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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
Although there are chronic sleep problems such as sleep apnea or insomnia that may need help from your doctor to overcome, you can find many solutions for stress to help yourself 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.
7 thoughts on “How to Sleep With Stress – What Can You Do?”
Great article for relieving stress. I use meditation when I get very stressed but now I want to use the meditation daily as this can probably make me feel even better.
My girlfriend uses music to help her sleep and also watching a movie. She says it works for her very well which I am confused about ha ha.
Sleep is a very powerful thing. I’ve read a few articles and have watched a few documentaries on the topic and my life is now changed forever and for good of course. Sleep is a cure for a lot of conditions, both mental and physical. Thanks a lot for sharing this article. I look forward to reading more from you.
Thank you for this post. I go in and out of times where I really struggle to sleep and for a long time I had no idea why, until I realised it was stress.. I wasn’t even properly aware that I was stressed! I will definitely try some one these.
Excellent article. I did not know that sleep can actually reduce stress. I go to sleep all the time with a lot of stress on my mind. The last week or so I have been better, but what I’m mostly stressed about is what is happening at work. Or, it could be something that has happened in the family.
As I say, at the moment I am sleeping ok, but when I’m feeling stressed again then I am going to return to this article as I think it will help me.
Thanks for sharing this, and keep up the amazing work on your website.
All the best,
Very interesting article and have actually made a note of it, keep up the good work
Hi, this is a very important article at this difficult time. I consider myself an expert in sleep because I have gathered a lot of experience at it over the years and I am very practiced. Seriously, my wife gets really annoyed at me because I can put myself to sleep at a moment’s notice almost any time of day I choose as long as I can lie down and don’t have to interact with anyone. Or even sitting down in a comfortable position. Among the most useful sleep techniques is I think the build up to or the preparation for sleep. While we are all different and have different body rhythms, allowing out physiology the proper time to settle down for sleep is hugely important. If you are having trouble getting to sleep and still feel dog tired – stop watching TV at least 1 hour before you want to go to sleep. Do some gentle reading, actually some really tedious ponderous tome works better than a crime novel page turner. Something else I remember which I find works too. There are two “trains” to take you to sleep. One leaves at around 9pm the other leaves at around 10pm. If you miss the 9pm then try for the 10pm. And if you missed the 10pm – then you missed the last train! Thanks for a great article. Best regards Andy
Hi Tim, Thanks for sharing a few things. I didn’t know here. Never heard of the term hyperarousal so that was interesting. I was thinking of things as well and you actually did write about them which was good. Meditation I was thinking of but you also mentioned regression exercises. I do this sometimes when I meditate not often enough but I think about days when I have had a really good time and just try to remember as much of it as I can. I haven’t suffered from stress keeping me awake for some time now but I know exactly what you mean lying in bed for hours awake with your eyes shut is crazy. But I think these ideas should definitely help. Thanks for sharing.