One of the worrisome causes of sleep deprivation is stress induced by personal or professional life. The work stress that individuals go through daily will leave them irritable resulting in a good night’s sleep being a far-fetched dream. Deadlines, productivity and creativity are some of the stressors in the work environment. How do you overcome work stress and sleep better? Experts say managing and finding a way to balance work and life along with maintaining sleep hygiene will improve one’s sleep.
“Everyone experiences some sort of stress at work. But stress can turn into distress when things start to affect mental and physical health, productivity as well as your daily routine,” says Dr Debanjan Banerjee, consultant neuropsychiatrist and sexologist, Apollo Multispeciality Hospital, Kolkata.
A recent study published in Journal of Aging and Health indicated that work-related factors contribute to sleep loss including extended work hours, shift work and negative emotional experiences at work. Individuals engaged in shift work were associated with an increased risk of insomnia symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings and difficulty returning to sleep.
How does stress affect sleep?
While an individual requires seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, Dr Tushar Kant, consultant psychiatrist, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur, says, “Stress triggers the production of hormones like cortisol (stress hormone) which inversely affect the initiation and maintenance of sleep. Individuals under tremendous stress wake up often at night resulting in fragmented sleep. When stress turns to anxiety, few also experience nightmares which include violent and vivid dreams. They wake up earlier than usual and do not feel refreshed.”
How does work stress affect productivity?
If stress is intolerable, it starts affecting the productivity and efficiency of an individual at the workplace. “We see a high rate of absenteeism, difficulty in time management, low productivity at work and poor motivation to work. This impacts physical and mental health, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and body pains, which can all occur due to stress,” said Dr Banerjee.
“It can also affect family health, social relationships, security and confidence. In addition, it can take a huge toll on the digestive system, causing gastritis, indigestion, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS),” he added. Experts say that these symptoms occur when a person experiences long-standing stress at work.
Tips to manage work stress and sleep better
Experts suggest the following coping mechanisms for managing stress, resulting in better sleep:
- Maintaining work-life balance: It is important to maintain work-life balance. One should have designated work and off-time where they can indulge in hobbies and personal interests.
- Taking long walks: Taking long walks for a minimum of 30 minutes refreshes one’s brain and improves hormone regulation.
- Relaxation exercises: In times of high work stress and pressure to meet deadlines, practicing relaxation and breathing exercises can help one to calm down, reducing the production of stress hormones.
- Reducing social media usage: Increased social media usage can cause anxiety and affect personal and social relationships.
- Avoiding gadgets at night: Blue light from gadgets can stimulate the brain and reduce the production of melatonin hormone which is necessary for falling asleep. One should stay away from gadgets at least 30 minutes before sleep.
- Avoiding alcohol consumption: Alcohol or substance use can only relieve stress temporarily and prolonged usage can cause various health issues.
- Spending time with loved ones: Spending quality time with loved ones and discussing the things you are going through can help manage situations better and improve your bond with your family and friends.
- Maintaining sleep hygiene: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeinated beverages after six in the evening, using the bed only for sleeping and keeping a comfortable sleep environment can help in ensuring a good night’s sleep.
- Stress in the workplace is common. However, when it becomes severe, it starts to affect the mental and physical health of individuals, leading to sleep disturbances.
- Experts recommend maintaining work-life balance, being physically active and spending time with loved ones as some of the ways to manage stress and sleep well.