When it’s been a stressful day and you’re emotionally exhausted, all you really want to do is fall into bed and sleep. The problem is that you can’t. You are tired—physically, mentally, and emotionally. But you just can’t seem to get to sleep. Your mind spins. All of the thoughts and pressures of the day seem to pile up and sleep evades you.
You are certainly not alone. Insomnia affects at least 1 in 3 people at any given time. This means that every night millions of Americans don’t sleep well. A person with insomnia is defined as someone who has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, so that they awaken the next day feeling unrestored.
While not all insomnia is caused by stress, people who are under a large amount of stress can certainly be affected by sleepless nights or the inability to sleep well. But not all people with stress have insomnia, so the two are not always linked.
It is not uncommon to lose a night or two of sleep here and there related to stress, which is referred to as acute insomnia. People who lose sleep for at least nights a week for more than three weeks are considered to have chronic insomnia and should certainly be seen by a medical professional.
Stress and Insomnia Signs and Symptoms
As stress and insomnia are often linked, each of the two can act as a symptoms or sign for the other condition. Let’s take a look at other signs and symptoms of these two conditions.
Stress Signs and Symptoms include:
- Fatigue and low energy
- Rapid heartbeat and/or chest pain
- Upset stomach including nausea, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent illness such as cold or infection
- Loss of sexual desire or ability
- High blood pressure
- Depression or anxiety
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Triggering other health problems such as asthma or arthritis
Stress is a common and normal part of everyday life, but extreme stress can be debilitating and cause many problems with mental, emotional, and physical health. Stress affects the body in many negative ways that should act as a message so that you will make a change or adjustment in order to restore health.
Insomnia Signs and Symptoms include:
- Trouble falling asleep at night
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Waking up during the night and unable to fall back to sleep
- Irritability, mood changes, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty with concentration, memory and focus
- Not feeling well-rested in the morning
- Increased incidence of accidents or errors
- Fatigue and daytime sleepiness
- Continually being worried about sleep
Lack of sleep can affect everything about your life as your body and brain are unable to be restored each night as they should be. If you aren’t sleeping and your insomnia is getting the way of your daily functions, you should see a doctor to help determine the cause and seek a solution. A doctor may refer you to a sleep clinic to narrow down the reason for your insomnia.
Stress Induced Insomnia Treatment
The good news and stress-induced insomnia is that if stress is the cause of the insomnia, then eliminating the stress points should actually alleviate the insomnia as well. Determining the cause of stress and insomnia will likely help you to come up with the solution for it. Looking back to when the symptoms of insomnia started can help to narrow down the cause.
Although removing the stressful situation may solve the problem with lack of sleep, sometimes it is impossible. A stressful job or family situation can’t always be removed or changed. In this case, the best solution is likely to learn mechanisms with which to cope with your stress and reduce the power that it has over your life.
Natural Stress Reduction
Reducing stress can help to minimize bouts of insomnia and increase the ability to get restorative sleep. Try these natural options for reducing stress every day:
Meditation and Mindfulness. One of the reasons stress and anxiety causes sleeplessness is related to a feeling of being out of control. Practicing meditation and mindfulness helps to refocus thoughts and promote healthy perspective. Meditation also fights the physical symptoms of stress by reducing blood pressure, slowing down the breathing and limiting the amount of stress hormones released into the body.
Exercise. A person with a sedentary lifestyle has little way to release physical stress. Exercise is a great way to become healthier and be productive with some of the energy that is produced when stress hormones are released.
Promote Sleep Naturally
Practicing healthy sleep hygiene is simply the idea of instilling certain habits into your life that can help to promote sleep and ward off insomnia. Consider these options for helping to battle against sleepless nights:
Set a Regular Sleep Schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day is critical. Even if you don’t have to work in the morning, set your alarm and get out of bed as soon as it goes off. This will train your brain and body to associate bed with sleep while resetting your circadian rhythm to help you balance your sleep cycle.
Bedtime Routine. People need a buffer time between their activities and time to sleep. Winding down an hour or two before the time you actually need to go to sleep helps your brain and body prepare for rest. Turn off your phone and stop working or doing anything active. Take a warm bath. Turn down the lights and read a book. Listen to soft, relaxing music. Try lavender scents to help with relaxation and to promote calmness.
Turn Off Screens. The blue lights emitted from electronic devices are particularly wakeful as they create activity in your brain. Turn off any computers, televisions, tablets, or smartphones at least two hours before bedtime to allow your brain to deactivate the stimulation of these lights.
If your stress is related to generalized anxiety and depression, a visit to your doctor may help you to determine if your stress is chronic and needs to be treated medically. While short-term insomnia may be treated with a sleep aid medication, usually chronic insomnia is more effectively treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes.
While stress can cause insomnia, it doesn’t have to take over your life and your sleep. Practice stress-reduction and insomnia-busting habits to get back to a healthy sleeping routine and restore your life to what you want it to be!