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Stress is one of the top reasons many people can’t sleep. Now we have the coronavirus and the new normal affecting our lives in ways we never imagined. Stress is greater than ever and that means many of us are struggling to get the deep restorative sleep we need. What is stress and how do you know that’s what is causing your insomnia? Then, how do you fix it?
How Does Stress Affect Your Sleep?
There can be many reasons for stress. Job or money troubles or family problems or events such as politics, disasters or the current pandemic. Insomnia is often a result of stress. The anxiety of tossing and turning and trying to sleep when you are stressed can increase stress making it even more difficult.
What is stress?
Stress is the fight or flight response by the body, also called hyperarousal. It is the result of a challenge or demand creating a physical or emotional tension. You may feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Your body releases the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline to heighten your ability to handle what it perceives as a threatening situation. These can be signs that stress is affecting your sleep at night.
You review over and over the events of the day. Stressful problems and worries repeat while you try to work out possible solutions or think through to-do lists worried about getting things done later. You get the idea. It can be very difficult to sleep with a racing mind.
Some people have a tendency to tense up certain muscles when stressed. This can lead to shoulder and neck pain or headaches making it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can then set you up for a second round the following day because poor sleep can then lead to more tension headaches elevating the problem.
Trying to sleep with a heart that won’t wind down can feel frustratingly impossible, but is very common with stress. This is linked increased levels of stress hormones, tension and arousal.
How to Sleep With Stress in a Stressful World
The constant influx today of media and events exposing us to headline stress disorder has many people over the top with stress. We are pounded with elections and politics, coronavirus and pandemic lock downs, job losses, trying to make ends meet in a world that seems at the edge more than ever. In the news, on social media, in every aspect of our day, it can feel like an endless assault? Stress can bring about insomnia which in turn can create more stress because you can’t sleep. How can you cope with the stress without sleep? How can you sleep with the stress from it all?
Relieving Stress and Anxiety for a Better Night’s Sleep
- What’s stressing you?- Put a finger on your worries and identify the source of your stress early in the day. Think it through away from bedtime so that you can quiet your mind when it’s time to go to sleep. If you can’t work it out write it down to continue on it the next day and put the task off your plate for the time being. The anxiety of going over and over on it at bedtime sets you up for a hard time sleeping and can lead to acute insomnia if it becomes a habit.
- Work out stress with exercise -This is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Focusing on your body instead of your worries not only takes your mind off them for a while but also release endorphins which relieve stress, improve mood and help promote better sleep. You don’t want to be overstimulated working out too close to bedtime though. Try working out at different times during the day to see how it affects your sleep and make adjustments accordingly. Typically, no closer than a couple hours before bed though.
- Try Meditation and Yoga to relax – For many people these techniques have proven successful to reduce stress. Only 10 or 15 minutes before bed can make a difference if that’s all the time you can spare. There are numerous guides and resources for routines, many targeted for people that have sleep problems.
- Listen to music or natural sounds – Sound can have a huge effect on your mood. We use music to motivate ourselves in many ways for daytime activities. It can also make you feel calmer, slow heart rate and breathing, lower blood pressure and relax your muscles making it easier to go to sleep. Listening to relaxing music for 45 minutes before bed has shown to help improve overall sleep quality. In addition, natural sounds such as rain falling or night sounds of katydids or crickets for example can be effective to help relax. These can be found through many resources online and in stores.
- Unplug your brain – Take a break from the media infusion constantly bombarding with the fuel the causes you stress. Get your updates once a day and move on. Turn off the TV, the computer, and cell phone. Not only will it help to leave behind the events of the day creating anxiety but the light from these screens makes your brain think it should be awake.
- Picture yourself – Put yourself someplace relaxing. Perhaps on a beach with the waves slowly rolling in. Maybe on your favorite camping or fishing trip? Explore each element of the scene. What are the sounds, the smells, the textures. This slows your mind down and can help you relax. One main thing here is to divert your mind away from stresses and let you fall asleep instead of trying too hard to go to sleep and creating more anxiety.
- Have a cup of tea – Herbal tea that is. Chamomile tea contains flavonoids which have a calming and sedative effect on the brain. Green teas contain L-theanine which also has an anti-stress effect.
- Better scents – Smell can have a positive effect on mood and relieving stress and at the same time promote sleep. Throughout time people have used aromatherapy for many calming properties. Studies have shown evidence of the effectiveness of this technique for calming body and mind. A few examples are Lavender, bergamot, and jasmine.
Can Sleeping Reduce Stress
We know that stress can affect how you sleep, but on the flip side, can sleep reduce stress? The answer is yes.
When you are stressed your body produces stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When you sleep these stress hormones are reduced. This allows you to better regulate sleep.
Being able to have a good sleeping routine restores your body and improves your mood, judgement and decision-making abilities so you can deal better with stress. When you become sleep deprived this can turn into a down hill cycle of stress and further lack of sleep.
Conclusion – Relieving Stress and the Power of Sleep
By reducing exposure to your stress triggers, using techniques to relax and free your mind and keeping a regular sleep routine you can help improve your ability to handle stress and promote improved sleep each night.
Do you have questions or suggestions about today’s post. Please leave a comment below.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. You should seek the advice of a doctor if you need medical treatment. Read full disclosure here.