Relieve Stress Without Leaving Bed
by Ted Cooper

Stress is an ever increasing problem in today's society. In turn, society has created a lot of ways to reduce stress. However, in our busy lives, we often don't have the time or the money for yoga, counseling, spas, and all of the other miracle stress relievers available to us. There is, however, one very easy and effective way to relieve stress.

Sleep.

There are many reasons why we don't get enough sleep. Art Rathun, a biofeedback specialist counselor at Kansas State University says that, "We've created a culture in which it is easy to become sleep deprived. There's an expectation that people will do more. We haven't dropped activities, just added more." As we continue to add more activities to our already busy schedules, it becomes common for many people to create extra time by cutting the number of hours they sleep.

The average number of hours of sleep American adults get has dropped from nine hours in 1910 to 7.5 hours in 1975. In 2002, a National Sleep Foundation poll showed that the average American adult sleeps only 6.9 hours a night. The average Generation Xer gets only five to six hours per night and shift workers average only five.

Sleep deprivation causes stress.

The National Sleep Disorders Research studies show that too little sleep each night is associated with physiological changes such as insulin resistance and increased sympathetic activation. Basically that means that the body then enters a high stress "fight-or-flight" mode, where heart rate and blood pressure increase.

Recent research in rats shows that sleep deprivation causes stress hormones to accumulate in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. "This decrease in neuron production coincided with an increase in the major rodent stress hormone, corticosterone," says Elizabeth Gould, head of the team at Princeton University that made the discovery. "We concluded that sleep deprivation decreases neurogenesis by elevating stress hormones."

Lack of sleep causes fatigue and exhaustion, which affects emotions and often leads to anger, sadness and stress as well as an inability to focus. This lack of concentration can make it more difficult to retain and recall information; which challenges our ability to manage stress.

Sleep deprivation causes problems that, in turn, lead to more stress.

Sleep is absolutely necessary for good health. Sleep deprivation and the resulting stress can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for our bodies to fight off many illnesses such as colds, flu and even diabetes and cancer.

Our brains also need sleep in order to function well. Without it, speech, memory tasks and problem solving can be affected. When all of these problems start, they cause more stress, and the cycle continues.

Sleep deprivation affects about 1/4 of the American population, or over 47 million people. The National Sleep Foundation reports that only 37 percent of Americans get eight hours of sleep a night. The ironic thing is that the primary cause of sleep problems for many individuals is stress, so a vicious cycle is created between stress and sleep deprivation. Sleepiness raises stress and anxiety levels and the stress and anxiety can, in turn, cause insomnia.

How much sleep is needed?

We've all heard that we should be getting about eight hours of sleep a night, but the recommended amount actually changes based on age. Here are some common recommendations for various ages:

  • Babies: 13-17 hours
  • Toddlers: 9-13 hours
  • Young children: 10-11hours
  • Teens: 9-10 hours
  • Adults: 8-9 hours
  • Seniors (over 65 years): 6-8 hours
  • The actual number of hours required will also differ based on each person's unique body needs. You can determine how many hours your body requires by paying attention to how many it takes to feel refreshed and alert in the morning.

    Sleep is necessary for your body to rest and restore energy, and a good night's sleep will help to reduce your stress levels and will most certainly help you to better deal with stress. So, go ahead and plan at least an extra hour or two a week. Your body will thank you.

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