How Stress Affects your Sleep

How Stress Affects your Sleep

Stress can impact your life in many ways but how does stress affect your sleep? It’s late at night, you’re lying in bed, worrying and feeling anxious, which makes it almost impossible to turn off your brain, relax and fall asleep. People who suffer from chronic stress find they have poorer sleep quality and find it harder to function during the day.

The science of stress

When you experience a perceived threat your body’s stress response is triggered. As a result, your body will experience physical changes such as shallow breathing and a burst of energy from the release of adrenaline and cortisol. This is sometimes described as the fight or flight response, but it isn’t always the appropriate way to deal with the stresses of modern life.

How does stress affect sleep?

If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. When you enter a deep sleep the brain chemicals tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those stress hormones. When you wake up the next day, you feel more stressed and the following night you might find it harder to fall asleep. The more exhausted you feel, the harder it is for you to focus at work and at home, leading to even more stress. This can make you irritable with friends and family, causing stress over relationships1.

Sleep and Busy People

Busy people may have trouble getting enough sleep because being busy and not devoting 8 hours a night to sleep can trigger the stress response. This can lead to a cycle of stress and trouble falling asleep. It’s important to allow yourself 8 hours for sleep at nighttime, no matter how busy you may be.

Stress, sleep and your health

People who have high, prolonged levels of stress have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, stomach issues, and more. They are also more likely to grind or clench their teeth, which can lead to dental problems. That’s why it’s so important if you feel overly tense, to try different stress relief methods and to make getting plenty of sleep a high priority2.

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What Is Insomnia?

What Is Insomnia?

Have you ever had long periods where you find it difficult to get to sleep? Are you often up late at night counting down the hours until you have to get up? You may be wondering if you have insomnia, but just what is insomnia and how do you overcome this common sleep disorder?

What is it?

Insomnia is a common sleep condition that causes the sufferer to experience difficulty in falling asleep or even staying asleep. People with insomnia tend to have difficulty falling asleep (onset), staying asleep (maintenance), and/or they wake up too early in the morning. Sufferers can experience sleeplessness even when there are ideal conditions for falling asleep and when they are not disturbed1.

What are the symptoms?

  • Feeling as if sleep was unrefreshing.
  • Experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • General lack of energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Mood and behaviour disturbances such as irritability, aggression, and impulsive behaviours.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Decreased performance at work or school.
  • Troubles in personal and professional relationships.
  • Decreased quality of life.
  • Depression2.

How long will it last?

Insomnia is characterized based on the length of time the sufferer experiences sleeplessness.

 Acute insomnia

This often happens because of life circumstances such as bad news, external stressors, anxiety or depression. Many people may have experienced this type of sleep disruption and will find that it tends to resolve without any treatment required.

Chronic insomnia

This is categorised by disrupted sleep that happens at least three nights a week and lasts for at least three months. There are many causes for experiencing chronic insomnia. Changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, other health conditions, and certain medications can all affect our sleep patterns. If you suffer from chronic insomnia you should get in touch with your doctor who can help you restore a healthy sleep pattern3.

What should I do if I think I have insomnia?

If you think you are suffering from insomnia it is important to go to your doctor. You and your doctor will need to talk about things that could impact on your sleep and your sleep history, to therefore determine the best way to help you 4.

Stuff you should know

  • Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders with approximately half of adults report having symptoms of insomnia at one point in their lives.
  • 10% of people have experienced chronic insomnia.
  • It is more likely to occur in women than in men.
  • It is more likely to affect elderly adults.
  • People who are naturally more awake and alert may be more likely to suffer.
  • If you regularly use stimulants and alcohol you may experience it more often.
  • People with poor sleep hygiene practices are more likely to experience the condition.

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Signs you have Asthma

Signs you have Asthma

Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person but what are the signs you have asthma? You may not experience asthma attacks often, or maybe your symptoms flare up at certain times or you may have symptoms all the time.

Asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a cold or the flu

Signs that your asthma is probably worsening include:

  • Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent
  • Increasing difficulty breathing
  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:

  • Exercise-induced asthma, which may be worse when the air is cold and dry
  • Occupational asthma, triggered by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gases or dust
  • Allergy-induced asthma, triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, mould spores or pet allergy caused by pets dander 1.

When is it time to talk to my doctor?

  • Do you think you have asthma? If you have frequent coughing or wheezing or any other signs or symptoms we have covered make an appointment to see your doctor.
  • To monitor your asthma. If you know you have asthma, work with your doctor to keep it under control. Long-term control can help prevent a life-threatening asthma attack in the future.
  • If your asthma symptoms get worse. Contact your doctor right away if your symptoms have started to get worse and your normal medication isn’t helping you. Do not under any circumstances try to solve the problem by taking more medication without consulting your doctor. This can cause side effects and may make your asthma worse.
  • To review your treatment. Asthma can change over time, it’s important to touch base with your doctor to discuss your progress and current treatment options.

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Signs you have Fibromyalgia

Signs you have Fibromyalgia

What are the signs and symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia has many symptoms that tend to vary from person to person. The main symptom is a widespread pain throughout the body.

There may be periods when your symptoms will vary maybe getting worse and then getting better. This can depend on factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Changes in the weather
  • Physical activity

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Widespread Pain
    One of the main symptoms for fibromyalgia is likely to be a widespread pain. This may be felt throughout your body but could be worse in particular areas, such as your back or neck. The pain can feel like an ache, a sharp stabbing pain or a burning sensation.
  • Extreme Sensitivity
    Fibromyalgia can make you extremely sensitive to pain, and you may find that even being touched is painful. If you hurt yourself, the pain may continue for much longer than it normally would. You may also be sensitive to things such as smoke, certain foods and bright lights.
  • Stiffness
    Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff. The stiffness may be most severe when you’ve been in the same position for a long period of time, meaning symptoms can be often worse in the morning. It can also cause your muscles to spasm, which is when they contract (squeeze) tightly and painfully.
  • Fatigue
    Fibromyalgia can cause fatigue. This can range from a mild, tired feeling to severe exhaustion. Fatigue may come on suddenly and can drain you of all your energy. 
  • Poor Sleep
    You may wake up feeling tired, even when you’ve had a good night’s rest. This is because Fibromyalgia can sometimes stop you from sleeping deeply enough to refresh yourself properly. This is often described as “non-restorative sleep.”
  • Cognitive Problems (Fibro-Fog)
    Cognitive problems are issues related to thinking and learning. If you have fibromyalgia, you may have trouble remembering and learning new things, problems with attention and concentration.
  • Headaches
    Due to the stiffness in your back and neck, you may also have frequent headaches. These can vary from mild to severe migraines.

Other symptoms:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Dizziness and clumsiness
  • Feeling too hot or too cold – this is because you’re not able to regulate your body temperature properly
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Tingling, numbness, prickling or burning sensations in your hands and feet
  • In women, unusually painful periods
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

If you are suffering from these symptoms it is important that you contact your GP for proper diagnosis and medical advice1.

Find out more about fibromyalgia here.

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What Causes Fibromyalgia?

We have learnt about the condition, but now we will explore what causes Fibromyalgia.

When your body is in pain, your brain’s the first to know it. Nerve signals travel from the painful spot on your body through your spinal cord to your brain, which interprets these signals as pain. This is a warning sign that something’s wrong. As you heal, the pain gets better, and in time it goes away. But if you have fibromyalgia, you experience this pain even without injury, this pain does not go away and has a lasting impact on your life.

Some doctors believe this is caused by the way your brain and spinal cord handle and interpret pain signals. When you have fibromyalgia you may have more cells that carry pain signals than normal. And you may have fewer cells that slow pain signals down. This means your pain volume is always turned up, like music blasting on a radio. The result is that minor bumps and bruises hurt more than they should. And you may feel pain from things that shouldn’t hurt at all.

Doctors aren’t sure why some people get fibromyalgia. There are many contributing factors that could cause your pain signals to be affected. Different people report different things that seemed to trigger their condition and you can even have more than one cause.

 

Causes:

  • Genetic factors
    Fibromyalgia tends to run in families. Your parents may pass on genes that make you more sensitive to pain. Other genes can also make you more likely to feel anxious or depressed, which makes pain worse.
  • Other conditions
    A painful disease like arthritis or an infection raises your chances of getting fibromyalgia.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    Experiencing traumatic events is also linked to developing fibromyalgia.
  • Gender
    The condition is much more prominent in women than in men. Doctors think this could be related to differences in the way men and women feel and react to pain, as well as how society expects them to respond to pain.
  • Anxiety and depression
    These and other mental health disorders seem to be linked to fibromyalgia, though there’s no proof that they actually cause the condition.
  • Lack of physical activity
    The condition is much more common in people who aren’t physically active. Low impact exercise is one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia to help control the condition and improves symptoms for some patients.

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