How does stress affect sleep & how can you master it

How does stress affect sleep & how can you master it

We spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping, which only proves what an important part of our life it is. While we sleep, our body works away to improve and restore our physical and mental health so when you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep it can have a knock on effect. 

One of the biggest causes of a bad night’s sleep is stress and unfortunately it’s something most people struggle to leave at the bedroom door every night.

In light of this, we’re sharing our top tips for combatting your stress to get a good night's sleep.

Stress & Sleep

So why does stress have such an effect on the way we sleep? 

When we feel stressed our body releases stress hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. 

Simply put, when you are stressed your body believes it is under attack and goes into ‘flight or fight’ mode. And unfortunately the same chemicals that help us get a deep sleep are the same one that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. 

When we aren’t sleeping well due to stress, it’s because our brain is still pumping out the stress hormone while we are asleep. Even worse is that it creates a cycle of more stress and struggling to get a night’s sleep.

It’s no wonder that good sleep is so much harder to get when you are stressed!

Signs of stress

So how do you know when you are stressed? Most people will know the smaller stresses of life like being late, working to a tight deadline, or forgetting something important. This is also known as acute stress and while they can still be impactful, they are often more manageable.

On the other hand there is chronic stress. This is stress that has built up from constant exposure to high-pressure situations and can very easily spiral into an ongoing issue.

Both types of stress can affect your sleep but you will most likely find that chronic stress will result in an ongoing sleep problem

So, if you find your mind is working overtime while you lay in bed, you can hear your heart beating through your chest or you find your muscles are so tense that you wake with shoulder, neck or head pain, then you most likely are suffering from stress.

Stress management

The most important question is: how do you manage stress? Often the best answer is self care but that is also easier said than done. So it’s important to prioritise putting aside time to address whatever is causing you stress and finding a solution to it.

Once you have clearly identified the culprit, it is easier to be mindful of when you are in the thick of it so you can begin implementing de stressing strategies.

Think meditation, exercise, having a nice relaxing bath or taking an hour to get stuck into a good book. Whatever brings you joy and helps you clear your mind will help you to wind down.

Sleep strategies

There are a handful of ways to tackle sleep when you are stressed but these are our top five strategies to better sleep:

  • Screens away!
  • Anything with blue light is known to have a hugely terrible effect on the way we  sleep. So be strict and put the cellphone away an hour before bedtime so you can properly unwind.

  • Keep it clean
    While a glass of wine after dinner might take the edge off initially, alcohol can also have a detrimental effect on our sleep. Opt for water with dinner and when bedtime nears, pour yourself a cup of chamomile tea.

  • Wash it off
  • Not only do we have our best thoughts in the shower, a nice warm soak in the bath or shower before bed will provide a moment of respite mentally, as well as relaxing your muscles that may be tense. 

  • Be mindful
  • Set aside an extra 30 minutes to an hour to properly lay down in a quiet, dark space. This is the perfect time to meditate and clear your head of any worries or stress. If you are new to meditation, try a guided meditation instead. 

  • Invest in a weighted blanket
  • The gentle pressure of a weighted blanket helps calm excess activity in the nervous system by getting the body to naturally produce serotonin, a hormone which helps regulate our sleep wake cycles and internal clocks. Serotonin also naturally converts to the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin - the all important hormone that tells our body when it’s time to get some shut eye.

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