The relationship between sleep and stress: It’s a two-way street

Sleep and stress are closely related, one influencing the other. This relationship between sleep and stress goes both ways: If you’re not getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis, daily stress can be difficult to deal with, but unresolved stress can interfere with your ability to get the quantity and quality of sleep you need. You must be prepared to conquer your days.

Because of how sleep and stress affect each other, it’s easy to see how stress can seem out of control due to a never-ending cycle of high stress and poor sleep. Fortunately, there are many ways you can work to improve your sleep and deal with life’s inevitable stresses.

Over the years we’ve realized that sleep isn’t just a time where we turn off a computer. This is actually a very important time for our brain and body to do some necessary housekeeping. In order to handle all the challenges that our days present us with, we need enough time each day to rest, recover and prepare for the day ahead. If you don’t give yourself enough time to work on sleep, you can feel disturbed during your day because of changes in how your thinking works – how fearful and negative things normally feel, decreased empathy and emotional regulation, your fears and rewards. to disrupt the system.

Sleep seems to play an important role when it comes to stress. The most obvious connection between sleep and stress may be dreams. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is when we dream most vividly. Although the purpose of dreams is not precisely known, it seems that the strong emotions we experience and the complex storylines we see during our dreams are an indication that our brain is solving complex problems.

Research in human and animal experiments suggests that REM sleep is essential for emotion regulation and learning. Because long cycles of REM sleep usually occur later than bedtime, it’s essential to give your brain enough opportunities each day to give it the time it needs to get enough REM sleep.

However, we don’t just sleep to remember, we also sleep to forget. Different stages of sleep help in this process. In addition to the learning and problem solving discussed above, REM appears to be important in balancing the strength of associations between emotions (especially stressful ones) and memories.

The other major period of sleep (non-REM) appears to be an important time for cleaning up “garbage” from the day. This means not only washing away the waste products necessary to create memories, but also forgetting memories that are not important enough to keep. This process of strengthening connections and putting essential memories into long-term storage is balanced with cleaning the slate for the next day and occurs during your sleep cycle. It is important that you give these cycles enough time to play out naturally.

Even if you understand the importance of sleep in coping with stress, it can sometimes be difficult to “just sleep on it” when your stress is holding you back. If you’re like most people, you’ve experienced the consequences of unresolved stress on your sleep quality, whether it’s falling or having trouble falling asleep, experiencing light, fitful, restless sleep, or waking up with your mind racing. Everyone has a bad night’s sleep at times and some deal with such problems regularly.

So what’s at the heart of stress’s impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep? Both physical and psychological aspects of unwanted stress can have adverse effects.

When stressed (in both healthy and unhealthy ways) your body responds by activating the autonomic nervous system, which is basically the part of your nervous system that controls all of your body’s “autopilot” functions, such as keeping your heart rate up or managing your digestive system.

When stressed, your nervous system switches from a “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) state to a “fight or flight” (sympathetic) state. This revived state can be subtle, but is often seen in increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing frequency, and other physical signals. When your body is activated in this way, it can be difficult to settle into the relaxed state necessary for a restful sleep.

You also need to consider your emotional response to stress. Our brains are wired to solve problems, but the challenges that cause stress are often a bit more complex, take a while to sort out, often without a straight answer…or even a right answer. Because of this, your brain can go into overdrive trying to think through solutions.

However, it is important to recognize that this is a normal process for your brain. For example, have you ever been stuck with a problem only to have the answer come to you with an “Aha!” Moments at a completely random time after you move on to something else? It’s your brain doing its work in the background. But, when you have to listen to a racing mind, falling asleep can be difficult.

Knowing where to start when it comes to improving sleep can be difficult. Sometimes the first step is to determine if stress is affecting you and your sleep. Awareness of the connection between what happens in your day and how well you sleep can help you identify whether you need to work on your stress levels and/or sleep.

If you find that stress is interfering with getting a good night’s sleep, you can work on establishing some routines that have the two main consequences discussed above: physical and mental. Starting and sticking to routines that calm the body and calm the mind can help prepare your body and brain for the sleep you need to cope with life’s stresses with more resilience.

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