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Is stress keeping you awake at night?

Tags: Anxiety , Stress

Is stress keeping you awake at night

We turn the spotlight on the effect stress has on our sleep. We all feel stress at some point in our lives; it’s a natural response in certain situations, such as rushing to catch a train.

However, more serious or long-lasting stress, such as money and job worries, can affect every aspect of our lives.

We don’t all respond to stress in the same way. Some people feel angry and irritable, others feel anxious and may worry about every little thing. Sleeping problems are one of the most common symptoms of stress, and the knock-on effect of poor sleep can affect our health, both physically and mentally, which then affects our work and family life.

Insomnia

Lying awake at night, longing for sleep to come? You may be among the 30 per cent of people in the UK who are affected by long- or short-term insomnia.

“If your stress is causing depression, you may  find that, although you may fall asleep quickly, you wake up earlier the next morning. So you can find that you’re having early morning blues.”

Obstructive sleep apnoea

If you have obstructive sleep apnoea (also known as OSA), it means that every night you snore very heavily, and repeatedly stop breathing for ten seconds or longer. The result is that your blood and brain become short of oxygen, and you wake with a start, taking in deep gulps of air.

Being overweight, male (about 4 per cent of middle-aged men have OSA, compared to about 2 per cent of middle-aged women), over 40, and drinking and smoking are some of the factors that can put you at risk of OSA. Women are at increased risk if they are post-menopausal or obese.

Sleep apnoea can make you irritable or depressed, and can affect your memory and ability to concentrate. OSA can be dangerous as it can cause daytime sleepiness, which can put you at greater risk of falling asleep the following day, for instance while driving or using machinery. OSA is also associated with high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and other conditions. If you think you may have this condition, see your GP.

Sleepwalking

While this is far more common among children, about 4 per cent of adults still sleepwalk. This condition tends to run in families – you’re far more likely to sleepwalk if a close relative does. A number of factors can trigger an episode of sleepwalking, including sleep deprivation and having too much to drink, but the most common is stress.

Sleepwalking isn’t usually dangerous, but if you find someone sleepwalking it’s a good idea to move obstacles out of their way so they don’t fall. Some sleepwalkers walk around the house, move furniture and may even drive their car. Should you wake a sleepwalker? Opinions vary, but the safest approach may be to tell the sleepwalker to go back to bed and make sure they’re settled.

How to get a good night’s sleep

  • Make your own pre-bedtime ritual. This will be personal to you, but could include gentle relaxation exercises, such as stretching, meditation, deep breathing etc.
  • Don’t do anything mentally taxing just before you go to bed. Choose whatever you find soothes you and helps make you sleepy.
  • Make a list of tasks you need to carry out the following day, so you won’t worry about forgetting them.
  • Make your bedroom a calm place to sleep. Clear out the clutter, move the television out and make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable.
  • Keeping a regular routine and going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day is vital for a good night’s sleep.

Keep a sleep diary

Making a record of your sleeping habits and behaviour may help you – and your doctor – to work out what your sleeping problems are and what causes them. Keep a record of any information that might be useful. For instance, you could record when you go to bed, when you get up, how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake in the night.

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