Why Stress Affects Your Sleep + What To Do About It
There are plenty of things that keep us up at night, from irregular sleep schedules to hot weather—but one factor that undoubtedly spells trouble for sleep is stress. The next time you find yourself stressing before bed, here's why that could be happening, plus what to do about it.
The stress-sleep connection.
It goes without saying that stress can make it difficult to fall asleep, but why? According to board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., when stress triggers us, it's actually triggering our sympathetic nervous systems, which can temporarily lead to elevated heart rate, respiratory rate, and of course, make it tough to wind down.
And as Nishi Bhopal, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in sleep medicine, previously told mbg, any sort of situational stressor can affect sleep. Whether you're stressed about a relationship, your job, or the state of the world, all those underlying thoughts have a way of creeping up when you lie down for bed.
In fact, in one 2020 study1 on stress and sleep, the study authors write, "Bedtime stress, which leads to heightened pre-sleep arousal, affects sleep processes and, consequently, the deployment of attentional resources during next-day execution of a delayed intention." Another 2015 study2 on sleep quality and work-related stress also showed that low sleep quality was associated with an increase in work-related stress over time.
Long story short: Stress and sleep don't exactly make a dynamic duo. Luckily, there are a handful of things you can do about it.
How to handle it.
If lying awake stressed out sounds all too familiar, the solution is twofold: tackling the stress and improving your sleep.
For one thing, stressing about what's on your plate for the following day can certainly keep your mind whirring at night. To that end, research shows simply writing a to-do list3 before bed of all the things you have to do tomorrow has been found to help people fall asleep faster, and it'll only take you a couple of minutes.
It's also a good idea to set yourself up for a good night's sleep by giving yourself plenty of time (up to two hours, if necessary) to wind down for the night and making sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark.
During the day, you can also do things to help limit your stress levels, from doing physical activity to burn off some of that energy to practicing a mindfulness meditation and/or getting some fresh air and connecting with nature.
And on top of all these things, sometimes a little extra help still never hurts. Pairing a stress-busting supplement with a sleep supplement could be just what you're missing, such as mbg's calm+ and sleep support+.* Both formulas were uniquely designed with science-backed ingredients known to mitigate stress and improve sleep, respectively.*
When taken before bed, calm+'s blend of organic hemp oil, ashwagandha, and lavender oil can promote relaxation and a sense of calm and reduce everyday stress.* Meanwhile, sleep support+'s combination of magnesium bisglycinate, jujube, and PharmaGABA® works to help you fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality.*
Stress can put a real strain on bedtime, and not getting quality sleep can make you even more stressed the next day. It happens to the best of us, but with a few helpful tips and tricks for mitigating stress and improving sleep, you'll be getting quality shut-eye in no time.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.