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Getting Quality Sleep When Stressed

Is Stress Affecting Your Sleep Patterns?

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Updated March 07, 2013

Getting Quality Sleep When Stressed

Do you find yourself getting too few hours of sleep?

Sleep is an important resource that keeps you healthy, mentally sharp, and able to cope with stress more effectively, among other things. Unfortunately, stressed and busy people tend to get less sleep than they need. According to a poll on this site, roughly 50% of readers like you are missing enough sleep to triple their risk of a car accident. Learn some of the reasons why stress and sleep deprivation seem to go together, and important techniques for getting the sleep you need.

Why You're Missing Out on Sleep

The following are all common factors that contribute to lack of sleep:

Overthinking
Many people take their work home with them, either physically or metaphorically. And it makes sense: with today’s demanding workloads, it’s often difficult to come home from a day of troubleshooting and automatically stop thinking about all the, well, trouble. Stay-at-home parents and students can experience this as well.

If you find yourself still trying to solve problems at the end of the day, and the thoughts won’t seem to leave your mind, this can make sleep come much more difficult. It can even disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night, as you transition between sleep stages.

Caffeine
People under stress tend to consume significant amounts of caffeine to get a boost that gets them going in the morning or helps them make it through the day. Caffeine can actually exacerbate stress levels and significantly affect the amount and quality of sleep you get.

Cortisol
This stress hormone is one of the key players responsible for the fight or flight response -- that jolt of energy you get when you feel stressed or threatened that enables you to respond. Unfortunately, chronic stress can lead to excessive levels of cortisol, and this can disrupt healthy sleep patterns.

Overscheduling
A hectic, busy life can rob you of time you can actually dedicate to sleep. If you find yourself pushing your bed time back further and further to get things done, or getting up earlier and earlier in the name of productivity, you may feel tired a lot of the time but not realize the toll lack of sleep is taking.

If you're wondering if you may be overscheduled, this quiz can give you a better idea of whether or not you are and what areas of your life need a change.

Anxiety
Like overthinking, anxiety can make sleep difficult and wake you up at night. Anxiety keeps your mind busy as you imagine threatening scenarios and worry about what may happen next. You may become preoccupied with finding solutions. That racing of your mind can rob you of sleep by keeping your cortisol levels high, making sleep harder to achieve.

Get the Sleep You Need

Try these tips if you find yourself regularly short on sleep:

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