Unless you happen to be living on a far-off island all by yourself, without phone or television, living off a simple diet of coconut water and local vegetation, chances are you know of at least one thing that’s causing you to worry right now. If you’re like most people in today’s fast-paced world, there is a whole slew of things causing you to be concerned every day.
Having these worries is completely normal. It’s when our worries are left to develop into long-term stressors that we should make sure to take a step back and take some precautions for the good of our health.
Where stress really hits us is our sleep. High stress means poor quality sleep, and poor sleep does no good for our stresses. This cycle continues to build up on itself, stirring up a hurricane of stress with you right at the center.
Before we cover how you can break out of this cycle of stress and sleep loss, let’s first look at how exactly the two feed into each other.
How stress affects your sleep
When you go through a high-stress period, your body will likely begin boosting its production of stress hormones, which under normal conditions are supposed to lower as evening comes on, enabling you to relax and fall asleep. A high amount of stress hormones sticking around into the night means that your ability to relax at bedtime is crippled—cue the nighttime racing thoughts.
How sleep affects your stress
When you’re sleep deprived, your sympathetic nervous system flips on your “fight-or-flight” state, and keeps it on for a long period of time. This high stress response obviously does no good for dealing with the stress you already have, but it has negative impacts on your health as well, such as causing a rise in your blood pressure, which increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
When you lose out on sleep, you are also less able to deal with the difficult situations that may be causing you stress. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain is less agile—you’ll find problem-solving more difficult, and your memory less solid and dependable. When you’re trying to balance a busy schedule, trouble remembering is the last thing you need.
Keeping your bedroom stress-free
Trying to sleep when stressed is an uphill battle that will usually result in you being neither stress-free nor well-rested. The only solution is to try and deal with your stress head-on before you get into bed. Here are two tips to help you make that happen:
Take a moment to mentally decelerate before bed. Whether it’s reading a chapter of a book or listening to calming music, you should find something peaceful to do right before you go to sleep. The idea is to separate yourself from the busyness of the day that’s now coming to an end, allowing you to wind down and give yourself a break for a little while.
If racing thoughts are keeping you from falling asleep, you should get out of bed and go to a different room to relax and take your mind off trying to sleep. You want to make sure that your brain associates your bedroom only with rest and sleep, not stress.
Protect your health
Whenever you’re going through a stressful time in your life, chances are your body is feeling it too. Always remember that taking care of your health even in the midst of stressful situations is crucial.
Part of taking care of yourself is making sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep. As you know now, going without will only increase your stress and compound the negative effects.
If you believe your stress has been impacting your sleep for an extended period of time, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible to work with them to find a treatment that’s right for you.