One of the best ways to combat stress is by getting enough sleep. Adults require between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. When we don’t get enough sleep, we experience sleep disorders (insomnia), weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, strokes, and diabetes, and increased risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, mood swings, and chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because during sleep, our bodies repair themselves, detoxify, and replenish energy stores.
Hormones play an important role in regulating our sleep cycle and repairing our bodies during the night. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland in the brain and is released when it’s dark signaling our bodies to go to sleep. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus in the brain and may influence our dreams. Growth hormone is produced in the pituitary gland in the brain and released during sleep. It is responsible for growth and tissue repair which is essential for optimal wellness. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and is released prior to waking and makes us alert and hungry.
There are several simple steps to getting a full night of rest so that your body can repair, detoxify, and replenish energy stores.
- Get more sunlight during the day. By getting 15 minutes of sunlight per day, you can increase your production of serotonin and Vitamin D which is essential for optimal wellness.
- Avoid technology at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Blue light from cell phones, TVs, and tablets prevents the release of melatonin, which helps us get to sleep.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This helps regulate your sleep cycle.
- Read if you can’t go to sleep. Don’t watch TV.
- Do stretching or bodywork before you go to bed.
- Avoid strenuous exercise at least 2 – 3 hours before going to bed.
- Control your weight. Excess weight can cause changes in blood sugar, indigestion, and sleep apnea.
- Avoid alcohol before going to bed. Alcohol can disrupt your circadian rhythm while also blocking REM sleep. It also contributes to elevations in blood sugar.
- Avoid too much water before you go to bed to reduce the need to get up and go to the bathroom.
- Avoid eating at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. Eating late at night disrupts our sleep patterns and increases the risk of nighttime heartburn and breathing problems.
- Avoid food and supplements containing L-theanine, tyrosine, tryptophan, and 5HTP in the evening. These trigger the production of serotonin and/or dopamine, which are your “awake” hormones. Tryptophan is found in eggs, salmon, turkey, cheese, tofu, and nuts and seeds.
- If possible, take a hot bath before going to bed.
- Calm your mind – meditate!
One of life’s great stress-relievers is laughter. Laughter has been scientically proven to reduce stress increasing the production of happiness hormones and lymphocytes, which are one type of white blood cells that fight infection, disease, and cancer. Our bodies know how to heal, and we were given the natural ability at birth to combat illness through this wonderful gift called laughter. Laughter has incredible health benefits, which include:
- Releasing Dopamine, which aids in focus, bliss, and appetite control.
- Releasing Endorphins which elevate mood and are natural pain killers.
- Releasing Norepinephrine which contributes to happiness, alertness, and motivation, and is an anti-depressant and aids in appetite control.
- Releasing Oxytocin, which is stimulated by Dopamine. It promotes feelings of emotional attachment.
- Releasing Serotonin which promotes and improves sleep, relieves depression, and improves self-esteem.
- Releasing Acetycholine which improves alertness, memory, and appetite control.
- Releasing Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) which reduces stress, anxiety, pain, panic attacks, and aids in the feeling of calm, control, and focus.
There are so many benefits to laughter. Laughter can be triggered by humor or unexpected surprises, but can also be generated from within. Laughter has been proven to be so powerful in combating disease and illness, that Laughing Yoga was created by Dr. Madan Kataria in the early 90s to teach people how to generate more laughter in their lives. In Dr. Kataria’s research, he found that the body cannot distinguish between pretend and genuine laughter; therefore, creating our own laughter has the same benets. So laugh away your troubles today!