Understanding Stress and Insomnia

Understanding Stress and Insomnia

Insomnia and sleep problems are often triggered by stress and anxiety. On the other hand, lack of sleep can contribute to stress. Hence, we can conclude that the relationship between sleep and stress is reciprocal and understanding and managing one of these problems can often improve the other. Here’s what you need to know:

The Influence of Stress on Sleep Quality

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders related to stress. Some studies show that one-third to two-thirds of the adult population suffers from insomnia. The disorder is characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep and thus it affects overall sleep quality.

People with insomnia experience trouble with sleep onset and maintenance regardless of adequate time allocated for sleep and a healthy sleep environment. As a result, they usually suffer from daytime sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, irritability, and cognitive impairments.

What’s also worth mentioning, increased stress levels have a negative impact on sleep architecture and the duration of each sleep stage. Those who experience chronic stress may even notice a reduction in deep sleep and disruptions during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Acute Insomnia

Short-termor acute insomnia is when someone experiences insomnia symptoms for less than three months. In general, sudden stressors trigger this condition including:

  • Work-related issues
  • Financial loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Grieving and bereavement
  • Diagnosis of a medical condition
  • Symptoms of a medical condition
  • Changes made to the sleep environment

Luckily, once the stressful situation ends and short-term stress reduces insomnia symptoms will soon start to disappear. But unfortunately, some may even fall into a recurrent cycle of lack of sleep and anxiety about sleep loss that can eventually turn into chronic insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

If insomnia symptoms occur at least three times a week for more than three months, it means that a person suffers from chronic insomnia. Persistent stressors can contribute to the disorders which may include:

  • Work-related issues or dissatisfaction
  • Marital difficulties or divorce
  • Other family issues
  • The death of a loved one
  • Major illness or injury
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Major life changes

Although persistent stress does not always lead to chronic insomnia, those with anxiety disorder are at a significantly higher risk of developing this sleep disorder. Moreover, once chronic insomnia symptoms become strong, people start feeling anxious about sleeping and other life aspects. In other words, people face increased daily stress which then worsens insomnia symptoms, falling into a vicious circle.

In addition, here are some other insomnia-related daytime impairments that lead to or contribute to stress:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Fatigue and malaise throughout the day
  • Poor focus, concentration, and memory
  • Poor social, professional, and academic performance
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Increased risk for mistakes and accidents

Getting Quality Sleep While Stressed

One way to reduce stress levels is getting enough quality sleep each night, i.e., sleeping 7 to 9 hours, which is the recommended amount of sleep per night for adults. But, how to sleep while stressed? Namely, you can lower your stress levels and improve sleep by incorporating healthy daily habits. Here’s what you should do:

  • Follow a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Follow a strict sleep schedule
  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly
  • Limit screen time before bed
  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine before bed

If you follow the above-listed tips, you will soon notice that your sleep has improved and your stress levels reduced. Still, if your issues persist, ensure you consult your doctor in order to get the right treatment.