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What is evening stress and why should we beware of it?

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When we experience stress, it can often lead to a series of hormones being released in the body. New studies have suggested that we actually have a vulnerability to stress as the day progresses. Our body may actually react more strongly to acute psychological stress in the evening compared to stress that we might experience in the morning.

Studies conducted by Japan’s Hokkaido University are suggesting that even with normal work hours and sleeping habits, we react differently to acute psychological stress later on into the evening. In a study conducted on 27 healthy young volunteers as they went about their normal routine, it was determined that hypersonic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis changes occurred, leading to different responses for acute stress as the day progressed.

The HPA axis connects directly to the central nervous system and endocrine system in the body. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that gets released every few hours when the HPA gets activated due to a stressful event. Stressful events will directly provide us with energy and activate a fight-or-flight response. The circadian clock within our body can actually work to maximize these responses and make sure that a fight-or-flight response can get supercharged during specific hours of the day.

Throughout the experience, the research team worked to measure the cortisol levels in volunteers at their baseline when they first woke up. Volunteers were divided into two groups where one group was exposed to stress in the morning and another group was exposed to stress in the evening, around 10 hours after they’d been awake.

Volunteers that were taking the test in the evening continued to experience a much higher heart rate than individuals that were taking the test in the morning. It seemed as though the participants that were exposed to stress in the morning had a much easier time activating their HPA axis within the sympathetic nervous system. Individuals that were exposed to stress in the evening experienced a vulnerability in preventing extreme stress within their system.

The largest issue with evening stress now that we know we are susceptible to it and that it can prevent sleep. When we get worked up before it’s time for our bodies to go to sleep, it often leads to fits of insomnia and issues when it comes to sleeping. As we know that our biological clock can have a large effect on our ability to manage stress, the more time that we continue to change our city and rhythm and go without sleep, the worse our reaction to stress can be.

If you have ever felt extremely frazzled as a result of several days of not sleeping, you have likely experienced this connection in action yourself. Recognizing that we can be more susceptible to stress in the evening can help us prepare our schedules accordingly. If you have some stressful activities planned for the day, it could be a wise idea to schedule these actions for the morning where your body can be better equipped to handle the extra stress.

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A-Z

Good Stress?

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The restless feeling during final exams or anxiousness of speaking to your boss can all induce various levels of stress. Stress can be beneficial at times, but however, it is a crucial factor for survival. The “good” stress is known as acute stress, but “bad” stress is chronic stress that could be detrimental to one’s health.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

The hormone called cortisol determines stress. It controls blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, maintain memory formulation, and reduces inflammation. Increased cortisol release due to excessive stress would lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, mood swings, and blood sugar imbalances.

However, with just the right level of stress, experts say it is a burst of energy that could advise better choices and meet daily challenges. This factor is critical for survival that acts as a flight-or-fight response, such as the indication to dodge a car that is coming towards you. Studies have shown that individuals who have moderate levels of stress before surgery recovered faster than individuals having high or low levels of stress, alongside other health benefits. With a completely stress-free life, the thought of pain could be too intense and the body would not be prepared psychologically.

Too much stress is adversely affecting a person’s health.  It could lead to headaches, irritability, change in appetite, sickness, and increased anger or anxiousness than usual. Chronic stress not only affects your head but the entire body and eventually induces health problems. It becomes more severe when people use alcohol or tobacco to relieve stress, as these tend to keep the body in a more stressed state instead.  

Assess Bad Stress to Good

Specific practices such as meditation and yoga can help to mediate stress levels. Other ways to reduce stress could be merely by avoiding substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Proper sleep hours and straightforward practices such as managing time and tracking stress could improve one’s health! It’s important to know your own body, and the amount of pressure you can handle. So when you feel strenuous, take a deep breath, and handle the situation calmly without adversely affecting your body.

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