Mitigating Anxiety and Stress in an Upside Down World

Aside from common fears and stressful events in one’s life there are significant factors known to induce stress, anxiety and depression that get overlooked. We are going to focus on the two common contributors to stress that don’t get as much attention as they deserve. In this month’s blog we focus on sleep and its role in stress contribution. Next month we’ll look at radiation poisoning resulting in overexposure to WiFi and EMF.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Often lack of sleep or poor sleep quality is the beginning of a cycle that ends in a downward spiral.

Research and clinical experience show that insomnia is associated with reduced quality of life as well as depression. In turn, depression can lead to sleep problems.Insomnia can also lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, exhaustion, and an inability to concentrate

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. A person’s psychological state and mental health is affected by sleep deprivation. Those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Physical or emotional trauma and metabolic or other medical problems can trigger sleep disturbances. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue which leads to less energy for exercise which leads to a decline in fitness level and health. At some point in this cycle those suffering from lack of sleep often find themselves unable to cope with daily tasks and find themselves in a state of anxiety and depression.

While it’s true that sleep problems are more likely to affect patients with psychiatric disorders than people in the general population, it may increase the risk for developing particular mental illnesses. Insomnia may also be a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, but not as much as it is for major depression. In the longitudinal study it was found that sleep problems preceded anxiety disorders 27% of the time, while they preceded depression 69% of the time.

But insomnia can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders or prevent recovery. Sleep disruptions in PTSD, for example, may contribute to a retention of negative emotional memories and prevent patients from benefiting from fear-extinguishing therapies.

Research shows us that not enough sleep increases worrying behavior. Sleep deprivation activates regions of the brain related to emotional processing, the same regions affected by anxiety disorders. The effect is especially significant if you are prone to worrying or already have an anxiety disorder.

How sleep affects mental health

Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper cycles between two major categories of sleep — although the length of time spent in one or the other changes as sleep progresses.

During "quiet" sleep, a person progresses through four stages of increasingly deep sleep. Body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. The deepest stage of quiet sleep produces physiological changes that help boost immune system functioning.

The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the period when people dream. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase to levels measured when people are awake. Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health — in complex ways.

Although scientists are still trying to understand all the mechanisms, they've discovered that sleep disruption; which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things, wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation. In this way, insomnia may amplify the effects of psychiatric disorders, and vice versa

Studies show that nitric oxide production in basal forebrain is needed to produce sleep. One of the ways nitric oxide promotes sleep is by stimulating the production of a signaling molecule called cyclic GMP. When the basal forebrain of rats were infused with an agent that boosts nitric oxide levels - during a normal sleep-wake cycle, adenosine levels increased and the rats fell into a sleep much like the "recovery" sleep that occurs after prolonged wakefulness.

Nitric oxide controls the release of acetylcholine in the brain, which helps to regulate sleep/wake cycles. Decreased nitric oxide levels will negatively affect sleep so the obvious solution is to supplement with a nitric oxide supplement. Additionally, 25 minutes of sun exposure a day boosts nitric oxide and eat fresh vegetables and fruit rich in nitric oxide.

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