stress and sleep
Last Updated on June 6, 2022 by Peter

Stress & Sleep: How Are They Related?

Stress is a part of our daily lives and it affects us emotionally, physically and behaviorally. A moderate amount of stress can be useful by making us do our best and keeping us alert and energetic. Too much stress, however, can give us tension and anxiety, which can cause sleep problems.

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    Effects of stress

    When we’re stressed, our minds race with thoughts instead of shutting down at night, preventing important functions involved in memory, muscle repair and mood. When we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system malfunctions just as much as when we’re stressed. But those aren’t the only things put out of order.

    Restless hours pileup

    Stress has a way of making us toss and turn — and those restless hours add up. According to a survey, 43 percents of adults say that stress causes them to lie awake at night, and more than 50 percent of adults report feeling sluggish or lazy after a night of little sleep.

    While there is no magic amount of sleep hours we should log per night, research suggests that people would be happier and healthier overall if they at least got an additional 60 to 90 minutes per night. And the bottom line is, we can’t log that time when we’re too busy worrying over our anxieties.

    a woman tired of too much work

    Quality of sleep

    Not only is stress stealing precious hours of sleep, but it also spoils shut-eye satisfaction. About 42 percent of adults report getting only mediocre or poor quality sleep when they’re stressed.

    Insomnia risks

    Stress may not just negatively affect some of your sleep, it may rob you of sleep entirely. Those who experience ongoing stress are more susceptible to insomnia, and each additional stress factor increases the risk for the disorder.

    Brain overdrive

    When you fall asleep, your body switches from its active sympathetic nervous system to the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. However, this gets interrupted with stress. When you’re overly worried, the sympathetic nervous system doesn’t shut down, and your brain remains hyperactive, leaving you wide awake.

    insomnia produced by stress and lack of sleep

    Sleepless cycle

    If you’re not careful, stress can be a catalyst for a vicious cycle of sleepless nights: You’re stressed, so you can’t sleep, then your lack of sleep makes you more stressed, and so on. Nearly three-fourths of adults say that their stress-induced sleep problems have caused an increase of stress or anxiety in their lives.

    How to recognize symptoms of stress?

    Common signs of stress include depression, sleep problems, tension, anxiety, work mistakes, poor concentration, and apathy, among many others. If high levels of unwanted stress are not properly managed, your health and sense of well-being can suffer.

    a woman stressed out due to a lot of work

    How to manage stress?

    If you don’t manage your stress it could have long lasting consequences to your health and well being. These are some of the ways you could keep your stress checked.

    Smell some lavander

    Studies have shown that the floral scent relaxes the body and can even help with insomnia. Sleep sprays are mostly based on lavender smell. You can also give it a go at essential oils.

    lavander scent for relaxation

    Practice relaxation techniques

    Whether it be a few yoga poses, progressive relaxation or meditation, engaging in a few calming exercises before bed can help quiet your mind so you can drift off to dreamland.

    Discard your thoughts

    Grab a pen and paper and write down what you’re feeling — then physically throw them away. Research shows this trick will help clear your mind of negative thoughts. And a clear mind is sleep-ready mind.

    Take some deep breaths

    If specific exercises aren’t your thing, try just taking a few deep breaths before you nod off. The inhalation and exhalation activates the body’s naturally-calming parasympathetic system. Practice breathing every night and make it a habit – breathing exercises relax muscles and mind.

    a woman meditates before sleep

    Eat healthy

    Junk food and refined sugars low in nutritional value and high in calories can leave us feeling out of energy and sluggish. A healthy diet, low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, can promote health and reduce stress. Eat light snacks before bed if you’re feeling hungry, and a general rule of thumb is to eat at least one hour before bed. That way you can let your stomach ingest what you ate and you won’t experience nausea, acid reflux or heartburn.

    Delegate responsibilities

    Often, having too many responsibilities can lead to stress. Free up time and decrease stress by delegating responsibilities. Make a to-do list, keep an online journal and try to keep a schedule. Routine can bring a lot more calmness into your life and reduce stress.

    Consider seeing a sleep specialist

    If absolutely nothing works, it might be helpful to seek insight from a professional. Therapists can help you sort through stress, as well as employ techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to address insomnia. There’s no shame in asking for help and we strongly advise it to everyone that has been continually having insomnia and other sleep-related problems.

    an image of a stressed women having a professional sleep therapy session


    Stress can be very harmful for general well being, especially considering how it could affect the quality of sleep. If you don’t keep your stress levels in check, you could seriously damage your well being by losing sleep. There are methods to recognize symptoms of stress and to prevent it from taking control over your life and health.

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