Set Yourself Up For Healthy Sleep When Stressed And Anxious
If you try all of these steps and still struggle to sleep soundly, consider reaching out to your doctor or a sleep expert for support. Treatments for a generalized anxiety disorder or a sleep disorder can vary significantly.
One mental health treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia , is an evidence-based therapeutic technique that looks at the interplay of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can impact sleep.
Your sleep and anxiety are interconnected. Finding ways to better manage one will ultimately help you find relief with the other.
General Beliefs About Stress
The effects of stress in most cases are:
- a. negative and should be avoided
- b. positive and should be utilized
Experiencing stress in most cases:
- a. inhibits my learning and growth
- b. facilitates my learning and growth
Experiencing stress in most cases:
- a. depletes my health and vitality
- b. improves my health and vitality
Experiencing stress in most cases:
- a. hurts my performance and productivity
- b. enhances my performance and productivity
Can Stress Kill You
Whether its work deadlines, debt or even road rage, we all get stressed from time-to-time.
While for most the feeling passes, others become overwhelmed and unable to cope.
In the short term, stress can leave us anxious, tearful and struggling to sleep.
But over time, continuously feeling frazzled could trigger heart attacks, strokes, and even suicidal thoughts.
In short, yes, stress can kill you, Dr. Diana Gall from Doctor4U told Yahoo UK.
Though its not the stressful situations that kill you, its how you deal with stress that affects your health.
When we encounter a stressful situation, our body produces hormones that send us into fight or flight.
This causes a surge in the hormone adrenaline, which gets our heart pumping and raises our blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The stress hormone cortisol also gets released, curbing functions that are non-essential in a fight or flight scenario, like the immune and digestive systems.
Fight or flight can be helpful, with the sudden release of adrenaline giving us the boost we need to get through a big work presentation or even escape danger.
Once the stressful situation has passed, our hormone levels should return to normal.
Over time, sufferers may endure digestive problems, weight gain, and even heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Get Up At The Same Time Daily
Creating a routine can be an effective way to combat sleep anxiety and insomnia. By getting up at the same time every day, your body will naturally start to adjust your internal clock or circadian rhythm.
One sleep study, highlighted in the Guardian as A Cure for Insomnia, found that getting up at the same time every day helped the participants body feel sleepy around the same time every night. Over time, this helped the participants bedtimes become consistent.
However, creating a nighttime routine can also have similar effects. Winnie Yu for WebMD suggests creating a nightly routine can help relax your body as it starts to anticipate and expect sleep as you follow through each step. It can also help relieve anxiety, as you know what to expect each night and each morning.
What This Means For You
Yes, it can be hard to set a consistent bedtime, especially if you work late, are a parent or guardian to kids, or if you suffer from chronic insomnia or other conditions that affect sleep.
But doing your best to get as much sleep as you can has both mental and physical health benefits. This research shows that not only does more sleep just help you feel better, but it also helps you appreciate the little things.
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Getting Better Sleep Is Easier Than You Might Think
Stressed out yet? Dont be. Stress is a serious thing, but there are a lot of ways to update your sleep patterns and reduce it.
Start with getting enough sleep. Doctors suggest that average adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Make sure youre keeping your body in a scheduled nightly routine that includes adequate hours for sleep. Dont be afraid to adjust your bedtime if needed, just be sure to transition slowly: about 10-15 minutes every day.
Then, make sure your bedroom is set up for successful sleep. Your bed should be composed of a sturdy, quiet box spring, and foam mattress topped with pillows made of adaptive, but supportive material. Dark and heavy curtains will also help keep out distracting noise and lights, no matter what time of day you sleep.
Lastly, consider exercising in the morning or early evening. Additional physical work tires your body out and forces it to crave the restorative benefits of sleep. Just make sure your exercise isnt too close to bedtime, as it can increase your heart rate for about an hour afterwards, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Sleep and stress go hand in hand. A stressed-out mind can keep you up into all hours of the night, and a lack of sleep can raise anxiety levels. Make sure you balance your sleep schedule in order to reduce stress and look after your health.
Finding The Stress Sweet Spot
For each specific performance, each person has a certain right amount of energy they require from the stress response system that enables them to perform at their best. This is often known as your Individual Zone of Optimal Functioning . With too little stress, you wont be engaged enough, but if you have too much stress, you might lose focus and control and break down. This right amount of energy is different for each person and each task. For example, an impending deadline on a work project, your child having trouble with other kids at school, a car accident, and a passionate kiss with your spouse will all activate your stress response system, but each require a different level of energy, focus, and emotion for you to be at your best. What allows you to perform at your best while giving a brief wont be the same as what enables your battle buddy to do the same task.
Strategy: Help yourself stay in your stress sweet spot by using these 3 steps to help you have the right amount of energy to perform at your best.
- Step 1: Name the stress. This helps you break out of the primitive/reactive part of your brain and helps you to use the part that helps you plan and reflect.
- What are you feeling, doing, focusing on? What is your self-talk?
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When Stress Makes You Fall Asleep
Have you ever been so stressed-out, so worked up and anxious and afraid, that you fell asleep? Stephen, a 32-year-old travel agent in New York, says it happens to him all the time. There are times, particularly when I have something really big going on, when Ill become so incapacitated knowing I have a million different things to do that my body ends up saying, You know what? Lets just sleep, he tells me. Ill go and lie down and pretend that the rest of the world doesnt exist. I just started calling them my fear naps.
A few years ago, I had a Twitter conversation with someone who, like me, was afraid of flying. Unlike me, however, this persons response to flight anxiety was to fall asleep before takeoff, and stay asleep until the plane had landed. As someone whos spent many flights desperately clutching the armrests as if the force of my grip alone might keep the airplane aloft, this didnt make much sense to me. Why, if you were afraid for your life, or even just fairly stressed about it, would your body respond by falling asleep? As far as I knew, human beings react to the threat of danger with one of two possible responses: fight or flight. One or the other might be a smarter choice, depending on the situation at hand, but both options make sense as reflexive means of survival. But how could falling asleep help anyone?
General Reactions To Stress
When I notice the physical responses of stress Im more likely to interpret it as:
- a. Im about to lose control.
- b. This is my body giving me the energy I need to perform.
When under a lot of stress, Im more likely to:
- a. get distracted by my negative thoughts or stuck focusing on things I cant control
- b. reflect on whats most important to me in the situation and take purposeful action to bring about my goal/value.
When Im beginning to feel overwhelmed by stress I usually:
- a. try to escape and distract myself through social media, TV, alcohol, eating, etc.
- b. use a strategy like tactical breathing or mindfulness to center myself and regain focus on the task at hand
When under a lot of stress, Im more likely to:
- a. isolate myself
- b. reach out to others for help or go out of my way to help others
When under a lot of stress and someone comes to me to share unrelated good news, Im more likely to:
- a. give them partial attention or dismiss them to get back to what Im focused on
- b. stop what Im doing and give my full attention to share in their joy
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Why Do People Sleep Too Much
For people who suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping is actually a medical disorder. The condition causes people to suffer from extreme sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia experience symptoms of anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their almost constant need for sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing momentarily during sleep, can also lead to an increased need for sleep. That’s because it disrupts the normal sleep cycle.
Of course, not everyone who oversleeps has a sleep disorder. Other possible causes of oversleeping include the use of certain substances, such as alcohol and some prescription medications. Other medical conditions, including depression, can cause people to oversleep. And then there are people who simply want to sleep a lot.
How To Sleep When Stressed
Stress management is key to a good nights sleep, and how well you manage stress can depend on your day-to-day lifestyle. In addition to following a balanced diet and exercising throughout the week, you can alleviate stress through controlled breathing and other relaxation techniques. A healthy work-life balance is also important, as is your ability to productively release stress during situations that cause stress, and not at other moments.
Laying in bed when you are too stressed to sleep can be counterproductive. If you havent gone to sleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, try getting up and relocating to another area of your residence for a relaxing activity such as reading, meditating, or listening to calming music avoid watching TV or other activities that involve blue light devices.
Some people also experience anxiety when they wake up in the middle of the night and see the time on their bedside clock. Avoid looking at your clock if you wake up cover the display if necessary.
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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.
You Want To Avoid Certain Thoughts
When worrying gets in the way of your everyday tasks, it can be tempting to tune out and turn off. “Sleeping might be a way of avoiding the feelings of worry and anxiety,” clinical psychologist Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., co-director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Bustle. “Do some thinking about whether you are worried and stressed or whether you are just tired. If worry is something youâre struggling with, it might be causing you problems with sleep.” And it may be time to seek help from a professional.
What Are The Signs Of Stress
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.
How To Get A Good Night Sleep When Stressed
Another sleepless night spent worrying as you stare at the ceiling? Stress and anxiety can often keep you from getting the sleep you need.
Many people with anxiety disorders have trouble sleeping and at some point its hard to tell whether youre having trouble sleeping because youre anxious, or youre anxious because you cant sleep. The answer may be both. The fact is that stress and anxiety can cause sleeping problems, or worsen existing ones. Too little sleep affects your mood and can contribute to irritability and sometimes depression. Vital brain functions occur during different stages of sleep that leave you feeling rested and energized and that help you learn and build memories.
Here are a few tips to help you practice good sleep hygiene so you can wind down both your body and mind:
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What Causes Sleep Anxiety
Anxiety is a natural part of being human. Were meant to feel afraid or worried in dangerous situations. Stress and anxiety trigger our bodies to release hormones that help us react quickly to escape harm. But if you have chronic anxiety, you might feel stress or worry all the time. You may feel fearful of everyday situations like driving to work or even falling asleep.
Chronically high levels of these hormones, especially before sleep, can make it hard for your body to relax. You may have difficulty falling asleep. If you do fall asleep, you may wake up during the night with stressful or worrisome thoughts and not be able to fall asleep again.
The combination of a anxiety and insomnia can also be caused by a condition where there isnt enough thyroid hormone in your bloodstream and your metabolism slows down .
Research suggests that anxiety can affect rapid eye movement sleep. This is the phase of sleep when you tend to have vivid dreams. If you have anxiety, the dreams may be disturbing or turn into nightmares that wake you.
Just as anxiety can affect sleep, sleep can affect anxiety. Sleep anxiety is a common characteristic of insomnia, wherein the individual begins to experience anxiety during the day and evening about poor sleep, which may help cause another night of bad sleep.
How To Combat Stress Eating
The daily demands of work and home life and even the constant presence of electronic devices puts people at a high risk for stress eating, Dr. Albers says.
The best way to combat stress or emotional eating is to be mindful of what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight the urge.
If you are someone who is prone to emotional eating, know your triggers, know what stresses you out and be prepared, Dr. Albers says.
Part of being prepared is to arm yourself with healthy snacks, Dr. Albers says. Then if you feel the need to snack, you will at least nourish your body.
Helping to regulate your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions on a much better playing field, she adds.
Its also a good idea to keep things at your workspace that will help reduce anxiety, like a stress ball. Or try taking a five-minute break every once in a while to close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
Regular exercise and making sure you get enough sleep every night also can help you to better handle the challenges that come up every day, she says.
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