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The Stress/Sleep Connection: A Tricky Cycle

 You're so stressed, you can't get a good night's sleep–and that's exactly what you need. 

As stress from economic anxiety mounts, the Better Sleep Council (BSC) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have joined forces for Better Sleep Month in May to help consumers enjoy a stress-less, good night’s sleep. In order to get the best rest possible and help relieve stress, the BSC and CRN say it’s essential for Americans to make a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Stress is a leading culprit that is robbing Americans of sleep, according to sleep researchers. While it is well known that stress can negatively impact sleep, new research from Oklahoma State University (OSU) confirms that cyclically poor sleep can elevate stress. The OSU study, “Back Pain, Sleep Quality, and Perceived Stress Following Introduction of New Bedding Systems,” published in the March 2009 Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, also suggests that improved sleep quality not only reduces stress, but also helps us manage everyday stress.

“When you’re stressed, and similarly when you are tired, every aspect of your waking life is affected, from work to personal relationships and even concentration,” says BSC spokesperson and lifestyle expert, Lissa Coffey. “Controlling stress and getting a good night’s rest start by evaluating your lifestyle and creating a healthy daily regimen that you can stick to. This includes adequate sleep, balanced diet, daily vitamins, and healthy exercise.”

The Sleep Escape
The OSU study also reveals that the mattress plays a critical role in the sleep-stress relationship and quality of sleep. In fact, the OSU study found that significant decreases in stress paralleled reports of a good night’s sleep on a new mattress, compared to one that is five years or older.

“People across the country are facing hardships from job losses and money woes,” adds Coffey. “A mattress that cradles you with comfort can go a long way to help reduce stress. It provides a good night’s rest so that you can perform your best during the day, even in tough times.”

The BSC advises consumers to take time during Better Sleep Month to evaluate their mattress for optimum comfort and support and consider replacing it every five to seven years.

Investing in Your Wellness
Getting a good night’s sleep on a supportive mattress is just one part of investing in a healthy lifestyle. Being active and eating healthy also play a large role. And with healthcare costs and unemployment rates increasing, CRN says that now, more than ever, it’s important to think about taking an integrative approach to preventive healthcare.

“Studies show that healthy individuals tend to engage in many healthy habits-eating a healthy diet, taking supplements, exercising regularly, and getting adequate amounts of sleep-as an integrative approach to wellness,” says Douglas MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN. Dr. MacKay, a licensed naturopathic doctor, says certain supplements, including melatonin, magnesium, and calcium, may help individuals relax or promote healthy sleep patterns.

“Herbals and other dietary supplements can be safe and effective ways to help individuals achieve quality sleep,” says Dr. MacKay. “You should consult a doctor or healthcare professional to determine which supplements are the best regimens for your lifestyle.”

Simple Steps to Sleep Better and Stress Less
Lifestyle expert Lissa Coffey and Dr. Douglas MacKay offer a few simple tips to sleep better, stress less, and live healthy, especially during these worrisome economic times:

1. Sleep soundly. Commit to getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night and keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule. If sleep problems persist, be sure to see a doctor, but also evaluate your bedroom environment and your mattress. If your mattress is uncomfortable, or more than five to seven years old, it could be robbing you of sleep and it might be time to replace it.

2. Eat right. Map out a healthy diet that’s right for you. Consult a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, registered dietician, or naturopath, to help guide your plan and make sure you are getting the right balance of the food groups your body needs, including protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy.

3. Supplement your life. Make sure to take your daily vitamins, starting with a multivitamin, as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Other supplements, including melatonin, valerian, 5-HTP, and magnesium and calcium, may help promote healthy sleep patterns. Engage your healthcare professional, such as a doctor, registered dietitian, or naturopath, in a discussion about which supplements are right for you.

4. Get active. Commit to at least thirty minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity five days a week. Work physical activity into your daily routine with three ten-minute sessions for your arms, abdominals, and legs. Avoid exercising at least two hours before bedtime.

5. Live life in balance. We all have to work, but leave some time to play, too. Spend time with people you love. Spend time in nature. Do things that you enjoy. A healthy lifestyle means taking care of yourself-body, mind, and spirit. Finding balance will help you feel better and sleep better.

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