We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight” syndrome. Accompanied by the image of a saber-toothed tiger dashing after a hunter, getting ready to attack. In modern times, we’re not literally being chased by a tiger, but our bodies are often reacting as if we are 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, about the size of a walnut, are responsible for the manufacture and secretion of vital hormones such as cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. Cortisol production is crucial for the body to combat stress. Thousands of years ago stress existed for a finite amount of time – you either outran the predator and survived or you were eaten. Nowadays, stress seems to be a continuous state of being for many people.
While not getting along with your boss or missing a bill payment are not life-threatening like the saber-toothed tiger, our bodies react to these stressers 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 cycle happens over and over again throughout the day. You’re scrambling to get the kids ready for school and yourself ready for work. Traffic is crazy. You spill 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, you leave the office late and family dinner becomes just you eating leftovers alone. On and on it goes. 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. That’s not always easy because insomnia is a common symptom of adrenal issues. 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.
Here are 10 great ways to ensure you get better sleep and give your adrenal glands a break:
- Go to bed at the same time every day. Wake up at the same time.
- Get out in the sun everyday! At least 20 minutes of sun exposure can trigger the release of certain chemicals and hormones (like melatonin) that are critical to healthy sleep and mood.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and sugar in late afternoon and evening (or remove them completely from your diet to avoid any roller coaster-like blood sugar surges).
- Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime. This often leads to a poor night’s sleep.
- Don’t exercise vigorously after dinner. Your body gets revved up and makes it difficult to fall asleep.
- Take a hot bath before bed. Add some Epsom salts and a little lavender essential oil to the water and let the tension melt away.
- Turn off the electronic screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Create a bedroom environment that encourages sleep. Decorate with calm and restful colors and eliminate clutter and distractions.
- Practice deep, slow breathing or listen to a meditation or guided imagery CD.
- Keep a gratitude journal near your bedside. Every night, list five things for which you are grateful. Go to sleep with a peaceful mind.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. What methods do you use to get a restful night’s sleep (sedatives don’t count). Share in the comments or over on the Facebook page!