How Stress Affects Your Sleep

by Doc Orman, M.D.

How Stress Affects Your SleepThis week, I’m going to focus on some of the important relationships between stress and sleep.   

Today, I’ll discuss how being under stress (i.e. having significant problems in life) can negatively affect your sleep.  In my next post, I’ll discuss how not sleeping well (for any reason) can aggravate or worsen your physical and psychological symptoms of stress.  Then, in my final post this week, I’ll cover some of the bad sleep habits people often fall into when their sleep is disturbed and they are desperately trying to correct this situation.  This problem, in and of itself, can be an additional source of significant added stress and frustration.

Altered Sleep Due To Stress

You probably don’t need me to tell you that being under stress can negatively impact your sleep.  When a sudden, acute crisis occurs, your mind can start racing and not shut off at night.  Your body can become tense, your muscles tight, your fears and worries may become heightened, your heart rate and blood pressure may rise—none of which is conducive to restful sleep.

Then, there are things people do when they are under high degrees of stress that can make it even more difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Some of these things include:

  • Smoking more heavily to cope with stress;
  • Drinking more alcohol;
  • Increasing coffee and caffeine consumption;
  • Overscheduling to meet increased demands;
  • Overthinking and over worrying in response to their problems.

Sleeping More…Not Less

For some people, stress can make them sleep more than usual, rather than less.  This is especially true when stress takes a heavy toll during the day, causing you to feel exhausted and drained early in the evening.  Also, when people become depressed in response to certain life problems, this too can cause them to sleep much more than usual.

Thus, stress can affect your sleep in many complex ways.  Yet, this is only part of the story.  In my next post, we’ll look at how not sleeping well, for any reason, can add to the likelihood that you will experience heightened levels of stress.

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