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How Stress Can Impact Your Sleep

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How Stress Can Impact Your Sleep

Stress is still widely misunderstood throughout our community. At its roots, stress is an evolutionary tribute we, as humans, have developed in order to cope and manage with critical situations.

How Stress Can Impact Your Sleep

It’s the term we give to describe the autonomic nervous system (ANS) producing a series of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, alongside a raised heart rate and blood circulation to our organs. This makes us act more efficiently and prepares our bodies to take fast action, should it be needed to do so. Fight-or-flight, as it is also known, was crucial for humanity’s survival, through more trying stages in our history. Unfortunately, us modern humans experience stress for prolonged periods of time, leading to a range of impacts on our sleep schedules.   

How Stress Disrupts Sleep Schedules

Short episodes of stress are normal within our day-to-day lives, but should someone experience chronic stress, their nervous system can steadily enter a more heightened state, with long-term effects on our body – most notably, sleep deprivation. This consistent state of intensified alertness delays the onset of sleep, as well as causing the emergence of fast-paced, anxiety-driven thoughts to appear in the evening. Unfortunately, without proper intervention, stress can lead to sleep loss and a loss of sleep can lead to further stress, creating a vicious cycle that can manifest in a range of detrimental ways. 

Trouble Falling Asleep

Prolonged feelings of stress can increase the amount of time it takes for the body to relax, rest and fall asleep. Studies show that people with higher levels of chronic stress have a higher likelihood of sleeping issues. 

Distorted Sleep Architecture

Sleep architecture is the term used to describe the relationship between types of sleep, being non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). Research indicates that stress decreases the amount of REM within a night’s rest, causing people to wake up more frequently throughout the night, experience nightmares or unpleasant dreams and lack the feeling of rejuvenation. 

Sleep Bruxism

Chronic stress, and associated muscle tension, can lead to a condition known as ‘sleep bruxism’ during REM periods, where people clench and grind their teeth. Over extended periods of time, the constant sliding back and forward of teeth can leave them flattened, fractured or even loose, potentially exposing the sensitive nerves and layers found within each tooth. This makes eating and drinking food at extreme temperatures likely to cause pain and dental care is required. 

How to Reduce Stress Levels & Improve Your Sleeping Habits

While it might seem easier said than done, the key to a better night’s sleep is to reduce stress levels, at least in the evening before bed. Finding a way to consistently change your lifestyle or ongoing habits will work to do this, helping to improve sleep duration and quality. 

Practice Meditation

Meditation is a relaxation technique that has been practiced throughout countless nations for generations. The primary aim is to make us take some time to pause our fast-paced lives, become more aware of our present surroundings, and acknowledge all of our feelings, thoughts and sensations without reacting. There have been numerous, documented studies of meditation improving conditions including stress, and is frequently endorsed by many successful entrepreneurs, athletes and everyday people as the key to their productivity and direction. 

Consistent Exercise Routines

Engaging the body in an ongoing physical exercise routine can work as a useful instrument in building better mental health and wellbeing, as well as reducing stress levels. There is an obvious advantage as ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters known as endorphins are released around your brain, but exercise can also work to relieve stress levels as the body’s response to the fight-or-flight takes a physical approach, activating your cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems. 

Adopt a Healthier Diet

When we feel stressed and time-poor, we often look for areas of life where we can cut corners, and our diet often takes the brunt of that with fast, low-nutrition meals of convenience. Eating a balanced diet can help the body manage the physiological effects of stress in a far more efficient manner. Consuming whole, natural foods is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet, with stress support supplements also available to give us the extra assistance we may need. 


Note: Melrose has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care practitioner.