November 23, 2023
5 mins read

What you should know about SLEEP and STRESS

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An image of a woman lying in bed with her hands on her head, possibly experiencing discomfort or stress.

According to the Sleep Doctor, "stress represents the body's physiological and mental response to a threat."

 "When faced with a stressful situation, the brain triggers the fight-or-flight response, which starts with the release of hormones like adrenaline. These hormones cause a rise in blood pressure, muscle tension, breathing and heart rate, and blood sugar, as well as higher levels of alertness, decreased pain sensitivity, and slowed digestion. These changes are intended to help a person face a challenge head-on or escape safely."

How Stress Affects Sleep?

Chronic stress causes dysregulation of the sleep-wake cycle, the internal clock that tells the body when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be alert. 

When people experience stress during the day, they are more likely to have trouble falling asleep and report poor sleep quality that night. 

The level of the stress hormone cortisol has essential implications for the sleep-wake cycle. While cortisol usually decreases at night in preparation for sleep, studies have found that people with insomnia have higher levels of cortisol in the evening, which are linked to a more significant number of awakenings. 

The good news is that while more stress can lead to worse Sleep, the reverse also seems to hold. One study found that meditating on stressful events, rather than higher stress levels per se, was the primary factor affecting sleep quality. Finding ways to cope with stress may reduce the negative effects of stress on Sleep, even for those with high-stress lifestyles. Studies have also found that Sleep improves quickly after a temporary stressor ends.

How Sleep Affects Stress

Not getting enough Sleep significantly impacts stress levels and overall mood. Research suggests that people who have slept better also experience fewer negative emotions and can recover faster from a stressful event.

Biologically, poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation influence stress-related parameters, including cortisol levels and systemic inflammation. Fragmented Sleep or long-term sleep deprivation appears to contribute to higher cortisol levels. Going to Sleep at times that are not concordant with natural sleep-wake rhythms can also disrupt cortisol patterns.

How to Manage Your Stress for Better Sleep

General sleep hygiene is crucial, but managing stress may be just as important. Specific changes may help you control your stress to improve sleep quality:

Limit Your News Feed
Consulting constant updates on stressful current events may worsen feelings of stress and anxiety. Try limiting the time spent looking at news media to once or twice a day, and keep electronic devices out of the bedroom.

Keep Up With Your Hobbies and Interests
Participating in hobbies is associated with better psychological well-being, improved blood pressure and stress hormone levels, and better Sleep.

Unwind Before Bed
Find a relaxing activity such as reading, yoga, or taking a warm bath to include in your nightly routine

Connect with Your Family and Friends
Avoid letting stress isolate you from your friends and family. Loved ones represent an essential source of social support and can help protect against the mental health effects of stressful life events.

Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are designed to reduce stress and induce a state of relaxation. Examples include progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and deep breathing, all of which can be done when you are already in bed.

Practice Mindfulness 
Ruminating may also make it more likely that stressful life events lead to poor sleep quality. Practising mindfulness meditation, which involves focusing on the present moment, may help you relax in preparation for Sleep.


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