How we cope with stress could be more important to getting a good night’s sleep than the number of things that are causing us stress, according to a major new study.
The report, published in July’s issue of the journal Sleep, found that we were more likely to suffer sleep disruptions or insomnia if we managed stressful situations in our lives poorly. About 3,000 participants were studied and were monitored over the course of one year
Participants who used unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol, and we’re exposed to high stress situations at work, about money or involving family, all showed a higher likelihood of sleeping badly.
“Our study is among the first to show that it’s not the number of stressors, but your reaction to them that determines the likelihood of experiencing insomnia,” said lead author Vivek Pillai.
“While a stressful event can lead to a bad night of sleep, it’s what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia.”
The more things that worried a person, the higher the risk of sleeplessness. The report authors noted that for each additional thing the participants worried about, the chances of developing insomnia rose 19 per cent.
“Increased substance use is associated with tolerance and dose escalation, and a vicious cycle leading to insomnia and substance abuse is set in motion,” the study said. Watching television or a movie was also unhelpful in getting people back to sleep.
Two-thirds of Australians cited work and money as major causes of sleep loss, according to a recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Apart from making us feel sluggish, lack of sleep can affect our judgment, hinder our ability to learn, retain information and increase our risk of suffering an injury.
In the longer term, however, chronic insomnia contributes to a loss of cognitive functions, increased likelihood of heart disease and heart attack, depression, obesity and premature aging of your skin. Failing to sleep also hinders our ability to cope with stress.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, our inability to sleep costs Australia $5.1 billion a year. Out of that, $4.3 billion is “associated to productivity losses and non-medical costs resulting from sleep loss-related accidents”. Of that, $270 million goes to health care costs for the conditions themselves, and $540 million for care associated medical conditions attributable to sleep disorders.
The million dollar question: how can we get better sleep?
Getting a good night’s sleep might not always be easy, but there are things you can do to which give you the best chance of sleeping well. Below is a list of things to do before you head to bed:
• Establish a sleep time for every day of the week and stick to it
• Develop a routine after work that sets your body into sleep mode
• Do not drink caffeinated drinks late in the day
• Turn off your television, computer and cell phone when going to bed
• Don’t check Facebook and social media sites just before you go to bed
• Reduce the amount of light in your eyes during bedtime. Light suggests its daytime
• Use a flashlight to go to the bathroom at night
• Make sure your room is quiet
• Wear comfortable clothes and make sure your bed is comfortable
• Don’t eat before you sleep
• Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink before you go to bed
Interesting in learning more? Read Night School by Richard Wiseman. Buy it here.
For the past sixty years, a small number of scientists have dedicated their lives to studying the sleeping mind. This work has resulted in a series of remarkable techniques that can help people to recognize dangerous levels of sleep deprivation, get a great night's sleep, avoid nightmares, learn in their sleep, take productive power naps, decode dreams, and create a perfect nocturnal fantasy.