The Stress and Sleep connection
Two pillars for health and wellness are proper sleep and stress management. In today’s busy world we often take on more stress while sleeping less in order to get more done. This isn’t sustainable.
Our adrenal glands produce several hormones (like cortisol) to keep our bodies in go-go-go mode. However, if we don’t give ourselves time to rest and recharge, these glands can become burned out. Over time we might feel anxious, irritated, or restless at night. If left untreated for a longer period, we feel exhausted 24/7. Let’s take a closer look at how we can support our stress and sleep naturally!
Supplements to Support Stress
Learning how your body is responding to stress is the best (and fastest) way to restore balance. Our main stress hormone, cortisol, can be supported with various nutrients. How do you know what your cortisol pattern looks like? Get tested! Work with a qualified naturopathic doctor to determine your current stress hormone levels so that you can support the highs and lows specific to you!
However, there are supplements to support our cortisol levels regardless of hormone testing.
Vitamin B1, B5, and B12 are useful in helping your adrenal glands produce and recycle cortisol effectively. They keep your energy up and lessen the effects of fatigue. Always look for the activated (a.k.a. methylated) forms of B vitamins for optimal absorption. You may wish to consider a stress-focused B complex that further supports the stress response.
If there was one nutrient to balance an overworked stress response, this would be it! Magnesium is used in over 300 reactions within the body and it helps with your brain’s stress response. It calms the nervous system, which can reduce anxiety and improve sleep. There are several types of magnesium on the market so be sure to select one that is better absorbed for the best effect. Consider magnesium glycinate before bed or even an on-the-go formula when you’re under more stress.
Did you know that humans are one of the few mammals that cannot produce their own vitamin C? That means we need to rely on getting enough from our diet. Foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, and kiwis are high in this vitamin, but it likely isn’t enough when we’re under stress. Plus, our adrenal glands store most of our vitamin C so when we’re burning the candle at both ends, your body is likely running low. The good news is that vitamin C is an easy add-on to your supplement routine, whether in chewable or capsule form.
Supplements to Support Sleep
When working on sleep support it’s important to ask yourself: Do I have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or both?
If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep you want to consider possible reasons like exercise or caffeine too close to bedtime. If your mind is overactive I always suggest meditation or deep breathing for 5-10 mins each evening to help retrain your brain to relax. It might be useful to write down all of the ‘to-dos’ or thoughts on your mind in a journal by your bedside. This type of ‘brain dump’ is excellent for those of us that feel we don’t want to forget something the next day. If staying asleep is your issue, I recommend working with a naturopath to discuss reasons for mid-night waking (low blood sugar, high stress hormones, low melatonin etc.)
When it comes to supplements for sleep I always suggest starting with magnesium. This can be a game-changer for people since 1 in 3 Canadians are deficient in this important mineral. Taking a highly absorbable form such as magnesium glycinate capsules (or liquid) is an excellent way to calm the mind and body in preparation for sleep.
For those who do shift work, travel regularly or women who are post-menopausal, a small dose of melatonin (the natural sleep hormone our body’s make when it’s dark out) can be helpful. A low-dose or sustained release formula (for those who also wake during the night) can be very helpful and non habit-forming. If you’re in need of some additional sleep support that will have more of an effect, try a combination product (although this needs to be discussed with your doctor first if you’re on prescription medications).
When to See Your Doctor
Managing your stress and sleep naturally is a great first step. However, if you have been dealing with either of these concerns for over six months and/or the natural therapies are only mildly effective, it’s time to see your naturopath or medical doctor.
Need some extra sleep support? Book an appointment with Dr. Laura to discuss your customized road to more natural health.
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.