Stress is an unavoidable part of life.
But whether it’s money worries, relationship problems or the drumbeat of chaos in the news, when you’re stressed it can ruin your sleep.
And stress and poor sleep combined can leave you feeling tired, sick and lousy.
The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can help get this troublesome duo of health wreckers under control.
Since chronic stress often leads to poor sleep, we'll start there.
I'm sure you're familiar with that feeling of overwhelm when your to-do list seems endless... And your inbox is overflowing with unread messages.
Well, all that stress can trigger a release of cortisol.
Cortisol, your stress hormone, can suppress immune function over time. So not only are you frazzled and anxious... You're also more likely to get sick and have a harder time fighting off infections.
Feeling frazzled and anxious can also keep you awake at night… your mind racing... stewing on all the things you need to solve or do.
You can then face night after night of low-quality sleep...
Which leaves you even less equipped to deal with the next day's stress. And so the nasty, health-harming cycle continues.
Now let's explore how poor sleep impacts your immune health:
When you sleep, your body produces cytokines. These are proteins that help fight off infection and inflammation. Without adequate sleep, your body produces fewer cytokines, leaving you vulnerable to illness.
So not only are you feeling:
But you're also less equipped to fight off those pesky germs!
And the fun doesn't stop there... Together, chronic stress and poor sleep can impact your longevity due to:
Increasing your risk of developing illness such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer1
Triggering immune-compromising inflammation throughout your body1
Leading to other health issues, such as depression and anxiety2
So not only are you exhausted and stressed out, but you're also at risk for some serious health issues.
Which begs a very important question:
What can you do to support your immune health?
The clues are in what we've already talked about...
That means reducing your stress levels... Whether through meditation, yoga, creating art, being outdoors, or deep breathing exercises.
Note that everyone finds stress relief in different activities and practices. So you might have to do some self-exploration to find what helps you unwind.
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day is a crucial first step. I also suggest:
- No caffeine after midday
- Creating a calm, cool, comfortable sleep environment
- Shutting down all screens 60-90 minutes before bedtime
Exercise, the foods you eat, and supplementation can support your immune system too.
Less stress > Better Sleep > Happier, Healthier Life
As you can see, chronic stress and poor sleep can have a BIG negative impact on your immune health.
So do yourself a favor and focus on improving your sleep quality and stress management. This will help you to feel more energetic, mentally sharper and more capable of handling whatever life throws at you.