Stress Getting in the Way of Sleep? New Research Might Have the Answer

Stress Getting in the Way of Sleep? New Research Might Have the Answer

Some days have teeth. They’re the ones that push and pull and bite, and ask more of us than we have to give. A little bit of stress can be a good thing, nurturing resourcefulness and resilience, but when stress lasts for too long it can do damage.

One of the ways it does this is by interfering with sleep and stealing the healing, restorative pillow time that is essential for strong physical and mental health. New research has found something that can help.

The research, published in the journal, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, found that a regular intake of prebiotics can protect against the effects of stress, and restore healthy sleep patterns after a stressful event.

Prebiotics are different to probiotics and we need both for good physical and mental health. Both help the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, but they work in different ways. Probiotics are living good bacteria that are important for a happy gut. They are found in cultured or fermented foods including yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha. Prebiotics are food for probiotics. They are the non-living ingredients that feed the good bacteria and help them to flourish. Prebiotics are found in non-digestible plant fibres such as legumes, asparagus and oats, chicory, onions, leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes.  

The connection between gut health and mental health has been well established. Inside our gut, in the intricately folded tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract are 200-600 million neurons. This is affectionately referred to as ‘the brain in our gut’ or our ‘second brain’, and it plays a vital role in our mental health. It communicates back and forth with our main brain, directly influencing many aspects of our well-being, including stress, anxiety and sadness, as well as memory, decision-making and learning. 

While there has been plenty of attention on the importance of probiotics for mental health, there has been less on the role of prebiotics.

About the research.

The research was conducted with rats, but stay with me – rats and mice are often used in experiments because of their biological and physiological similarity to humans. In the study, the rats were divided into two groups. One group received a prebiotic diet for several weeks before they were exposed to stress. The other group did not receive the prebiotic-enriched diet before the stress exposure.

‘Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions. We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.’ – Dr Agnieszka Mika, postdoctoral fellow and one of the authors of the study.

The stress that the rats were exposed to was equivalent in intensity to something like a car accident or a death of a loved one for humans.

The rats that were given the prebiotic diet did not show stress-induced changes in their gut mictrobiota. Their sleep patterns were also restored to normal sooner than the mice that did not receive the prebiotic diet.

We know the importance of keeping our stress levels in check, but at many times in our lives, stress will be unavoidable. Including prebiotics (as well as probiotics) in our diets might be a way to look after ourselves, and minimise the intrusion stress into our sleep and our daily lives. 

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Adolescence is all about the transition from childhood to adulthood. It can be a confusing time for everyone - not just for our teens but also for the adults who love them. 

Too often, the line between childhood and adulthood can be a blurry one. The expectations of adulthood can come charging at them, but without the freedoms, confidence, or capabilities that adulthood brings. They can feel with such depth and intensity, but without the adult wisdom or experience to make sense of those feelings. 

They’ll be okay, but it might feel wobbly for a while. In the meantime they will look to us for signs of safety and certainty. This doesn’t mean certainty that everything will always be okay - it won’t be - but certainty that they’ll get through, certainty that they are extraordinary, and needed, and that their will be a space and a place in the world that only they can fill.

We might not always feel that certainty. Some days we might ache, and wish we could make their world feel softer for a while. In those times, it will be less about what you do and more about who you are - being the one who can be with them without needing them to be different, the one who can handle any of their hurts or heartaches with gentle, certain hands, the one who can block out the world for a while by letting them rest in our care without needing them to be, or do, or give anything back in return.♥️
For our children, we start building the foundations for adolescence in their earliest years - the relationship we’ll have with them, who they are going to be, how they are going to be. One of the things we’ll want to build is their capacity to know their own minds and be brave enough to use it. This isn’t easy, even for adults, so the more practice we give them, the more they’ll be able to access their strong, brave, beautiful minds when they need to - when we aren’t there.

This means letting them have a say when we can, asking their opinions, and letting them disagree.

When kids and teens argue, they’re communicating. We need to listen, but the need won’t always be obvious. When littles argue because it’s spaghetti for dinner and ‘I hate spaghetti so much’ (even though last week and the 5 years before last week, spaghetti was their favourite), they might be expressing a need for sleep, power and influence, or independence. All are valid. When your teen argues because they want to do something you’ve said no to, the need might be to preserve their felt sense of inclusion with their tribe, or independence from you. Again, all valid. 

Of course, a valid need doesn’t mean it will always be met. Sometimes our needs might need to take priority to theirs, such as our need to keep them safe, or for them to learn that they can still be okay if everything doesn’t go their way, or that sometimes people will have conflicting needs that need to take priority. What’s important is letting them know we hear them and we get it.

It’s going to take time for kids to learn how to argue and express themselves respectfully. In the meantime, the words might be clumsy, loud, angry. This is when we need to hold on to ourselves, meet them where they are, let them know we hear them, and step into our leadership presence. We might give them what they need because it makes sense and because there isn’t enough reason not to. Sometimes, after giving them space to be heard we’ll need to stand our ground. Other times we might solve the problem collaboratively: This is what you want. This is what I want. Let’s talk about how we can we both get what we need.♥️
Anxiety will always tilt our focus to the risks, often at the expense of the very real rewards. It does this to keep us safe. We’re more likely to run into trouble if we miss the potential risks than if we miss the potential gains. 

This means that anxiety will swell just as much in reaction to a real life-threat, as it will to the things that might cause heartache (feels awful, but not life-threatening), but which will more likely come with great rewards. Wholehearted living means actively shifting our awareness to what we have to gain by taking a safe risk. 

Sometimes staying safe will be the exactly right thing to do, but sometimes we need to fight for that important or meaningful thing by hushing the noise of anxiety and moving bravely forward. 

When children or teens are on the edge of brave, but anxiety is pushing them back, ask, ‘But what would it be like if you could?’ ♥️

#parenting #parent #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #positiveparenting #heywarrior #heyawesome
Except I don’t do hungry me or tired me or intolerant me, as, you know … intolerably. Most of the time. Sometimes.
Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.

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