How Can Good Sleep Reduce Stress
Stress can be physical, internal, emotional or external. It can be caused by recent changes in your surroundings or in your family, overwork, sickness, arguments or any other problem you are having.
While research has shown that some stress can be positive, making us more alert and helping us perform better in certain situations, stress is only healthy if it is short-lived. Excessive or prolonged stress can lead to debilitating illnesses such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
When events occur which make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way, your body’s defenses take effect and create a stress response, which you may make you feel a variety of physical symptoms, behave differently and experience more intense emotions.
Different people experience stress differently, but common responses include: digestive symptoms of nausea, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea; headaches; sleeplessness; back pain; fatigue; high blood pressure; increased pulse rate; sweating; shakiness; relationship problems; shortness of breath; stiff neck or jaw; weight gain or loss; decreased concentration; more frequent and severe viral infections; and decreased efficacy of vaccines. Stress also elicits feelings of depression, anger, irritability, anxiety, fear, worry, nervousness, confusion and hostility. Many of these symptoms may be from other health problems, so you should see your health care provider when you experience any of these symptoms to determine its cause.
There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.
When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldn’t be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.
You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.
Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.
With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.
Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you don’t have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.
After a bad sleep, you might need more caffeine to stay awake, causing a vicious cycle in which you can’t get to sleep at night, because you’ve had too much caffeine. These are just a few of the ways in which stress can keep you up or ruin the quality of your sleep.
Here are some simple tips which can help you reduce the level of stress and maintain your focus:
Exercise – surprising to some, but exercise is one of the great stress busters. Find what works for you – a walk, jog, gym, sport, swim or yoga. If you don’t have time, set aside just 20 minutes a few times a week or schedule a half hour on the weekends.
Make a list – not everything needs to be done today. List your tasks in priority then take one at a time, breaking each one down to a list of small steps and crossing it off as you do it. Make timelines realistic.
Be your own coach – give yourself a pat on the back or a treat every time you earn it, such as hand in an assignment or study for a set period of time. Talk to yourself in an encouraging and reassuring way. If you can’t think of what to say, ask yourself: what would I say to a friend in this situation?
Keep your balance – make a weekly plan and try to have time for socialising, exercising, and just doing nothing as well as studying and other commitments.
Use your own experience – think about what you have done in the past that has helped you to feel calm, and try it again now. Was it listening to music, having a bath, reading a non-study book or talking with a friend?