Are you experiencing trouble sleeping lately? Tossing and turning, worrying about your work, personal life, and every other thing that could possibly stress you out at bedtime. Sleep and stress are interrelated, and stress is one of the factors that affect sleep. The effects of stress on sleeping habits are harmful not only for your mental but physical health as well.
A] What is stress? What are its various forms?
In simple words, stress can be defined as any type of change that leads to physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention, action, or causes a worrisome environment within your body.
There are several forms of stress, let’s take a look at them:
- Acute Stress: The word ‘acute’ means symptoms that develop quickly. However, these symptoms do not last long. Acute stress occurs when a person experiences certain symptoms after a stressful event in particular such as an unexpected life crisis. Also, the said events are usually very severe.
- Chronic Stress: This stress refers to the consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time. Symptoms of chronic stress include aches, pains, weakness, unfocused thinking, and insomnia. Treatments for the same include medications and setting realistic goals via psychology, psychiatry, and lifestyle changes.
- Nervous Stress: Any event or scenario that makes one feel frustrated or nervous can trigger nervous stress. Nervous stress is a feeling of fear, worry or unease. While it can occur as a reaction to stress, it can also take place without any generic trigger.
- Reproductive stress: This can be defined as the non-specific response of the body to reproductive activities such as the estrous cycle, pregnancy, parturition, and lactation.
- Respiratory Stress: The effect of respiratory stress can be detrimental, especially on critical organs like the heart and lungs. Studies indicate that respiratory stress can lead to wear and tear of the lungs thus deteriorating respiratory health. It can also worsen the symptoms of chronic lung conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
B] How does stress affect sleep?
A number of physiological changes occur within the sleep-stress relationship. It is a well-known fact that lack of sleep causes stress. The presence of stress raises cortisol levels; which is a hormone that stimulates alertness and vigilance known as the fight or flight response, raising heart rate and blood pressure.
- High levels of stress impair sleep by prolonging the time it takes for an individual to fall asleep, resulting in fragmented sleep.
- Loss of sleep triggers our body’s stress response system, leading to an elevation in stress hormones, called cortisol, which further disrupts sleep.
As per symptoms of lack of sleep and stress, your cortisol levels fall in the evening hours, as one element of the body’s natural preparation for bedtime. High cortisol levels at night interfere with the release of melatonin; the hormone essential for the regulation of sleep-wake cycles. Poor sleep can further cause cortisol levels to rise at times when they should be low.
- Stress also disrupts your sleep cycle. It decreases the time spent in light & deep sleep and increases the time spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
REM is an important sleep stage to restore mental function; a phase when the brain processes emotions and memories. These changes to your normal sleep pattern cause disruptions to the normal patterns of brain waves that occur during REM and the other stages of sleep.
Hence, sleep deprivation effects can cause the brain waves, related to concentration, creativity, and dreaming, to change. Too much time spent in REM sleep can also cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue, which can further disrupt normal sleep cycles and your mood.
C] Does improving sleep reduce stress?
Sleep is a powerful stress buster and following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, regulates your mood, improves concentration as well as sharpens judgement and decision-making. You become a better problem solver and can cope with stress better when you’re well-rested.
Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes your ability to think clearly.
Getting enough sleep can significantly decrease cortisol levels and restore the body’s balance. As a preventative step, try to squeeze in seven to nine hours of sleep a night to avoid the rise in hormone levels. This, in turn, will help reduce the existing feelings of stress and anxiety.
D] How to reduce stress levels to improve sleep?
It is imperative to reduce stress levels to improve sleep, and this can be done with basic practices for long-term benefits.
- Create a good sleeping environment: Evaluate your sleep environment for possible stressors. A good sleep environment is dark with little noise and no clutter around.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can affect one’s ability to have a restful sleep. Moreover, consumption of alcohol can worsen how the body handles stress.
- Take a warm shower or bath before bed: Taking a warm shower before bed can help you relax and de-stress. It will also lower your body’s temperature, helping you fall asleep faster.
- Avoid blue light exposure before bedtime: The light from electronics like phones, computers, and TV can interfere with your circadian rhythm. Experts recommend that you set your devices aside a few hours before bedtime. This can help limit doom scrolling habits, which are known to contribute to stress and anxiety.
- Journalling: Writing down your thoughts and worries can help you to get them out in the open for you to address them. Keep a journal by your bed so you can write down any stressful thoughts that may come up moments before bed. Writing down a to-do list for the next day can also help you get to bed sooner.
- Schedule your worry time: A scheduled time to focus on stress and worrying is a technique used in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Set aside a specific ‘worry’ time in the day. During this time, you can worry about anything and everything you have going on. The goal of this practice is to address the causes of those worries before they get out of control.
- Switch to a good mattress and pillow: A bad mattress can cause discomfort, making it difficult to fall asleep and potentially lead to multiple night-time awakenings. This could affect not only your sleep but also your physical and mental health. Moreover, spending prolonged periods in the same position during sleep can place stress on certain parts of the body, like the back and neck.
The restorative benefits of quality sleep with a good pillow and mattress are unparalleled. As such, switch to aloha’s organic pillows that are designed to render support to the head at a comfortable level, helping take pressure off the cervical area while straightening the spine.
aloha’s organic mattresses also aim to provide the utmost comfort to sustain a healthy sleep cycle, one without discomfort to your body.
Remember that sleep deprivation and stress go hand in hand. A stressed-out mind can keep you up at all hours of the night, and lack of sleep can raise your anxiety levels resulting in poor performance at work and otherwise. So, make sure you balance your sleep cycle by keeping a check on your stress levels and looking after your health. Shop at sleepaloha for comfortable pillows and mattresses to help you sleep better.