Have you ever wondered why you’re so anxious when you can’t sleep? Or why when in an intense period of your life you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep?
At the bottom of the problem lays stress. It can dramatically reduce your sleep quality and take a toss on your mental health. If you want to learn how stress and sleep are related, this article can shed some light.
What is stress?
An organism’s response to an unpleasant external factor, called a stressor, is known as stress. Stress is the body’s mechanism of reacting to a challenge, threat, or physical and psychological barrier.
Multiple systems in the body respond to stimuli that alter an organism’s circumstances. The autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are two major systems that react to stress in humans and most animals. Our primary stress hormone is cortisol. Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland can sense the level of cortisol in your blood.
If your body is highly alerted all the time, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that aren’t useful. They might include your digestive, reproductive, immune systems, or even growth processes. As a result, chronic stress can cause several problems like anxiety and depression, heart disease, obesity, and sleep deprivation.
There are three main types of stress:
The discomfort of this type of anxiety is typically short-lived and induced by brief bursts of panic or terror. You’ve missed a project deadline or school, or you nearly got involved in a vehicle accident, are examples of such occurrences. Upticks in blood pressure and heart rate, followed by irritability, sadness, and anxiety, are all possible symptoms. Headaches, back discomfort, and stomach issues are also common. Acute stress-induced symptoms, on the other hand, typically fade after a short time.
Episodic acute stress
The stress of this sort is the result of several everyday pressures. People who are weighed down with day-to-day problems might use harmful behaviors like overeating or binge drinking to relieve their worries. Episodic acute stress can lead to clinical depression, heart disease, poor job performance, and relationship difficulties.
Many reasons can bring about chronic stress, including poverty, violence, and trauma. People typically take on these distressing events, which eventually wear down the mind and create feelings of despair. Chronic stress can also lead to HPA axis deficiency, characterized by a lack of communication between the “fight or flight” response and other systems in our body.
What causes stress?
We live in a pretty stressful world, and that takes a turn on our sleeping habits. Because of this, many people will have trouble sleeping at least once in their lifetime. Here are the main reasons for stress that may cause trouble to fall asleep.
It makes sense that people would take their work home with them, whether physically or metaphorically. It’s also logical: today’s demanding workloads make it frequently difficult to come home and relax after work. If you still try to solve issues at the end of the day, and your ideas won’t seem to leave your mind, getting sleep might be more difficult. It may even cause disruptions in your sleep cycle as you move from one sleep stage to the next.
Anxiety also makes it tough to sleep and interrupts your slumber. Anxiety keeps your thoughts preoccupied as you worry about what may happen next. You could become fixated on finding answers. Cortisol levels might be high if you’re caught up in your head too much, making sleep more difficult to attain.
Stress causes people to take in a lot of coffee to boost energy or help them make it through the day. Unfortunately, caffeine can amplify stress levels and significantly impact how much and sound sleep you receive.
Because of your job, you may not have enough time to sleep. You may be tired all the time, but you won’t realize how much sleep affects you because life is so hectic.
How does stress affect sleep?
Insomnia is a sleep problem that’s frequently linked to stress. Persistent difficulties in sleeping onset, maintenance, consolidation, or general quality are all considered forms of insomnia. In addition, insomnia has been linked to several adverse effects, including increased daytime sleepiness, tiredness, irritability, and other problems when people are awake. According to current statistics, 10-30% of adults have insomnia..
Although not everyone with chronic insomnia is under tremendous stress, those with anxiety disorders are more likely to experience sleep problems. Furthermore, changes in one’s sleep schedule due to life events or changes can also cause sleeplessness. Chronic insomnia often leads to feelings of worry about sleeping which can affect mental health. This adds to daily stress, which makes insomnia symptoms worse.
The following are some of the day-to-day insomnia difficulties that can cause or contribute to stress:
- Feelings of fatigue and malaise
- Difficulty paying attention, concentrating, or accessing memories
- Impaired performance in social, family, professional, or academic settings
- Irritability and mood disturbances
- Hyperactivity, aggression, impulsivity, and other behavioral issues
- Decreased energy and motivation
- Increased risk for errors and accidents
If someone has insomnia symptoms for fewer than three months, they are said to have short-term insomnia. Acute stressors can produce short-term insomnia symptoms, just as chronic stress can induce chronic sleeplessness. These pressures might be interpersonal relationship issues, work-related problems, financial loss, grieving and bereavement, diagnosis or initial symptoms of a disease or other medical condition.
Acute stress can also occur as a result of making significant modifications to your bedroom or sleeping space. New parents, for example, may experience sleeplessness symptoms while sharing their room with their infant for the first time, even if they are not audible. Children may experience sleep difficulties as soon after they start sharing their space with a sibling as possible. Visiting or relocating to a new place might induce temporary sleeplessness.
When stressful situations end, insomnia symptoms may lessen. Acute stress dissipates quickly, but some individuals develop a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and daytime worry about sleep that eventually leads to chronic sleeplessness.
Chronic stress can also cause sleep apnea, defined as a recurring collapse of the upper airway during sleep. This sleep disorder includes a recurrent collapse of the upper airway during sleep, leading to noisy and choking episodes, significant daytime tiredness, and other daytime impairments.
Sleep apnea can be caused by a mulitiple factors, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems that can all be linked to stress. Obesity is also a significant risk factor. Sleep apnea, like sleeplessness, may also increase pressure by disrupting your sleep and exhausting you during the day.
How to reduce stress?
Reduction of stress is vital for healthy sleep. Relaxation techniques and exercises such as yoga can improve sleep quality. Below we describe the most popular methods for reducing stress.
To manage stress, we highly recommend practicing relaxation daily. Of course, it takes time to get into the routine, but it will change your life for the better once you make it a habit.
Visualization is a helpful tool for reducing stress and worry. You picture yourself in a more relaxing and peaceful setting, such as on a beach or among blooming meadows. Visualization has the power to relax your body and calm your mind. You may genuinely allow your thoughts and body to seem as though they are there simply by seeing yourself in a more stimulating environment.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a powerful technique to reduce stress, neutralizing anxious ideas. Various muscular groups are tightened and released to reduce bodily tension during PMR. You can also use this technique to focus your attention on removing stress from the body. When practiced over time, it may assist you in recognizing when your muscles are tense and more easily releasing the physical discomfort that is causing your anxiety.
Autogenic training is a form of self-hypnosis. You repeat a sequence of phrases about various areas of your body. The recurrence of these statements is thought to impact your autonomic nervous system, which controls both your heart rate and breathing.
Joga and meditation
The time before bed is a great time to practice yoga or do mild stretching. You can also meditate if you struggle with overthinking before sleep. These methods may also be used after waking to unwind and reduce morning anxiety while feeling refreshed.
Yoga and meditation are popular stress reduction techniques that are beneficial for mental health. Yoga may help you relax, increase attention, and let go of tension throughout your body. Meditation can be also used or as part of a yoga regimen, and it’s also an excellent method to help you feel more balanced, calm, and focused.
Deep breathing exercises
All of the above relaxation techniques need proper breathing methods.
Chest vs. abdominal breathing. There are two types of breathing patterns. It’s essential to be aware of their differences during stressful and anxious times when you’re more likely to breathe from your chest. First, there is
Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing is a deep, even breathing Deep, even breathing that engages your diaphragm and allows your lungs to expand draws air in through the nose and mouth, filling your lungs with air. You’re probably breathing in this manner when you’re in a good night’s sleep.
Thoracic (chest) breathing– This type of breathing is characterized by rapid, shallow breaths from the chest. If you’re anxious, you may not even know that you’re breathing in this manner. The simplest technique to determine how you breathe is to put your hand on your stomach near the waist and the other on your chest. As you breathe, pay attention to which arm rises the most. Your stomach should go up with each breath (and the hand on it should rise the most) if you’re breathing properly.
Stress can affect how your body functions, especially how you sleep. Stress may make it difficult for you to relax and sleep well. To reduce stress you can practice relaxation techniques, visualize a relaxing environment, practice progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), or autogenic training, or yoga and meditation. We hope this article has described thoroughly how stress affects your sleep and how you can reduce it.