How to Tell When Stress is Affecting Your Sleep
It’s safe to say that 2020 was an extremely stress-inducing year due to the global pandemic of the virus Covid-19. In fact, the data proves that 2020 led to higher than normal stress levels in the majority of the population; a yearly survey conducted by the American Psychological Association titled “Stress In America” for 2020 found that Americans’ stress levels were at the highest point in 2020 since the survey was first begun in 2007.
It is no secret that stress seeps into every aspect of one’s life, from their relationships to their career to their health to their inward reflection and feelings about themselves and their current situation. One particular area that deserves to be focused on is the way stress is affecting people’s health levels.
Stress not only puts strain on and negatively impacts the outward areas of your life but it can also directly link to your health and harm you immensely if not treated. Stress can appear in emotional symptoms such as agitation, moodiness, and depression, or in physical symptoms that cause a toll on your body. WebMD reports that overwhelming stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, gastrointestinal problems, hair and skin issues, upset stomach, and trouble relaxing and calming your thoughts. This in turn affects sleep and heightens the difficulty of both falling and staying asleep during a time when the additional strain on your body increases your need for sleep more than ever.
Arthur Andreasyan, the CEO of Puffy, believes a good sleep can be the cure for a lot of issues due to the way it reduces tension and stress in your mind and body.
“I believe better sleep and a focus on creating proper sleep hygiene can solve a lot of the problems we deal with as humans,” said Arthur Andreasyan, CEO of Puffy. “Deep restorative sleep can reduce tension, support the immune system, recover our bodies, and allow us to wake up happy, ready to take on the best of life, as well as tackle the inevitable challenges. The only way [you] can be the best version of yourself is to have a well-rested mind and body...As well as ensuring my bedroom is designed for optimal sleep, I always follow the same bedtime routine. Clearing clutter from my room, eliminating screen time 1 hour before bed, and meditation are the main parts of my routine.”
The effect stress has on your sleep quality or night time routine adversely impacts your day to day life, so it cannot be simply ignored as something that merely affects your nights. There are some sureproof indicators that your sleep is being affected by your stress levels. If any of these areas ring true to your life, you should consult with a health practitioner to resolve your stress and sleep issues and come up with a treatment plan that fits into your life.
An obvious sign that stress is affecting your sleep is if you begin having trouble sleeping through the night.
“Whenever I notice my sleep becomes disrupted by frequent wakings in the night I take the change seriously and monitor whether the situation is a one-time occurrence or if I continue to be unable to sleep through the night. If the trouble becomes a pattern I don’t hesitate to speak with my doctor immediately, because knowing the importance of a full night of sleep each night has taught me my role in ensuring my body can complete its normal resetting and recharging processes during the night,” says Rachel Jones, Head of PR of Hope Health.
One sign that stress is damaging your sleep is if you notice the standard symptoms of not getting enough quality rest but know that you aren’t doing anything different in your routine that would be reducing the amount of sleep you get.
“You will know the stress and anxiety you’ve been feeling is starting to impact your sleep if you’re sticking to your normal nighttime routines but are finding it harder to sleep, and probably also experiencing a lower quality of sleep each night. During the daytimes, there are telltale symptoms of not having had enough sleep that build up over time the longer your sleep patterns are thrown off. Watch for mood swings, a general attitude of negativity, irritability towards others and simple events, trouble focusing almost like a mental cloud, and of course fatigue bordering on exhaustion due to the lack of proper sleep. These are all strong warnings that something is wrong, so if you are experiencing these symptoms it is best to speak to your doctor,” says Dr. Payel Gupta, CMO & Co-Founder of Cleared.
Trouble during the night when you’re trying to get your mind to shut off and your body to relax into sleep without any success can feel extremely frustrating, which in turn heightens your heart rate and further prevents relaxation. Sometimes the anxiety you feel over not being able to fall asleep at night, knowing you haven’t had a good night of sleep in days, can be the most annoying part of the situation. In fact, there can be multiple layers and attributions of stress that overall influence your sleep situation.
“Not getting enough quality sleep at night can actually increase your stress levels, which clearly adds unnecessarily to the problem of stress causing poor sleep patterns,” says Chris Hetherington, Founder and CEO of Peels. “Not only does getting enough sleep directly reduce stress levels, it also indirectly reduces your chance of feeling additional stress as a response to not sleeping enough. The trouble, therefore, is in resetting yourself enough to get back to a pattern of healthy sleep.”
Oftentimes the indication that stress is what is modifying your sleep is if you have trouble sleeping due to an overactive mind and a steady stream of thoughts, concerns, and worries that you cannot let rest for the evening.
“If you head to bed at your normal time but then lay awake for hours with an unending loop of thoughts in your head, and if this becomes a nightly ritual, you can be pretty sure the reason is due to stress. It can be a prolonged response to stress or a pattern you find yourself in during particularly impactful or stressful times that ends once your life goes back to normal. The average person should fall asleep after ten to twenty minutes of focused relaxation, so if you suddenly have difficulty with this, you know something has changed.
“A few techniques I like to follow to turn off my mind at night include not bringing my work home with me at the end of the day so that my home feels like a place of relaxation, setting limits for my screen time, and trying to take my mind off my reality by escaping it through a book or podcast. I have also found that a white noise machine can be useful at drowning out my thoughts,” says Matthew Mundt, Founder and CEOHug Sleep.
Clearly, an indicator of a strained sleep schedule is not physically being able to get as much sleep as normal during a straight stretch. An inability to fall asleep at your usual time or waking up earlier than usual and not being able to fall back to sleep are both ways that your body can refuse your normal healthy amount of sleep.
“A clear indicator that your stress levels are affecting your sleep is if you don’t fall asleep within the normal timeframe after lying in bed--normally between ten and twenty minutes,” says Sarah Pirrie, Brand Director of Healist Naturals. “But stress can also look like waking up early in the morning feeling as though it is impossible to sleep any longer--your mind is awake and alert, and your body may feel fidgety and unable to stay still.”
Although you cannot get enough sleep during the night, you will probably find yourself extremely tired during the day, since your body needs to catch up on the missed hours of sleep at some point. When your sleep schedule is abnormal, you might find yourself wanting to take naps throughout the day during times when you are not able to rest. It’s important to set your body back onto its normal sleep regulation of sleeping during the night and being awake and energized during the day.
“If your sleep schedule is confused and you don’t feel tired at night but then want to make up for the lost sleep all day when you need to be productive, you should definitely speak to a medical professional on how to get back into your regular sleep pattern. As a working professional I need to be turned on all day when I am at work, so the only way to make this possible is if my body gets deep, uninterrupted rest each night. During sleep, your body is essentially recharging for the day ahead, so understandably you will feel immensely exhausted and drained if you have to head into another day without adequately recharging overnight,” says Nancy Belcher, CEO of Winona.
You generally know when stress is prevalent in your life because it makes itself known through heightened feelings of anxiety and pressure, as well as the physiological signs like heightened blood sugar, a faster heart rate, and increased sweating. When you are highly anxious you know it because you can feel the symptoms. One way to know your sleeping trouble is directly linked to your stress levels is if you realize you are living in a state of heightened stress.
“When you don’t get enough sleep repeatedly due to stress, it often feels like a counterintuitive response that you experience,” says Lisa Odenweller, CEO and Founder of Kroma. “For myself, I notice I feel anxious with stress responses like a heightened heart rate but I still have a foggy mind and lack mental clarity all day due to not sleeping. It feels terrible to not have your body functioning cohesively. We all depend on our minds to be clear and sharp for the daily challenges we face, but this is not our reality if we don’t get enough sleep.”
Not feeling rested upon waking is a huge indicator that your sleep was not of quality, since the essential function of sleep is to “[allow] your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories,” according to the Sleep Foundation.
If you are experiencing troubled sleep due to stress and anxiety, the first step you should take is to contact your health practitioner to discuss the root of the trouble and make a plan of action. On top of this, there are some measures you can take that have offered relief to industry professionals, and may also be what your doctor recommends.
“If you can’t sleep at night, try putting your body and mind into a relaxed state. This can be achieved through meditation; some meditations specifically promote restfulness and relaxation. Completing these practices when you are ready to unwind at the end of the day and right before bed may be just the trick to put you on track to a good night’s rest,” says Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay.
Another good practice that may prove useful seems to be exactly the opposite of turning your mind and body off and putting them in a relaxed state, but it truly works. This step is regular exercise. Health experts recommend that everyone engage in regular physical movement in order to stay healthy and prevent health risks like heart problems and obesity. Exercise also boosts energy and mood, and can enhance your sleep.
“The science shows that getting regular physical exercise is widely beneficial to your health, including benefitting your sleep. This can look like anything from hitting the gym to taking walks or even just getting moving, like a vigorous play session with your kids or dogs. Increased movement during your day will tire you out in a good way so that by the end of the day, your body is ready to sleep. But there are also forms of movement that help you to get in touch with your body, such as yoga, pilates, or bodyweight resistance training. Yoga in particular has many offerings of relaxing flows which can be done right before bed to prepare your body and mind for rest,” saysNicholas Vasiliou, CEO of BioHealth.
Another method for stopping stress from affecting your sleep is to take the responsibility off of yourself and speak with a professional about the root of the issue: your stress and anxious feelings. There is no shame in accepting help; often, simply speaking about whatever is bothering you can significantly help feelings of stress.
“If you can’t sleep because of an overactive mind at night that is filled with thoughts and worries, why not make an appointment to speak to a therapist? Even if you think these thoughts are not related to stress or anxiety, you will at least be able to get your thoughts off your chest by talking about them, which may help turn off your mind at night,” says Jay Levitt, Founder and CEO of Lofta.
Listed above are methods for how to tell when stress is affecting your sleep, as well as advice for some tactics you can follow in order to decrease stress and anxiety. This article should provide you with further understanding of whether stress is impacting the quality and length of your sleep and direct you on what next steps to follow to reset your sleep patterns so you can get adequate sleep in order to face each day.
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