Most of us have experienced the effects that stress has on our sleep. Stress can be caused by different things, but the most common causes are work-related or personal issues. When we're stressed out about a project at work, it's often difficult to get into bed in time for a good night's rest and some people experience insomnia when they feel overwhelmed with their to-do list.
Other times, you might find yourself staying up late just so you can go through your emails one more time before going to bed because you don't want any important messages to slip through the cracks.
It's common for stress and anxiety to affect your sleep, but there are ways that you can manage these feelings so that they don't take a toll on your sleep, health and overall happiness.
What is stress and how does it affect your sleep pattern
Stress is a general term for the negative thoughts and feelings that are experienced when we face challenges, difficulties or threats. Stress can be caused by many things like money worries, problems at work, family life and other issues in your personal relationships.
-Stress negatively impacts sleep quality as it affects hormones that regulate both appetite and mood. Your sleep pattern becomes very disrupted and makes it more difficult for you to sleep.
Women are far more prone to stress, which is why they experience insomnia or other sleeping issues caused by emotional distress.
ways stress affects your sleep patterns:
-It can make it difficult to fall asleep. Stress releases adrenaline into your bloodstream, making you feel wired and preventing you from feeling tired or sleepy. The adrenaline released can also trigger an increase in blood pressure or heart rate.
-Stress also affects the quality of sleep that some people get once they are finally able to doze off by preventing you from getting adequate periods of REM. It causes changes in brain activity, including a disruption in normal breathing or heart rate that may prevent deep REM sleep.
The link between stress and sleep
Stress and sleep have a very complicated relationship. Stress can lead to poor sleep, but an individual's stress levels may also be increased by not getting enough quality rest. The key is for you to find out what type of sleeper you are - whether it is deep or light - so that you know how much sleep time your body needs in order for it to feel well-rested.
- If you are a light sleeper like me, then it is not surprising that stress can increase your anxiety levels and lead to trouble sleeping at night. This means that if you think about the things on your mind before bed or have an active imagination, this will make it difficult for some people to get enough sleep during the night.
Light sleepers are sensitive to any noise in their environment and also have a difficult time falling asleep.
- If you are on the other hand, someone who is a deep sleeper like my DH, then stress may not affect your sleep patterns as severely because it will be easier for you to block out external stimuli like noise or lights. You don't need that much time asleep either but that is not to say that you will not be affected by stress.
- Stress can lead to sleeplessness for both light and deep sleepers, there are many reasons why someone may not get enough sleep from the stress in their life. The more tense a person is during the day, the more difficult it becomes to fall asleep at night.
The relationship between your stress levels and sleep deprivation is not always linear and sometimes the effect of stress on your sleep will be more pronounced.
- Stress can also lead to nightmares or daytime flashbacks if you are prone to them. Nightmares often cause arousal during sleep which may disturb a deep sleeper, while for light sleepers this increased heart rate causes them to awaken frequently throughout the night.
- The key thing is to find a stress-free space during the day and to stay in it for as long as possible. This will allow people who are stressed out by their work or family life to unwind completely before going to sleep.
Is insomnia caused by stress?
Anxiety-related sleep disorders such as insomnia or delayed sleep phase syndrome can be caused by a person's chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol, which is often associated with anxiety and depression. The symptoms are more severe when precipitated by an acute event rather than being ongoing. Stressful events during the day might also contribute to insomnia as a person tries to process and cope with what happened.
In today's society, stress is a common experience that can cause many different symptoms in varying degrees. One of those side effects being disrupted sleep or insomnia.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep and/or sleeping for an insufficient amount of time. Signs such as irritability, fatigue or anxiety are also common with this illness.
Exposure to stress can make the symptoms worse but insomnia isn't always caused by stress. And if your symptoms do seem to be concerning to you , please speak to your healthcare provider.
When stress is causing insomnia, it's important to identify the cause of the problem and find a way to manage or reduce that source of anxiety. It may take some time but with patience and persistence, those sleepless nights can become more manageable.
Effects of long-term, chronic stress on the body
The long term effect of chronic stress is actually more dangerous to your health. It has been shown that long-term chronic stress can lead to a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters and cytokines, which are chemicals associated with mood stabilization like serotonin or dopamine.
The negative effects of this imbalance include:
- Inability to regulate emotions
- This imbalance can also lead to obesity, as the neurotransmitter and cytokine imbalance is known to cause cravings for high-carbohydrate food with a low nutritional value.
In order to alleviate the negative consequences of chronic stress, it is important for you to find ways that will help you manage your day-to-day life more efficiently.
Ways to reduce or manage stress levels
Stress and sleep are a delicate balance. Stress can affect your sleep pattern and vice versa because they are both heavily intertwined with each other. In order to reduce or manage stress levels, you must look at the root of the problem and do what is necessary to solve it.
To manage your stress and optimise your sleep better, try these three tips.
- Start the habit of Mindful breathing exercises to focus on your stressors and reduce how much they affect you.
- Practice giving yourself a time limit to deal with your stressors. When you do this, you are more likely to be able-bodied and not overwhelmed by the stressors that come your way. giving yourself the time limit to deal with your stressors also helps because when the time limit is up, you will be more likely to deal with it in a way that allows for a fresh start.
- Keep a journal of what you are feeling and when so you can come back to it when needed.
- Take time for yourself, whether it's in the form of reading a book, going for a run outside - find what works best for you.
- - Take a hot bath or shower before bedtime to unwind and relax your muscles for the night ahead of you.
- - Find time during the day to clear your mind, whether it's with some exercise or just by sitting down in silence for five minutes - whatever works best for you will do wonders at reducing stress
Stress can have a major impact on how you sleep. If stress is keeping your mind racing or causing physical tension, it's much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. The way that we react to stressful situations often affects the quality of our sleep too.
Remember: It's not just about quantity but also about quality
How does stress affect sleep patterns?
- Stress can affect your sleep patterns in a variety of ways. Sometimes stress will cause you to have trouble falling asleep and stay asleep, other times it may be the opposite problem: when someone is dealing with chronic pain or an illness, they’ll experience more difficulty sleeping because their brain thinks that something bad might happen if it falls into a deep sleep.
- Stress can also cause changes in your REM (rapid eye movement) patterns, which is the stage of sleep when most dreaming occurs and our brains process memories or learn new information.
- Studies have shown that people who experience a lot of stress are more likely to wake up during their REM cycle, leading them to become groggy and physically unrested during the day.
- It’s also worth noting that stress can affect your sleep quality: if you have a lot of negative thoughts while you are trying to fall asleep, those thoughts will often wake you up or cause difficulty staying asleep because they activate your fight or flight response.
- Sleeping patterns are notoriously difficult for many people to control because they may be influenced by external factors such as stress or tiredness from a long day
- also your sleep pattern will be altered if you’ve had a life event that causes stress, such as the loss of a job or death in the family.
- - Stress can also contribute to insomnia and even exacerbate depression symptoms associated with sleep deprivation.
Tips for creating a sleep pattern that works
To get better sleep naturally can be a struggle when you are exhausted but your brain is still going a million miles an hour. All you want to do is sleep, but your body refuses to calm down. You lie in bed, eyes closed, and sleep is just beyond reach.
Melatonin is a chemical in your body that helps regulate your sleep cycle and promotes uninterrupted restful sleep each night. Your pineal gland creates melatonin. On average, the human body produces 25 mcg of melatonin per night for sound sleep.
Studies have found that the amount of sleep we need decreases with age, so toddlers and youngsters need more nighttime rest than adults. You can help regulate your sleep patterns by helping your body produce melatonin. This will encourage relaxation or restful sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, try these tips before resorting to medication:
Go to bed at a non-negotiable time
You see, I noticed that as female entrepreneurs, what happens is that we get our body used to, you know, working longer hours, and for me, it started by shifting my bedtime from 9 to 10, to 11 pm, to 12 am, to 1 am. And then it got to 2 am. Sometimes you lose focus on time.
I stretched my body.
I noticed the body would adjust at some point to this unhealthy pattern, but if you listen well enough, your body will start giving you signs. And your physical look will also communicate that to you in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can tell your body is stressed. And quite frankly, if anything is to be done. The first thing you need to do is to unlearn the pattern. it's not going to be easy. But you will have to do it for your body to recuperate very well every day.
So here's what I did… I made going to bed at 10-10:30 pm non-negotiable.
Create a Relaxation Routine
There are two ways you relax your body to get into that rest mode faster.
So what has worked for me is meditation. Meditation can come in many forms; for me, the kind of meditation I do is the Christian kind of meditation. And there are apps on the Apple store that you can get or on Play Store. Specifically, I use Abide App and the Pray App, both work for me just fine and relaxes me. The point is You want to try to calm your mind down, to stop your mind from wandering, a lot. Add some breathing exercises, I started using the balance App recently, and I feel it is a lovely one. I'm always wary of the woo woo kind of thing. So, if I sense any funny thing around Balance App, I'll stop it.
Another thing you want to do is to relax your body. Now with meditation, what you've done is to relax your mind. Next is to relax your body.
- So close your eyes and relax your face, relax the muscle around your jaws, your tongue and the muscles around your eyes.
- Drop your shoulders as far as it can go, as well as you upper and lower arm one side at a time
- Breathe out, relax your chest and work down to your thighs and going downwards.
I wish I can tell you this will be an easy process, but it can take one time to get used to, and you will be amazed at the effect on your body.
Say “no” to electronic devices and gadgets
The blue light produced by our phones, laptops, TVs, and tablets may be counteracting your body’s attempts to produce melatonin. Instead of checking your phone or social media accounts before going to bed, read, journal, or even colour.
These activities are much less stimulating than electronic devices, allowing your brain to start shutting down and encouraging your body to start producing melatonin for the night ahead.
Drink Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice has been reported to treat insomnia and improve the quality of sleep every night. Tart cherry juice, in particular, contains many beneficial plant compounds and nutrients compared to sweet cherry juice. It could increase the body's melatonin levels which help to reduce symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep quality.
So what I do is drink it once per day.
Try out Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is great for so many reasons like it helps reduce blood sugar, lowers cholesterol levels, may help reduce stress and anxiety, and may reduce symptoms of depression. It also improves the quality of sleep.
The leaves of the ashwagandha plant contain a compound called triethylene glycol, which helps in inducing sleep. These help promote sleep induction.
You can have it as a drink or supplement, but for now, I take it as a supplement once per day.
Shower or take a relaxing bath
Warm water relaxes tense muscles and refreshes your mind. According to research by Loughborough University in Leicester, the relaxing effect of taking a bath before going to bed helps increase the production of melatonin in your body.
This is because taking baths and showers reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, allowing your body to produce melatonin instead.
Block all sources of light
Pull all the curtains, shut all the blinds, turn off all the lights. Make your room completely dark. Even the smallest amount of light can disrupt your sleeping and melatonin production.
Blocking out all the sources of light while sleeping will significantly boost the melatonin in your body, help regulate your sleeping patterns and promote deep sleep so that you wake you up happy and well rested.
- Consider using a lighted alarm clock or an eye mask if you have trouble sleeping, as these tools can help regulate your internal body rhythms.
Focus on your diet
Your diet plays a huge role in your body’s sleeping habits. Studies have shown that reducing or eliminating caffeine and processed foods has a hugely positive impact on your amount and quality of sleep.
It is also helpful to avoid trying to sleep on a very empty or very full stomach; both can leave your body focused on processes other than sleep. A light snack or a warm cup of tea just before bed can help calm hunger pangs without overtaxing your body.
From a mom to the other, I can’t stress enough how taking care of yourself is so important, first for peace of mind within you that your family is doing well and secondly to be physically fit for the home upkeep, Having an uninterrupted sleep most of the time isn’t a reality for moms but as much as you can, try to get enough sleep.
Don't Bite more than You can chew.
As an entrepreneur, you almost feel like you can manage and juggle a lot of things efficiently. And that's where the problem is you cos the more you set yourself up With many tasks daily, the sooner you're going to burn yourself out.
Here's my suggestion which is working for me,
- pick one or two very important things in your business that you must do without fail daily, which can move the needle for you.
- Then sort other priorities out by scheduling, now arrange or plan them in order of importance and get to work on them ONLY after you have done the two major task in your business.
I noticed that since I started working this way, I don't end the day feeling like I haven't done enough cos I attended to the main tasks daily, and the progress is trackable. The other tasks are attended to with no pressure and anyone I can't complete that day can wait for all I care till the next day or next time I'm ready to work on it.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this article and found it valuable. Whether or not your lifestyle is different, if you follow the advice on sleep quality and managing stress levels, there’s no doubt in my mind that both your life balance and business success will be positively impacted. Let me know what part stood out most to you. Comment below!