When we’re under stress, our bodies react in specific ways which help us cope with potentially life-threatening events. Unfortunately, many people experience these physiological changes on a day-to-day basis. If you’re worried that stress could be shortening your life, you may be right.
Destructive in Many Ways
Our bodies have ways of dealing with infrequent stress; however, when stress becomes an everyday occurrence, problems may result. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that stress contributes to a variety of health problems in a variety of ways. Too much stress can increase the production of cortisol: a destructive hormone which has been linked to deadly inflammation. Another study appearing in the European Heart Journal showed that stress tends to promote unhealthy behavior such as drinking, smoking and overeating.
We all deal with daily problems that promote stress; however, research indicates that our state of mind helps to determine how stressful certain events can be. A UC Berkeley study recently found a strong correlation between insufficient sleep and heightened stress. To reach their findings, researchers used functional MRI to monitor the brains of several subjects while they viewed random photos consisting of benign and disturbing images. Then, after keeping the subjects in a sleep-deprived state, the researchers asked the subjects to repeat the experiment. Ultimately, the sleep-deprivation caused subjects to experience substantially more neural activity in the emotional brain regions which indicate stress.
According to sleep expert Dr. Roger Roubal, this study is just one of many which show how sleep deprivation can devastate our bodies.
“Research has shown that sleep is critical to our overall well-being,” he said. “Studies have linked insufficient sleep to all sorts of medical problems, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Since other studies have linked it to heightened stress, it’s clear that long-term sleep deprivation has the power to shorten lives in a variety of ways. By taking sleep more seriously, people can reduce their stress and their risk for health problems. Sadly, it’s not that simple for everyone.”
The federal government estimates that millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, which promotes sleep deprivation; however, many fail to get help, because they don’t even know they have a problem.
“With treatment, sleep apneics can improve their health and the overall quality of their lives,” Roubal said. “Unfortunately, many people don’t even know they have a problem. Generally, if people are experiencing daytime fatigue, frequent waking or snoring, they should seek a sleep study to determine if they have a problem.”
Research indicates that genetic traits can play a big role in determining how well we cope with stress. On the other hand, studies have also shown that people can reduce the impact of stress by engaging in specific activities, such as journaling, meditation and exercise. With that being said, more and more evidence suggests that adequate sleep may be the fundamental key to stress management; so if you’re overstressed and sleep deprived, try placing a greater emphasis on getting more rest.
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Ryan Lawrence writes for Off-Topic Media. Thanks tofor his contributions to this story.