How Does Sleep Reduce Stress: A Comprehensive Guide
So, how does sleep reduce stress? This article explores the connection between the two. Plus, tips on improving sleep quality for better stress management.
We all experience stress.
And while not all stress is harmful — some stress, known as “eustress,” is good for you(1) — chronic, long-term stress causes anxiety and distress. And it has a negative impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.
Unfortunately, chronic stress is on the rise. The good news: there’s an antidote — high-quality sleep.
We wrote this guide so you can get the rest you need to keep this type of stress at bay.
Let’s dive right into answering your question: “Does sleep reduce stress?”
A key way that sleep reduces stress is by decreasing cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a major role in our fight-or-flight response. It also increases heart rate and blood pressure.
But when our bodies don't get enough sleep, cortisol levels can rise. This leads to tons of stress-related issues like weight gain and cardiovascular problems.
Making adequate sleep a priority helps your body control cortisol. This stabilizes the body’s functions, reducing stress and worry. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night helps prevent cortisol issues to keep stress away.
The Immune System and Sleep
Deep and restful sleep is essential to managing and boosting your body's defenses. When you're sick, your body has a lot more on its plate. Your immune system has to kick it up a notch to battle illness.
According to Healthline, when you sleep certain “immune processes” happen. And these are what help you fend off sickness(2). So, to bounce back faster, good zzzs are in order.
Anxiety and Sleep
Lack of sleep can turn on parts of our brain that deal with emotions, which can lead to more anxiety levels. It’s more intense for people who have existing anxiety issues.
It’s true that personal sleep requirements differ. But experts recommend 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep per night for adults. Shortchanging yourself on sleep not only leads to higher stress levels. It also results in sleep deprivation-related issues.
But anyone who cuts back on sleep can experience more stress and poor mental well-being. So, make sure you get enough sleep at night. It’ll make it easier for you to manage and respond to stress the right way.
The Sleep-Stress Cycle
Stress and sleep have a connection where they often influence each other. When you’re stressed, it might be tough to drift off or remain asleep. This leads to a drop in sleep quality and quantity.
When this happens, your stress levels go up, creating an unpleasant cycle. Putting an end to this is essential for stress management and overall wellness.
Establishing good sleep practices and stress reduction techniques will help you get better sleep and reduce stress.
The Impact of Poor Sleep on Health
Poor sleep quality can impact your health in many ways. A lot of the time, they’re similar to the consequences of stress. These include:
A compromised immune system
Putting on weight
Elevated blood pressure
Anxiety, irritability and a low mood
Focus on creating good sleep habits improves the quality of your rest. It lets you tackle what we mentioned above, plus lowers stress levels.
Tips for Better Sleep and Stress Reduction
Establish a Sleep Routine
Developing and sticking to a consistent sleep routine helps your body recognize when it’s time to wind down. You’ll have an easier time drifting off and staying asleep, which are hallmarks of good sleep quality.
Getting enough sleep at the same time every night helps lower stress. So, try to hit the hay and get up at the same time daily, including weekends.
Regular exercise can enhance the quality of your sleep, make you less tense, and give you an energy boost when awake. It can also reduce stress hormone levels. Apart from this, it boosts endorphins, which lift the mood and relax you.
But try timing your workouts to the morning or early evening. Exercising too close to bedtime can increase your heart rate and make it harder to fall asleep.
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Try and avoid using your gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. If you need to relax, consider a book or meditation instead of streaming videos or checking your social feeds.
And here’s why. Sleeping in complete darkness helps you fall asleep faster and prevents frequent awakenings. It also promotes the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Light, on the other hand, tells your body it's time to be up. And that includes blue light from gadgets. It can mess with your circadian rhythm, which is responsible for regulating your sleep-wake schedule.
Watch Your Diet
Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol before bed. They can mess with your sleep cycle and heighten stress. A soothing cup of chamomile tea is a good option.
For better sleep, include foods that contain the following in your diet:
Melatonin-rich foods like goji berries, tart cherries and fatty fish
Foods high in tryptophan such as mushrooms, corn and oats
Dark chocolate, almonds and other foods that contain magnesium
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)
If you suffer from insomnia, one option is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Sleep Foundation says it zeroes in on finding the link between your thought patterns, actions and sleep quality(3).
A skilled CBT-I specialist assists in pinpointing the thoughts, emotions and habits that may be causes of insomnia symptoms. This type of treatment is known to be successful in dealing with this sleep disorder.
The Benefits of Quality Sleep
Improving your sleep quality doesn't just lower stress levels. It also provides other health perks:
Helps You Regulate Your Emotions Better
Getting enough quality sleep helps you stay calm and respond better to negative situations. And that’s because it helps lower cortisol and other stress hormone levels.
Aids in your body’s recovery and repair
Good sleep gives your body a chance to bounce back from daily activities, including exercise. It flushes toxins from the brain and promotes cell growth and repair.
Helps You Form Memories and Process Information
As you sleep, your brain consolidates memories and makes new neural pathways. This helps you learn and retain new info.
Healthier and Younger-looking Skin
Getting good sleep is linked to healthier skin and fewer signs of visible aging. If this is a priority or a source of stress, it may help you feel more confident. So, get as much quality sleep as possible.
Products That Improve Sleep and Reduce Stress
Make sure your bedroom is set up in such a way that it promotes good sleep and relaxation. A dark, cool and quiet environment can improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels. Consider investing in sleep items to help you achieve this in your bedroom.
A thermostat control system helps you achieve the right room temperature for sleep — 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius).
The right pillows and mattresses help keep you comfy. They can also help your spine maintain its natural curvature so you wake up pain-free.
If you live in a noisy area, earplugs are one way of turning down the volume of noise from the outside. (Or even from other parts of your home.)
To help you relax and reduce stress, try guided meditation. There are apps that can help you out, such as Calm, Meditation and Relaxation PRO, and Headspace.
Another way to unwind is with aromatherapy. Essential oils or aromatic candles with calming scents like lavender or chamomile create a peaceful bedroom ambiance. They’re great for relaxing before sleeping.
Finally, wear a sleep mask to block out intrusive light, so you get deep and restful zzzs.
Here are a few of ours that were made for sleeping and relaxing naps.
Manta Sleep Masks
We designed most Manta Sleep masks to block out 100% of light. While others are made especially for napping and relaxation.
Manta PRO Sleep Mask
This sleep mask works great for all positions but is designed with side sleeping top of mind. Sleep while wearing it all night long or for restorative naps.
Manta PRO Sleep Mask features an adjustable strap made from ultra-breathable materials. And C-shaped convex eye cups, each with a smart air bubble that expands as you switch sides to keep out light.
Manta STEAM Sleep Mask
This heated eye mask is ideal for naps. It features near-black out and eye cups that provide warm compression therapy. The cups are filled with beads that heat up in the microwave and stay steamy for over 10 minutes.
Manta STEAM Mask is fully adjustable down to the eye cups. They have a circular indentation at their centers so there’s no direct pressure on your eyes. The steamy heat is great for deep relaxation, dry eyes and clearing the sinuses.
Manta COOL Sleep Mask
This cooling sleep mask is similar to Manta STEAM Mask except it provides cool compression therapy. Pop the cups in the freezer for an hour for cool relief where it counts. We recommend it for naps versus all-night wear as the cups are weighted.
Manta COOL Sleep Mask soothes and refreshes tired skin in your eye area. It also helps with puffy eyes and sinus headaches. Use it to relax after a tiring day to help you unwind before hitting the hay. (By the way, if you often have one, read this post on how to sleep with a headache.)
Tip: Just to add for fans of aromatherapy. Try Manta Aroma Dots. They’re essential oil patches that you can attach to any Manta Sleep mask. Aroma Dots are available in 3 scents: eucalyptus, lavender and bergamot.
So, does sleep reduce stress?
Yup. And understanding its importance in lowering stress levels is a giant step towards a more healthy lifestyle. Prioritize establishing good sleep routines and relaxation techniques to end the sleep-stress cycle.
We hope this article helps you get the quality of sleep you deserve. Let us know if our tips on getting better sleep help you manage stress better. Just drop a comment below.
(1) “What Is Eustress?” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-eustress-3145109. Accessed 02 June 2023
(2) “What to Know About Sleeping When You’re Sick” Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/sleeping-when-sick. Accessed 02 June 2023
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