The Relationship Between Sleep And Stress

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Are stress and lack of sleep taking a toll on your life? 

By Elizabeth Scott, MS (  –  Are you getting enough sleep? Chances are, the answer to this question is ‘no’. And if you find that you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not alone.  In a national sleep survey, 40% of respondents say they aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep. According to a sleep survey conducted on this site (among a sample of, presumably, those who are stressed), out of over 10,000 respondents, about 3 out of 4 are getting fewer than the recommended 8 hours per night.

Even more disconcerting, 1 in 4 are getting 5 hours or less–a level that can put them at greater risk of health problems and car accidents. Why the problems with sleep?

Your Stress Response and Sleep

When you experience a perceived threat (physical or psychological, real or imagined), your body’s stress response is triggered, creating a cascade of physical changes including quickened, shallow breathing; the release of adrenaline, cortisol and other chemicals that provide a burst of energy; and other changes that allow you to fight or run from danger. Since fighting and running are both inappropriate responses to many of the stressors we face in modern life (traffic jams, difficult co-workers, relationship conflicts, etc.), the fight-or-flight response isn’t necessarily the best response to today’s demands, but it becomes triggered nonetheless–several times per day in many cases. When this stress response becomes triggered and isn’t resolved through relaxation, you may end up with a situation of chronic stress, where your body remains in a continually stressed state, often without your even realizing it!

As you can imagine, this can make sleep difficult to come by, and less restful when it finally does come!

Sleep and Rumination

Do you ever ‘lose sleep over’ something that stresses you? Most of us have had the experience of losing sleep over a stressful situation at least once or twice. Many people find that sleep is either difficult to come by because they are gripped by rumination, or they even…



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