How stress can affect sleep

A brief review of the association between stress and insomnia

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a disorder in which a person cannot fall asleep, cannot stay asleep, or a combination of these conditions. The end result in all of these cases is that you do not get the restful and refreshing sleep that is essential for your daily well-being.

Anyone can have a night where they do not sleep well, but this does not mean that they have insomnia. They should have symptoms of insomnia for more than 3 nights a week, i.e. it should be regular. They should also have a significant delay in falling asleep, usually more than 30 minutes. And for those who cannot maintain sleep, they should stay awake for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
It has been observed that sleep can be disturbed during certain stressful situations and then return to its normal pattern and duration. Therefore, all of the above symptoms should be present for more than 6 months before insomnia can be reported.

Insomnia and stress

Sleep is an essential daily, and rather nocturnal activity for humans. It has been estimated that about 1 in 3 people have a sleep problem, the most common being insomnia.

Similarly high are the rates of other conditions that can affect sleep, such as depression and anxiety. Stress in everyday life is one of the main factors associated with insomnia. This is because in order for insomnia to develop, there are predisposing factors (e.g. tendency to stress), triggering factors (e.g. work stress) and contributing factors.

It is clear that anxiety about sleep itself is a key factor in maintaining insomnia. The individual may, without realising it, disrupt their sleep schedule by making changes to their daily routine. For example, if one tries to go to bed too early to have more time available or too late to get tired before falling asleep, the result may not be as intended.

Consequently, the night-time symptoms of insomnia may also create symptoms of daytime sleepiness. Thus, the person with insomnia completely associates their daytime functioning with the sleep that preceded it, exacerbating their anxiety and continuing the vicious cycle.

The most important factor in perpetuating insomnia is the very thought of the problem, which does not lead to a solution, but only to anxiety about sleep.

How we can fight insomnia caused by stress?

There are several ways that can help us fight insomnia caused by anxiety and stress. In addition to a good diet and regular exercise, we can incorporate the following into our daily routine:

  • The first step is to identify and treat the main source of stress.
  • Balancing work and private life.
  • Establish relaxing habits before going to bed (e.g. warm bath, foot bath, relaxing music, reading).
  • Adherence to a strict sleep schedule.
  • Regularity in both duration and time of falling asleep and waking up has a significant effect on the quality of sleep.
  • Do not look at the clock during the night, as this causes extra stress.

The purpose of the Onar app is to monitor your sleep data from your connected smartwatch so that it can be analysed by its specialised algorithm. By answering the automated questions, the app can understand you better and make personalised suggestions to improve your sleep.

Onar will soon be available for Android devices.

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