Sleep and Stress
Adequate sleep is crucial to proper brain function – no less so than air, water, and food – but stress can modify sleep-wakefulness cycles. During exam periods, it is essential to keep a proper and effective sleep schedule to help you manage your stress.
Common Problems that contribute to lack of sleep:
Many people take their work home with them, either physically or metaphorically. And it makes sense: with today’s demanding workloads, it’s often difficult to come home from a day of troubleshooting and automatically stop thinking about all the, well, trouble. Stay-at-home parents and students can experience this as well.
If you find yourself still trying to solve problems at the end of the day, and the thoughts won’t seem to leave your mind, this can make sleep come much more difficult. It can even disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night, as you transition between sleep stages.
People under stress tend to consume significant amounts of caffeine to get a boost that gets them going in the morning or helps them make it through the day. Caffeine can actually exacerbate stress levels and significantly affect the amount and quality of sleep you get.
This stress hormone is one of the key players responsible for the fight or flight response -- that jolt of energy you get when you feel stressed or threatened that enables you to respond. Unfortunately, chronic stress can lead to excessive levels of cortisol, and this can disrupt healthy sleep patterns.
A hectic, busy life can rob you of time you can actually dedicate to sleep. If you find yourself pushing your bed time back further and further to get things done, or getting up earlier and earlier in the name of productivity, you may feel tired a lot of the time but not realize the toll lack of sleep is taking.
Like overthinking, anxiety can make sleep difficult and wake you up at night. Anxiety keeps your mind busy as you imagine threatening scenarios and worry about what may happen next. You may become preoccupied with finding solutions. That racing of your mind can rob you of sleep by keeping your cortisol levels high, making sleep harder to achieve.
Get the Sleep You Need
Try these tips if you find yourself regularly short on sleep:
- Healthy nighttime habits can go a long way toward helping you consistently get more high-quality sleep.
- One great way to purge your body of stress so your mind can relax is to learn progressive muscle relaxation and deep muscle relaxation techniques. Meditation is also a valuable tool to relax your body and quiet your mind -- it can easily transition you into sleep.
- Don’t underestimate the value of the power nap. Napping can increase your productivity and give you a valuable dose of sleep when you need it. Learn more about effective power napping techniques.
*Information provided via Stress Management