If you're one of the many who suffers from sleep problems then you're definitely not alone!
One third of the adult population reports struggling with falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting a good night's sleep all-together. 🤯 And considering sleep is an important indicator of overall health and well-being, these statistics are alarming and concerning...
But why are SO many of us struggling with sleep anyway!?
One of the leading reasons our population struggles with falling asleep and staying asleep is stress.
And specifically, the high cortisol levels that occur in our bodies when faced with stressful situations.
Stress & High Cortisol Levels
Here's the science behind how stress creates high cortisol levels. ⬇️
When we encounter a stressful situation, our body's natural response is to activate the stress response system, also known as the fight-or-flight response. This triggers the release of cortisol, our body's stress hormone, from the adrenal glands. And when that cortisol is released in small amounts, — as it would be in short-term bouts of stress — the body uses it to keep itself safe from danger (aka. that stress or perceived threat). But when that cortisol is released over time, — as it would if you were living with chronic stress — it can create a build up of cortisol in the body that creates both physical and psychological problems.
One of those problems being sleep.
Cortisol & Sleep
High cortisol levels can affect your sleep in multiple different ways.
One way is that high levels of cortisol can alter the balance of other hormones involved in your sleep regulation. For example, high cortisol levels can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for promoting sleepiness. And disruptions in that melatonin-cortisol balance can make it harder to maintain deep and restful sleep, which can lead to more awakenings during the night.
Additionally, high cortisol levels can contribute to increased brain activity and alertness, making it challenging to relax and stay asleep. It can also heighten anxiety, increase heart rate, and stimulate the nervous system, all of which can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause awakenings.
Cortisol is a hormone that follows a natural daily rhythm, which typically peaks in the morning to help you wake up and then gradually decreases throughout the day to prepare you for sleep. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated during the night due to long-term stress, it can — and typically will — disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
So not only will elevated cortisol levels make it difficult for you to fall asleep initially, they also will lead to restless sleep and frequent awakenings during your night of sleep as well.
So what are you supposed to do about it?!?
How To Sleep Through The Night By Lowering Your Cortisol
The easiest way to lower your cortisol levels and decrease your stress is with somatic exercises.
Somatic exercises are gentle movements that target the body's central nervous system. This movement-based therapy can activate the body's relaxation response by physically signaling your body to release tension and enter a state of calmness. Somatic exercises also increase bodily awareness, making you more attuned to physical sensations of where you're storing tension and stress (as well as excess cortisol!).
Essentially, somatic exercises are repetitions of simple movements that provides relaxation and relief for both your body and mind. And in this case, that relaxation and relief is important to decreasing cortisol and getting better sleep.
So are you ready to sleep through the night in as little as three days of doing somatic exercises!?