Sleepless Nights Lead to Stressful Days

The glaring clock next to you reads 2am and you realize 6am will be arriving much too soon. You manage to squeak out a few hours of sleep but find you are exhausted upon waking. You peel yourself out of bed, drink down some caffeine, and try to face your day. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe the way you feel. You definitely aren’t firing on all cylinders, and you're growing more irritable and grouchy as the day drags on. Repeat this scenario for weeks, months, and years on end, and you will find yourself sleep-deprived.

It is recommended that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night (1). However, these days, we find ourselves getting far less than that due to hectic schedules and daily stressors. We are facing a global pandemic, enraging political issues, and volatile weather patterns. Not only that, but we have our own daily life commitments, worries, and stress. With ongoing obligations and responsibilities to work, our children, sports, or schoolwork, we have become bogged down with daily plans and never-ending details. 

All of these stressors can lead to late nights. We end up lying awake at night with worry, rehashing the days’ events, or thinking about all of the plans and responsibilities that will be awaiting us tomorrow.

waking up early

When we are sleep deprived, it not only means we are lacking sleep, but can mean we are lacking good quality sleep as well. When you lack one or both of these, our body releases the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These raised levels lead to increased blood pressure, heart rate, headaches, weight gain, inflammation and can even affect our immune system (2). When we have elevated hormone levels, we stay in that “fight or flight” mode, and our bodies cannot relax, leading us to extended waking hours. 

Getting less than necessary amounts of sleep affects your mood, patience, memory, thinking, and comprehension. It can also lead to increased stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression (3). The less you are sleeping, the more stressed and anxious you become. The more stressed and anxious you are, the less sleep you are getting, and you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle unless you find ways to manage it.  

Learning to manage our stress levels throughout the day and set ourselves up for a good night's rest is imperative to our health. As Shawn Stevenson says in his book Sleep Smarter “A great night sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning.”(4) 

Taking a look at your daily lifestyle will help you manage your stress and get proper rest. Some tips and ideas to implement throughout the day and as you approach your bedtime will help ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • Eat wholesome and healthy foods throughout the day

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of electronics before bed

  • Maintain a cooler bedroom temperature 

  • Stick to a schedule of sleep and wake times

  • Avoid eating and drinking directly before bed, including alcohol and caffeine

  • Exercise during the day

  • Find ways to relax as you get into bed each night by reading, journaling, praying, meditating, or listening to calming music or sounds

Sleep is tied to our overall health, and therefore, all the more reason to make sure we are managing our stress levels and setting ourselves up for adequate, high-quality rest.

(1)Hirshkowitz, Max et al. “National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep health vol. 1,1 (2015): 40-43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010
(2)Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment | Sleep Foundation
"Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment | Sleep Foundation". Sleepfoundation.Org, 2020, Accessed 20 May 2021
(3)Good Sleep in Times of Stress | Cedars-Sinai
"Good Sleep In Times Of Stress | Cedars-Sinai". Cedars-Sinai.Org, 2021, Accessed 20 May 2021.
(4) Stevenson, Shawn. Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success, Rodale Books, 2016. 

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