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Everyone knows that stress is not good for you. Being overly stressed can cause stomach problems, anxiety, tension in relationships, lack of focus, and a whole host of other issues. It can also have an impact on the quality of your sleep. Here is how stress affects your sleep and what you can do to reduce your levels.

Stress and Insomnia

Stress almost always comes with a hefty dose of worrying. When you are overly worried, it’s difficult to shut down your brain and relax, especially when you’re lying in bed and have nothing to distract you from your thoughts. If your mind is chattering, it becomes nearly impossible to fall asleep. And, the longer sleep eludes you, the more stressed and worried you’ll become. This can lead to a vicious cycle of tossing and turning and escalating stress levels. The next day, you’ll be tired and irritable, which contributes to more stress and even more chances of insomnia.

The brain chemicals that tell your body to stop producing stress hormones are the same that are connected to deep sleep. That means that if you aren’t sleeping well enough to experience deep sleep, you won’t handle stress as well. The two play into each other and can become incredibly disruptive to your life and your emotional health.

Stress and Sleep Apnea

Though stress cannot cause sleep apnea, there is a connection between the two that can worsen the sleep deficit cycle. When you have sleep apnea, your body sends a signal to your body to wake up abruptly due to a lack of oxygen. This not only prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep (and can often prevent you from entering the deep levels of sleep you need to release chemicals to deal with stress), but it also increases your overall stress levels and can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can then lead to depression, high blood pressure, and a number of other mental and physical disorders.

Stress Relief Tips

Not sure if stress is affecting your sleep? Asking yourself the following questions:

Do I have trouble turning off my brain when I’m preparing for sleep? If you go over certain situations or conversations in your head repeatedly and you don’t feel like you can shut them down, you’re likely experiencing stress-related sleep problems.

Are my muscles tense as I try to get to sleep? If you feel tension in your neck or shoulders or have headaches or back pain, you likely have muscle tension due to stress. This tension can lead to lack of or poor sleep, which then leads to even more muscle tension the next morning.

Is my heart racing as I lie in bed and try to go to sleep? Your heart should not be racing while you are lying in bed and is a common symptom of stress. A racing heart is associated with high cortisol levels and can lead to more muscle tension and prevent you from falling asleep.

To reduce stress at bedtime, create a nightly ritual that involves turning off electronics at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Take part in relaxing activities during this hour like taking a hot bath, reading a book, doing yoga and stretching exercises, or hanging out with your family. You can also have a cup of caffeine-free tea, meditate, put on aromatherapy lotion or oils, or write in a journal. Find a routine that works for you and helps you relax and quiet your mind. Also remember to consistently use any device you have to treat sleep apea, whether that’s a CPAP machine, an oral device, or another tool, to help you get a full, healthy night’s sleep.

Do you think sleep apnea is preventing you from getting the restful sleep you need? Visit the Sleep Cycle website and take our assessment to find out!