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How to Save Your Sleep and Manage Stress


April 12, 2012 | Published by

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Now that we’ve discussed the sleep-stress connection, let’s talk about how to save that precious sleep and better manage stress. Higher subjective ratings of stress during the day are associated with poorer sleep. Conversely, poorer sleep is associated with higher ratings of stress during the day. Therefore, anywhere you are able to impact this vicious cycle is likely to help both.

  • Try to maintain a regular bedtime and waking time to reinforce the daily cycle.
  • Light is a factor in maintaining the daily rhythm. Avoid staring at a bright television or computer screen an hour before bedtime, and keep your bedroom as dark as possible while you sleep.
  • Have a small snack including complex carbohydrate (whole grains, root vegetables, etc.) and protein (nuts, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.) before bed to avoid low blood sugar during the night and a resultant rise in cortisol.
  • Minimize nighttime interruptions. Turn off your phone, and if noise is a factor where you sleep, try using white noise to relax and dampen sounds.
  • Vigorous exercise can help dissipate stress. However, a high intensity work out late in the evening may interfere with sleep. Gentle exercise just before bed, especially for those with adrenal fatigue, may promote sleep.
  • Support the adrenals and HPA axis with nutrients and adaptogens, herbs that help the system respond to stress, such as eleutherococcus (formerly Siberian ginseng), ashwagandha, maca and licorice.
  • Socialize with friends. It relieves stress and supports the adrenals.
  • Practice some form of relaxation and stretching such as yoga. In a trial looking at the effects of either an 8 week yoga or an 8 week educational film program on stress, mood and blood pressure in postmenopausal women, the yoga group showed significant improvements in sleep quality, mood, perceived stress and blood pressure compared to the film group.

Don’t lose sleep over stress. Support your sleep pattern and your stress response to get a better night’s sleep and avoid some of the problems associated with stress and long term sleep disorders.

Dr. Lise NaugleAbout the Author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.



Aldabal, L. and A. S. Bahammam (2011). “Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation.” Open Respir Med J 5: 31-43.

Backhaus, J., K. Junghanns, et al. (2004). “Sleep disturbances are correlated with decreased morning awakening salivary cortisol.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 29(9): 1184-1191.

Balbo, M., R. Leproult, et al. (2010). “Impact of sleep and its disturbances on hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis activity.” Int J Endocrinol 2010: 759234.

Benedict, C., W. Kern, et al. (2009). “Early morning rise in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity: a role for maintaining the brain’s energy balance.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 34(3): 455-462.

Eek, F., B. Karlson, et al. (2012). “Cortisol, sleep, and recovery – Some gender differences but no straight associations.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 37(1): 56-64.

Garde, A. H., K. Albertsen, et al. (2011). “Bi-directional associations between psychological arousal, cortisol, and sleep.” Behav Sleep Med 10(1): 28-40.

Innes, K. E. and T. K. Selfe (2012). “The Effects of a Gentle Yoga Program on Sleep, Mood, and Blood Pressure in Older Women with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2012: 294058.

Lattova, Z., M. Keckeis, et al. (2011). “The stress hormone system in various sleep disorders.” J Psychiatr Res 45(9): 1223-1228.

Spath-Schwalbe, E., T. Scholler, et al. (1992). “Nocturnal adrenocorticotropin and cortisol secretion depends on sleep duration and decreases in association with spontaneous awakening in the morning.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 75(6): 1431-1435.

Woods, N. F., E. S. Mitchell, et al. (2009). “Cortisol levels during the menopausal transition and early postmenopause: observations from the Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study.” Menopause 16(4): 708-718.

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  • Palmi says:

    I have suffered from insomnia for 35 years, at least in part augmented by anxiety which normally hits me once in bed. I have tried all kinds of supplements, sleep study, etc. and so far no solution found. I go to bed normal time and on a good night I may fall asleep at 3 to 4 am. For the past 2 years I have taken Ambient like every 3rd evening, when my head is about to burst from fatigue, knowing that this only makes the situation worse in the long run. I wake up at 7 to 8 am regardless of how few hours I have slept, probably having very little ram sleep (wake up with the slightest noise). I have carefully read the Wilson book on adrenal fatigue and taken steps suggested therein.
    Any suggestion?

    • Hi Palmi,

      I wish we had a magic pill that fixed people’s sleep. Sleep difficulties tend to be the thing that stick with people the longest, and can take longer to figure out. Of course, it comes down to the root cause(s) of the sleep disruptions. If adrenal fatigue is the cause, or a cause, of your sleep disruptions, supporting the adrenals through diet, lifestyle and supplementation can help. It often takes time, and people typically notice gradual improvement with sleep, rather than big leaps and bounds at a time. If you’re already following Dr. Wilson’s tips from his book, you can also consider our blog on sleep tips, which you can find here:
      The Anxiety and Depression Society of America has some good tips on managing anxiety, which you can find here:
      I hope this helps. Good sleep is crucial to good health, and it’s very difficult to feel like yourself when you’re not sleeping well.

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