One of the consequences of stress is that it can cause sleep deprivation, accompanied by anxious thoughts. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation (USA), 43 percent of people 13 to 64 years old said they didn’t sleep at night because of stress at least once last month.
It is absolutely normal to experience stress from time to time, but chronic stress can cause the nervous system to maintain increased arousal for extended periods of time. Being in this condition can seriously affect physical and mental health in the long run.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35.2 percent of adults in the United States sleep less than 7 hours each night. This can lead to sleep deficiency, which leads to long-term physical and mental health problems. The exact role of sleep is not clear, but studies have shown that it facilitates a wide range of processes in the body. These include physical changes, such as muscle recovery, and mental tasks, such as concentration.
How sleep deprivation affects health
Lack of sleep can cause poor mood, loss of strength, difficulty concentrating and a general inability to function normally. In some cases, sleep problems can have more serious consequences, for example, if a person is driving or using heavy equipment, fatigue can lead to serious injuries or even death.
If insomnia is rare, it is unlikely to cause harm, but constant lack of sleep can increase the risk of some chronic diseases.
According to the CDC report, people who sleep less than 7 hours a day have an increased risk of the following conditions:
- Heart disease.
- Kidney disease.
The relationship between stress and sleep
Stress has many negative consequences, but at the same time, this reaction allows you to cope with important or dangerous situations. Stress causes the autonomic nervous system (ANS) to secrete hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase the heart rate for more efficient circulation of blood in vital organs and muscles, preparing the body for immediate action if necessary.
This reaction was called “hit or run,” and it was vital for human survival in the early stages of evolution. Currently, most of the problems causing this reaction do not pose a threat to life. We are talking about difficulties at work or in relationships.
How to reduce stress and improve sleep?
By lowering stress levels, many people improve the duration and quality of their sleep. The lifestyle changes below will help.
Awareness meditation is a relaxation technique whose goal is to make people more aware of the present. The bottom line is to accept all your thoughts, feelings and sensations without reacting to them.
Studies have shown that this technique offers several benefits for mental well-being. A review of 47 studies in which a total of 3,515 people participated showed that mindfulness meditation led to slight or moderate improvement in anxiety, depression, and stress.
Practicing mindfulness for 10-30 minutes before bedtime can be an effective way to relieve stress and improve sleep.
Studies show that the effect of exercise on psychological well-being makes them an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. A review published in 2017 showed that physical activity is effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Additional evidence also suggests that exercise has a direct impact on improving sleep quality in people over 40 with insomnia. Medium or high-intensity exercise, such as a 30-minute run, can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
Other lifestyle changes
The following lifestyle changes can also help some people reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality:
- A healthier diet.
- Decreased caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Do not take work home and do not check work emails in the evening.
- Support for family and friends.
Stress and sleep are closely related. Stress can adversely affect the quality and duration of sleep, while inadequate sleep can increase stress levels. Both stress and lack of sleep can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems.
It is imperative that people experiencing problems with stress or lack of sleep do not try to solve them alone. Mental health professionals can provide care and counseling, and friends and family can offer additional support.