Fight Stress with a Combo of Yoga and Better Sleep

Many people find themselves in an ongoing battle with stress. Whether your stress is related to work, family responsibilities, or a demanding balance of the two, it can take a heavy toll on your physical and mental health. But, you can reduce and manage stress by committing to a regular exercise regimen and developing good sleep habits.

Stress triggers the fight or flight response, which releases adrenaline and cortisol into your body. The fight or flight response works well to help you escape danger, but it can lead to issues when stressors or stressful thoughts are constantly present. Overexposure to these hormones leads to:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Digestive issues

  • Headaches

  • Heart disease

  • Sleep problems

  • Weight gain

High stress and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand, creating a continuing cycle that further magnifies the effects of stress. Sleep deprivation reduces the brain’s ability to regulate negative emotions. You’re left in a cycle of stress that causes sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation that feeds the stress. The combination of stress and sleep deprivation can interfere with your reasoning abilities, concentration, and decision-making skills, all of which impact your professional and personal life

However, you can develop effective stress coping methods that will not only reduce stress but make your body stronger and help you get the rest you need.

It’s no secret that any kind of physical exercise can help reduce stress. One study found that running actually inhibited the release of anxiety-causing hormones. Rigorous forms of exercise, like CrossFit, also help wear out your body, so you’re more tired at night. As long as strenuous activities aren’t done within four hours of your bedtime, they can help reduce stress and improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest.

While all forms of exercise can be beneficial, yoga can prove to be a valuable addition to your exercise routine. It can be used to fight the effects of stress by helping focus the mind in the present while releasing tension from the muscles. The sequence of poses can reduce inflammation, improve your mood, and make you feel less tired. Yoga can even be performed from the comfort of our own bed to allow you to drift off to sleep at the conclusion of your routine.

Getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep gives you a mental and physical advantage over stress. Adequate sleep helps you control your appetite, gives muscles time to heal, and keeps you mentally clear.

Everything you do during the day influences the quantity and quality of your sleep. To give yourself the best chance of getting all the ZZZs you need, try:

  • Creating a Healthy Sleep Environment: A supportive mattress that works with your preferred sleep position can help reduce aches, pains, and wakefulness. The bedroom should also be kept dark, cool, and quiet for optimum sleep conditions.

  • Keeping a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Your sleep-wake cycle is controlled by regular 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule supports those rhythms and helps the brain know when to start the release of sleep hormones.

  • Eating Regularly Timed Meals: Meal timing also influences your circadian rhythms. Eating healthy, regularly spaced and timed meals help trigger the release of sleep hormones at the right time of day.

  • Avoiding Electronics Close to Bedtime: Electronics give off a bright blue light that suppresses the release of sleep hormones. Turn off those screens at least two to three hours before bed to avoid sleep disruptions.

Author Bio

Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.

If you’d like to learn more about sleep and discover additional resources, see episode 90 with Jöran Albers, co-founder and managing director at Shleep.

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