Stress is something we all feel at one time or another. Stress can be brought on through our jobs, school, relationships, or even just really bad traffic! Yes, stress is inevitable, and if we let it, it can wreak havoc on our lives. One way that it does this is by interrupting our healthy sleep patterns.
Sleep is a vital resource in keeping a person healthy and mentally sharp. Quality sleep helps us to cope with every day stressors more effectively. Unfortunately, when one is stressed, they tend to get less sleep than they need. Stress tends to keep a person up at night; we lie in bed overthinking, worrying, and feeling anxious. It is nearly impossible to quiet your mind enough to drift off to sleep. People who suffer from chronic stress have poorer sleep quality, sleep less, and find it more difficult to perform and concentrate well during the day.
The cycle between sleep and stress can be a vicious one. The stress keeps you awake at night, but you need sleep to help fight stress. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when you fail to get the right amount of sleep at night your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. It is the brain chemicals that are connected to deep sleep that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. So, when you aren’t sleeping well, your body keeps pumping out those extra stress hormones. Thus, each subsequent sleepless night will only make things worse and worse. The worst part is, we see a peak in our stress hormones in the late afternoon and early evening hours- right around the time you should be winding down and signaling to your body that it is almost time to sleep.
People with high levels of stress and sleep deprivation are also at a higher risk of heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, stomach issues, and more. People with high levels of stress are also more likely to develop bruxism (teeth grinding), at night, which can cause dental problems.
As you can see, it is important to de-stress before bed each night and make getting adequate, quality sleep top priority.
If you are feeling tense and overly stressed, try some of these stress relief methods from the Huffington Post:
- Smell some lavender.
Studies have shown that the floral scent relaxes the body and can even help with insomnia. Pine, jasmine, and chamomile are also calming scents.
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- Discard your thoughts.
Grab a pen and paper and write down what you’re feeling — then physically throw them away. Research shows this trick will help clear your mind of negative thoughts. A clear mind is a more sleep-ready mind.
- Take some deep breaths.
One breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. If specific exercises aren’t your thing, try just taking a few deep breaths before you nod off. The inhalation and exhalation activates the body’s naturally-calming parasympathetic system.
- Consider seeing a sleep specialist.
If all else fails, it might be helpful to seek insight from a professional. Therapists can help you sort through stress, as well as employ techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to address insomnia and other stress related sleep disorders.