What does a parking ticket, a work deadline, a parent/teacher conference, and an argument with your spouse all have in common? They are all causes of stress.
Each of these scenarios may have different levels of stress, depending on how your child performs in school, what the argument with your spouse is, or how many parking tickets you already have. Depending on how you react to them, they may cause a lot of stress or very little at all.
And when the brain experiences this stress, it perceives a threat and releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream, initiating the fight or flight response.
That all sounds familiar, right? You may have learned all this in your high school biology class.
Any one of the above scenarios on their own may not result in too much stress, but if they all happen in a short period of time on top of things that already trouble you on any given day.
The cortisol really adds up, and when it does, it messes with your sleep.
Cortisol, a stress hormone, is highest in the morning (6-8 AM) and gradually decreases throughout the day when it is at it’s lowest (11 PM-Midnight). Fluctuations can disrupt this cycle and affect your quality of sleep. And if you’re under high stress or an athlete who trains intensively, then your cortisol levels will be higher throughout the day.
Skipping meals or a diet high in carbohydrates can also increase your cortisol levels.
This can leave you feeling amped up so that you may think you don’t need sleep. They feel tired throughout the day and wired later in the evening. In other words, they become night owls.
If you experience heavy stress, train intensely, or eat poorly throughout the day (going more than 5-6 hours without eating or too many refined foods), then your cortisol levels can get out of sync with your internal body clock. It can stay at normal levels during the day and spike at night when it should be dropping. You may find it difficult to fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake, unable to fall asleep.
But there’s good news! Training is a fantastic way to positively manage stress and reduce levels of cortisol.
That high you feel after working out is caused by endorphins flooding your brain – the feel-good hormone. Even better, consistent training improves your quality of sleep.
Get a good night’s sleep, and we’ll see you in class!