Poor sleep patterns and stress are closely related. When you don’t get enough rest, you feel irritable and rushed in the morning. You start stressing out over how your day has already begun, and this lack of sleep could very well lead to a long day of anxiety and stress.
It also works in the opposite direction.
Your personal life is hectic and busy. Your career path and job are the same. From the minute you awaken until the second your head hits your pillow at night, stress is your regular companion. When you go to bed you can’t stop your mind from racing, which leads to a lack of quality sleep. You didn’t sleep well, so you wake up stressed out about the day.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Millions suffer from poor sleep patterns that lead to stress, and daily stress that leads to poor sleep patterns. Let’s take a closer look at the unhealthy cycle of stress and lack of sleep.
The Stress/Sleep Connection
The Sleep Foundation in the United States is a great place to turn for information on this subject. They say that stress causes “hyperarousal”. This is due to the release of stress hormones which happens when your mind perceives a threat.
Your mind believes it has noticed something in your environment which threatens your well-being. This could be a coworker who is moving up the corporate ladder faster than you, the fact that you are running late to pick up your kids from school, or any other situation where you feel out of control or unable to cope.
Your mind simply will not let you fall to sleep, until your mind and body are so exhausted that you crash from your weakened state. This can lead to an incomplete sleep cycle without the REM stage, which is why you feel so tired and exhausted when you wake up in the morning after a night of poor sleep.
And let’s suppose you get a great night’s rest, and you feel empowered, energetic, and ready to go in the morning. Then you have an incredibly stressful day. Even though your previous night’s rest prepared your body properly for the day, experiencing high levels of stress has once again released cortisol and other stress-related hormones.
So when you hit your bed that night, sleep never comes. You begin the following day tired and beat, not at your best mentally and physically.
Stopping the Cycle
Identify the stressors in your life. In most cases, with most people, the things that cause you stress are identifiable. Avoid that angry coworker, stop eating those mid-day, sugar-filled treats that cause you to crash and burn in the afternoon and get behind in your work. If your messy, cluttered home or office causes you mental stress, clean it up.
Find out what is causing repetitive stress in your daily routine, and try to eliminate it. You should also eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Keep hydrated, and take time to meditate and clear your thoughts. These are proven stress-relievers that also promote healthy sleep patterns, which can keep you from developing an unhealthy sleep/stress cycle.