Experts say that sleep, as eating healthy and exercise, is the third pillar of health. Sleep, apart from keeping us healthy, also helps us stay mentally sharp and enables us to cope with stress more effectively. However, stress can significantly mess up our sleep. Many polls show that more than 50% of people are feeling sleep deprived or believe they are missing enough shuteye. Did you know that sleep deprivation actually triples your risk of causing a car accident? If you think you’re not sleeping well due to stress, learn how stress affects sleep.
Missing Out on Sleep
Common factors that contribute to lack of sleep include overthinking, consuming too much caffeine, high cortisol levels overscheduling, anxiety and so on. All the factors we mentioned have something in common – stress often triggers them.
With today’s demanding workloads, many people take their work home. While some do it metaphorically, unfortunately, many of us also have to do it physically. Stay-at-home parents and students also experience this on a regular basis. It is just hard to let all your worries go before going to bed if you have spent an entire day troubleshooting or stressing out. Overthinking will stimulate your mind and prevent you from falling into blissful slumber. Worries can even wake you up in the middle of the night and keep you awake. This happens when you transition between sleep stages.
People under a lot of stress tend to consume more caffeine. For example, many people drink coffee in the morning to get them going. However, stressed people also drink big amounts of coffee to help them make it through the day. All that caffeine will not help you, on the contrary, it will only make things worse because it aggravates your stress levels. Stress paired with caffeine will severely affect the amount and quality of your sleep.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a vital role in boosting our energy levels when we need it the most. For example, cortisol levels are increased in a fight or flight situations. Similar to adrenaline, cortisol enables us to respond when we feel stressed or threatened. Chronic stress can raise your cortisol levels and disrupt healthy sleep patterns.
Every person has experienced the consequences of a hectic and busy life. However, we mustn’t allow overscheduling to affect our sleep. If you have recently started pushing your bedtime back in order to get things done, over time, you will feel chronically tired. The same goes if you start getting up earlier and earlier. You need around 7 to 8 hours of sleep in order to stay healthy and function normally. Lack of sleep definitely won’t get things done, because, without it, you will be unable to focus, solve problems and even remember things. Overscheduling negatively affects students the most.
Anxiety is very similar to overthinking, and it can definitely wake you up or keep you awake at night. As overthinking, anxiety also stimulates the mind with threatening scenarios and worries. Not being able to find a solution or calm down will rob you of sleep and raise your cortisol levels.
First-Aid Tips for Sleep
If you find yourself regularly short on sleep, try some of the following essential sleep tips, such as maintaining a consistent sleep and wake up schedule, releasing stress or having sex.
Healthy Nighttime Habits
Sleep habits are not easy to develop, but when you start to enjoy all the benefits that come with, you will be glad you tried. To tune your inner clock, begin by going to bed and waking up roughly at the same time every day. When the routine kicks in, you will always feel sleepy at the same time in the evening, and you will fall asleep faster than usual. When it comes to waking up, soon, you won’t have to use an alarm clock to wake up for work or school.
Creating a short bedtime ritual such as brushing teeth, taking a shower, or listening to a soothing song will also help your routine kick in faster. The routine shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes. It should consist of calming and soothing activities that will help you unwind and prepare for bed. All pre-bed activities should be done in the same order, every night.
When stress accumulates, you just have to release it somehow. People report that meditation and muscle relaxation usually help them the most. If you are not in meditation, create your own stress relief ritual. For some people, that can be a warm bubble bath or reading a book, while for others, the perfect method to unwind is to play with their kids and pets or watch a nice movie.
A favorite way for many people to relax before bed is to have sex. Since sex with a loving partner gives you a dose of relaxing hormones, it a perfect natural stress relief aid. Apart from relieving tension and helping you unwind, sex also helps you to sleep better. Unfortunately, many people who are under a lot of stress are not in the mood for sex.
Music, aromatherapy, and a soothing environment might help setting up the perfect mood for romance. If you are both stressed, start by trading massages to loosen the pent-up tension.
Nap More Often
If nothing helps and you are exhausted, it is time to turn to power napping. It is not recommended to nap often during the day if you have troubles falling asleep at night. However, if you are sleep deprived, napping is a good way to return a bit of your sleep debt. Power napping is especially useful when you don’t have troubles to fall asleep, but you are just too busy. Napping can also increase your productivity and give you a quick boost of energy. If you are under a lot of stress, naps can help you cope with it better.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic