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Curing your burnout may be a matter of more sleep

Did you know that after just on bad night of sleep there's a 37% right in stress hormones?

Burnout is a rising social issue. Millennials have been labelled "The Burnout Generation", a condition that is symptomatic of feeling unable to complete small tasks like registering to forward your mail or taking a bag of old clothes to the local charity bin.

Every aspect of the modern existence is optimised for excellence and efficiency. Lunch hours become crammed gym sessions, lunches are eaten at your desk or converted to a "lunch meeting" and dentist appointments or haircuts become after-work affairs, so as not to eat into your weekend, when of course you need to snap the right "I'm having fun" Instagram picture and perfectly Kon Mari your apartment.

Unsurprisingly, sleep often doesn't fit into a perfectly optimised existence where you're trying to balance 100 things at once. With all my extracurriculars, I know I personally only manage to squeeze in six and half to seven hours of sleep a night during the week. And I know many people who sleep even less. An ex-editor I know once admitted to me she only slept for five hours a night, heading to bed at midnight and waking at 5am in order to keep on top of her fitness and freelance projects.

Is it any surprise we're so burned out?

What is burnout?

olivia

"Burnout is when we feel we are emotionally and physically exhausted and unable to continue," says sleep specialist Olivia Arezzolo.

With numerous qualification in science and fitness (including a Bachelor in Psychology), Arezzolo is an expert on all things sleep. She works with patients who have difficulty with sleep and offers programs and private consultations.She believes that burnout is often fueled by a hard-working Western culture and a "sleep when you're dead" attitude.

"Our lives are oriented around earning and spending, with the common belief that more equates to greater happiness – so we are always chasing the elusive 'more'," Arezzolo says

"We neglect signals that we need to stop – such as daytime fatigue, sickness or an inability to concentrate. We fuel ourselves through stimulants like caffeine and sugar to get by, but eventually, our adrenal system has nothing left, and we are constantly deflated. This is classic burnout."

Image source: Instagram

What role does sleep play in burnout?

So, what role does a lack of sleep play in all of this. A big one apparently.

Arezzolo explains: "Emotionally, after only one night lack of sleep, there is a 37% rise in stress hormone cortisol, making you feel depressed and anxious (Leproult, 1997). Other researchers found that insufficient sleep increases our feelings of negativity from an unpleasant experience – the degree is relative to the severity and size of sleep debt."

So what does this mean for the average person who's sleeping a lot less than they should?

"In the real world, this is the difference between being a touch upset over something that goes wrong and completely losing your marbles," Arezzolo says.

"And this impacts our physical health too."

"Research found people lacking sleep are more likely to engage in harmful stress coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, taking drugs and smoking cigarettes. They're also more likely to eat poorly and less likely to exercise; all factors which compound our feelings of burnout."

And it doesn't stop there, scientists have also discovered the main area of the brain to be affected by sleep loss is the frontal cortex, which is one of the most important parts of your brain.

"The frontal cortex governs motivation, emotional stability, judgement and decision making," Arezzolo says.

"It's even more understandable that sleep is a major catalyst to improve or impede burn out."

Best tips for repairing and preventing burnout

woman having coffee

We asked Arezzolo for her top tips to avoiding burnout and the best one she says is "quality sleep!".

"Without it, you're really limiting your capacity to avoid burnout – it becomes almost inevitable simply due to the biological changes that come due to a lack of sleep," she says.

Feeling energised in the mornings is rare for many (especially for me) and Arezzolo suggests this is an indicator we're not getting the quality of sleep we need.

"This says you need to address sleep. My online program, The 6 Week Sleep Solution is designed to improve the mechanisms which improve sleep – which are the sames ones that reduce burnout," Arezzolo says.

Although you're 95% more likely to reach goals when you have a scheduled accountability like using a program, Arezzolo says there are a few more tips you can use to treat and avoid burnout.

  • Avoiding blue light exposure. Steer clear of these devices and room light within two hours of sleep. As published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, if you're exposed to this light, it delays your sleep by 90 minutes.
  • Drinking chamomile tea in the evening and afternoon. Scientific research demonstrates it's a mild sedative which counteracts the effects of stress, which can be felt as your mind running at a million miles an hour or anxiety.
  • Use mind dump. Write your thoughts down in the evening (or whenever you're feeling overwhelmed/exhausted) as a healthy coping mechanism. This allows you to express negativity, frustration or sadness without judgement or fear of hurting others. Often when we're exhausted our thoughts become tangled and writing stops them going around in circles in your head.
  • Meditation. With evidence showing it improves anxiety, feelings of positivity, calmness and decreases blood pressure, it's a simple practice which has phenomenal benefits.
  • Connect with a positive community, like mine on Instagram. Realising there are others on the same aspirations to wellness inspires you to be your best and puts you back on track when you fall off the bandwagon too.

Top sleep aids

The Beauty Chef Sleep Inner Beauty Powder
The Beauty Chef Sleep Inner Beauty Powder

Adore Beauty

Oil Garden Sleep Assist Medicinal Oil
Oil Garden Sleep Assist Medicinal Oil

Chemist Warehouse

Oil Garden Tranquil & Calm Blend
Oil Garden Tranquil & Calm Blend

Chemist Warehouse

Natrol, Melatonin, Sleep, Fast Dissolve, Strawberry
Natrol, Melatonin, Sleep, Fast Dissolve, Strawberry

iHerb

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