Sleeping With Stress: How Anxiety & Uncertainty Affect Our Sleep

June 30, 2020

Sleeping With Stress: How Anxiety & Uncertainty Affect Our Sleep

In this article:

  • Phases of the sleep & your hormones
  • Lack of sleep & your health
  • Disrupted sleep & stess levels
  • What are "Pandemic dreams" all about?
  • The impact of high cortisol levels on sleep quality
  • Master antioxidant - Glutathione
  • Glutathione for improved sleep & cognition

Sleep is so much more than physical rest after an exhausting day. True, it’s the time for our body to release all its tension and recuperate strength, and it is an absolutely vital part of physical recovery - especially if you’re highly active. However, sleep is more than these factors alone. In addition to rest and recovery, we dream. Our dreams are a playing field for our emotions, memories, and experiences; the intensity of which may drastically affect the quality and longevity of our sleep.

How many times have you woken up feeling even more tired than the previous day? It is often during times of uncertainty, such as during the coronavirus pandemic we’ve been experiencing, that our dreams can become more vivid than usual. In case you’re experiencing nightmares, or you find yourself waking up often during the night, stress probably accounts for the majority of your sleeping troubles - and it’s completely normal!

However, since we’re never keen on compromising our beauty sleep, let’s see how supplementing with all-natural Reduced Liposomal Glutathione can help you get the good night’s sleep you truly deserve after a long day.

Defining Sleep

Have you ever wondered how the body puts itself to sleep and what makes us want to sleep in the first place, apart from just being tired? There are neurotransmitters affecting different groups of nerve cells in the brain which trigger our sleepiness, so it is safe to say that we aren’t entirely in control of this process. These sleep-managing neurotransmitters are norepinephrine and serotonin, which are in charge of specific parts of the brain in our awake state. On the other hand, a chemical called adenosine is responsible for the feelings of sleepiness and drowsiness that gradually progress during the day.

Although we may perceive sleep as a linear process, it actually consists of different stages in which sleep gradually progresses or becomes deeper. During stage one, we are not actually firmly asleep. In this phase we can still be easily awoken. Also, sudden muscle contractions are often commonplace, which is why many of us tend to experience the sensation of falling.

It is during stage two that our eye movements cease, and our brain waves aren’t as active. What proceeds in stage three are delta waves - slow brain waves periodically interrupted by some faster and shorter waves. Once we enter stage four, we are officially in a deep sleep phase, as our brain produces only delta waves, and eye movements and muscle contractions stop altogether.

But when do these vivid, movie-like dreams occur? The sleep phase known as REM sleep is characterized by rapid breathing, increased heart rate and pressure, eye muscle movement, and limb muscle paralysis. The first wave of REM sleep occurs 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, and as the night progresses, these cycles become longer. The majority of sleep time is spent in stage 1, 2, and REM sleep.

How are our daily lives affected by sleep quality?

What is the optimal amount of sleep you should get each night? It’s a highly debated question. According to the American Sleep Association, sleep requirements depend upon numerous factors, including activity and age. For instance, infants should get around 16 hours of sleep a day, while for teenagers, a 9-hour-sleep is considered sufficient. However, for most adults, 7-8 hours of sleep on the average is considered to be the quantity that provides the highest level of productivity and rest. Needless to say, every individual should develop their own optimal sleep routine and adjust it to their needs and activities.

Yes, we need sleep to rest and recover from the previous day, but what makes it so essential in our lives? Aside from the obvious, sleep is a matter of survival for humans, as sleep deprivation greatly affects the functions of our immune system first and foremost. What’s more, sleep is required for optimal nervous system functioning, as sleep deprivation could lead to serious issues including malfunction of cellular functions, and loss of energy in neurons. Furthermore, poor sleep may also result in hallucinations and drastic mood swings.

If you’re physically active or trying to be, a lack of sleep will no doubt interfere with your fitness goals & energy, as sleep deprivation has been linked to both weight management issues and obesity, a study conducted by F. P. Cappuccio suggests. More specifically, a lack of sleep has also been linked to poor appetite regulation during the day. Quality sleep is also one of the main prerequisites for optimized physical performance, especially when it comes to accuracy, speed, as well as mental well-being, a study including basketball player subjects concludes.

When it comes to the way our minds function, sleep has serious implications. It’s no wonder that we have trouble focusing on daily tasks after a night of restless sleep or a sleepless night altogether. Sleep deprivation is closely linked to brain functions such as cognition, memory, productivity, and overall performance.

Stress Levels & Sleep Quality

Have you noticed a shift in your sleeping patterns recently? Changes in our sleep are often linked to stress levels in our daily lives. Pressures from work, family life, or finances often signal drastic changes in our daily routines and can often be a burden too heavy to carry. In particular, a stressful work environment that demands excess hours can have a significant effect on sleep - just when we need to rest the most.

Stress is an underlying issue that affects every single area of our lives, and sleep is no exception. Even though sleep is supposed to be stress-relieving, if we’re stressed during the day - our sleep regimen suffers. What a paradox! Before we get into the natural stress management solutions, let’s talk a bit about the impact of chronic stress on the quality of sleep.

If you find yourself having nightmares, it is very probable that your body is processing the negative experiences you’ve had throughout the day. What’s more, according to an article by Sarah Regan at MindBodyGreen.com, there is even a phenomenon referred to as “pandemic dreams”, explaining the frequent occurrence of unpleasant dreams during the recent period. To make matters worse, stress-triggered sleep troubles may be carried through into the next day, as without a needed dose of rest, you may be more sensitive to stressful situations.

Sleep Disorders & Hormones

Insufficient sleep on a regular basis, especially due to increased stress levels, has been linked to increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the body’s predominant stress hormone, the main function of which is to alert the body of the presence of a potential threat. This stress hormone plays a vital role in inflammation, blood sugar, and blood pressure management, as well as sleep cycle regulation. Experiencing chronic stress may significantly boost cortisol levels, compromising the immune system functions, triggering mental health problems, and causing sleep issues.

The main issue in stress-triggered sleep disorders, including insomnia, seems to be the bidirectional relationship between cortisol levels and sleep quality. Namely, high cortisol levels may be responsible for the development of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia, while sleeplessness has been shown to promote cortisol. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can be short-lived (lasting anywhere between a few days and a few weeks), and chronic (which can last for months).

Another common sleep-related issue, popularly referred to as sleep anxiety, may develop as a consequence of a sleep disorder. Sleep anxiety, or sleep dread, results from the pressure people are feeling when they’re unable to get enough sleep on a regular basis - especially knowing a long, stressful day awaits them. Faced with the reality of insomnia, nightmares, or similar sleeping problems, people begin dreading bedtime. Psychologically, the thought of not getting enough sleep gives them anxiety. And as you can already guess, sleep anxiety forms a vicious circle in which you’re stressing out because you’re not sleeping - but it is the stress from not thinking you might not sleep that is disrupting sleep in the first place. Yikes!

According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep-related consequences of built-up pressure (aside from bad dreams) include overthinking, tension in muscles, shoulder and neck pain, as well as increased heart rate and high blood pressure as common symptoms of anxious moods.

Therefore, if your heart is racing, your thoughts are wrestling, and your dreams are becoming more and more bizarre, it is time to employ some relaxation techniques around your sleep habits. Bedtime rituals are different for every single one of us. It can be playing your favorite music, trying breathing exercises, or even incorporating sleep medication (which requires the expertise of a health professional - even if it's natural). However, we also need to consider the way that nutrition impacts sleep quality. When it comes to the levels of the brain’s main antioxidant glutathione, proper nutrition is crucial for a good night’s rest.

Sleep Better with Glutathione

Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and a supplement you definitely want to have on your nightstand. Before diving into its sleep-optimizing effects, let’s talk a bit about its general role in our health. Known as the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione is present throughout the cellular system - in every single living cell, to be exact. It is a naturally manufactured antioxidant which has been found to combat free radicals, promoting the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Furthermore, supplementing with glutathione has been shown to reduce liver cell damage as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, hence the recommendation of high doses of this antioxidant for people giving up alcohol. Given its strong antioxidant properties, glutathione has also been found to play a vital role in male fertility and it’s necessary for the conversion process of thyroid hormones. It’s often used in the management of thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s. Finally, glutathione’s protective role in our health is of the utmost importance when it comes to cognitive functions and overall brain health.

Aside from cognitive functions, glutathione has also been shown to impact other brain functions, including mood and sleep. According to a study conducted by M. Kimura et al., glutathione plays a vital role in sleep regulation, promoting the duration of both REM and non-REM phases of sleep. What’s more, a study conducted by M. Gulec and colleagues found significantly compromised levels of glutathione in patients diagnosed with insomnia. Further, a study focused on sleep deprivation confirms the earlier findings, emphasizing the notable decrease in glutathione levels in sleep-deprived individuals.

Glutathione deficiency has also been linked to another kind of sleep disorder called sleep apnea (sleep disordered breathing). Sleep apnea is recognized as one of the most severe sleep disorders, manifested by abrupt changes in breathing rhythm throughout the night. According to a study conducted by S. L. Duffy and colleagues, sleep apnea is commonly diagnosed in older individuals, and it is potentially related to cognitive decline. The study highlights the role of glutathione in the protection against cerebral oxidative stress, which could be the underlying cause of sleep problems such as sleep apnea.

Furthermore, it is important to mention the role of glutathione in mental health and stress management, as we’ve seen how closely related these aspects are related to sleep quality. As stress has been shown to cause oxidative damage in the body, glutathione’s neuroprotective and mood-enhancing properties provide a special importance in stress management.

On the whole, glutathione deficiency appears to be an underlying cause of numerous brain issues, and sleep disorders are no exception. In addition, glutathione’s protective activity is a necessity during stressful times, and not just when it comes to the quality and duration of sleep. By protecting brain cells from oxidative stress, you’re optimizing your cognitive functions and creating a solid foundation for a healthy sleeping regime. Interested in more all-natural supplementation? See the full selection in our online store.

Summary Points

  • Neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin are in charge while we're awake, while adenosine triggers the feelings of sleepiness and drowsiness.
  • The sleep process consists of different phases. The REM sleep stage is when our most vivid dreams occur.
  • 7-8 hours of sleep on average is considered healthy for adults.
  • A lack of sleep has been linked to numerous health issues, including loss of energy, impaired cognitive functions and obesity.
  • Stress is a great factor in sleep quality. It can be the cause of sleep disorders such as insomnia.
  • Glutathione is a primary nutrient in many vital processes, including protection against free radical damage.
  • Glutathione exhibits significant neuroprotective and mood-enhancing properties, promoting sleep quality and cognitive functioning.

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Article References

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  3. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062
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  5. Mah, C. D., Mah, K. E., Kezirian, E. J., & Dement, W. C. (2011). The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Sleep, 34(7), 943–950. https://doi.org/10.5665/SLEEP.1132
  6. Weinstein, N., Campbell, R. & Vansteenkiste, M. Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams. Motiv Emot 42, 50–63 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9656-0
  7. Having Weird Dreams Lately? You Can Blame The Pandemic. (2020, April 11). Retrieved May 29, 2020, from mindbodygreen website: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/dreams-during-covid-19
  8. 3 Bodily Signs That You’re Too Stressed to Sleep—and How to Unwind. (2017, July 27). Retrieved May 29, 2020, from Sleep Foundation website: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/3-signs-youre-too-stressed-sleep-and-how-unwind
  9. Breus, D. M. (2020, March 25). Cortisol and its Effects on Your Sleep. Retrieved from Your Guide to Better Sleep website: https://thesleepdoctor.com/2020/03/24/cortisol-and-its-effects-on-your-sleep/
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