If you are having trouble sleeping, there is a high possibility your body is under stress. You are likely to encounter many stressors in your daily activities, including high-pressure jobs, conflict in relationships, death of loved ones, and more.
A Gallup poll done in 2017 found that about 80% of Americans are subjected to frequent or occasional stress. Prolonged exposure to stress can result in poor quality sleep and shorter sleep duration.
How Stress Affects Sleep
Stress is a response to the challenges and difficult situations in life. The hormonal stress response is triggered when your body perceives a physical or psychological threat. Consequently, the endocrine system releases cortisol and other stress hormones.
When the stress hormones are released, the heart rate will spike to increase blood circulation in the important organs and muscles. At this point, your mind is racing, your muscles tense up, and your body will experience a burst of energy that can trigger the fight or flight response.
This prepares your body to take immediate action in the event of danger. High levels of the cortisol hormone can disrupt your sleep pattern, making it very difficult to sleep well at night. In normal cases, the cortisol hormone level typically decreases at night to prepare your body for sleep.
However, you are likely to experience higher cortisol levels at night, particularly if you are stressed at night. This is what causes insomnia in some people.
Types of Stress
Stress can manifest itself in different forms. The three common types of stress include:
- Acute Stress
This is considered short-term stress that is caused by moments of panic. For instance, you have exams approaching within a few days. Although this stress does not for very long, it is accompanied by feelings of anxiety, irritability, and sadness
- Chronic Stress
High cortisol levels characterize chronic stress. It can cause feelings of hopelessness because the body has been stressed for a while.
This stress can occur due to several factors, including financial problems, relationship issues, job loss, the death of a loved one, and more. Plus, chronic stress can cause insomnia and health issues like hypertension, depression, and heart disease.
The common symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Change in appetite
- Feelings of fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased motivation
- Decreased energy
How Poor Sleep Can Cause Stress
While stress can lead to poor quality sleep, not getting adequate sleep can also affect stress levels. According to research, individuals that have a quality sleep can quickly recover and counter the effects of stressful events. This is because they are more likely to experience fewer negative emotions.
This is probably because sleep helps to regulate an individual's mood, allowing the mind to work efficiently. A study by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley has established that one sleepless night can increase emotional stress by 30%.
Also, research has shown that cortisol levels can increase between 37% and 45% because of poor sleep. As noted earlier, cortisol stress hormone lowers in the evening, and this helps you enjoy quality sleep at night. However, not getting adequate sleep because of stress can significantly increase cortisol levels, making stress worse.
Sleep Disorders That are Linked to Stress
Generally, three stress disorders can be affected by stress. They include:
This stress disorder occurs when you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia is linked with chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Episodic Acute Stress
As the name suggests, this type of stress often occurs when you have several acute stress experiences. If the symptoms of acute stress are not dealt with, you may likely engage in unhealthy behaviors to deal with it.
- Sleep Apnea
A blocked upper airway causes this sleep disorder during sleep. When this happens, you are likely to experience lapses, causing you to wake up several times during the night. As a result, this can lead to high-stress levels.
How to Manage Stress
Sleep and stress are interconnected. You need to know how to manage stress and anxiety to enjoy quality sleep. Here are useful tips.
- Identify the Source of Stress
To manage stress, it helps first to identify the stressors. Evaluate your life and recognize the different things that elicit stress. This may include work overload, drugs, and trouble sleeping.
- Eat Healthy Meals
A healthy and well-balanced diet can help reduce stress and promote a healthy life. Try to avoid foods high in calories, sugars, caffeine, and alcohol.
Taking some time to relax can go a long way in alleviating stress. You can incorporate relaxing activities like breathing exercises, meditation, taking a warm bath, and more.
- Seek Social Support
If you are having a hard time, consider reaching out to individuals or community groups for emotional support. Spending time with family and friends will give you much-needed support.
- Establish Goals
Overloading yourself can lead to negative emotions and induce stress. Therefore, it helps to create manageable goals for yourself.
- Create a Strict Sleep Schedule
Lack of quality sleep, as aforementioned, can contribute to stress. Therefore, it helps maintain proper sleep hygiene, like having a strict sleep schedule to improve sleep quality. Other tips include:
- Keep the right lighting in your room.
- Limit caffeine consumption in the evening.
- Reserve your bed for sleep.
- Seek Medication or Supplements
If your stress symptoms persist, it might be time to seek medication. The proper medication will naturally enhance sleep and relieve stress and anxiety. If you want to improve your emotional well-being and alleviate sleep, you may want to try ReCalm.
ReCalm is a 5-HTP formulation designed to improve sleep quality, calm mood, and lower stress and anxiety. This physician-formulated supplement is natural and includes ingredients that will feel you energized during the day and promote a relaxed sleep at night.
The proper medication, healthy lifestyle, and consistent sleep-wake schedule can improve your sleep quality and help you manage stress. However, if none of these helps, then you may want to contact a health professional to help pinpoint if poor quality sleep is the cause of your stress issues.