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Stress and its impact on sleep

October 21, 2021 - By Lucy Johnston

We all know how damaging chronic stress can be to our mental and physical health.

In a situation that’s a bit of a Catch-22, stress can also impact our sleep, robbing us of the rest that’s needed to better manage stressful situations, and that can further compound the problem.

So, let’s look at stress and its impact on sleep, and how to ensure a good night’s rest that helps manage the demands of modern life.

Stress and cortisol

When we feel stressed, the body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which are the trigger behind that good old ‘fight or flight’ response.

In a dangerous situation, this spike of hormones can be a life-saver, allowing us to move at speed, gain additional strength and make quick decisions.

But if that stress becomes chronic, it can cause our nervous system to remain in a state of heightened arousal for prolonged periods, and that can have a long-term impact on our health and wellbeing.

Sleep and its role in stress

As Medical News Today explains, stress and sleep are closely interlinked. Insufficient sleep is likely to raise our stress levels, while stress is likely to impact the quality and duration of our sleep.

“One effect of stress is that it can cause sleep deprivation,” they note.

“Frequently being in a heightened state of alertness can delay the onset of sleep and cause rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night. Insufficient sleep can then cause further stress.”

So how can you ensure a good night’s rest, even when you’re feeling stressed?

Managing stress and maintaining good sleep

As sleep plays such a critical role in mitigating stress and maintaining good health, it’s important to set yourself up for the best rest possible.

This involves both a good sleep routine and an environment that’s conducive to rest, so here are our top tips…

Create a great sleep environment

The importance of creating a sleep environment that’s conducive to an uninterrupted good night’s sleep cannot be underestimated.

That means having a comfortable mattress along with quality bedding that ensures you are not too hot and not too cold. Your room should also be welcoming, cozy, and free of allergens and extraneous light.

Cut the pre-sleep screen time

The blue light found in TV screens, tablets, computers and mobile phones has been known to interrupt our sleep patterns and delay the onset of sleep.

Experts recommend stepping away from these devices an hour and a half before you plan to go to sleep.

That means resisting the urge to undertake just a little more work prior to bedtime, or catch that latest video streaming release on your bedroom television.

Abandon the alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine act as stimulants that impact the quality of our sleep. In the case of caffeine, it’s likely to delay the onset of sleep, while alcohol impacts our sleep patterns.

If you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep, consider cutting out that evening coffee and tea or that last glass of wine.

Embrace relaxation

Preparing for sleep with a little relaxation can help get you in the right mindset for rest. This pre-bedtime routine might involve:

  • Meditation and mindfulness (there are some great apps available)
  • A warm, relaxing bath or shower
  • Aromatherapy
  • Reading
  • Soft music
  • And more…

The final nod

Quality sleep plays a major role in combatting and managing stress. In fact, sleep is a pillar of human health and just as important as your diet and exercise when it comes to ensuring your mental health and wellbeing.

You can read more tips on getting a good night’s rest here.