Understanding the correlation between stress and sleep

December 14, 2018 • By Sophia Smith
The estimated reading time is 5 minutes

Life may be sweet, but it sometimes comes with challenges that often lead to stress. We all respond to stress differently depending on the intensity of the situation at hand. It can affect you physically, behaviorally or even emotionally.

Experts reveal that not all stress is harmful. Short-term stress can motivate you to improve the quality of your life. Long-term stress, on the other hand, can cause anxiety and sleep problems. About 40 million of the US population battles sleep disorders caused by stress every day. The lack of enough sleep due to high-stress levels also leads to other health issues such as weight gain, depression as well as high blood pressure.

Stress and poor sleep come in the form of a cycle which can be hard to break. Comprehending the connection between these two can help you improve your health, increase productivity during the day and also raise the quality of your sleep. Through our discussion, we will help you learn this connection by giving comprehensive insights regarding what stress is and how it affects your sleep. We will also advise you on how you can lower stress levels and boost your sleep. Read on!

The definition of stress and its effects on the body

Stress is a state of mental strain or emotional tension that comes from demanding situations. It is how your body responds to external pressures both physically and mentally. It affects the following systems.

Endocrine system

A stressful situation triggers your body to release different hormones in the body such as adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline. These hormones are the ones that help the body respond to danger. They constrict the blood vessels and stimulate the conversion of fat to energy.

The rise in these hormones also triggers the liver to generate additional glucose which prevents the body from reabsorbing sugar. That is how some people develop diabetes from stress.

The nervous and circulatory system

Long-term stress aggravates the nervous system affecting one's overall health. It raises the blood pressure which in turn strains your circulatory system. The heartbeat gets rapid, and the heart works harder to pump more blood to the rest of your body.


During a stressful situation, your body cells may not receive adequate oxygen to function well. You may, therefore, have trouble concentrating on daily activities. It can cause dizziness, shallow breathing or even fainting in some people.

Musculoskeletal system

Stress causes tension in the body muscles and strain on body parts such as the neck. It tightens the muscles and causes pain in different body parts. Stressful situations sometimes cause headaches and migraines which make it hard for you to remain in bed the entire night.

Digestive system

Increase in cortisol levels is what causes inflammation and weight gain in some affected individuals. Your body may start craving for more foods. You are likely to eat fatty foods when under high-stress levels. This leads acid reflux, heartburns and other stomach problems such as constipation and diarrhea. The production of extra acid during stressful situations can make one develop ulcers.  

The cycle of stress and poor sleep

The effects of stress on the body lead to poor sleep.  The brain interprets stress as a sign of danger, thus preventing you from getting good quality sleep. You may sleep during your normal time but wake up more than once at night.

It also causes constant thinking and worrying when your body is trying to relax. You may find yourself overworking during the day to try and eliminate the stressful situation. This leads to fatigue which in turn prevents you from getting good sleep.

Stress makes it hard for you to work out due to body pain translating to poor sleep. Many of us try to relax using substances such as caffeine during stressful situations. This can prevent you from sleeping at night. It, therefore, becomes a recurring cycle which affects both your sleep pattern and overall health.

What should you do to reduce stress and boost sleep?

Sleep loss resulting from stress is manageable through lifestyle changes. Start by making the following adjustments.

Enjoy the sun during daytime

The natural light from the sun can reduce depression and stress. Start your morning hours outdoors to expose your body to the sun. It can regulate your circadian rhythm and help you get better sleep at night. Alternatively, you can get a light therapy device to use indoors during the day. Remember to avoid light before bedtime since it causes wakefulness at night.

Work on your bedroom

A good mattress from Puffy mattress can help you reduce high-stress levels and increase comfort. You need to ensure that your bedroom lets you relax. Use colors with a calming effect when choosing your bedding such as white sheets and a grey bed cover. Declutter your bedroom of any stressors such as working devices like electronics. Practice a relaxing ritual before bedtime to help you relax before sleep.

Consider aromatherapy

Aromatherapy with the use of essential oils such as lavender can reduce anxiety and boost the quality of your sleep. You can use the oil in the form of a pillow spray or an air diffuser to create a relaxing atmosphere in your room. The relaxing aroma of essential oils can prevent you from overthinking during nighttime and also increase moisture in the air.

Get supplements

Some people choose sleeping pills to help them rest when stressed. The habit may not be as healthy as taking supplements. Herbal supplements such as melatonin and tryptophan are effective in reducing stress and enhancing sleep. You can also try taking herbal teas such as passionflower and valerian.

Final thoughts

Though stress may be part of our daily lives, you should not let it affect your sleep and overall health. Mild stress can motivate you to improve aspects of your life, but high-stress levels lead to life-threatening conditions. You should, therefore, understand how stress affects your body and start making the changes above to boost sleep quality, physical and mental health.

Sophia Smith

She is a renowned nutritionist and freelance writer whose topics of interest include healthy living and healthy eating. She is passionate about introducing new and delicious healthy meals while balancing her time between cooking and going to the gym. Her mission is to change the life of as many people as she can and make them the best version of themselves.
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