Stress and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand. It can be hard to know how to improve your sleep when you’re stressed and how to reduce stress when you’re having trouble sleeping.

Some reasons why you might not be sleeping well if you’re feeling stressed out:

  • Fast Paced Mind / Racing Thoughts: Busy days, many responsibilities, and the stress of a fast-paced life can make it hard to slow down and “turn your brain off” at the end of the day, which can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult.
  • Caffeine: Associated with interrupting deep sleep, caffeine can cause low-quality sleep and make you more susceptible to stress, less effective at managing stress, and less capable of establishing healthy sleep patterns.
  • Overscheduling: If you find yourself pushing your bedtime back further and further to get things done or getting up earlier so you can be more productive, you may not realize the toll it’s taking on your sleep and susceptibility to stress.
  • Anxiety: Falling asleep and staying asleep can be extremely difficult if you’re dealing with anxiety. It can rob you of sleep by keeping stress hormones at a high level and making quality sleep much harder to achieve.
  • Cortisol: When you’re stressed, the stress hormone cortisol, along with adrenaline, helps keep you alert and focused to respond to a threat or stressor. When you’re trying to relax, however, it can often disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Establishing a routine that helps the mind and body wind down at the end of the day helps you prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Some strategies that might help you become more relaxed before you go to sleep:

  • Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, including weekends! Sleeping more than 1-2 hours more on the weekend can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms, so a regular wake schedule is important.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bed time routine such as soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. It’s best to finish your workout at least 2 hours before bedtime, as exercising before you sleep can leave your body too energized to relax.
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.) 3-4 hours before bedtime. It can keep you awake.
  • Avoid nicotine. Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol use close to bedtime. It can interrupt sleep and interfere with the quality of your sleep. It can also magnify the effects of sleep deprivation.

Resources:

The UGA Health Center (UHC) wants to support you in succeeding and enjoying your experience at UGA. Experts at UHC offer knowledge and programs concerning stress management and college life.

Written by: UHC CAPS and Communications