Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Work deadlines, financial pressures, relationship issues, and other challenges bring stress. While a small amount of stress can be motivating, chronic stress takes a toll on both physical and mental health. Getting adequate sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress.
How Does Sleep Reduce Stress?
Sleep allows the body to repair itself and reset for the next day. Without enough sleep, stress hormones like cortisol remain elevated. Ongoing stress disrupts sleep, and a lack of sleep exacerbates feelings of stress – it becomes a vicious cycle. Getting sufficient sleep helps restore balance to the body’s stress response systems.
During sleep, the body produces cytokines, inflammation-fighting proteins that help reduce stress. Abnormal levels of cytokines are associated with health problems like hypertension, diabetes, and depression that are impacted by stress.
Sleep also allows the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking and impulse control, to rest after being active all day. With adequate rest, it is easier to put stresses and worries into perspective. Insufficient sleep leaves the prefrontal cortex exhausted, making stress feel amplified.
How Much Sleep is Enough?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends healthy adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, a third of US adults report getting less than 7 hours. To determine your optimal amount within that range, pay attention to how long you sleep when allowed to follow your body’s signals without an alarm clock. If you consistently sleep 9 hours when free of obligations, aim to get 9 hours each night.
Getting the right amount of sleep for your body allows you to wake up naturally feeling refreshed. Having to force yourself out of bed with an alarm clock suggests you need more sleep. Listen to your body’s signals about how much rest it needs.
While getting enough sleep is critical for managing stress, sleeping too much may also be problematic. Adults should avoid exceeding 9 hours routinely as it could indicate an underlying health condition.
Tips for Getting More Sleep to Reduce Stress
If you struggle to get 7+ hours of sleep regularly, try these tips for getting more high-quality sleep to combat stress:
- Stick to a sleep schedule – Go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day to regulate your body clock.
- Develop a calming bedtime routine – Unwind by reading a book, taking a bath, or doing light yoga stretches. Avoid screens before bed.
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep – Keep the room cool, dark and quiet. Consider blackout curtains and a white noise machine.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day – Caffeine can linger in your system for 8-14 hours. Stop intake by early afternoon.
- Limit alcohol – While a drink before bed may make you fall asleep faster, it leads to poorer quality sleep later in the night as your body metabolizes the alcohol.
- Exercise during the day – Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise daily helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Just avoid vigorous workouts within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
- Manage worries – Jot down a to-do list to empty your mind of any nagging tasks. Practice gratitude, mindfulness, or meditation to quiet racing thoughts.
- See a doctor if needed – If you have ongoing insomnia or excessive daytime fatigue, consult your physician to identify and treat any underlying factors.
Getting on a regular sleep schedule and sticking to a relaxing bedtime routine are essential habits for ensuring you get adequate sleep. When you make sleep a priority, you’ll be better equipped to handle daily stress without being as overwhelmed. Give your body the rest it requires and notice improvements in your mindset and resilience. The investment of time into quality sleep will pay off by bolstering your capacity to deal with challenges and pressures.