Do you get sleep problems due to stress, or does it work the other way around?

Sleep problems and stress have a lot to do with each other. You worry yourself drowsily and therefore it is difficult to fall asleep. As much as you want to sleep, you just can’t. We provide first aid for sleeping problems caused by stress.

Table of contents

What is stress?
How do sleep problems arise?
Lifestyle habits
Menopause complaints
Traumatic experiences
Consequences of sleeping problems due to stress
Tips for dealing with sleep problems caused by stress
Treatment for sleeping problems and stress

What is stress?

It is important to first know what stress is and what exactly it does to you. If you are stressed, you are tense and feel pressure. That tension ensures that you become alert. This is also known as a fight-or-flight response.

All kinds of physical sensations occur, such as:

  • A high heart rate
  • To sweat
  • Redness
  • A restless and agitated feeling
  • Tense muscles

In some cases, stress is good. For example, if you have to meet an important deadline or give a presentation. The stress then ensures that you perform better. Then you release it again.

At the same time, stress is also unhealthy. Especially if you can’t handle it or are always tense, even when there’s no reason for it. It causes you to perform less well and that you are very irritable. We take this stress as a starting point.

How do sleep problems arise?

You probably know that sleeping problems don’t just happen. Stress is by far the main reason. Worrying about your health, work, family, or finances won’t help you fall asleep. In fact, because of the sleeping problems you experience more stress, so that your bed does not become a pleasant place. You associate your bed with poor sleep and feelings of anxiety.

Sleep problems that are most common are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Wake up often
  • Waking up early (and not sleeping through)

Do you suffer from this at least three days a week? And has this been going on for three months? In psychology, we call this an insomnia disorder. Another word for insomnia is ‘insomnia’. You officially suffer from insomnia if you can tick off the following characteristics:

  • You are sleepy during the day and function less well
  • Medicines or drugs are not the cause of your sleep complaints
  • You have no other disorders or conditions that are causing the sleep problems

People who function well despite the lack of sleep do not fall under an insomnia disorder.

A restless night happens to everyone, but lasting sleep problems indicate something serious. In addition to stress, there are many other reasons for sleeping problems. Below we list the most important:

Living habits

Coffee, smoking and alcohol often cause sleeping problems because they keep you awake. In addition, you can suffer from sleep problems if you eat and drink fat or sugary foods before going to bed, or eat nothing at all.

Menopause complaints

Many women suffer from hot flushes around the menopause. These hot flashes (and many other complaints) keep you from sleeping, or cause you to wake up often. In this blog read more about sleeping problems and the transition.

Traumatic experiences

There are, of course, other psychological causes of sleep problems. Sometimes violent events (such as an accident or burglary) cause nightmares and sleeping problems.

Sleeping problems due to stress works like a vicious circle. Once you sleep badly due to stress, you can become anxious to go to sleep. A voice in your head says: ‘there goes another night without sleep.’ This will only make your sleeping problems worse. Stress therefore causes sleeping problems, but sleeping problems can also exacerbate stress.

Consequences of sleeping problems due to stress

Sleeping problems due to stress have unpleasant consequences. Not only for yourself, but also for others. Because of the sleeping problems you will make mistakes, which can sometimes be fatal in traffic.

Other consequences are:

  • Have a short fuse
  • Being forgetful
  • Depressed feelings
  • Physical complaints, such as headaches and back pain
  • Increased risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease
  • Eating more, smoking or drinking coffee

You need enough sleep to maintain your body and mind. However, not everyone with sleep problems due to stress goes to the doctor. Most think they can solve it themselves, or that it will eventually pass. This is certainly not the case with chronic sleep problems due to stress!

Tips for dealing with sleep problems caused by stress

You can do a lot yourself to promote a good night’s sleep. The tips below will certainly help you with that:

1. Have an evening ritual

Are you coming home from work? Then commit to doing one of the following:

  • Take a nice shower
  • Breathing exercises
  • yoga (nidra)
  • An evening walk
  • Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea
  • Put your phone and laptop away
  • Read

Of course it could also be something else. The goal is that you make it as pleasant as possible for yourself, so that you can relax. By regularly planning mindfulness, you make relaxation a habit.

2. State a positive intention

Instead of worrying about whether you’re going to sleep, think the other way around. The phrase ‘I’m going to relax myself really deeply’ often takes some of the pressure off to sleep. Another exercise is expressing what you are grateful for.

3. Write down your worrying thoughts

It doesn’t help if you drag all your worrying thoughts into your bed. It is therefore important to get this out of your head before you go to sleep. Keeping a diary or notebook next to your bed is a good idea. Then you can immediately write down what you are dealing with.

Treatment for sleeping problems and stress

A large proportion of the Dutch suffer from sleep problems due to stress. Medication to sleep better seems like a quick and easy solution, but there are also many disadvantages to this. Not everyone seeks help, but this is sensible if you have chronic sleep problems due to stress. With us you can choose from the following treatment methods:

Online training ‘Sleep naturally’

With our online training ‘Natural sleep’ you can work towards a better sleep in five weeks. During the training you will work with worrying thoughts, control, mindfulness and fear. You can follow this training anytime, anywhere.

Contact one of our psychologists

Of course you can also work together with one of our psychologists. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used treatment method for sleep problems and stress. The goal is to change the thoughts and behavior patterns that disrupt your sleep. We then break through the sleeping problems caused by stress and vice versa. In addition, the focus is on changing sleeping habits.

Do you want to make an appointment with one of our psychologists right away? Then please contact us.

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