Stress and sleep go hand in hand.

If you are stressed you have problems sleeping. The less you sleep, the more you will be stressed.

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress.

These days the occurrence of stress has notably increased as compared to the past. And this could be attributed to this over- competitive generation. In our quest to earn the most at work, be popular in society, score the most at school, while not expressing our true feeling, it's very normal to get overwhelmed once in a while. We are basically trying to do a lot more in a short time, and neglecting our health in the process.

At least 6 out of 10 people I come across on a daily basis say they have moderate to high levels of stress.

Stress can impact your life in many ways, including negatively affecting the quality of your sleep. It makes sense: You lie in bed, worrying and feeling anxious, which makes it almost impossible to relax and quiet your mind enough to fall asleep.

”That’s also why people who suffer from chronic stress day in and day out sleep less, have poorer sleep quality and find it harder to function well during the day.

5 ways in which stress is affecting your sleep and in turn your health

  • 1. Fewer hours of sleep - healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens even more. When we sleep, apart from giving the body much needed rest, there is a lot of restorative processes going in the body, like muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. We can't log adequate sleep hours when we're too busy ruminating over our anxieties these processes are left incomplete when we sleep less,

  • 2. Poor quality sleep – sleep have several cycles, and most restorative processes take place when we are in deep sleep, when we are stressed, apart from getting sleep late, our quality of sleep also gets messed up, resulting in the feeling that”we have not slept properly” even when we do log adequate hours.

  • 3. Doesn’t allow your brain to shut down - When you fall asleep, your body switches from its active sympathetic nervous system to the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. However, this gets interrupted with stress. When you're overly worried, the sympathetic nervous system doesn't shut down, and your brain remains hyperactive.

  • 4. Increases the risk of sleep disorders – Stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. Stress may not just negatively affect some of your sleep, it may rob you of sleep entirely. Those who experience ongoing stress are more susceptible to insomnia, and each additional stressor increases the risk for the disorder by 19 percent.

    Other common sleep disorders include sleep apnea (loud snoring caused by an obstructed airway), sleepwalking, and narcolepsy (falling asleep spontaneously). Restless leg syndrome and bruxism (grinding of the teeth while sleeping) are conditions that also may contribute to sleep disorders.All of which can be triggered by stressors.

  • 5. It’s a vicious cycle - You’re stressed, so you can't sleep, If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those hormones The next day, you feel more stressed, the following night you find it harder to fall asleep, and so on.

Health Risks

The risks of inadequate sleep extend way beyond tiredness. Sleeplessness can lead to poor performance at work or school, increased risk of injury, Depression and health problems.

When we're stressed, our minds race with thoughts instead of shutting down at night, inhibiting important functions involved in memory, muscle repair and mood (yikes). When we don't get enough sleep, our immune system falters.

In addition to anxiety and mood disorders, those with sleep disorders are a risk for heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, gastrointestinal issues, and weakened immunity.

Reduce Anxiety, Sleep Soundly

To reduce anxiety and stress:

  • • Meditate and breathe deep- Focus on your breath — breathe in and out slowly and deeply — and visualize a serene environment such as a deserted beach or grassy hill.

  • • Exercise-Regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. It provides an outlet for frustrations and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. Yoga can be particularly effective at reducing anxiety and stress.

  • • Play music- Soft, calming music can lower your blood pressure and relax your mind and body.

  • • Direct stress and anxiety elsewhere - Lend a hand to a relative or neighbour, or volunteer in your community. Helping others will take your mind off of your own anxiety and fears.

  • • Never bring you work home – The office is for work, whereas your home is to relax. Try to leave office stress at the workplace itself.

  • • Indulge in a hobby – Some like to play sports, some like to trek, go fishing, or spend time gardening others like to read, bake, cook or paint to relax, these simple hobbies provide a nice break, where you do something you really enjoy!

  • • Talk to someone- Let friends and family know how they can help, and consider seeing a doctor or therapist if required.

To sleep more soundly:

  • • Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Block out seven to nine hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and try to wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.

  • • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep, and never watch TV, use the computer, or pay bills before going to bed. Read a book, listen to soft music, or meditate instead.

  • • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet and make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

  • • Use your bedroom as a bedroom. Not for watching TV or doing work — and get into bed only when you are tired.

  • • Have a cup of relaxing herbal tea – chamomile, lavender and hibiscus are some great herbal teas which help in inducing sleep.

  • • Regular exercise will help you sleep better, but limit your workouts to mornings and afternoons. keep a gap of minimum 2 hours between exercise and sleep. Some yoga poses practised before bed can also help induce sleep.

  • • Avoid looking at the clock. This can make you anxious in the middle of the night. Turn the clock away from you.

  • • Talk to your doctor if you still have problems falling asleep.

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