Stress can impact your life in many ways, including the quality of your sleep. The ways that stress can affect sleep, though, depends on the person. People react to stress differently. Those with low resilience to stress are more likely to experience insomnia.
What Are the Effects of Stress on Sleep?
Stress often impacts the quality of your sleep and the duration. Both stress and a lack of sleep can have a severe impact on your physical and mental health. When you’re feeling stressed, your body triggers a hormonal stress response that releases glucocorticoids like cortisol, which creates a boost of energy that allows you to fight or run from danger. Prolonged stress levels have been linked to decreased sleep duration, poorer quality sleep, and reduced REM sleep.
Stress and Insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that inhibits a person from falling asleep when they want to (sleep onset insomnia) and/or stay asleep through the night (sleep maintenance insomnia). Nearly one-third of adults in America say that they get insufficient sleep and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) went as far as to call the situation an epidemic.
Stress and insomnia are related. Stress can cause insomnia and insomnia can cause stress. It’s important to note that while stress can promote insomnia, not everyone who experiences stress suffers from sleeping problems. Insomnia plays a part in contributing to stress because sleep deprivation affects mood, making you feel frustrated and irritable. Insomnia can exacerbate stress because dealing with sleeping problems is a stressor in and of itself.
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7 Tips for Alleviating Stress and Improving Sleep
If high levels of stress aren’t dealt with, your health, well-being, and ability to sleep will suffer. Here are some things you can do to ease your stress and sleep better:
- Assess what’s stressful. Before you can get a handle on your stress you need to know what’s causing it. Once you identify the sources of your stress, you can take steps to reduce them.
- Seek social support. Spending quality time with friends and family is a great way to help alleviate stress.
- Practice thought management. Stress levels have a lot to do with what you think, how you think, and what you expect. Fortunately, you can learn how to change thought patterns that cause you stress. Thoughts that can raise your stress include those concerning how things should be and those that overgeneralize sets of circumstances. Search online for audiotapes and books that can help you learn thought management exercises.
- Exercise. Exercise is one of the healthiest, most effective ways to blow off steam and reduce stress. Another benefit is that loose muscles are less likely to become tight and painful in response to stress. Make sure to exercise at least two hours before going to bed to allow your body temperature to return to normal. If you’re over 50 or have medical conditions, talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
- Eat a healthy diet. Making sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and fish is a great start. A healthy diet low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can promote health and reduce stress.
- Get enough sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you practice the stress-reducing tips described above, you should notice an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Having too many responsibilities can lead to stress. Free up time and decrease your stress by delegating responsibilities.
Learn More About Sleep Disorders from Baptist Health
For more information on common sleep problems, contact the Baptist Health Sleep team today.