As a condition that affects your mental health, stress is closely intertwined with your ability to get quality sleep. “Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. Stress can lead to sleep loss and, conversely, loss of sleep can increase stress,” noted the sleep.org website.
WebMD.com defined stress as “a response to adverse and challenging circumstances and a response to daily life. [Stress] affects us emotionally, physically and behaviorally.” Stress-related issues, and how they affect your ability to get quality sleep, also highlighted the need for stress management.
WebMD.com noted that sleep issues are among the symptoms of stress, along with depression, anxiety, poor concentration or apathy, and headaches. sleepfoundation.org backed these findings, as it concluded that “a person can be diagnosed with chronic insomnia if their symptoms occur at least three times a week for at least three months.” The website identified a number of causes for stress like “problems or dissatisfaction at work, divorce and other…family difficulties, [and] the death of a loved one.”
sleep.org found at least four tangible ways that stress affects sleep.
Trouble falling asleep: sleep.org noted that people with stress take longer to go to sleep, and are more likely to experience sleeping disorders. “People with higher levels of stress are more likely to experience insomnia…Chronic insomnia can develop in response to prolonged stress.”
Altered sleep architecture: Researchers have detected the disruptive effects of stress on sleep. “Stress may reduce a type of sleep called slow-wave sleep. Slow wave sleep is important for maintaining physical and mental health,” said sleep.org. “Stress may also affect rapid-eye movement [REM] sleep,” though the condition can increase or reduce this type of sleep.
Nighttime awakening: sleep.org have found that stress disrupted sleep in more ways than one. “Feeling stressed can cause people to wake up more often during the night.”
Stress dreams: Effects of stress can be intangible, as it can go into our subconscious. “Stressful events can affect our dreams,” according to sleep.org. “Research suggests that stress can increase the frequency and severity of nightmares.”
While desperation and frustration might tempt you to give up your struggles with chronic stress, this problem is not insurmountable, as you can overcome it if you know where to start. These include:
Assessing what is stressful: According to WebMD.com, “the first step in getting a handle on stress is to figure out what’s causing it.” sleep.org took a more pinpoint approach. “Learn how stress shows up in your life, whether it’s sleeping issues, changes in relationships, or changes in your thought patterns,” the website noted. They added that recognizing the causes of stress enables you to plan in dealing with the issue.
Seek social support: Time with family and friends can help you deal with stress. WebMD.com found that doing so is a “buffer against stress. It can be helpful to share your problems with people who care for you,” said the website. sleepfoundation.org also noted that you can “find comfort through connecting with community groups and religious organizations.”
Practice thought management: Managing our thoughts and expectations helps in managing or mitigating stress. “You can learn to change thought patterns that produce stress,” said WebMD.com. On its part, sleepfoundation.org suggested creating goals for yourself. The goals include “maintain[ing] a positive mindset by setting reasonable goals in your social, professional and family life.”
Exercise: Blowing off steam and energy through exercise is a surefire way to reduce stress. WebMD.com recommended that you “exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime so your body temperature returns to normal.” However, the website suggested that you consult with your doctor if you are over 50 years old or have a medical condition.
Learn to relax: Experts suggested that relaxing activities will help reduce stress and get quality sleep. These include “yoga, meditation, or deep breathing…a warm bath and turning off electronics.” sleepfoundation.org also suggested using essential oils like lavender, bergamot and chamomile also help those with chronic insomnia get better sleep, as well as reducing sleepiness on waking up the next morning.
Eat a healthy diet: WebMD.com suggested that “a healthy diet, low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol,” can improve your health and decrease stress.
Get adequate sleep: WebMD.com advised that you get “7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Practicing good sleep hygiene along with stress-lowering tactics can improve your quality of sleep.” The website warned that sleep deprivation can make you “less patient and more easily agitated,” which increases stress.
Delegate responsibility: WebMD.com has found that “free[ing] up time” and “delegating responsibilities” are effective ways to reduce stress that often come from having too many responsibilities.
Stress might be an ongoing challenge in getting you the quality sleep you need. But the strains from this issue can be tackled with effective stress management ranging from pinpointing causes of stress, enough sleep, and a healthy diet.
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