How Stress Might Be Affecting Your Sleep

Photo: Pixabay

There is increasing evidence that Britain has a problem with stress, especially in its workforce. According to the report ‘Work-related Stress, Depression or Anxiety Statistics in Great Britain 2017’ published by the Health and Safety Executive, 526,000 workers (1,610 for every 100,000 workers) suffered from stress in 2016–2017, which in turn caused 12.5 million working days to be lost.


Even university students are getting stressed. The BBC Education Correspondent Sean Coughlan writes in ‘Rising Numbers of Stressed Students Seek Help’ that there are “warnings of rising numbers of students struggling to cope with life on campus” and that this sharp increase has caused a greater demand for counselling.


We have covered the many areas of stress in our post ‘Stress!!!!! What Stress??’ We explained that stress to some people is a term that loosely describes their current “busy-ness” in life, but to others, it is a serious problem that has far-reaching ramifications. Stress, for instance, can compromise your relationships with family and friends. It can adversely affect your work and productivity. It can even upset your general wellbeing and functionality.

Photo: Pixabay


Sharon Nichols Keith discussed ‘Slanger Management’ on Leesa and how sleep deprivation “makes people cranky” and lowers their ability “to cope with life’s annoyances.” Even people’s perception of an event or period in life is warped by how much sleep they are getting. Keith then points to a study conducted by Dr. Matthew P. Walker from the University of California, Berkeley, which shows that sleep deprived people are 40% worse at remembering selected words, but only 20% less likely to remember words with negative connotations. This means that when people get less sleep, they tend to recall more negatives rather than focusing on the positives.


But stress affects sleep, too, as it triggers natural mechanisms that tell the body to stay alert and awake even at night. As a result, people who are stressed find it hard to fall asleep, and consequently they often do not get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep. This creates an unhealthy cycle: stress leads to less sleep which leads to even more stress in the long run.


There are many variables that can affect your sleep. The UK Health Centre listed these externals factors: environment, bed/mattress, clutter, light, stimulants, naps, baths, and eating and drinking. These factors are classified as external because you have total control over them, meaning you, yourself, can make the necessary changes that will mitigate the adverse effects of these factors so you can sleep better. You can, for example, adjust the lighting in your bedroom according to your preferences, or buy a comfortable mattress. You can also avoid taking stimulants like coffee, or anything with caffeine 4–6 hours before bedtime. 

Exercise is another external factor that affects sleep. Regular exercise will not only help you sleep, it will have a marked effect on improving your daily stress levels. But other variables can be trickier and harder to navigate. Those with chronic medical conditions like heart complications, liver disease, and arthritis, and people with sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea will have difficulties getting a good night’s sleep, and will likely need medical intervention. Personal issues that cause stress may also be a factor that makes it hard for you to fall asleep.


Stress truly is a serious problem that needs to be addressed accordingly. Those who suffer from it should be open to seeking help from family, friends, and even from various support groups, if the problem continues to worsen.


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