How to Overcome Stress-Related Sleep Problems

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 14, 2021 3:23:00 PM


More Stress than Ever

Are you lying awake at night, stressed out, mind racing in circles? For many Americans this is a nightly routine that prevents sleep or leads to habits that may help you fall asleep, but not get good quality sleep. Stress is completely antagonistic to sleep efforts. 

Beyond the stress that actively keeps you up at night, the demands of modern life – parenting, work, school, health, finances, chores – can also make sleep feel like a secondary necessity, especially because we all like having “free time” and “self-time.” Often, we to stay up and relax doing something we like including television, cruising the web, or watching a movie, all of which further inhibit sleep.

Also, all of us are different and can deal with different amounts of stress, both short-term or long-term stressors. Understanding stress is about understanding stress for you – how you react, how it impacts your life, how it impacts your sleep.

How High Are Your Stress Levels?

The Great Stress CycleIf you are wondering or concerned that stress is impacting your health and/or sleep, you will first want to identify what is causing the stress [National Sleep Foundation]. How do you do this? Keeping a modified sleep diary is an excellent way to identify stressors and their impact on your life.

A sleep diary is simply a book you keep beside your bed that includes, at a minimum:

  • Time you went to sleep
  • Time you woke up, including how you felt when you woke up (i.e., “excessively tired”)
  • Estimated time taken to fall asleep – using qualitative measures like “not long”, “as soon as head hit pillow”, “a long time” are okay
  • Number of times you roused during the night, and why you woke up
  • Amount of coffee consumed
  • Amount of alcohol consumed
  • Amount of exercise
  • Other things you did during the day, including how you felt during various activities

The last point is usually not included in a sleep diary, but it is an important aspect of a sleep diary where stressors are trying to be identified. If you are diligent by spending 5-10 minutes every day with your sleep diary, you will likely be able to identify if you are getting enough sleep what stressors may be causing it.

Use a Sleep Diary to Track Stress

Some things to pay attention to in your sleep diary are:

  • Sleep time
  • Frequency of arousal in the night
  • Feelings upon waking
  • Drinking habits throughout the day (coffee/alcohol)
  • Other activities during the day (exercise, screen habits)

Patterns are the critical thing to identify . Do you receive less than 7 hours of sleep on certain days of week, on days when you have certain activities? Are you always receiving poor sleep regardless of what happened during the day?

What to Do About Stress and Sleep

It’s also helpful to do things to help relieve stress, such as:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Yoga
  • Exercising
  • Healthy diets
  • Avoiding alcohol and screens before bed

Getting more sleep will help you manage stress better. However, if you're unsure why you're not getting enough sleep, which is contributing to your stress levels, then it may be best to see if you have a sleeping disorder. If you live in Alaska and are concerned that sleep deprivation is the root cause of your stress, please contact us:

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