- 6 Months ago
Stress and Insomnia
The good news is that there is much you can do to reduce the impact of stress in your life. Insomnia: Stress can cause Hyperarousal, a biological state in which people just don't feel sleepy. While major stressful events can cause insomnia that passes once the stress is over, long-term exposure to chronic stress can also disrupt sleep and contribute to sleep disorders. What to do? Focus on sleep hygiene (making your surroundings conducive to a good night's rest) and try yoga or another stress-busting activity during the day. Headaches: "Fight or flight" chemicals like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol can cause vascular changes that leave you with a tension headache or migraine, either during the stress or in the "let-down" period afterwards. Stress also makes your muscles tense, which can make the pain of a migraine worse. Beyond treating the headache itself, focus on headache-proofing your home, diet, and lifestyle in general. Memory: Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can interfere with the brain's ability to form new memories. During acute stress, the hormone also interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. That can make it hard to think straight or retrieve memories. While it's tough to limit stress in our hectic lives, some experts recommend trying meditation, among other solutions. Hair: Severe stress may even harm your tresses. While the research has not produced any conclusive evidence, stress is often thought to play a role in triggering hair loss in the autoimmune condition called Alopecia areata. Stress and anxiety can also contribute to a disorder medically known as Trichotillomania, in which people have a hard-to-resist urge to pull out the hair from their own scalp. Pregnancy: The normal stresses of everyday life are unlikely to affect a pregnancy, but severe stress, like losing a job or going through a divorce, can increase the chances of premature labor. There’s even some research suggesting that very high levels of stress can affect the developing fetal brain. Prenatal yoga and other stress-reduction techniques can help, so talk to your doctor if you're severely stressed and pregnant. Additionally, stress may even affect the ability to get pregnant in the first place. Blood Sugar: Stress is known to raise blood sugar, and if you already have Type 2 Diabetes you may find that your blood sugar is higher when you are under stress. Changing what you eat, exercising more, or adjusting medication can help to keep it under control. Digestion: Heartburn, stomach cramping, and diarrhea can all be caused by or worsened by stress. In particular, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), characterized by pain and bouts of constipation and diarrhea is thought to be fueled in part by stress. Blood pressure: A stressful situation can raise your blood pressure temporarily by constricting your blood vessels and speeding up your heart rate, but these effects disappear when the stress has passed. It's not yet clear whether chronic stress can cause more permanent changes in your blood pressure, but techniques like mindfulness and meditation may help. In addition, there are many natural ways to reduce blood pressure, including diet and exercise. Brain tissue: Brain-imaging research shows that major stresses can reduce the amount of tissue in regions of the brain that regulate emotions and self-control. This damage may make dealing with future stresses even harder, but it can likely be reversed with effective stress-management techniques. Skin: Most acne sufferers already suspect this is true, and they seem to be right: Stress can give you zits. Research suggests that students with acne are more prone to outbreaks during exams compared to less stressful time periods. An increase of male hormones known as androgens could be a culprit, particularly in women. Stress can also trigger psoriasis to appear for the first time or make an existing case more severe. Back Pain: Stress can set off an acute attack of back pain as well as contribute to ongoing chronic pain, probably for the simple reason that the "fight or flight" response involves tensing your muscles so that you're ready to spring into action. Sex Appeal: A study found that women were less attracted to men with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to men with lower levels. Researchers believe this may be because low levels of stress hormones suggest strength and health, which are desirable traits to be passed on to offspring. Stroke: A study of 20,000 people who had never had a stroke or heart disease found that stress was linked to an increased risk of stroke. Another study concluded that healthy adults who had experienced a stressful life event within the past year were four times more likely to suffer a stroke than their less-stressed counterparts. One theory is that the increased risk is due to stress-related high blood pressure and/or narrowing of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis). Premature Aging: Traumatic events and chronic stress can both shorten telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of cell chromosomes, causing your cells to age faster. The good news? Exercising vigorously three times a week may be enough to counteract the effect. Colds: People exposed to common cold viruses are less likely to fight off the germs successfully if they have ongoing psychological stress in their lives. This is because, stressed people's immune cells may be less sensitive to a hormone that turns off inflammation, which could offer a clue as to why stress can be correlated with more serious diseases as well. Asthma: Stress seems to exacerbate asthma in people who have the lung condition. Although not conclusively proven, it is believed that stress may amplify the immune response to asthma triggers such as pollen, animal dander, or dust. Job Performance: Studies of employees ranging from military personnel to bankers show that stress reduces productivity and satisfaction at work, and is linked to depression too. One solution is to ask your employer to offer stress-management training, which can address company-wide stressors like weak communication channels as well as focusing on stress busters for individuals. Seizures: Although it's not all that common, doctors have found that some people who are especially sensitive to stress can experience seizure-like symptoms, such as far-off staring and convulsions. Known as conversion disorder, some people can subconsciously express emotional trauma as physical symptoms, they say. Sex drive: Research suggests what couples probably already know: People who are stressed out have less sex and enjoy it less when they do get it on compared to people who aren't under stress. Sexual dysfunction can have medical causes, so it's important to talk to a doctor, but reducing and managing stress can often turn things around in the bedroom.