Feeling anxious can frequently lead to sleeping problems. Sadly, for most of us, 2021 has brought us many reasons to feel anxious, whether that’s loneliness, the pressure of work-life balance in lockdown, concerns about a loved one, finances, or feeling unable to plan for the future.
Excess worry and fear can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the whole night, and sleep deprivation can also worsen anxious thoughts, causing a negative cycle.
Why does stress make us more vulnerable to poor sleep?
Dr Sophie Bostock, Elevate’s sleep expert says:
“Our sleep gets lighter when we’re anxious. If our brains sense a threat, we ramp up our ‘fight or flight’ stress response, so that we’re ready to run away. The body releases adrenaline, speeds up the heartbeat, sends blood flow to the muscles, and fires up the stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is a very useful hormone for fuelling action, but before bed, it interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals the body to get ready for sleep. It takes us longer to fall asleep, and we’re more likely to be woken by noise, movement or changes in temperature. Stress can also cause us to change behaviour in ways that are unhelpful for sleep, such as doing less exercise, relying on alcohol to relax, working late or taking long naps to recover.”
Why does lack of sleep make us more vulnerable to anxiety?
“Brain imaging studies show that lack of sleep makes us unusually reactive to negative events,” Sophie notes.
“One of the consequences of sleep deprivation is that we become more worried about not being able to sleep. Our beliefs about sleep can become unhelpfully distorted. Sleep disruption also interferes with our concentration, patience and ability to empathise, which can make us struggle with both productivity and relationships – leading to further life stress.”
Is sleep really THAT important?
Lack of sufficient sleep is known to have wide-ranging negative implications for overall health (the NHS has lots of information on this). Lack of sleep also elevates your risk of catching a viral illness, which none of us want in 2021!
As a result, working on getting the right amount of quality sleep each night is fundamental to both physical and emotional wellness.
Impact on businesses
Alongside the personal impacts on employee wellbeing, there is also research showing that employees who suffer from sleep deprivation have lower standards of work, poor concentration and memory, as well as poor mood and increased risk-taking.
3 tips to better sleep, from our expert
Dr Sophie Bostock, Elevate’s resident Sleep Expert, suggests implementing these 3 tips to ensure you get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep a night.
Get active outdoors
Our body clocks are co-ordinated by light. Sunlight is thousands of times more intense than artificial lighting – get plenty of exposure to natural light during the day to wake up your body clocks, and getting active will help you build up sleep pressure for a restful night’s sleep. Movement is also a great stress reliever.
Protect time to wind down
We often make ourselves over-tired by pushing ourselves to stay awake when our body clocks are telling us to sleep. Adopting a familiar set of ritual behaviours before bed can help with the pattern recognition that it’s time for sleep. Aim for a 1 hour digital detox before bed.
Relaxation is a skill and deserves practice – the more times you do it, the better at it you get. Relaxation before bed can help to switch off the stress response and dial down the high levels of arousal that often accompany anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation is a good place to start. Scrunch up all the muscles in your toes for a count of 5… and then relax. Concentrate on the feeling of tension leaving the body. Work your way up from your toes to all the major muscle groups, finishing up with the eyes. Every tension and release movement leaves the body more relaxed and can take your mind off intrusive thoughts.
Get your sleep sorted in time for World Sleep Day
We all know we need to sleep more, but getting those micro-habits in place to create daily change can be hard. 2021 is the perfect time to develop healthy personal sleep habits and to encourage colleagues and employees to work on theirs too as part of your corporate wellness programme. With World Sleep Day just around the corner, there’s no better time to start your sleep shift.
Shhh…we’re giving 10% off for your company…
World Sleep Day 2021 has the theme, ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future’ and will be celebrated on 19th March. To honour all things sleep, we’re offering 10% off bookings made on our site before World Sleep Day on 19th March. Why not book a lunchtime wellness session for your staff on how to top up on all-important sleep during the pandemic?
If you’d would like to discuss Sophie talking at your workplace get in touch with our team before 19th March for 10% off.