Stress and Sleep

Stress is a response to challenging circumstances that we are in; it is also a response to things that happen in our daily lives. Everything that happens, be it in our daily lives or not (to someone else), can somehow affect us emotionally, physically, and behaviorally. Stress is not all bad; the right amount of stress will act as a precursor to help us do our best and keep us alert and energetic. However, too much stress can make us tense and anxious and hinder our sleep quality (1, 2).


What is making you stressed might not make others stressed, and vice versa. When it comes to stress, there are just no standard parameters to measure. Since the amount of stress that individuals perceive differs from one another, even when it stems from the same source of stress (1, 2, 3).


Stress induces multiple body reactions in the brain, nervous system, endocrine system (hormones), and immune system. Research named it hyperarousal, which is a state when our body is in a stress state. In other words, our brain perceives the condition as being on alert (1, 2, 4).


The signs of a hyperarousal state include the fact that you cannot shut down your busy mind. Your mind seems to have no shut-down button. It keeps going over and over your stress, worries, and frustrations, which you contemplate from various angles. Which is also one of the reasons that hinder you from getting enough quality sleep. Secondly, when you are experiencing muscle tension for no reason, It can be aches in areas such as the neck and shoulders or a constant headache. Thirdly, when you are experiencing a heart race. This is particularly associated with the hormone cortisol (a stress hormone). This will then result in a condition where your body and brain are wide awake, making it difficult for you to fall asleep. This explains why individuals who are stressed experience sleep disturbance. (1)



It is unfair to discuss in the area that stress causes sleep disturbances without noting that there are other conditions that will make individuals who experience stress sleep excessively as well. It is somewhat a mystery to experts as well, though it is hypothesised due to the different kinds of stress that individuals experience and the different coping mechanisms they develop in adapting to different stressors (3).


What to do (4)


Fortunately, there are habits that, if you cultivate them diligently, will train your mind to ease stress and help you sleep. First, practise relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing techniques before turning in for the night. This technique can help you unwind. It will help your body and mind dial down the stress. It is also wise to actually have relaxing pre-sleep rituals, such as changing into comfortable clothing for sleep, dimming your bedroom light, being in a comfortable situation, taking a warm bath or drinking a cup of warm water or milk, avoiding caffeinated drinks like soda, tea, and coffee in the late afternoon, and slowly nesting yourself.


Of course, these are not tips that will work for everybody; anyhow, you've just got to do some trial and error. You just have to give it a try and adjust it accordingly so that it will suit your condition better.


Lastly, if you have anything in your mind that is stressing you out, think of it as just a phase that you have to endure. Whatever situation you are in, you know it better than anyone else since you have the key to getting yourself out of it. You are in masterful control of it; soon you will be out of this. Think positive thoughts and try to talk to someone you trust. If you think your condition is worsening, it may be a sign for you to seek medical help.





  1. Sleep National Sleep Foundation. Stress and Insomnia (July 2020). (Accessed on September 20, 2020).

  2. Sleep National Sleep Foundation. Relaxation Exercises for Falling Asleep (July 2020). (Accessed on September 20, 2020).

  3. Kim, E. J., & Dimsdale, J. E. (2007). The effect of psychosocial stress on sleep: a review of polysomnographic evidence. Behavioral sleep medicine, 5(4), 256-278.

  4. Tips to reduce stress and Sleep better (2019). (Accessed on September 20, 2020).