Alaska Sleep Education Center

Battling Sleep Deficits During Stressful Times

Posted by Beau Peters on Nov 26, 2020 2:10:00 AM

Women trying to get to sleep.

It’s no secret that stressful times can make for poor quality sleep. Even if you spend a solid eight or nine hours per night in your bed, if your mind is filled with anxiety and concerns, it can undermine the effectiveness of your rest and leave you feeling exhausted when you finally roll out of bed each morning 

The ongoing pandemic has only served to exacerbate individual stress and concerns. Unemployment, fear of sickness, and lack of social interactions are leaving many feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally drained.

With that in mind, here are some of the best ways that you can combat poor sleep and catch up on any sleep deficits that you may be facing as you navigate the ongoing stress.

Why Sleep is So Important

If you hear that sleep is important, it’s easy to nod in agreement — and then completely forget the conversation. However, if you’re going to truly address your sleep concerns, it’s important to gain a solid understanding of what exactly is on the line each time you lay down and close your eyes. When you become sleep-deprived, it doesn’t just mean you’re a little tired. When it takes place, a serious lack of sleep can significantly impact everything that you do.

And this doesn’t just apply to stereotypical examples, like a parent going through temporary sleep loss after they have a baby. It can impact anyone. For instance, when a student suffers from serious sleep deprivation:

  • Connections in your brain literally can fail to function correctly.
  • Things like learning new information and memory recall can become challenging.
  • Creative thinking becomes elusive.
  • Your attention, focus, judgment, mood, and motivation can all suffer.
  • It becomes easier to grow irritated.
  • Anxiety and depression can spike.
  • Physical concerns can flare up, such as an impaired immune system.

Why are all of these potential consequences of prolonged poor sleep? Because you use your time of rest to strengthen your immune system, sync up your brain, repair your body, and so on. In other words, sleep is your body’s chance to reorder itself and conduct a “hard reset” for the next day.

Naturally, then, if you give your body interrupted, broken up, poor quality sleep, it’s going to struggle to properly calibrate and heal.

How to Get Your Sleep Back on Track

If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder, profound depression, or even simple, run-of-the-mill stress caused by your current circumstances, you must make an effort to ameliorate the situation. Here are a few crucial steps that you can take to get your sleep back on track.

Learn to Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

It’s generally recommended that the average adult should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If your current situation doesn’t allow for this, it’s easy to develop an apathetic attitude towards your sleep, since you can’t get enough of it, anyway.

However, if you truly want to address your sleep concerns, it’s important to properly understand the importance of sleep quality and quantity. Not only do you want to get enough sleep, but that sleep should take place in a dark, undisturbed space — i.e. a bedroom that is reserved for sleep and sleep alone. This is important to understand, as it gives you something to work toward, even if you can’t find enough hours to sleep each night.

Remember, It’s All About the Schedule

Maintaining a good schedule is one of the best ways to facilitate deep, restful, unbroken sleep. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to force yourself to go to sleep at the same time every night. However, maintaining a sleep routine can certainly help you restore a sense of calm and consistency to your sleep habits.

This can also be seen as an encouragement to treat sleep as a priority when considering your morning and evening activities, as well. A few suggestions to develop a healthy routine include:

  • Setting rough parameters for when to go to bed each night (such as between 10 P.M. and 12 A.M.).
  • Conducting strenuous exercise, such as working out or jogging, earlier in the day. This creates a greater need for rest without doing so too close to bedtime when the sudden increase in activity can wake you up.
  • Avoiding caffeine later in the day as well as bright screens within two or three hours of going to bed.
  • Creating daily habits — such as getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and reading a book — that can help your mind shut down when it’s time to sleep.

By setting up a sound schedule, you can gently coax your mind and body into a restful state each night.

Maintain the Right Perspective

Your attitude towards your sleep is a critical aspect of its resulting quality (or lack thereof). As you set up routines and stick to new schedules, strive to also cultivate a positive attitude towards your sleep. You can help calm your mind and focus your thoughts in a positive direction by:

Throughout these activities, it’s important to remember that the goal is to approach your sleep as a blessing, a positive factor, and a chance to rest and recuperate — rather than a dreaded way to end each day.

Manage Your Stress

If anxious thoughts and stress are keeping you up at night, you can address the root of the issue by looking for ways to manage your stress. To do this properly, it’s important to start with the understanding that stress is a normal part of life. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing stress and strain.

This is an essential understanding, and it can help you treat stress as something to manage, rather than a problem to eliminate. As you approach your stress with a management perspective, try to identify different areas that cause you stress.

Some of these are unavoidable, such as caring for children or paying bills. However, even then, pinpointing them can help you control your reaction to them. As you identify inevitable stress points, try to consider how you approach each one and look for cognitive distortions that may be negatively coloring your view.

As you consider your situation, you’ll likely find other stressors that you actually can remove. For instance, if you have a toxic friendship, you can reduce your contact with that individual. If you’re constantly being confronted with misinformation online that you have difficulty disputing or is hard to ignore, cut out your social media activity altogether, or before bedtime at the very least.

Whether it comes from identifying mental distortions or removing barriers to relaxation, there are multiple ways that you can manage stress in your life.

Turning Your Bedroom Into a Sacred Space

Sleep deficits can be difficult to live with. However, they can be overcome if you’re willing to approach your sleep deprivation with a calm, strategic, and rational mindset that is focused on getting the highest quality of sleep possible out of your current situation.

From setting up schedules to maintaining perspective and managing stress, there are many ways that you can strive to prioritize not just the quantity but the quality of your sleep, even when times are tough.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Time to wake up for a beautiful woman sleepingReduce stress in yourself and others. Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.

When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.

Learn more about taking care of your emotional health at emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp.

Fight the Covid-19 with Sleep 

When it comes to your health, sleep plays an important role. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to colds and viruses.  Even the US military knows and researches how important sleep is for active military and us all.

Amidst growing concern about COVID-19 infection, health officials have provided several recommendations to help individuals protect themselves and their families from infection, including washing hands regularly and maintaining a distance of at least six feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Fortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests that an additional lifestyle modification could also dramatically improve your odds of avoiding infection – getting more sleep.

Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia

Topics: sleep hygiene, anxiety, sleep loss, managing stress

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