Theoretically, the era of Peak Burnout should’ve coincided seamlessly with the era of Soundly Snoozing by 11 p.m. every night. Between seeing endless social media updates from people we barely care about, long hours and endless tasks to complete at work, and about 14 million RSVP-worthy celecations that require plane tickets, we should be so exhausted every night, able to conk out, no problem. But alas, restless minds beget restless bodies. So if you have trouble falling asleep after busy days, you may be experiencing burnout-fueled insomnia.
On a clinical level, burnout is characterized by a sense of exhaustion from work, and that kind of stress is certainly liable to keep you up at night.
“Current research suggests that the relationship between burnout—a real syndrome, according to the World Health Organization—and insomnia is a two-way street, with burnout seeming to encourage insomnia, and insomnia increasing burnout,” says Sally Fisher, MD, integrative medicine specialist and medical director at Sunrise Springs. “Both [are] associated with the flight-or-fight stress hormone, cortisol. So theoretically, anything that decreases burnout should improve insomnia, and anything that decreases insomnia should improve burnout.” And, to that end, Dr. Fisher has some tips to share.
Have trouble falling asleep? Here are 3 tips to make sure burnout’s not to blame.
1. Try an herbal remedy for stress relief
Many of us love and live by melatonin. But if your sky-high cortisol levels are overpowering your nightly gummy supplement, shifting gears gears could be a worthy consideration. And while there’s no shortage of herbal-supplement options available Dr. Fisher has a very specific recommendation in mind.
“In a 12-week study, the herb Rhodiola was shown to reduce burnout symptoms, in some subjects at as early as the first week,” Dr. Fisher says. Totally worth giving a shot, or if you’re looking for another supplemental switch for stress, experts tend to recommend Relora, NuSera, Serenagen, cordyceps, ashwagandha, and magnesium. Of course, before adding any supplement to your regimen, consult with a medical professional.
2. Commit to a bedtime mindfulness ritual
“Training in mindfulness-awareness practices has been shown to improve both sleep and burnout,” Dr. Fisher says. “I absolutely advise it if insomnia is an ongoing problem.”
This option is really a choose-your-own adventure in terms of how to implement it. If you find that something classically mindful like meditation centers you, take a few minutes to practice before bed. Or pick up a pen to jot down thoughts in your worry journal to organize and expel your anxieties. I personally enjoy mindful worksheets and coloring books, but that’s me. Figure out what works for you.
3. Regulate your breathing
“Slow, deep breathing calms down the flight-or-fight system and increases the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone,” Dr. Fisher says.
Bringing your breathing to an even pace is always a sharp idea, but there’s even certain breathing patterns that’ll help tranquilize you for the night. I swear by the 4-7-8 breathing technique, and the Wim Hof Method is also great for providing a sense of calm. But there’s plenty of breathing exercises you can test out on your way to dreamland. Inhale. Exhale. And know that your to-do list can wait until tomorrow.
Or slip into something comfortable: one editor swears by this compression eye pillow to block out a busy day’s many stressors. Don’t think burnout’s to blame? Learn about all the different types of insomnia to figure out what’s up.
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