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How Can a Good Night’s Sleep Help You Battle Stress?

Around 35% of Americans don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night, with around 20% of people having a sleep disorder. Study after study has shown that getting less than the required seven to nine hours of sleep a night can result in heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes – but it can also affect your mental health. Indeed, there is an intricate link between sleep and stress; each affects the other and can be part of a cycle that causes chronic health problems. This is why ensuring your room is dark and completely silent, following a strict sleeping routine, and taking the stress monster by the horns, is key if you are to enjoy good physical and mental health. Sometimes, even small steps, such as wearing quality earplugs for sleeping, can restore the rest you need to function at your very best.

How does Sleep Deprivation Cause More Stress?

A study published by the Radiological Society of North America was the first to show the effect of sleep deprivation on stress and heart health. The study focused on health workers who had 24-hour shifts, finding that after such a shift (which can be considered short-term sleep deprivation), participants showed big increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol – a stress hormone. When cortisol is present at chronically high levels, it can cause everything from anxiety to major panic attacks.

How does Stress Affect Sleep?

In April 2019, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology noted that maintaining sleep is the most common problem in people with high-stress jobs. They found that people who have jobs involving a heavy workload and a lack of control regarding how they carry out their jobs are at a particularly high risk of developing sleeping problems. Those who are battling high stress levels tend to wake up during the night, finding it hard to fall asleep once again as they ruminate over problems that need to be solved, or worrying about an enormous workload. One of the researchers noted that having poor sleep for many years “fades energy resources and could lead to an early grave.” He recommended that employers provide stress management and sleep treatment in the workplace.

Sleep Quality Matters as Much as Sleep Quantity

If you are sleeping for seven hours or more but you wake up feeling fatigued, it could indicate that your sleep quality is lacking. The National Sleep Foundation notes that good sleep quality involves waking up no more than once a night, and falling asleep quickly – within half an hour of getting into bed. Your bedroom design should be conducive to good sleep and your mattress should be supportive. The room should be completely quiet and dark. Invest in a good set of blackout curtains and use ear plugs to stop extraneous noises from waking you up frequently. You need to sleep straight through if you are to make your way through all vital sleep stages – including deep sleep, which is key for muscle and tissue building.

Sticking to a strict sleep routine, avoiding the use of gadgets (and the consumption of caffeine) in the evening, and setting up a comfortable bedroom are important if you wish to keep stress levels down. However, if you are stressed, know that this will most probably have a big impact on your sleep quality. Embrace stress busting activities like yoga and meditation, and try to make the important changes required at work, even if this means meeting with your managers in order to make required changes to goals, roles, or procedures.

Contribution by freelance writer Karoline Croft

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