Stress and sleep disorders can form a vicious cycle of symptoms. Stress can cause sleep problems, but sleep disturbances also increase stress levels. According to the Better Sleep Council (2009), 65 percent of Americans lose sleep due to stress, and 16 percent suffer from stress-induced insomnia. Hormones that control wakefulness and sleepiness rise and fall in a cycle with regularity throughout the day. Most people feel sleepy around three in the afternoon, and if you take a nap then, you lower your risk of heart disease. Why? It is natural and healthy to sleep in two periods rather than one. It allows you reboot in the middle of the day. Not trying to power through "slump time," probably lowers your stress hormone level.
Biological Connections Between Stress and Sleep
Stress is necessary for human survival. When the brain perceives a threat, stress hormones are released that prepare the body to fight or flee from danger. Stress responses worked well for much of human existence, when people were frequently in danger, whether from animals, other humans or the environment.
In emergencies, the stress response remains a potential lifesaver. But today, a person is more likely to confront an irate employer than an angry bear. The stress response, however, remains the same for both circumstances. The continuous stream of information, events and activities associated with modern life results in an almost constant stress response.
Stress hormones, such as cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone, disrupt sleep. In turn, even a single night of disrupted sleep leaves people irritable, less productive and easier to anger, all of which generate further stress.
Anxiety and Sleep
Anxiety and sleep problems go hand-in-hand. Stressful events can cause anxiety and sleep disturbances months after the event. People prone to anxiety are up to three times more likely to develop sleep disturbances than less anxious individuals, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2007).
Stress and Sleep Disorders
Stress and sleep disorders often aggravate each other's symptoms. Many sleep disorders have insomnia as a symptom. Sleep deprivation increases stress responses, which in turn makes sleeping difficult. People may worry about their inability to sleep, releasing stress hormones that further interfere with restful sleep.
Stress Management Tips
Improving sleep is possible with stress relief. Sleep quality often improves when people begin practicing stress management.
Stress management doesn't provide immediate stress relief. Sleep may not improve for several weeks after people begin following stress management tips. Over time, however, stress and sleep problems respond to stress reduction strategies.
Common stress management tips include:
Finding time for regular exercise
Learning new responses to stressful situations
Listening to quiet music
Practicing yoga or meditation
Taking a soothing bath.
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Finding time for enjoyable activities and hobbies also provides stress relief. Sleep may come easier if people put aside time before bedtime for stress-reducing activities.
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