People in the United States have had a tough year in 2020. In comparison to previous years, the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 poll found that general stress levels have risen dramatically. There has been a rise of 0.5 points since last year’s results, making this year’s results the highest since the survey was originally published in 2007 (5.4 out of 10). COVID-19’s impact on money, parenting, and other elements of daily living can be linked to these numbers.
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Stress and worry are frequently linked to sleep disorders such as insomnia. Stress can also be exacerbated by a lack of sleep. As a result, resolving one of these difficulties can often lead to improvements in the other.
Stress and the Body
The hormone response to stress is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a network in your brain. An enzyme termed glucocorticoid, which is a type of hormone is released by the pituitary gland in response to a signal from the hypothalamus, which is a cluster of nuclei located in the brain. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol and adrenaline, both glucocorticoids.
The body produces cortisol throughout the day, with levels peaking when we wake up and progressively dropping as the day progresses. As a result of the HPA’s control over more cortisol, you may feel hyper-alert and even “crash” after a stressful event.
There are three main types of stress: anxiety, depression, and irritability.
- Acute stress: It is common for this form of stress to accompany brief moments of fear or anxiety. You may have missed a deadline at work or school or nearly been in a vehicle accident as an example of stressors. Feelings of anger, melancholy, and worry may follow an increase in your blood pressure and heart rate. Some people report having headaches, back discomfort, or digestive problems as a result of their condition. Symptoms of acute stress, on the other hand, often fade within a few days.
- Episodic acute stress: It’s a collection of small moments of stress that add up to a larger stressor. The burdens of daily life might cause people to turn to unhealthy behaviors like overeating or binge drinking to deal with their stress. Clinical depression, heart disease, poor work performance, and relationship issues are all major side effects of episodic acute stress.
- Chronic stress: A variety of causes, such as poverty, abuse, and trauma, can result in long-term mental health problems, such as chronic stress. People tend to absorb these painful experiences, and over time this can wear down the psyche and lead to emotions of despair. Additionally, long-term stress can lead to impairments in the HPA axis’ ability to comprehend stressful stimuli and communicate with other parts of the body.
There is no danger in moderate doses of acute stress, but chronic stress can have a significant effect on your body. Some of these impacts can be felt throughout the body in numerous organs and systems, such as:
- Cardiovascular: As a result of acute stress, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, as well as the contractions in your heart muscles. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline serve as messengers for these processes. The body will return to its normal state after the acute stress period has passed. Because your heart rate and blood pressure are consistently increased by chronic stress, this can lead to long-term heart problems. Hypertension, heart attack, and stroke are all more likely to occur if you have high blood pressure.
- Gastrointestinal: Nerves and bacteria in the stomach connect with the brain to help regulate mood and maintain good health in the body as a whole. This communication can be disrupted under stressful situations, resulting in pain, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues. In addition to causing a decrease in your desire to eat, these events can also cause you to lose your appetite, which can have an adverse effect on your digestive system. Anxiety-induced overeating may also lead to obesity. Stress can also induce painful spasms in the esophagus and bowels, as well as weakening of the intestinal walls that keep hazardous germs out of the stomach.
- Musculoskeletal: You may feel your muscles tense up when you are under a lot of stress. The dilation of blood vessels in the arms and legs causes this reflexive feeling, which is the body’s way of protecting you from potential pain or danger. Migraine headaches and lower back and upper extremity discomfort can result from chronic muscle tension caused by stress. Long-term stress might be exacerbated by the discomfort of this ongoing strain.
- Nervous: The neurological system communicates with the pituitary gland and adrenal glands during times of acute stress to enhance the synthesis of adrenaline and cortisol. The nervous system is also responsible for regulating the “comedown” period following a brief period of stress. When you’re under a lot of stress all the time, your body starts to break down.
- Reproductive: Men’s and women’s reproductive systems can be harmed by stress. Both men and women may have decreased sexual desire as a result of long-term stress, making them more susceptible to disorders of the reproductive system, such as cancer. The sperm of men may become smaller and less able to swim, while women may have difficulty conceiving. In pregnant women, long-term stress can have a negative impact on the development of both the fetus and the child.
- Respiratory: Sufficiency of oxygen to the lungs is a common side effect of anxiety. Asthma attacks and other respiratory issues can be triggered by acute stress in persons who already have them. It’s possible that long-term stress could develop into more serious illnesses like COPD.
How Does Stress Affect Sleep?
Stress-induced insomnia is a common sleep condition. Consistent trouble with sleep initiation, maintenance, consolidation, or overall quality is defined as insomnia. The inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or stay awake during the day is a common symptom of insomnia, despite the fact that a good night’s sleep and a relaxing environment are in place for those who suffer from it. About 10% to 30% of adults suffer from insomnia, according to current estimates.
Insomnia that occurs at least three times per week for a period of three months or more is considered chronic. Chronic insomnia can be exacerbated by long-term stressors. You may be under stress because of:
- Workplace issues or unhappiness.
- Other marital or family troubles, including divorce.
- Relatives’ deaths.
- A life-threatening condition.
- Life-altering events.
Anxiety disorders are associated with an increased chance of developing chronic insomnia, however, this is not the case for everyone who is always stressed. Insomnia can also be caused by a shift in one’s sleep schedule as a result of a life event or change. People who suffer from chronic insomnia are frequently preoccupied with thoughts about sleep and other areas of their lives. This leads to an increase in daily stress, which in turn worsens sleeplessness.
Insomnia-related daytime deficits that might lead to or increase stress include:
- Weakness and lethargic disposition.
- Inability to focus, pay attention, or recall information
- Disadvantages in social, family, career, or academic contexts.
- Disruption in mood and irritability.
- Behavioral difficulties such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and impulsivity.
- Motivation and energy are down.
- Errors and accidents will be more likely to occur as a result.
Short-term insomnia occurs when a person has insomnia symptoms for less than three months. Acute stressors, like long-term stress, can lead to short-term insomnia symptoms, just as long-term stress can lead to chronic insomnia. You may be under stress because of:
- Problems in personal relationships.
- Problems at the office…
- The loss of money.
- Bereavement and the process of grieving.
- Medical condition’s early symptoms and diagnosis.
If you’ve recently made big modifications to your bedroom or sleeping place, you may experience acute stress. Even if the child is not noisily noisy, new parents may have sleeplessness symptoms when sharing their bedroom with their infant for the first time. When children share a room with a sibling for the first time, they may have sleep disturbances. Short-term sleeplessness can also be caused by a trip or a move to a new location.
Once the stressful scenario has ended and the acute tension has subsided, short-term insomnia symptoms may begin to fade. Insomnia can become chronic for certain people if they slip into a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and daytime worry about falling asleep.
Chronic stress can cause sleep apnea in addition to sleeplessness. Snoring, choking, and excessive daytime sleepiness are all symptoms of this sleep disorder, which occurs when the upper airway collapses repeatedly during sleep. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical disorders that might be linked to stress. Obesity is also a key risk factor, according to experts. The disruption of your sleep and fatigue you experience throughout the daytime are both symptoms of sleep apnea, which, like insomnia, can increase stress.
Does Sleep Help Stress?
Stress reduction is greatly aided by ensuring that you get enough sleep every night. A decent night’s sleep might be difficult to come by if you’re under a lot of pressure, especially if sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of your daily worries.
You can take various steps to alleviate your tension. A healthy lifestyle includes frequent exercise and a close-knit circle of friends and family. However, getting enough sleep is generally necessary if you want to avoid stress. Each night, adults should aim to sleep between seven and nine hours, according to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation.
How to Sleep When Stressed
The ability to effectively regulate stress is essential for a restful night’s sleep, and this ability can be influenced by the way you live your daily life. Additionally, you can decrease the tension by controlling your breathing and other relaxation techniques, such as meditating. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential, as is the capacity to “discharge” stress in a productive manner only when it is actually causing stress.
The quality and length of your sleep can both be improved with good sleep hygiene, so you wake up feeling more rested and better equipped to handle stress. The following are suggestions for good sleep hygiene:
- Strict sleep schedule: Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time each day. This applies during the weekends, as well as any time you’re away from home or on a trip.
- Optimal bedroom atmosphere: When you’re ready for a good night’s sleep, your bedroom should put you at ease. You should turn the lights down and minimize the amount of noise from the outside world. Experts normally recommend temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, however, 65 degrees is considered best.
- No electronics: The blue light emitted by televisions, laptops, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets can disrupt sleep. Keep these devices out of the bedroom at all times for the best effects.
- Reduced evening intake: Before going to bed, refrain from eating nicotine and caffeine. These stimulants can help you stay awake even when you should be sleeping. As with sleep, alcohol can be a problem. Many individuals believe that drinking will help them sleep because of the sedative qualities of alcohol, however, this is not always the case. Finally, avoid eating a lot of food right before going to bed.
- Regular exercise: In the morning or early afternoon, a moderate amount of exercise can help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
When you’re too stressed to sleep, lying in bed doesn’t do you any good. Instead of staring at a screen or engaging in other blue light-emitting activities after 15 minutes after going to bed, consider getting up and moving to a different part of your home where you can read, meditate, or listen to quiet music.
Anxiety can also arise if a person is startled awake in the middle of the night by the time displayed on a bedside clock. When you first wake up, don’t check the time by gazing at your clock. If necessary, cover the screen.
If you continue to have trouble sleeping, you should see a doctor or a medical professional. An insomnia diagnosis and therapy based on this information may be beneficial to you if you suffer from these symptoms.
Other Stress Management Tips
Cognitive-behavioral stress management is a popular method for reducing stress for some people (CBSM). With this short-term therapy, you’ll learn exactly how your thoughts and beliefs influence your actions and interactions with the people and things in your life. In order to alter your behavior and mindset, you might try substituting negative or erroneous thoughts with more optimistic ones.
Persons with HIV/AIDS, people with substance addiction disorders, and people in the nursing profession have all been proven in studies to benefit from CBSM as a stress management technique.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been found to be useful in the treatment of insomnia. CBT-i, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, is a type of therapy that aims to help patients overcome their insomnia by addressing their sleep-related myths and negative attitudes. In addition to appropriate sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques, CBT-i emphasizes sleep limitation and the importance of getting out of bed when you can’t get to sleep.
Additionally, many people are able to effectively control their stress by following sleep hygiene standards and pursuing CBSM therapy.
- Everyone’s reaction to stress is different, therefore it’s important to learn how to identify it. Depression and other mental health issues might include difficulty sleeping, an addiction to drink or drugs, irritability, and low energy and motivation. Understanding how your body reacts when you’re under stress requires that you become familiar with these reactions.
- Practice stress-relieving activities: These include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, relaxation meditation, and muscular relaxation. Adding these wellness activities to your daily routine can have a major impact on your stress levels.
- Set yourself up for success by setting goals for yourself. Desperation is characterized by a lack of concern for the future. Chronic stress, in particular, can cause these unpleasant emotions. Keeping a positive frame of mind means setting realistic expectations for yourself in your personal, family, and professional spheres of influence.
- Make contact with those who can help you: Maintaining regular communication connections with your loved ones might help alleviate stress. In addition, for some people, belonging to a group of friends or a church is a source of solace.
- Start a “stress conversation” with your doctor: Stress can soon become overpowering if not addressed. Consider setting an appointment with your doctor, or addressing stress during your next exam, as a proactive approach to stress management.
How to Deal With Stress-Related Insomnia
You may be suffering from sleeplessness as a result of worries about your finances, your career, or your relationship. You’re not the only one going through this. About one-third of adults studied will experience some form of insomnia at some point during their lives,1 either difficulties getting to sleep or problems staying asleep or insomnia so severe that it interferes with daytime activities. There are new diagnostic criteria for insomnia in 2020 that underline the links between sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression.2 Although not necessarily stress-related, these relationships with mental health and the speed of everyday living make insomnia an important topic for us to explore.
Sleep deprivation can impair your mental and emotional well-being, which in turn heightens your sense of anxiety and tension, all of which are exacerbated by lack of sleep. Having to deal with persistent insomnia can lead to increased stress, which in turn can exacerbate the effects of persistent insomnia. And, if your sleeplessness is caused by stress in the first place, being exhausted and agitated does nothing to alleviate the tension. If you’re having trouble sleeping because of stress, here are a few ideas you might want to consider.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When you’re stressed out, it’s hard to fall asleep. The body tenses up as a result of stress, even when the person is unaware that they are under stress.
For the past two decades, the evidence-based treatment for insomnia known as progressive muscle relaxation4 has been widely acknowledged. De-stressing your body is easy with PMR.
Journaling may help you sleep better if you wake up in the night thinking about something that’s causing you tension during the day.
There are numerous health and stress management advantages of journaling5. You can clear your mind, process intense emotions that are preventing you from sleeping, and brainstorm and develop ideas that can help you manage the stressful conditions in your life by writing, in this context.
Work Through Your Stress
If anxiety is keeping you awake at night, a shift in perspective may help you sleep better. A normal reaction to events that necessitate immediate action is anxiety, including the kind that keeps you awake at night. In order to move forward, you must view your circumstance as a task to be overcome, rather than a threat to your well-being.
Taking a fresh look at an issue can help you realize possibilities you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. Changing your perspective6 on a stressful circumstance can be achieved through cognitive restructuring.
Take the Pressure off Sleep
Even the act of getting ready for bed might be a source of anxiety if you regularly find yourself unable to sleep. There are a few things you can do to alleviate the stress of insomnia if you’ve reached this stage.
Begin by getting up and doing something after a few minutes if you’re having difficulties sleeping and are certain that sleep is far away. As a result, you’ll be able to spend more time doing other things rather than staring at the clock for hours on end.
Another tip is to use your bedroom primarily as a place to sleep in order to develop a positive association with sleep rather than stress. Make getting out of bed and doing things like reading a book or doing chores around the house a goal for when you’re ready to go to sleep. Caffeine should also be avoided in the afternoons and at night.
Don’t Do It Alone
Insomnia is a problem that many people ignore. Unfortunately, insomnia can be alleviated by a variety of treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, which can help you take control of your stress-related sleeplessness.
Consult your physician about your treatment choices if you’re suffering from chronic insomnia.