The Relationship Between Sleep And Stress
Cover Photo By Amy Treasure
The American Sleep Association reports that up to 70-million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder from disruptive sleep brought on by snoring and sleep apnea to the second most common mental health issue, insomnia. While many people look at a lack of sleep as inconvenient, the consequences can be serious.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress
The relationship between sleep and stress does not start out as a who came first, the chicken or the egg scenario. For most people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation their condition began with a stressor which led to insomnia, and then the vicious cycle that can be difficult to manage has begun.
When you are stressed, your body provides a natural, healthy stress response—a cortisol spike. Under normal circumstances this spike provides the energy you need to make focused and positive decisions and is followed by a gradual decline. However, if you are experiencing prolonged stress often accompanying financial problems, health issues, and social or relationship concerns, this endocrine system response can lead to insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns that affect your circadian sleep cycles.
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
The consequences of sleep deprivation stretch well beyond simply being fatigued. It is recommended that the average adult get at least seven hours of sleep a night, however, losing as much as an hour can cause radical consequences (sleep debt) in addition to fatigue such as poor decision-making skills, lack of focus, a lack of motivation, memory problems, and moodiness to name some of the more common symptoms. This occurs because your body has not had adequate time to repair itself and organize your memories and creativity which occur during the different circadian cycles.
In addition to immediate concerns, sleep deprivation can affect metabolism, increase the risk of respiratory and heart disease, and increased levels of insulin which can put a person at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep When Under Stress
Relaxation is an important part of getting quality sleep as it is critical to calming your mind and relieving your body of stress. Creating a wind down routine that includes sipping a hot cup of herbal tea, relaxing in a warm bath, or including essential oils into your home can provide therapeutic comfort and promote a relaxation response that preps your body for sleep.
Meditation is about bringing awareness to your current surroundings with the understanding that you cannot do anything to change your past, nor do you know what will occur in the future. However, what you can do is address the now. Meditation helps your mind to focus on the now to decrease stress-causing insomnia.
In addition to relaxation and meditation, sleep quality can be improved by eating a healthy diet and getting proper exercise.
It is what you do during the day that affects how you sleep at night, so by introducing mindfulness approaches to life you can quickly improve your sleep quality, focus, motivation, and overall health.