Relationship Between Sleep and Stress Hormones
Sleep is natural, easily reversible periodic state of mind of an individual that is marked by the absence of wakefulness and by the loss of consciousness of one’s surroundings, is accompanied by a typical body posture, the occurrence of dreaming, and changes in brain activity is called as sleep.
Why is Sleep Important For Us?
Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning better. It lets our repair, restore and reenergizes body and brain. If you do not get enough sleep of almost 8 hours you may find side effects like poor memory and loss of focus, weakened immunity, and instant mood changes.
Stages of Sleep
The first part of sleep is non-REM sleep, which compromises four stages. The first period comes between being awake and falling asleep. The stage is light sleep, when the heart rate and the breathing rate regulate and the temperature of the body drops. The third and fourth stage are of deep sleep.
What Are The Main Stress Hormones?
The sympathetic nervous system activates during the flight and fight system that takes over the body when we are stressed out. Behind the broad range of both physical and mental reactions to stress are a number of hormones that are in charge of adding fuel to fire. There are three important hormones that are released when we are under pressure of stress. These include:
It is commonly called as “flight or fight hormone”, it is produced by the adrenal gland after it receives the signals from the brain that a stressful situation has presented itself.
Adrenaline along with norepinephrine is mainly responsible for the immediate reactions we feel in the stress situation like your breathing rate becomes very faster, your sweating level becomes very high. That is the work of adrenaline. Along with the increase of heart rate adrenaline also gives you a large amount of energy which you might need in running away from a dangerous situation and also focuses your attention.
Norepinephrine is a hormone similar to adrenalin that is released from the adrenal gland as well as from the brain. The main role of norepinephrine is that when you are stressed you become more awake, responsive, and focused. It helps to shift blood flow away from the areas where it might not be serious like the skin and toward more essential areas at the time like the muscle so that you can flee away from the stressful scene.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone commonly called as the stress hormone that is produced by a complex network known as the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis (HPA). It includes your hypothalamus and pituitary gland; both are present in your brain. It also includes the adrenal gland which is present on the top of your kidney.
It takes a little time rather than seconds for you to be normalized from the effects of cortisol in the face of stress due to the release of this hormone takes a multi-step process involving two additional minor hormones.
The first part of the brain called as amygdala has to recognize a threat or critical situation. It then sends a signal to the part of the brain called as hypothalamus which produces a corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH then tells the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which tells the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
In the survival mode, the optimal release of cortisol can be life protecting. It helps to maintain normal fluid balance and blood pressure and regulating some body functions that is not crucial at that time, like reproductive drive, immunity, digestion, and growth.
But when you stew on a problem, the body continuously releases cortisol, and chronically elevated levels can lead to many serious problems. Too much amount of cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease libido, produce acne, lead to obesity, and may other things.
How Sleep Affects Stress Hormones
What Does Cortisol Have to Do With Sleep?
Sleep and stress response has the same pathway: the HPA axis. When something disrupts the HPA axis work, it can disturb your sleep cycles.
Circadian rhythm and cortisol
Our sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm. Every 24 hours, roughly synchronized with nighttime and daytime, our body undergoes a period of sleep followed by a waking period. The production of cortisol follows a similar circadian rhythm in our body.
Cortisol production becomes lower at its lowest point at midnight. Its production is at its peak about an hour after you wake up.
In addition to the circadian cycle, around 15 to 18 smaller pulses of cortisol are produced throughout the day and night. Some of the smaller bursts of cortisol correspond to shifts in our sleep cycle.
Cortisol and The Sleep Cycle
Our body goes through several stages of sleep each night.
Non-rapid eye movement sleep has three stages:
- STAGE 1: This stage remains for few minutes as you drift from being awake to asleep.
- STAGE 2: Your body systems relax further, your core temperature drops and your brain become slower. We spend about 50 % of our sleep cycle in this phase.
- STAGE 3: This phase is also called “slow-wave sleep”. It comes when our heart rate, breathing, brain waves are slowest.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the phase of our sleep cycle when we have vivid dreams.
Sleep cycle remains for about 90 minutes, and during that time we move through four stages of sleep.
Most of our deeper slow-wave sleep happens in the first part of the night, while the REM sleep occurs more during the second half of the night.
Research has shown that when the HPA axis is overactive, it can disturb our sleep cycles, causing:
- Fragmented sleep
- Insomnia-difficulty in falling asleep
- The shortened sleep time period
These sleep disturbances can wreak further havoc on our HPA axis, distorting the production of cortisol.
Research has shown that insomnia and other forms of difficulty in sleep causes our body to secrete more cortisol during the daytime perhaps in an effort to stimulate alertness.
Your Coaching Career
Our stress management coaching program is designed for life coaches, as well as fitness and wellness professionals who want to expand his or her knowledge in the lucrative and expanding field.
When you become a Certified Sleep Science Coach, you will learn how to help your clients dramatically enhance their metabolism, memory, creativity, immune function, hormone balance, hunger management, disease prevention, sports performance, accident avoidance, memory, reaction time, good judgment, surgery recovery, happiness and over 100 additional functions and behaviors.
Becoming a Certified Wellness Coach is the perfect addition for the fitness professional who wants to offer more all-inclusive wellness services to clients. The time is now for you to enjoy this exciting and rewarding career, which offers you personal fulfillment while improving the lives of others.
There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.
Our programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.