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Tips to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better

It's common to hear people complain about stress. It affects your feelings, your body, and the way you act. The right amount of stress can actually help you. It keeps you alert and full of energy. Too much, though, can harm your quality of life and keep you awake at night.

Even though you might feel frazzled, you may have learned to get by on less sleep than you need. Even so, controlling your stress and thereby improving your rest is good for your health. Better sleep will help you fight infections, boost your metabolism, and cut your chances of getting diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

When Nightmares Won't Go Away

Yael Levy recalls having chronic nightmares as far back as elementary school, when she was living in Israel. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, she says her dreams were filled with images of suffering and death. In one recurrent nightmare, Levy was trapped in a concentration camp, facing death. In another, she was drowning in deep water. At their worst, the nightmares occurred on an almost weekly basis, leaving her jittery and desperately fatigued. "I would wake up so terrified that I was afraid...

Read the When Nightmares Won't Go Away article > >

What Are the Signs?

Stress can show up in different ways. Some common signs -- besides sleep loss -- include depression, tension, anxiety, indifference, work mistakes, and poor focus. You might feel physical signs, too, like headaches and chest, neck, or back pain, upset stomach, fatigue, or loss of appetite.

Tips for Managing Stress

Figure out what’s bothering you: You may already know why you're on edge. But if you don't, take a good look at your situation. Are you overloaded at work? Do you interact with needy or demanding people? Once you know what's causing your discomfort, you can take steps to try to deal with it.

Get the support of friends: Spending time with family and friends is a key buffer. When you share your problems with compassionate people who care for you, you unload tension and get their support. Even if you don't feel like talking, you can find some fun activities to share with your family or friends.

Practice having healthy thoughts: What you think, how you think, and what you expect out of situations can affect how you feel. You can learn to change thinking that creates or worsens bad feelings. One common mistake is to focus on the way things "should" be. (Example: "I should be more productive around the house.") Another mistake is to make broad statements based on one small fact. (Example: "I'm a failure at my whole job because I missed one deadline.") Many CDs and books can teach you how to improve your self-talk. Certain types of counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you focus on more empowering thoughts, too.

Get moving: Exercise has a lot of benefits, including easing stress by letting you blow off tension. Flexible muscles are also less likely to become tense when you're stressed. If you have a medical condition, are over age 45, or haven't been active for a while, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

Eat a better diet: You probably already know how smart it is to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. When you make that shift, you'll have more energy to handle stress.

Lighten your load: Having too many commitments or responsibilities on your schedule can lead to stress. Don't be afraid to ask others for help and to find ways to free up more of your time.

Take steps to improve your sleep: Sleep doesn't always come naturally -- you may have to set yourself up for a full night's rest. Set a regular bedtime and waking up time and stick to them. Before you go to bed, try to wind down with meditation or relaxation techniques.

If your sleep problems persist, talk to your doctor. They can help you address your stress and any underlying causes beyond it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on February 05, 2013

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You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or other conditions affecting your sleep.

Sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping, have insomnia, or have other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep, since sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep because sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's important to keep your bedtime and routine consistent every night and wake up around the same time every morning.

Click here to read more about the importance of sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep this amount, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep longer, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's also important to keep bedtime consistent and wake up around the same time every morning.

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia, another sleep disorder, or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:239.

Carskadon, MA, Dement, WC. Normal Human Sleep: An Overview. In: Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, Fifth, Kryger, MH, Roth, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO 2011. p.16.

Harvard University: "Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety."

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