We will start off with stress. Everybody has stress. In fact they say the only people with no stress are those six feet underground. However there is a fine line between good stress (Eustress) and bad stress (Distress). Good stress is like getting a promotion, getting married, having a newborn baby, shifting to a new dream home. This all can cause a certain amount of stress but you also have the feel good factor.
A little stress is also important, like for example sitting for exams or going for a job interview as it can keep you on your toes. During the time of our ancestors, the cavemen, this stress saved life’s as when he came face to face with a tiger for example this stress released certain chemicals and hormones that made him run faster, breath faster and sent glucose to his muscles and other organs. So stress of a short duration is actually good for us.
However chronic stress is actually dangerous and can cause harm. With today’s busy lifestyle, most of us start our day with the alarm clock (this itself is a stress as the name signifies). Than we are running around busy as a bee from morning to night. Technology keeps us connected all the time with very little downtime. Most people are not even aware of this low grade continuous stress.
The stress hormone cortisol is released all the time and this has many devastating effects on the body including lack of energy, poor sleep, increasing weight, hypertension and diabetes and eventually to heart attacks and strokes. Therefore understanding the effects of chronic stress and managing this is important. The management of stress involves all of mind, body and spirit and I will deal with that in another article.
Next we come to sleep. Many of us take this for granted. I have even heard some workaholics say that sleep is overrated and not that important. I know because I was one of them. I and some of my doctor friends used to take pride and show off about how we only had a few hours’ sleep the day before and were still going ‘strong’. However studies have shown that people who have adequate sleep actually perform better than those who did not sleep enough and in the long run achieve more.
During our REM sleep we rejuvenate our brain and during the NREM sleep our physical body gets rejuvenated. Hence sleep is one important component of healthy ageing and should not be neglected. Lack of sleep is like a stress to the body and all the negative effects of stress also kick in. There is an article here on sleep and the elderly that you can read.