Lack of sleep caused by stress is a combination that can literally kill you. Relaxation and sleep are two things that can truly make a difference in how your body and mind react to stress. Without those two elements, you run the risk of losing efficiency or entering into a collapse.
It does not matter what you are fixing first – the stress or the insomnia, but unless at least one is fixed, they will both get worse. The effects of stress on your body and mind can slow your productivity and make your life much less enjoyable.
Stress can be fixed if you have a commitment to seeing it through. After the stress factors are reduced, sleep should come more easily.
Causes of Stress-Induced Insomnia
Too much stress in your life may cause insomnia and vice-versa. When you try to get through the day without getting enough sleep the night before, your efficiency will suffer and you will drag through the day, just increasing your stress again.
Sleep times vary from one person to another, but most adults should get 7 to 8 hours per night to keep up energy levels, keep up mental acuity to be able to get through the work day and maintain a good quality of life.
You may experience a short-term bout of acute insomnia that lasts for only a few days. A stressful event in your life might trigger this type of insomnia, but if you experience it for more than a month, you need to take immediate action.
Stress-induced insomnia may result in worrying or serious concerns about your health, finances, work or loved ones. You may also experience stress-induced insomnia if you’ve just gone through a divorce or lost a loved one.
Insomnia can be caused by various other motives as well, like medications, certain diseases, an irregular sleep schedule, a disruptive sleep environment, or a number of other lifestyle habits. It is always good to deal with the real cause in order to tackle the problem head on.
Symptoms of Stress-Induced Insomnia
Dealing with the symptoms of stress-induced insomnia can make you feel disconnected from most everyone and everything. You’re not as mentally alert and you might also be irritable and anxious.
Depression may set in and cause other problems such as fatigue and inability to focus on anything. You may never feel well-rested, even when you think you get a good night’s sleep.
Mood swings are also symptoms of stress-induced insomnia. Tension headaches and aches in the shoulders and neck are caused by stress and can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep without help from medications or relaxation techniques. If you’re finding it difficult to be around people, this may be another warning sign of insomnia taking its toll.
Stress-induced insomnia will increase your risk of developing chronic diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, premature aging and even an early death are just a few of the issues that could be caused by stress-induced insomnia. This type of insomnia can also cause people to eat more and gain weight, drink or take drugs and exercise less.
Those are all actions that cause negative consequences to our health. One of the most common risks of long-term, stress-induced insomnia is catching a common cold or any other virus coming around.
Weight gain can also be a health issue related to stress-induced insomnia. When stress hormones are released into the body, your preference for unhealthy foods containing sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates is increased.
If you haven’t had enough sleep, you get a double dose of stress hormones which can lead to binge eating. Seniors suffering from stress-induced insomnia may experience a slower healing process from medical procedures or surgeries.
If you don’t sleep well at night, you may be tense and feel back, shoulder and neck pain when you get up in the morning. Stress during the day at work or home may make the pain worse or cause inflammation that makes it more difficult to heal.
Treatments for Stress-Induced Insomnia
If there are worries that keep you awake at night, you need to start working on controlling your thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may have some interesting tools for you. One of these methods is thought challenging. If a negative thought comes to your mind, you simply challenge it. Is it really true? If not, just discard the thought that was coming to your mind.
Some people are getting all wrapped up about what may happen to them tomorrow. They tend to get worried about things that never may happen at all. Jesus gave some interesting counsel about that:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? … So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-27 & 34
There are cases you need to make provision for something, and if it is for a good reason, go ahead and do what needs to be done. But to worry about something that probably never happens, or when it really happens you cannot change it, does not make any sense. If you believe in God, the best thing to do is to turn over your problems simply to Him, because He is able to take care of it all. And simply stop worrying, because it is probably not going to help you in any way.
You can find peace of mind by committing yourself to God in prayer. In order to do that, speak to God like a friend. Present him your worries, your struggles and your cares. Be honest. Tell whatever is on your heart. There is nothing too great for Him to carry, and nothing too small for Him to note. The more you are able to honestly express, the more you will be able to let things go.
Be confident! After having done your part, commit yourself into His hands, and accept whatever the outcome may be. We can conquer the stressors around us through the power that God is giving to us.
Sleep studies are done if nothing seems to help your insomnia or control your stress that’s keeping you awake at night. You’ll spend the night at a sleep center and during that time, your breathing, heart and brain waves and eye and body movement will be monitored.
If you still have trouble falling asleep you can try a relaxing tea at night. Valerian and Passionflower are some herbs that can help you fall asleep easier.
If you’ve tried everything else but just can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep you may need to resort to meds for a short period, because the side effects of lacking a good night’s sleep are various. Just work on resolving quickly the underlying problems that caused your insomnia, so that you do not create a dependency on those medications.
Prevention Techniques for Stress-Induced Insomnia
After you get into the vicious cycle of stress-induced insomnia, you may have a long road to travel before you get back to a normal sleep pattern. The best thing you can do for yourself and your health is to prevent it from happening. But even if you are in the vicious cycle already, taking care of those basic measures will be fundamental to improve your quality of sleep.
One thing you can do if you suspect that the stress-related insomnia is caused by work is to set boundaries such as letting you spend time with family or relaxing in the evening without answering calls or emails.
Don’t get roped into so many requests that you can’t handle them all without acute stress. Just say no to the ones that aren’t that critical. Don’t check your email every few minutes. Designate a time during the day and let it go in the evening so your distractions are lessened.
Schedule the things you like to do in the evening hours. Other requests from friends or organizations should be secondary to what means the most to you and how you can unwind in the evening.
When you are at home and relaxing before bedtime, put your cellphone away. Take time to relax or converse without distractions – including the television. After you watch a show, turn off the television and avoid watching it just before bedtime or especially in the bedroom after you go to bed.
News is stressful to watch any time during the day, so limit what you watch that makes you stressful to 30 minutes or less per day. The same with your computer – don’t have it on and blinking at you when you’re trying to relax. Allow for no screen time for an hour before going to bed, be it computer, cell phone or TV.
During the daytime hours it’s important to stay active. Exercise helps to reduce stress so it doesn’t bother you at bedtime and promotes a great night’s sleep. You’ll also want to plan the bedtime hours to be consistent from one day to the next – even on weekends when possible.
Limit caffeine or alcohol and kick the smoking habit, if necessary. These substances can make your nerves jittery at bedtime and keep you from getting the required amount of sleep.
A bedtime ritual can help over time to relax your body and mind and ready it for a good night’s sleep. A warm bath, soft music or a few minutes of reading can go a long way to calm nerves and make you sleepy. Deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation may help you to relax. Make it a habit to commit yourself to God in prayer.
When insomnia makes it difficult for you to function during the daytime hours, it’s best to see your doctor. A sleep disorder of any time may need special treatment other than the type you purchase over the counter.
You should be as committed to getting the full amount of restful sleep you need as much as you are to a healthy diet and exercise to keep your body in shape. You could suffer a poor quality of life for an extended period of time unless you get the stress – and the sleep problems under control.
Do you want to understand how to cope with Stress in an all inclusive approach? Learn how to combat stress, mentally, physically, emotionally and strategically in your life. Download the Ten Minute Guide to Stress Control and start today to develop proper coping skills for your stress.
Martin Neumann was trained for Lifestyle Interventions in 1998 at Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital. Since then he has lectured in different parts of the world about a healthy lifestyle and natural remedies. He is the founder of the Abundant Health website.