How Stress and Anxiety Interfere with Sleep

If you suffer from acute or chronic insomnia or find it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep, it may be because you’re stressed. Stress and anxiety play a major role in how well we sleep, and because sleep is the foundation of everything we do, it’s important to reduce your stress levels and get some shut-eye.

So how exactly do stress and anxiety interfere with your sleep? Stress and anxiety might be causing you to get less sleep, more restful sleep, or make it hard to fall asleep at all. Plus, not only does stress and anxiety make getting a good night’s sleep hard, but they can also worsen existing sleep conditions. Here are some of the ways stress interferes with your sleep, and what to do about it.

Your Mind Never Stops Racing

If you’re stressed about something in your day, these thoughts will undoubtedly bombard you right as your head hits the pillow. You can’t help but run through tomorrow’s to-do list, think about what you could have done differently in that meeting at work, or think about that impending due date that is hanging over your head.

You Wake Up a Lot During the Night

Stress may make it harder to fall asleep in the first place, and it also makes it harder to get a restful night’s sleep. According to the Anxiety and Depression Foundation of America, seven out of ten adults with persistent stress or excessive anxiety say they have trouble sleeping. In addition, the average American only gets 6.6 hours of sleep a night, which is down from the average in 2005 and less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

So what can you do if stress and anxiety are plaguing your sleep? Here are a few helpful tips to hopefully get you snoozing.

Set Aside the Time

Too often, we’re busy living our lives, getting dinner cooked, doing a little work, or taking care of the kids and the clock quickly reaches 11 pm or midnight. We know we have to get up early the next day, so our sleep quickly diminished. To avoid this problem, set aside time at night to start getting ready for bed and winding down. You can set a reminder on your phone an hour or so before you want to be in bed to remind yourself. Stay accountable with your schedule and set aside the time for a solid night of sleep.

Turn off the Screens

Experts agree that using your phone or computer or watching TV right before bed is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep. These screens emit blue light, which disrupts the part of our brain that’s responsible for winding us down for sleep. Make a promise to yourself that you’ll turn off all screens an hour before bedtime. You can read, draw, or listen to music instead!

Try Meditation

Especially for people who suffer from stress and anxiety, meditation is a great tool to help you sleep better. Your meditation practice doesn’t have to be an extensive, involved, process, but it could be as simple as spending 10 or 20 minutes before bed doing breathing exercises and relaxing. Meditation lowers your heart rate, helps clear your mind, and tells your body that it’s time for bed. Being mindful and in the moment is a skill that translates outside of sleep, as well!

Start Exercising

According to the Sleep Foundation, “regular exercisers fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. In fact, even a single moderate-intensity workout, like a brisk walk, can improve sleep among people with chronic insomnia.” This is likely because exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improves our circadian rhythms (or internal clock). Plus, your body will be much more tired after a long workout, and you can’t help but hit the hay!

Stress and anxiety may interfere with your sleep, but there are many things you can do to counteract these symptoms. If you think you have a more serious sleeping condition, talk to your doctor.