An earlier post introduced the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol. Normal levels of cortisol are essential to the healthy regulation of many body functions including your sleep-wake cycle. Elevated levels are seen in response to chronic stress. This post addresses the role chronic stress-induced rise in cortisol levels play in sleep deprivation and ways you can combat it. If practicing good sleep hygiene aligns with your definition of self-care, this post is for you.
Good sleep hygiene are healthful habits and practices that can improve your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep for the recommended 7 hours and wake well-rested.
Sleep deprivation diminishes brain function making it difficult to exercise executive function and think critically. It leads you to be inattentive and careless and contributes to a lower sex drive, weight gain, difficulty losing weight and an accelerated appearance of aging. Sleep deprivation may contribute to the development and progression of the most common chronic diseases. 
Circadian rhythm, affected by cues from the environment, is your body’s internal cycles, your internal clock that create a predictable pattern of when you sleep, wake and eat. A stress-induced rise in cortisol levels released at random times throughout the day creates confusion in your circadian rhythm causing your body to lose track of time. Cortisol is naturally produced in fluctuating levels throughout the day, higher in the morning and lower at night. Disruption of these naturally occurring levels may affect your sleep-wake cycle and contribute to poor sleep hygiene.
To improve your sleep hygiene, I offer these recommendations:
- Before bedtime and throughout your day practice stress reduction techniques to include deep, purposeful breathing and mindfulness.
- Set a regular bedtime to maintain the timing of your body’s internal clock.
- Eat a healthful diet rich in B vitamins. (See our previous post on thermic effect of food and include lots of fruits and vegetables.)
- Avoid late day exercise as it may delay your ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid late night stimulants caffeine and nicotine, and alcohol.
- Create a comfortable, cool sleep environment.
- Limit nighttime exposure to blue-light emitted by your TV and smart-devices.
Is good sleep hygiene part of your wellbeing vision? Following these recommendations will help ensure
a good night’s sleep. Do you
have a wellbeing vision? If not, I
challenge you to create one. What
motivates you to live as your best, or better, self? What will you be doing differently when
living your wellbeing vision? Need help
creating your wellbeing vision? We are
here to help.
 If your sleep is disturbed by snoring, either yours or your partner’s, I urge you to investigate its cause. Snoring may be more than just an unpleasant habit, it may be an indication of sleep apnea.