How to Sleep When Stressed Out

Posted by Tyler Britton on Oct 2, 2019 8:17:00 AM

How to sleep when stressed out - Anchorage Sleep Center

Modern Life Inhibits Sleep

Are you lying awake at night, stressed out, mind racing in circles? For many American’s this is a nightly routine that prevents sleep and leads to habits that may help you fall asleep, but not sleep well. Either way, stress is a sleep killer.

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.” Stay up an extra hour to relax for the first time all day? The answer is often to stay up and relax, and for most of us includes something like television, cruising the web, or watching a movie which further inhibit sleep.

Also, all of us are different and can deal with different amounts of stress, be they 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.

Understanding Your Stress Levels

If 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.

Sleep Diaries and Stress – What to Look For

Identification of potential causes of sleep loss because of stress is an important starting point for figuring out positive coping mechanisms that will help you get better sleep.

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

  • In nights where you don’t sleep well, what activities did you do throughout the day and how did you feel doing them?
  • Are you getting at least 7 hours of sleep consistently?
  • Are you feeling catastrophically tired when you wake up?
  • Are you rousing throughout the night?
  • Are you drinking excessive amounts of coffee or alcohol?

In the activity of analyzing your sleep diary, what you are looking for are patterns. Ideally, you will identify stressors that contribute to sleep loss. For example, you might identify that on particularly stressful days at work you drink a few glasses of wine in the evening, before bed, and then you don't sleep well. Since alcohol is not good for sleep, you have identified how your response to stress is contributing to sleep loss. 


Yoga-Corpse-PoseShavasana is a great meditative yoga pose to calm your nervous system before bed

How to Sleep When Stressed Out

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

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

Getting more sleep will help you manage stress better. However, the unknown lack of sleep is the cause of stress in your life, you might also explore if you have a sleep disorder or not.

If you live in Alaska and are concerned that sleep deprivation is the root cause of your stress, please get in touch with us by first taking this free online sleep test:

Take a Free Online Sleep Test

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