Is Stress Wrecking Your Sleep?

Having a hard time falling asleep? There could be a number of reasons for your troubled nights. Stimulants (such as smoking and drinking) or family history could be a factor. But, one of the most common triggers for sleep problems is stress.

Sleep Problems Are Common

Sleep problems plague millions of people. In fact, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans “chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness.” Some of these disorders include sleep apnea, sleep terrors, and insomnia. And the problem doesn’t stop there. Even those who do manage to get to sleep may not be getting enough. Another study found that 30 percent of American adults are getting six hours of sleep or less. This is terrible news considering that receiving so little sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, memory issues, and a weakened immune system.

Stress Affects Your Sleep

Stress—whether from work, family arguments, or other situations—could cause or exasperate your sleeping problems. In fact, in a study from the American Psychological Association, 43 percent of participants reported that stress caused them to lie awake at night.

Why does stress lead to sleep problems? Simply put, stress keeps your brain alert. When you’re feeling stressed your body produces the cortisol hormone, which activates the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. The hypothalamus is located at the base of the brain and it acts as a connector between the endocrine system and nervous systems. This part of the brain is essential for, among other things, keeping sleep cycles consistent. When the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA axis) is activated it can lead to arousal and sleeplessness. In all this reaction can lead you down a slippery slope.

When you can’t sleep, you wake up feeling tired and spend the day feeling sluggish. This can increase your stress throughout the day, making it harder for you to sleep later that night. Thus you don’t get enough sleep that night either. This cycle continues and leads to chronic insomnia.

What’s the Solution for Sleepless Nights?

The answer is simple: reduce your stress! Fortunately, the Stress Institute and the Mindful Living Network have lots of informational resources to help you sleep through the night. For more information check out the articles and tips listed below.

  • Create sleep rituals. Having a nighttime ritual, like going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, can help you get some sleep. For more help, read the sleepless night tips listed here.
  • Try aromatherapy. Certain scents can help reduce stress and prevent restless night. So, consider spritzing chamomile, jasmine, or lavender fragrances on your pillow. Other helpful scents and home remedies for sleep are listed here.
  • Do a stress awareness exercise. Knowing more about your stress triggers may help you reduce your stress and enjoy a good nights sleep. Check out this article on Stress Awareness Month for more information.

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