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Stress Related Insomnia

How To Deal With Stress-Related Insomnia

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Updated May 14, 2011

Stress Related Insomnia

Stress-related insomnia need not ruin your night's sleep. These tips can help.

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Are you stressed enough over finances, your job, relationship conflict or other stressors that you're experiencing insomnia? You're not alone! According to a survey published in the American Journal of Managed Care, almost half of respondents (46%) experience some form of insomnia, either difficulty going to sleep, trouble staying asleep, or insomnia so severe that it disrupts daytime activities. And insomnia is often (though not always) stress-related, so it's an important topic for us to discuss here.

Because sleep is so important to overall health, insomnia can affect your life in many ways. A sleep deficit can make you feel mentally slower and more emotional, which can exacerbate your experience of stress. Dealing with lasting insomnia can cause stress, too, which can lead to more stress-related insomnia. And, if your insomnia is stress-related to begin with, being overly tired and stressed does nothing to help solve the problems that are creating the stress in the first place. Here are a few things to try if you are dealing with stress-related insomnia:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tension in your body can make it difficult to sleep. While people often don't even realize when they're stressed about something, their bodies are feeling the stress, and are tensed up as a result. PMR is a great tool for de-stressing your body. (As a kid, I used this technique to relax, and actually bored myself to sleep with it.)

Journaling

If you find yourself waking up in the night because you can't stop thinking about something that's causing you stress during the day, journaling may be an effective technique for you. The act of journaling carries several health and stress management benefits, and in this context can help you clear your mind, help you process strong emotions that are causing you to lose sleep, and help you brainstorm and construct plans that can help you manage the situations that are causing you stress.

Work Through Your Stress

If you're losing sleep due to anxiety, you may be able to relax and get better sleep with a change of perspective. Anxiety, including the type that keeps you up at night, is often a natural response to situation that needs some sort of action. Viewing your situation as a challenge to be faced, rather than a threat, can help you get into an active, decision-making mode rather than remain in an anxious, passive state. Looking at a situation from different angles can help you see opportunities you may have missed. (See this article on cognitive restructuring for more ways to change perspective on a stressful situation.)

Take The Pressure Off Sleep

As I mentioned, when losing sleep becomes a regular occurrence, bedtime itself can become stressful. If you've reached this point, there are a few things you can do to take the stress off of insomnia. First, if you're having trouble sleeping, you might want to get up and do something after a few minutes, when you're sure that sleep is a long way off. (This helps take the pressure off of watching the clock for hours, can help you feel more in control of your time as you engage in other activities.) It's also a good idea to use your bedroom primarily for sleep, so that you associate your bed and your bedroom with sleep and not stress. Think of getting up and reading a book, getting things done around the house, and doing other not-too-stimulating activities that can help foster sleep when you're ready. Also, avoid caffeine during the afternoon and evening.

Don't Go At It Alone

According to the survey from the American Journal of Managed Care, many people who suffer from insomnia do not seek help for this. This is unfortunate because there are several interventions that can help with insomnia, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, that can help you take charge of stress-related insomnia. If you're experiencing persistent insomnia, consider talking to your doctor about your options.

Scroll down for more resources on stress-related insomnia.

Source:

Hatoum et. al. Prevalence of Insomnia: A Survey of the Enrollees at Five Managed Care Organizations. American Journal of Managed Care, January 1998.

Varkevisser M, Kerkhof GA. Chronic insomnia and performance in a 24-h constant routine study. Journal of Sleep Research. March 2005.

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