Sleep and stress

Sadly, stress is very much a part of modern life. Whether it’s caused by our personal lives, our work or just a bad day, stress is inevitable. And stress can have a serious effect on our health and sleep patterns.

So, what are the ways in which stress wrecks our sleep? Let’s look at them in more detail:

Stress prevents us from logging enough sleep

Stress can cause us to lie awake at night, or cause us to wake up tossing and turning. Those restless hours can all add up. It’s recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night but when we’re stressed we often don’t get anywhere near that amount.

Stress upsets the quality of our sleep

When we’re stressed, the quality of our sleep declines and it’s not unusual for sufferers to wake up feeling as tired as they were before they went to sleep.

Stress can up the risk of insomnia

On-going stress can make you more susceptible to insomnia. Recent research has suggested that each additional cause of stress can increase the risk of insomnia by 19%.

Stress sends your brain into overdrive

When we fall asleep, our bodies switch from the active sympathetic nervous system to the calmer parasympathetic nervous system. But when you’re overly stressed, the sympathetic nervous system doesn’t shut down and your brain remains hyperactive. This can lead to you lying in bed wide-awake.

Stress creates a vicious cycle

Stress can be a catalyst for a vicious cycle of sleepless nights. If you’re stressed you can’t sleep. Lack of sleep then makes you stressed and the cycle starts.

So, what can we do to help prevent stress from ruining our sleep? Here are some tips to help you get a more restful night’s shut-eye:

Comfortable bedroom environment

Nothing is more conducive to good sleep than a comfortable bedroom environment. Make sure your mattress isn’t uncomfortable, keep electronics out of the bedroom and invest in blackout curtains or blinds to create a restful atmosphere that promotes sleep.


Studies have shown that lavender relaxes the body and can even help with insomnia. You can use a lavender bag under your pillow or take a warm bath with some lavender oil added to it – there are a multitude of options!

Discard your thoughts

Research has shown that one way to get rid of negative thoughts is to write down the things that are causing you stress on some paper. You then throw the paper away! The idea is that a clear mind will help you to sleep.

Deep breaths

Simply taking a few deep breaths can help aid sleep. This is because the inhalation and exhalation activates the calming parasympathetic system.

Relaxation techniques

If you want to take deep breathing a little further, you could try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or progressive relaxation just before you go to bed.

Sleep specialists

If none of these techniques are helping and you’re still feeling stressed, it may be worth seeking help from a professional sleep therapist. They can help with a variety of techniques to help sort through stress and get better sleep, such as employing techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy.

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