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How Does Sleep Affect Stress Levels

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How To Lower Stress Levels To Improve Sleep


While there are a few chronic sleep conditions that may require medical intervention, like sleep apnoea and insomnia, if your sleep loss is due to stress, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Check out some of these tips and tricks to relieving stress and incorporate a few of them into your daily life, to see if you notice any difference in sleep quality.

Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation

You may be sleep deprived if you:

  • Feel tired, irritable, and fatigued during the day yawn frequently.
  • Have difficulty focusing or remembering things.
  • Feel less interested in sex.
  • Find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, need an alarm clock to wake up on time, or repeatedly hit the snooze button.
  • Feel lethargic or drowsy in the afternoon.
  • Find it difficult to stay awake in lectures, meetings, warm rooms, while driving or commuting, or after a heavy meal.
  • Have to take a nap during the day.
  • Fall asleep on the couch in the evening.
  • Are asleep within five minutes of going to bed.
  • Need to sleep late on weekends.
  • Have experienced mood changes, including feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, paranoid, or suicidal.

Increase Your Exposure To Daylight

If you work inside a dark office during the day or live in the northern hemisphere, you might not be getting enough daylight and your sleep might be affected.

Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the morning hours helps people sleep better at night.Adequate daylight is also shown to decrease depression and stress.

Help calibrate your circadian rhythm by making sure you get lots of daylight and if you cant, consider investing in a light therapy device to keep near you, during the day.

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How Much Sleep Do I Need

Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.1 However, more than 1 in 3 American adults say they dont get the recommended amount of sleep.2 While this may be fine for a day or two, not getting enough sleep over time can lead to serious health problemsand make certain health problems worse.

Sleep & Stress Management: What Can You Do

How Does Anxiety Affect Your Sleep?
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants
  • Give yourself time to wind down before bed, perhaps by reading a book or listening to music
  • Practice meditation and deep breathing exercises to calm your brain and body
  • Choose wool bedding that is proven to increase deep regenerative sleep by 25%
  • Keep a pen and paper beside your bed to write down the worries that are troubling you
  • Consider talking to a therapist if your anxieties become too great

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How Sleep Deprivation Makes Us Feel Stressed

A 1997 study published in Sleep found that people who were limited to just 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted.

The participants mood improved dramatically after two full nights of catch-up sleep.4

According to the National Sleep Foundation, people suffering from insomnia are 17 times more likely to suffer anxiety disorder, and 10 times more likely to develop depression.5

How Stress Affects The Body

The bodys response to stress is an important survival mechanism . When faced with a dangerous or stressful situation, the brain begins a series of processes that help us respond to a threat. Although the stress response is useful, when it continues for an extended period of time, the stress can negatively impact our bodies. Here are some effects of stress on the body and ways in which chronic stress can lead to health problems:

  • Hormones: When faced with a threat, the body increases production of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, that trigger other physical changes and put the body into a state of fight-or-flight. In chronic stress, these hormones can be triggered when theyre not needed.
  • Muscles: In response to stress, muscles throughout the body reflexively tense up. If stress isnt reduced, chronic muscle tension can lead to painful conditions like headaches and back pain.
  • Breathing: Stress can make breathing more short and rapid. For people with pre-existing breathing conditions, such as COPD and asthma, the bodys stress response can trigger their symptoms.
  • Blood Pressure: Stress hormones cause certain blood vessels to dilate and can also cause blood pressure to increase. Ongoing stress can lead to inflammation and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

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What Health Conditions Are Linked To A Lack Of Sleep

Adults who sleep less than 7 hours each night are more likely to say they have had health problems, including heart attack, asthma, and depression.3 Some of these health problems raise the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. These health problems include:

  • High blood pressure. During normal sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Having sleep problems means your blood pressure stays higher for a longer period of time.4 High blood pressure is one of the leading risks for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans1 in 3 adultshave high blood pressure.5
  • Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar to build up in your blood, a condition that can damage your blood vessels. Some studies show that getting enough good sleep may help people improve blood sugar control.6
  • Obesity. Lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who need more sleep than adults. Not getting enough sleep may affect a part of the brain that controls hunger.6

Sensitization Of The Sleep System

How Sleep Really Affects Your Anxiety Levels

Evidence widely supports trait-like characteristics for sleep reactivity. Specifically, individuals sleep responses to stress exposure are fairly consistent across stressful conditions , and self-reported sleep reactivity is stable over weeks and even months . Even so and perhaps contrary to some conventional thought, trait factors are not necessarily immutable and may even alter under certain conditions. Several researchers have emphasized that exposure to stress and even to insomnia itself causes changes in the regulation of stress and sleep . As a result, the conditions under which the initial episode of insomnia develops may differ from the conditions that perpetuate its course or give rise to recurrent episodes. By extension, this framework offers insight into the robustness of personal history of insomnia as a predictor of future sleep and mood pathology , even following insomnia remission that is, stress exposure and disease development fundamentally and functionally change the very ways our minds and bodies regulate sleep and stress.

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Stress And Sleep Apnea

Though stress cannot cause sleep apnea, there is a connection between the two that can worsen the sleep deficit cycle. When you have sleep apnea, your body sends a signal to your body to wake up abruptly due to a lack of oxygen. This not only prevents you from getting a good nights sleep , but it also increases your overall stress levels and can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can then lead to depression, high blood pressure, and a number of other mental and physical disorders.

Search Strategy And Selection Criteria

A literature search was conducted for all articles published before and including December 2017 using the search terms sleep reactivity, stress-related sleep disturbance and stress, along with sleep and Ford insomnia response to stress test in the PubMed and Google Scholar databases. Additional references were identified by reviewing manuscript reference sections and publications by leading experts in the field of stress and insomnia.

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Insomnia And Psychological Problems

“There’s a big relationship between psychiatric and psychological problems and sleep. So people who are depressed or have anxiety often have trouble with sleep as part of those disorders,” says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, Medical Director of Sleep Health Centers and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Difficulty sleeping is sometimes the first symptom of depression. Studies have found that 15 to 20 percent of people diagnosed with insomnia will develop major depression.2 While sleep research is still exploring the relationship between depression and sleep, studies have shown that depressed people may have abnormal sleep patterns.3Sleep problems may, in turn, contribute to psychological problems. For example, chronic insomnia may increase an individual’s risk of developing a mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. In one major study of 10,000 adults, people with insomnia were five times more likely to develop depression.4 Lack of sleep can be an even greater risk factor for anxiety. In the same study, people with insomnia were 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder .5 Another study showed that insomnia is a reliable predictor of depression and many other psychiatric disorders, including all types of anxiety disorders.6

What Can I Do To Get Better Sleep

How Does Stress Affect Your Sleep
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  • Get enough natural light, especially earlier in the day. Try going for a morning or lunchtime walk.
  • Get enough physical activity during the day. Try not to exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid artificial light, especially within a few hours of bedtime. Use a blue light filter on your computer or smartphone.
  • Dont eat or drink within a few hours of bedtime avoid alcohol and foods high in fat or sugar in particular.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

Work with your health care team to identify obstacles to good sleep, including other medical conditions.

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Are You Sleep Deprived

Most of us know what it feels like the day after a night of little or no sleep. Youre not yourselfyou feel drowsy, sluggish, irritable, and low on energy. Your mind seems groggy, you may struggle to focus, make sloppy mistakes, and need coffee after coffee just to make it through the day until youre able to crawl back into bed at night.

While coping with the occasional night of disturbed sleep can be unpleasant, if youre regularly missing out on a restorative nights rest, you could be seriously damaging your health and quality of life. As well as negatively impacting your mood, energy, and performance at work or school, sleep deprivation can also affect your immune system, heart and brain health, sex drive, and ability to handle stress. It can add inches to your waist, increase your risk of accidents, and lead to serious long-term health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression.

If youve been sleep deprived for a while, it can even seem normal to spend your days feeling tired and out of sorts. But while you may think that youre able to get by on less sleep without suffering any consequences, the truth is that getting sufficient sleep is essential to your physical and mental health.

How To Stress Less

There are many strategies that can help you manage stress so that it doesnt interfere with sleep. Taking time to relax and wind down before bed is important to sleeping well and eliminating the stress of the day. A period of quiet time before bed allows you to step away from daily worries and set them aside before sleep. Try taking a warm shower or bath, getting a massage or doing some light stretching before bed. Certain scents or teas can even help you relax. Check out these essential oils, balms, pillows, and teas tested and scored by sleep experts. These peaceful activities can release physical tension and encourage the onset of sleep. If you find yourself struggling with stress and worry during the night, the following bedtime rituals can help.

Try breathing exercises. Breathing techniques can help you relax. Slow your breathing and start to relax by inhaling to a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and exhaling on a count of eight.

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Some Teens Like To Stay Up Late To Study Because Its Quiet And There Arent As Many Distractions What Are Your Thoughts On This

Late night studying is fine as long as it doesnt lead to sleep deprivation and the teen maintains good sleep habits. Heres why thats hard:

  • Schools tend to start early and late night studying means less sleep and sleep is an essential part of learning.
  • If late night studying is a result of procrastination, its more likely to interfere with sleep because stress levels are high.
  • Studying in bed leads to unintentional dozing which fragments sleep.
  • Late night studying often leads to oversleeping either the next morning or on weekends. That stresses the body and creates more sleep problems.

What Are The Signs Of Stress

What is Stress and why does it affect sleep?

Common signs of stress include depression, sleep problems, tension, anxiety, work mistakes, poor concentration, and apathy. You may have physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, appetite loss, and chest, neck, or back pain. If high levels of unwanted stress arent properly managed, your health and sense of well-being can suffer. So its important to learn how to manage stress.

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Addisons Disease And Adrenal Insufficiency

Addisons disease, also called primary adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder. It occurs when your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. This disease can be caused by:

  • cancer
  • an infection

Secondary adrenal insufficiency is more common than Addisons disease. If your pituitary gland is functioning as it should, it releases ACTH, which in turn signals your adrenal glands to make cortisol when your body needs it.

But with secondary adrenal insufficiency, theres a problem with your pituitary gland. As a result, your adrenal glands dont receive the signal to make cortisol when you need it. If your adrenal glands dont get that message, they may eventually shrink.

Disrupted cortisol levels dont only impact your ability to sleep. They can also affect other aspects of your health. For instance, disrupted cortisol levels can cause:

  • changes in your metabolism

Balancing your cortisol levels can take time. While youre working on it, here are some ways you can aim for a better nights rest:

Your Body On Stress What Exactly Is Stress And How Does Your Body Handle It

Stress is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

In short, it is the way by which your body experiences and manages external pressures, whether they are mental or physical.

A normal level of stress can actually be good for the body and can motivate you to work harder, focus and even improve performance.

But, this is only the case when the cause of the stress is short term. Too much stress can have the opposite effect and lead to chronic health problems. To understand why, it is important to know how exactly your body responds to stress on a physiological level.

Normally, when faced with a situation of stress, your nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

This is part of what is known as the fight or flight response in the body and its the system that gets you ready to fight or flee your challenge or dangerous situation. These hormones subside once the external threat is removed and the body begins to relax again.

But, when you are under stress continuously, this aggravation to the nervous system doesnt subside and it can have a devastating effect on your overall health.

Your endocrine system, regulated by the brain, is also affected. This can have an effect on everything from mood and tissue health to blood sugar metabolism and reproduction.

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Effects Of Glucocorticoids On Sleep And Metabolism

Classic studies in rats and humans have demonstrated that exogenous CRH is able to modulate sleep by increasing EEG frequency and wakefulness and decreasing SWS , . However, studies focused on the direct effects of glucocorticoids have shown that they increase time spent awake at the expense of REM sleep . Other studies show that cortisol decreases SWS when MRs are activated, while dexamethasone increases awakening after activation of GRs . The effects of both exogenous and endogenous glucocorticoids on sleep EEG depend on the type and location of the receptors activated , the dose of cortisol/corticosterone used, and the optimal cortisol levels to effect maximal nocturnal CRH suppression , . Studies that have demonstrated decreases in SWS with elevated cortisol levels and total occupation of GR may be due to excessive GR activation in the amygdala. The effects are opposite to the known inhibitory action found in PVN and anterior pituitary, leading to positive feedback , . However, the effects of glucocorticoids as well as CRH on REM are not well understood and most of them are contradictory .

Where To Get Help

How Lack of Sleep Affects You

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