Stress can cause any number of changes in sleep patterns from not being able to get to sleep to disturbed sleep or waking up too early. Generally people who are suffering from stress often find it difficult to sleep; their minds may be overloaded and feel they are unable to switch off and relax. Stressed individuals may find themselves re-playing the day’s events or tomorrows dealings over in their minds, thinking they should have done something differently or establishing what they are going to do next.
Sleep is one of the most important processes that the human body goes through in order to function at its optimum. Sleep deprivation has been scientifically linked to an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).
Some research has examined the relationship between being in tune with circadian rhythms or the ‘internal biological clock’ and health. Melatonin is one of the hormones within the body that effects whether a person feels alert or tired and ready to sleep. Melatonin is regulated by light. During daylight hours, the production of melatonin is inhibited, this means, a person will feel alert and be able to function with precision. During the night when there is no sun light, the body will produce the melatonin hormone. This makes a person feel tired, relaxed and naturally induces sleep. Although every person is individual it is ‘natural’ for humans to need to sleep in hours of darkness specifically between around 9:30 at night and 6:30 in the morning with slightly less sleep needed in summer months.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce stress, relax and promote sleep. Taking a warm bath with essential oils such as lavender and drinking calming teas such as camomile have both been found to aid sleep and stress management.
Insomnia could also be a symptom of other illnesses such as thyroid dysfunction; this and other diagnosis can be ruled out by a simple blood test taken by a doctor. Alternatively changes in sleep patterns may be an indication of a mental disorder such as anxiety or depression. It is advisable that if insomnia is having a significant impact on day to day activities that a doctor should be consulted.