sleep is crucial for the entire body to recover, restore and revitalise itself after a busy day, and in preparation of the following day’s activities.
It goes without saying, addressing the root cause of one’s stress is vital, and learning adequate stress coping mechanisms are essential. With South Africa’s alarmingly high stress statistics, appropriate stress management and proper coping mechanisms should be taught in every school and every office nationally – these essential life skills should not be neglected.
Quality sleep is one of the most important keys to good health, emotional and physical well being, yet it is one of the first things we neglect when life becomes busy and stressful. Maintaining healthy sleeping patterns and getting sufficient sleep every night of approximately eight hours can alleviate stress. Restless and disturbed sleep is enough to make most people irritable, short tempered, moody and at times weepy. While continued sleep deprivation not only increases health risks, but it can push a person over the edge.
If you have had a stressful day, your mind is racing and you’re unlikely to relax, let alone sleep well, try one or more of the following helpful tips:
- Disconnect from and switch off all tech allowing your mind and body sufficient breathing space and adequate time to unwind naturally. Technology, and especially TV, are stimulants which are counterproductive to reducing stress.
- Kick off your shoes, and take a slow barefoot walk around the garden for approx. 15-30 minutes. Reconnecting with the earth helps to naturally discharge stress while inducing a calm, balanced and grounded state of being. While walking slowly, take some nice deep breaths in and out to activate and stimulate deeper physical and mental relaxation. You could also include practising some gratitude during this quiet meditative space too – gratitude will also help to reduce the day’s stress, and the effects thereof.
- A hot soaking bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil can also help to relax your body and mind before climbing into bed.
- Drinking a few glasses of still water helps keep the body well hydrated whilst also flushing toxins and stress chemicals from the body. Many aches and pains, illnesses and diseases manifest because the body is dehydrated.
- Drinking a cup of herbal tea such as chamomile, valerian, passionflower, lemon balm or green tea may also help to naturally induce a good night sleep. A health shop will give good advice. Alcohol and the caffeine in coffee or energy drinks are stimulants, and can keep you wide awake.
- This simple breathing trick will help switch off a racing mind and knock you out fast. Whilst lying down in bed, cover your right nostril with your fingers or thumb, and breathe through your left nostril for three to five minutes. Left nostril breathing calms the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes and slows you down so you can drop off to sleep naturally. If you would like to relax even deeper, then with each exhale through the left nostril, imagine you are breathing out all tension and stress. You’ll be asleep in no time.
- Sleeping in a pitch dark room is essential for a good night sleep as this stimulates the neurotransmitter serotonin, and the healthy production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleeping well. Both serotonin and melatonin play important roles in our physical and mental well-being. Switching the lights on at night, watching TV, playing games inhibits the production of melatonin, which directly impacts on our ability to sleep well. Watching TV directly before going to sleep is not conducive to getting a restful night’s sleep as the TV stimulates the brain’s activity, which is counterproductive.
Since quality sleep is vitally important for reducing stress, and for our overall health and well being, I’m including an explanation about a condition known as sleep apnoea, which until fairly recently has not been well understood. Interestingly, both sleep apnoea and stress related issues are usually associated with unexplained weight gain. So, if you’ve been struggling to lose those extra kilograms, this knowledge may provide you with an additional benefit!
There is a definite connection between sleep apnoea, sleep deprivation, disturbed sleeping patterns, and of course stress, and thus anger related issues. Why is unresolved stress often the precursor of anger related issues? Typically stress triggers what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response – our ‘fight’ response is therefore associated with anger, which is why stress is the precursor of anger. The two go hand in hand. When sleep deprived we are naturally inclined to become stressed, which then triggers frustration, irritability, and eventually anger. A combination of stress and sleep apnoea is a recipe for disaster, and obviously a serious health hazard too. This vicious cycle can be easily resolved if one understands the effects of sleep apnoea, and how to reverse it.
To fully understand sleep apnoea, I suggest you investigate the correct nose breathing methods of Buteyko Institute Method of breathing training (BIM). Buteyko can help alleviate sleep apnoea, reduce snoring, provide improved ability to cope with stress, a reduction in anxiety or panic attacks – all of which can positively influence, and reduce, anger or aggressive tendencies.
The sleep apnoea information provided below is an extract from this Buteyko website. Sleep apnoea is a condition characterised by ‘stopping breathing’ for more than 10 seconds at a time while asleep, together with reduction in blood oxygen levels. Sleep apnoea is usually diagnosed by a polysomnograph or ‘sleep study’.
Persons with sleep apnoea may display:
- Apnoeas of between 10 seconds and 2 minutes or more
- Snoring (though not always)
- Restlessness, excessive movement/ kicking while asleep (restless legs)
- Mouth breathing
- Dry mouth/throat on waking
- Thirst overnight and/or on waking
- Waking unrefreshed, daytime tiredness, foggy thinking
- Tendency to fall asleep in meetings and in front of the TV
- Breathlessness on exercise
Normal sleep occurs in five stages: Stages 1, 2, 3, 4, & REM (rapid eye movement). Stages 3 & 4 are the most restful and deep sleep. But when a person’s breathing is disordered, they may be prevented from easily reaching these stages and primarily remain in the light and easily disturbed sleep of stages 1 & 2. A person with sleep apnoea has the added difficulty of ‘arousal’ occurring each time an apnoea finishes with a gasping breath which drags the person near to consciousness though often they remain asleep. This explains why it often takes a long time for a person to accept that they have a problem needing investigation, much to the frustration of others!
Disturbed breathing and disturbed sleep go hand-in-hand. Signs of disturbed breathing patterns may be seen in people with sleep apnoea both when they are awake and when they are asleep. These signs and symptoms include mouth breathing, fast and or heavy breathing, excessive yawning, frequent sighing, snoring, erratic or irregular breathing and a predominantly upper chest breathing pattern.
The Buteyko Institute Method of breathing training (BIM) addresses dysfunctional breathing habits through breathing training exercises and through education and awareness of posture, sleeping positions and lifestyle behaviours that influence breathing. The BIM teaches people to recognise their incorrect breathing patterns/habits, and teaches them how to improve their breathing which may assist with improving sleep patterns.
Should you require assistance to reduce your stress related issues or sleep apnoea, please contact me via my website ‘contact’.
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