Sleep and Stress: 4 Tips to Say Goodbye to Stress-Induced Sleeplessness

Earlier this month, the Bank of Canada raised lending rates to 0.75 percent, the first interest rate hike in seven years. The move triggered a domino effect; in order to absorb the increase, Canada’s five biggest banks also raised their lending rates within hours of the announcement. These increases mean that those with variable mortgages and lines of credit (including home equity lines of credit) could end up paying hundreds more per year. Monthly payments could continue to increase too, as economists predict another interest rate in the fourth quarter.

If the recent news has you worried, you are not alone. Financial concerns are one of the biggest causes of stress and can contribute to other forms of stress too: work stress (from taking on extra workloads and working long hours), emotional stress (from feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression), and relationship stress (from overall tension that leads to strained relationships).

4 Tips to Say Goodbye to Stress-Induced Sleeplessness

All of that stress can have a big impact on our sleep patterns and sleep quality, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Today we will explore the relationship between sleep and stress, and share practical tips that will help you sleep better on stressful nights.

The Relationship between Sleep and Stress

When we feel stress, our nervous system detects a threat and switches the ‘on button’ – hyperarousal that helps us assess the situation and act accordingly. This evolutionary mechanism (known as fight or flight) is quite helpful if, for example, you come face to face with a saber tooth tiger! But for most modern forms of stress (including financial worries), we cannot actually fight or flee. Our switches are turned on without a proper remedy to relieve the stress.

As you can image, hyperarousal can make it quite difficult to sleep. Our bodies are tense, our minds race, and since we cannot relax, we have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

Unfortunately, the relationship between sleep and stress is not just one way. Insufficient sleep hours and poor sleep quality can themselves cause stress. In fact, a 2015 survey of people from 22 countries found that while money is the biggest cause of stress in the world (impacting 29 percent of the population), sleep deprivation comes in at number three, impacting 23 percent of the population.

Stress causes lack of sleep, and lack of sleep causes further stress…a vicious cycle.

Sleep and Stress - 4 Tips to Say Goodbye to Stress-Induced Sleeplessness

4 Tips for Improving Sleep When Stressed

Stress and sleep are intertwined, but we have tips to help you break the cycle.

1. Protect Your Sleep

Often when we deal with more stress, our positive behaviors around sleep start to slip. We may stay up later, try to get by with less sleep than normal, or change our nighttime routine. Don’t purposely disrupt your positive sleep habits! Sleep is particularly important during stressful times, so it should remain a priority.

2. Strong Bedtime Routine

Often our bedtime routine consists of scrolling the latest social media feed, putting the phone down on the nightstand, and closing our eyes to try to sleep. This is not effective, particularly when you are feeling stressed and your mind is still racing when your head hits the pillow.

As we discussed in our article 5 Sleep Habits of Successful People, the time you spend before hopping in bed is important because it helps prepare your body and mind for rest. Your nighttime routine should include a period of relaxation where you disconnect from work and other stressors . Try reading, taking a warm bath, yoga, meditating, listening to music, or something else that you find calming and soothing. Afterward, avoid re-engaging your mind by going right to bed.

4 Tips to Say Goodbye to Stress-Induced Sleeplessness

3. Focus on Your Breathing

The hyperarousal caused by stress includes symptoms such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate….physical effects that make it hard to sleep. Breath work brings everything back to baseline and makes it easier for our bodies to enter the journey of sleep. Some breathing techniques based on yoga and meditation include the stimulating breath, the 4-7-8 exercise, and breath counting.

4. Exercise

Exercise can help you sleep better; in fact, a 2011 study found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week improved sleep quality by 65 percent. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day and watch as it positively impacts not only your waistline but your sleep quality as well.

Whether your stress is the result of the recent interest rate hikes, your job, relationship troubles, or something else, it does not have to impact your sleep! Use the tips above to establish healthy routines and improve sleep quality. Stress will come and go, but you will always feel better (and be better able to deal with it) after a good night’s sleep.

Is productivity, efficiency or safety slipping in your workplace? Don’t let stress and lack of sleep impact the performance of your workers! Get consultation and training with our Corporate Sleep Solutions.

As the President and Founder of Sleepwell Consulting Inc. Amanda is a Sleep Educator who works with companies of all sizes to help promote better sleep and better business.