Stress, energy and sleep - a modern day crisis?

General Health

Introducing our new series: stress, energy and sleep

07/03/2019


Emily Condon
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences

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In our modern-day world, with work pressures, long working hours, the constant buzz of our phones and juggling a busy family life, for many of us feeling drained and tired has become the norm. We are constantly stimulated by technology wherever we turn and expected to respond to all alerts as quickly as possible. Whether it’s texting from the supermarket, replying to emails late at night from our beds or constantly checking social media for fear of missing out, it is harder than ever to switch off and relax. 

Judging from what you tell us, high stress levels, low energy and a lack of sleep are the scourge of modern life - but other than feeling tired, how can this trio of conditions affect our health? We're going to spend the next few weeks investigating.

1. Stress

From time to time we all experience stress, but for many people, stress isn’t just an occasional reaction to a threat but rather a daily occurrence as a result of a hectic lifestyle. During stressful times, the body releases hormones that increase our heart and breathing rates and prepare the muscles to respond to a threat. When faced with a perceived threat, the body’s fight or flight system triggers in a well-choreographed sequence that has evolved over millions of years. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands during times of stress. It plays an important role in many bodily processes including regulating blood sugar levels, metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation. Cortisol also suppresses functions that could be detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation, such as the immune and digestive systems. 

2. Low energy

Fatigue is a common medical complaint that can seriously affect people’s quality of life. Feeling tired all the time is one of the most common reasons why people visit their doctor, but sometimes finding out the underlying cause of chronic fatigue can be a journey of trial and error. 
Many assume that feeling tired is just part of a busy lifestyle and something that must be put up with. However fatigue is a symptom for a huge number of health issues, from vitamin deficiencies to hormone imbalances, and unless you are testing, you won't be able to get to the bottom of it.

3. Sleep

Ask anyone who has had a disturbed night’s sleep, is struggling with jet lag or has pulled an all-nighter and they will emphasise the importance of a good night’s sleep. But the need for a good few hours of shut-eye goes way beyond removing those under-eye bags. Just as having a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly are important for our health, so is sleeping well as sleep plays a huge role in healthy brain function and overall emotional well-being. When we are feeling under the weather or perhaps not our normal selves, we are quick to try and identify the cause. However, many people are unaware that an ongoing lack of sleep can cause a range of different health issues. Sleep affects many different areas of health including cardiovascular health, diabetes risk, immune function and metabolism.

Throughout March, as part of our new weekly series, we will be focusing on stress, energy and sleep to find out more about how they affect our health. We will also be announcing an exciting competition  towards the end of the month so keep your eyes peeled for the entry details in an upcoming blog post!

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