The “fight or flight” syndrome – you’ve heard of it, right? Accompanied with the image of the saber-toothed tiger dashing after a hunter, getting ready to attack. You often get into this situation, don’t you? In modern times, we’re not literally in that frantic position, but our bodies are often reacting as if we were fighting for our lives. Our adrenal glands, located on top of each kidney, are forced to work overtime in an effort to deal with stress from all sources: injury, disease, work, family, finances, environment, etc.
It’s hard to imagine these small endocrine glands, essentially the size of a walnut, responsible for the manufacture and secretion of vital hormones such as cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. The cortisol production is crucial for the body to combat stress. Whereas thousands of years ago the stress was a finite amount of time – you either outran the predator or survived or you were eaten – nowadays, stress seems to be a state of being for so many people.
Although not getting along with a boss or missing a bill payment are not life-threatening like the saber-toothed tiger, our bodies react to the stressors in a similar fashion. The body starts to feel unsettled. More and more cortisol is produced because the body believes it needs massive amounts of energy to run for its life. This happens over and over again throughout the day: getting the kids ready for school and getting yourself ready for work, traffic, spilling coffee on your new suit, your assistant calls in sick and you’ve got to send out 20 packages today, the babysitter is late picking up the kids from school and taking them to soccer practice, your late afternoon meeting runs over and you leave the office late so family dinner becomes you eating leftovers alone. And all this is going to happen again tomorrow!
Here’s the problem: chronic stress can overload the adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion. For some, the fatigue will become overwhelming and the adrenals will no longer function properly to provide the energy and resources the body needs on a day-to-day basis. When someone is exhausted, a natural suggestion is to get more sleep. In the early stages, these are a few misconceptions about sleep:
- I don’t need much sleep. I’m just wired that way
- When I sleep doesn’t matter. Sleeping during daytime is every bit as valuable as sleeping at night.
- If I miss sleep during the week, I can always catch up on the weekends.
Unfortunately, none of these beliefs are true. Humans are built to sleep. Even more importantly, we are built to sleep at night, around the same time every night. A lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep can hinder critical repair processes and generate inflammation- major driver of chronic illnesses. Insomnia is a common symptom of adrenal exhaustion. That too wired to be tired feeling and waking up feeling exhausted! There are, however, steps you can take to prepare yourself for sleep, which is certainly one of the best ways to refresh and rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit. Counting sheep is not one of them!
For better sleep and to heal your adrenal glands:
Counteract Stress: Although it might seem a dirty word to many, there’s no denying that exercise is the best when it comes to relieving stress. I don’t mean High Intensity workouts but deep breathing, walking, massage therapy and yoga.
Eat nutritious meals: The best way to prevent poor digestion and having your sleep disturbed by a bloated belly (thanks to late night meals and takeaways) or simply a body lacking nutrients is to eat healthy meals that your body can break down and absorb easily. Eating correctly doesn’t mean deprivation or bland food.
Switch your nightcap: The more you avoid coffee, soda and alcohol before hitting the sheets, the better your chances of a good night’s sleep. If you want a little nightcap, try herbal teas or tinctures such as chamomile and passion flower.
Whether you have occasional poor sleep or downright chronic insomnia, don’t for a slightest moment think that dangerous, addictive sleep drugs are your only answer. Instead, take a close look at what may be behind your “night owl syndrome” so your restless nights can finally come to an end. Imagine, sleeping soundly like a baby every night!