Is stress stopping your from getting a good night’s sleep

Here’s how you can get those precious seven hours.

Sleep is a necessity.  When we sleep, we recharge, rest and our bodies can benefit from a number of natural advantages, such as muscle repair, a stronger memory, learning and a better mood. 

In fact, even slight sleep deprivation can in turn affect these the opposite way, while chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to endocrine dysfunction.  Research suggests that sleeping an extra 60-90 minutes per night may lead to a happier, healthier and safer life. 

On the other hand, getting less than seven hours of sleep per night increases the risk of several diseases such as obesity, heart disease and depression.

There is a high correlation between stress and sleep.  Stress can affect sleep quality while lack of sleep can increase stress.  A small amount of stress in our daily lives is considered healthy, as we learn to adapt and deal with everyday stimuli.  However, chronic and uncontained stress, together with lack of sleep, may eventually be detrimental to both our physical and mental health.  Stress can impact your sleep in a number of ways; the most common one being insomnia.  When we are feeling overwhelmed and we try to sleep, we tend to overthink on what is stressing us out, or that we still needs to be done.  As a result, this highly disrupts our sleep patterns.

Additionally, stress impacts our sleep by prolonging the time it takes to fall asleep, causing fragmented sleep.  Lack of sleep will then trigger our body’s stress response, causing our body to elevate our stress hormones, which continues to further disrupt our sleep.  So as you can see, this can become a vicious cycle indeed.

Animal research suggests that rodents under acute or chronic stress, show a significant effect on their sleep and circadian rhythms.  This can be the result of the activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis which is a physiological response induced by stress.  This mechanism, also known as HPA axis, has a central role in our sleep-wake regulation for both animals and humans.  Not only that, the HPA axis is responsible for regulating many homeostatic systems in the body, such as the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system.

What can help you get a better night’s sleep? Create a relaxing and calming sleep environment by following the below steps:

  1. Set the right temperature in your bedroom
  2. Adjust the lighting in your bedroom
  3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule by sleeping and waking up at the same time everyday.
  4. If you find yourself overthinking, try to jot down your thoughts before bed.
  5. Try out some meditation/ sleep visualization – you can find apps available which will guide you through this process
  6. Take a warm bath or practice yoga to help you wind down after a long day.
  7. Limit screen time or drinking any caffeine.

Even though it might seem impossible to get out of this vicious cycle, don’t be afraid to seek the support of your family and friends.  They can help guide you to feel better or assist you to seek professional help.

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