Alaska Sleep Education Center

How School Stress Affects Your Sleep

Posted by Phoebe Hart on May 13, 2020 8:31:00 AM

Students studying for their upcoming class.

Sleep disorders caused by stress are the most frequent symptoms that you are pushing yourself too hard. But it’s not just insomnia that should be noticed and treated.

There are different (and unfortunate) ways the casual stress and excessive study can affect your sleep. Here are some of them:

  1. Tomorrow will be the same, let’s make it shorter

Excessive sleep can also be caused by chronic stress, even in different ways. Either you just don’t have the energy after a hard day yesterday, spent on looking for legal essays examples to write your paper for you law degree, and wake up still tired - so your body tries to instinctively give yourself more time to recover, treating your state like an illness.

The cause might be psychological: your brain understands that there is lots of unpleasant work ahead and just tries to cheat. The more you sleep the less time you’ll have during the day to exhaust yourself mentally and physically.

But if you sleep too much the tasks that should have been done pile up. This causes even more stress and the cycle goes on and on. This is one of the hardest situations because lots of people treat excessive sleep as laziness or just lack of motivation.

Sometimes it may be even the symptom of something more serious like depression or burnout. Anyway, don’t try to fix it with liters of coffee or energy drink. The paradoxical solution is to sleep more and do less (if it’s completely impossible, consider asking for psychological counselling, it does help with chronic stress!). Gradually you will store enough energy to return to your average pace.

  1. You Can’t Regain HP When Foes Are Around

Despite us living in the twenty-first century some of our brain reactions are still pretty ancient. The famous “fight-flight-freeze” response to danger is the thing we share with our ape ancestors, other mammals, birds and even reptiles. We can’t just overcome the billions of years of evolution and our hormonal calls.  When you got to go, you got to go.

We respond to our deadlines and exams - that our brain considers a dangerous event - in the same way the first human tribes responded to the sight of a Sabretooth tiger. But they had one major advantage: their threat had a physical embodiment. They had a tiger to fight or to flight from. We don’t. And it drives our primal brain mad: it’s an INVISIBLE TIGER! Will you sleep in a room with an invisible tiger around? Probably no.

The legit way to get rid of that hormonally-induced sleep disorder is to give our ancient part of the brain what it wants. Do some physical exercises to satisfy your “fight” response, run around your house or cover yourself with a blanket to “hide” in a safe space. This will quickly lower the level of stress hormones in your blood and let you sleep peacefully.

  1. I’ll close my eyes just for a minute

When you try to squeeze everything at once into your schedule, there is not much room for sleep left. Some people compensate for it with short naps, but such fractured sleep isn’t good for everyone.

Our sleep consists of several phases. To feel better we should complete all the sleep cycles, giving our brain the possibility to sort the new memories and regain mental energy. Some people can do it during short periods of sleep (if their cycles are short by themselves), but lots of people can’t fully rest and feel equally (or even more) tired than they were before having a nap.

Now there are lots of “sleep trackers” that allow you to control your sleeping phase and measure the minimal time you need to have an effective sleep. Try to use them if you still prefer to have naps instead of one long sleep.

  1. Why “Owls, be Larks!” doesn’t work that way

Our sleep hygiene is somewhat determined by our lifestyle, but it is also genetically predefined. The owls were an evolutionary improvement for humanity as a species - they worked as night sentinels, guarding the sleeping larks and chasing off the night predators. The gene responsible for our biological clock settings is even called CLOCK. And there is not much that can be done with it - expecting an owl to become a lark is like waiting for them to change their natural hair color.

You may try to shift your biological clock a bit - but reverting it completely is a long and painful process. If you are an owl in the world of larks, just accept it and try to make your schedule more comfortable. It is fine to do your home tasks at night and ask to attend classes with the other groups, in the afternoon.

Sleep is our resource that is as important as food or shelter. We underestimate the meaning of sleep and its role in our life. It becomes the first thing we sacrifice in the name of good marks. But you deserve a good sleep - and good marks too. We do believe that you’ll manage to combine these things.

In conclusion

There is a direct correlation between eight hours of good sleep and a student's stress level. What is more, it is important to adhere to regular sleep time patterns. The lack of good and regular sleep affects not only students’ moods but also their health condition and performance.

The importance of sleep cannot be overestimated and there is even such term as “sleep efficiency” that stands for the quality of sleep. Without the “efficient” sleep, good performance simply cannot be achieved. And even though there are thousands of cases proving this, the need for good sleep often remains ignored.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is the only sleep lab in the state of Alaska with a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep, Dr. Angie Randazzo.  If stress if affecting your sleep and your stress level, call Alaska Sleep Clinic today to speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.

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Topics: school, stress, sleep hygiene

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