Under Pressure: How Stress Disrupts Your Sleep Patterns

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Sleep is one of the few things in life that every human being can agree that they desperately need more of. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, where constant digital exposure has strained our eyes well past what they’re used to, sleep is becoming more and more of a rarity. Stress is the root cause of sleep pattern problems.

Understanding the relationship between these two factors offers insights into the modern person’s sleep predicament. Today, let’s learn how you can sleep and live better by taking healthier sleeping habits. 

What are sleep patterns?

A sleep pattern isn’t merely about shutting your eyes and waking up after a while. Sleep patterns are the cycles that every person must go through to experience a healthy session of rest. To begin, there are two primary types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Each night, people cycle through several rounds of these sleep types, starting with NREM and progressing to REM.

Within NREM sleep, there are further stages, ranging from light sleep to deep, restorative sleep. During the deepest stages, the body repairs and regrows tissues builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. Meanwhile, REM sleep is the stage associated with dreaming. Here, the brain is active, playing a key role in processing information from the day into memories.

How does stress ruin the sleep cycle?

Stress acts as a significant disruptor in the realm of sleep. The body reacts to stress by releasing a hormone called cortisol. In situations of danger or high importance, cortisol helps keep individuals alert and ready. However, in everyday life, when stress becomes a constant, heightened cortisol levels in the evening make sleep elusive.

The usual transition from light sleep to deep sleep becomes harder. People might find themselves waking up several times during the night or lying awake for long periods. In some cases, the time spent in REM sleep, crucial for mental health and memory, decreases.

What happens when sleep patterns are disrupted?

Once disrupted, unfinished sleep cycles result in some unfortunate side effects for the affected people. 

Low Energy

Without enough rest, energy levels plummet, making daily activities a strain. That said, the ramifications of disrupted sleep patterns are more than just feeling a little bit woozy. On a cognitive level, lack of proper sleep affects memory, concentration, and decision-making processes. Tasks that once seemed simple become challenging.

Mood Swings

One’s mood is something that often gets ignored when it comes to everyday tasks. Even a subtle level of grumpiness can make every problem seem much bigger than it is.  Imbalanced sleep patterns often lead to mood swings.  Whether it’s random bouts of sadness or the teetering edge of anxiety, lack of sleep makes both feel worse. 

Physical Decay

Physical health doesn’t remain untouched either. Ongoing sleep disturbances increase the risk of various health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The immune system becomes less effective, raising susceptibility to infections. That’s not even getting into the impaired cognitive functions that result from fatigue.

How do I sleep better?

Achieving better sleep amidst the stresses of daily life might seem challenging, but with certain strategies, it becomes attainable. 

Consistent Sleep Schedule

Maintaining consistency is crucial. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate the body’s internal clock.   It’s not just a matter of physical adjustment too. Adhering to a consistent sleep schedule also instils discipline into your mind. Internalizing a healthy sleep schedule lets you sleep easier in the future.

Comfortable Environment

The environment plays a role too. A quiet, dark, and cool room often promotes better sleep. Removing electronic devices from the bedroom reduces distractions and the blue light that they emit, which is known to interfere with sleep. Lastly,  some soundproofing in your walls could help greatly with reducing noise pollution in your sleeping space.

Diet and Exercise

What you put inside your body matters a lot when it comes to rest. Limiting caffeine and nicotine, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime, proves beneficial. Physical activity during the day, not too close to bedtime,  also promotes better sleep. Remember, the key is to be just tired enough to be sleepy, but not so much that it’s a cause of concern.

Find the Root Cause of Stress

If none of the above seems to be working, it’s likely you have an active problem that needs solving. Trace your stress to its source, and start looking for ways to resolve it. If you are struggling to sleep because of stress about your loans, consider refinancing to a lower interest rate or longer repayment term. Maybe it’s something much simpler, such as some keys you forgot or a renovation that needs to happen soon. Regardless, tackling problems head-on instead of letting them fester makes sleep a lot easier in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the intricate relationship between stress and sleep is a challenge in the modern era. While stress disrupts the delicate balance of sleep patterns, understanding this dynamic offers a path forward. By recognizing the importance of sleep, its patterns, and the effects of its disruption, individuals find the tools to foster healthier sleep habits, benefiting both mind and body.