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Anxiety Exercise Headaches Side Effects Sleep Tension

Life Stresses and Sleep

Don’t Stress Yourself

Just Chill…

It would be an understatement to describe this year (2020) so far as a little challenging. Dealing with a global pandemic and it’s social and economic repercussions has affected us all in someway.

So when would have been a better time to decide to move home and restructure your business activities than in the middle of a crisis, but that is exactly what we decided to do.

Unsurprisingly, we have been (and still are) pretty stressed, but things are slowly getting better. In this post I’ll talk about the effects of stress on your sleep and what you can do to reduce it’s toll on your mind and body.

Life’s Stresses

Worries about this latest pandemic are causing a lot of people a huge amount of stress. Our health and well being are paramount to our survival instincts, so any perceived threats to them immediately put us into “Fight or Flight” mode.

Likewise with the economic outlook not looking too pretty, people are worrying about their jobs and/or businesses as well as their investments and financial commitments.

Moving home is also stressful at the best of times, but moving during a pandemic compounds the issue. Having to deal with authorities, schooling and adjusting to a new environment can take it’s toll on your nerves and can be very frustrating.

Sleep Quality and Quantity

It’s no surprise that it is usually our sleep that suffers first when stressed, and as it is a fundamental sphere of our health, this has major implications for our overall health and well being.

For example, stressing about your work performance can lead to a lack of confidence in your abilities which is then magnified when you are not getting enough good quality restful sleep.

In a 2019 Sleep and Vigilance Journal study which investigated the link between sleep, work stress and headaches amongst print workers, it was found that the intensity of headaches and lower levels of concentration were characterised by the quality of sleep that the participants had the night before as well as the amount of interruptions they had at work.

“Between one working day and the subsequent day. printers need to recover their mental resources, and complete recovery depends on getting a good night’s sleep. There is a consensus that work stress impairs sleep quality. Sleep is necessary for recovery in humans and is therefore considered to be the link between occupational stressors, cognitive functioning and health. Impaired sleep may have a detrimental effect on psychosomatic well-being (e.g. pain) that is independent of the effects of work demands. Reduced sleep quality is a predictor of impaired performance, especially cognitive performance. Sleep impairments extend reaction times, impair concentration and attention and reduce working memory capacity. Hence, we hypothesised that the previous night’s sleep quality and current day’s time pressure, as well as work interruptions
and concentration requirements, would predict current-day, cognition-related health complaints, including headaches and concentration problems.”

Kottwitz, Maria, Christin Gerhardt, Sabrina Schmied, and Achim Elfering. “Sleep, Work Stress and Headache in Printing Business: An Actigraphy Study.” /Sleep and Vigilance/ 3.1 (2019): 9-15.

Helpful Strategies

The Sleep, Work Stress and Headache study made some suggestions on how to reduce the effects of stress on sleep but these where mainly directed at employers and policy makers, which in my experience if they eventually do become institutionalised, it’s in a weak or non sustainable way, with unintended consequences such as job loses as smaller employers struggle to afford to implement such measures.

If you’re like me you may not be willing or able to wait for guidelines to be made into laws, so what steps can you personally take to lower your stress and improve your sleep?

  • Talk with your boss
    Depending on your relationship with your boss or your work environment, taking the proactive step of talking about your current stresses at work and making suggestions on how they may be addressed may give you better than expected results. The key here is not to go in making demands, but to make very clear achievable suggestions that if acted upon, will help improve your productivity. An example of this is to clarify what your role entails and the commitments that are expected of you as well as what level of quality work you will be able to complete within a given deadline.
  • Make the time to exercise
    This is a difficult one, but necessary if you want to reduce stress levels. Exercise helps your focus and stamina and has been found to help boost productivity as well as reduce the rates of absenteeism. Exercise has also been shown to improve sleep quality which may be the reason why you may find that your productivity increases as a side effect.
  • Organise your sleep
    Your body needs sleep to repair. A lack of sleep helps reduce your concentration and focus levels, and can have negative effects on your overall health. Getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep will help reduce stress and feelings of depression and anxiety.

Action Points Summary

Although there are only three points, over the past couple of months I’ve found myself struggling to implement them! But with the latest release of our app, V-CAF, I found myself instinctively just getting on with them.

Workloads were negotiated and reorganised, I exercised more intensively and naturally found myself getting in more hours of sleep. I guess sometimes you can’t force it, but have to go with the flow.

I know the points sound simple (maybe not the talking to the boss one), but give them a try anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised:

  • Organise/Negotiate your workload (with your boss if applicable)
  • Make time for exercise
  • Prioritise Sleep

Conclusion

It wasn’t easy for us to start afresh and reorganise, especially during these unprecedented times, but doing so has made us more resilient to stress and hopefully will help to keep us productive so that we keep producing posts like this for you.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the current changes that are going on, step back and reflect on the things that really matter in your life and focus on making the most out those things that you’ve been blessed with.

Stay Safe 🙂

Categories
Caffeine Staying Awake

Changing Your Lifestyle to Stay Awake

Lifestyle & Staying Awake

Your choices matter

In the age of the Internet we have grown accustomed to quick fixes and instant gratification. Information on almost anything is just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away.

The pervasiveness of this expectation has permeated into our natural world, where we now believe that there is a product or gadget that can fix almost anything quickly without too much effort.

To stay and be more awake is the result of lifestyle choices that we make. This article will highlight some of those choices.  

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Photo by charlotte henard @punttim on Flickr pensive

Tiredness Quick Fixes

During the course of a day, when tired many people reach for a coffee, an energy drink or caffeine pills.

The need for immediate alertness overrides any concerns about the long time effects of that choice.

The quick fix then becomes reinforced as the response to tiredness further entrenching it as the default behavior.

The Problem With Quick Fixes

Although they have their place, using quick fixes as the default response to tiredness robs us of an opportunity to learn about the relationship we have with our own body.

The more you consume caffeine the greater your tolerance becomes, which in turn encourages you to increases the amount you consume.

Between 200-250mg per day is considered safe (depending on age, sex and health). Anything above 400mg (approx. 4 cups of coffee) increases your chances of being exposed to caffeine’s side effects, including and not limited to:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions

Lifestyle Choices

To have more control over your tiredness you will need to make the choice to invest the time to learn about yourself.

Below are some ideas to get you thinking.

  • Are you drinking enough water?
    Drink a lot of water daily, before you start feeling tired.
  • How much processed food are you eating?
    Our brains use 1/5 of our total daily energy needs. Stimulants trick our brains into reacting as if they are not tired. After the effects wear off, we crash. To avoid that, fuel your brain by eating whole foods, especially those with complex long-chain carbohydrates (nuts, fish, avocado etc.), as they release energy steadily.
  • Do you know when you are tired?
    When we are tired our brains do not react as accurately and efficiently as they do when we are fully awake, and clouds our judgment about how tired we really are. Use an Apple Watch app such as V-CAF, which alerts you when you are most likely to be tired. 
  • How much quality sleep are you getting?
    Quality is better than quantity with sleep. Make sure you get enough sleep and track how you feel after you’ve slept. Apps such as Pillow give you information on your sleep quality and gives you tips on how to improve.

Review

Choosing to live a healthier lifestyle has many benefits, some of which are improved energy and less tiredness.

By choosing to deal with your tiredness rather than taking a quick fix pays dividends in the long run.

Key Points

  • Drink more water
  • Eat more whole foods and Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Learn when you are most likely to be tired using apps such as V-CAF
  • Get quality sleep rather than just hours

Make a Choice

If you’ve made it this far I think it’s fair to say that you are already making the choice to find out more about how you can deal with tiredness by changing your lifestyle.

Hang on in there, it can be tough; but with perseverance I’m sure you’ll make the change that you want.