Can Stress Cause Insomnia?

A woman with her face in her hands

September 22, 2020 By Mark Hansen


I was just 18 years old when I started having trouble falling asleep at night. It started soon after my parents got divorced. The pressure of keeping my family together and the added tension of applying to colleges would just not let me sleep peacefully at night.

It should come as no surprise that stress can affect your mental as well as physical health and well-being. It affects not only your feelings but also your body and the way it behaves. One of the greatest causes of insomnia is stress that can be caused by several factors like relationship problems, financial issues, work conflicts and traumatic experiences.

In this blog, we will study the relationship between stress and insomnia and see how both conditions affect our minds and bodies.

The Relationship Between Stress and Insomnia

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. Those who suffer from it can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and sometimes even both. In many cases, insomniacs also find it hard to go back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. People who have insomnia tend to wake up too early, usually feeling tired and lethargic. Having insomnia can ruin your mood and affect your productivity levels at work, disturbing your health and quality of life.

Insomnia has become an escalated problem in the United States. Nearly one third of all adult Americans are reported to have said that they get insufficient sleep each night. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders and around 20 million suffer from disturbed sleep patterns and occasional sleep deprivation.

Common Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Waking up too early
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Finding it hard to fall asleep at night
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Feeling irritated very often
  • Difficulty paying attention and focusing on tasks
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Increased chances of mistakes and errors
  • Feeling tired and restless
  • Worrying about sleep
  • Drowsiness

Types of Insomnias

Acute Insomnia

Short-term or acute insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. It usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. It typically occurs when a person experiences a stressful event like the death of a loved one, a break up or is fired from their job. To improve acute insomnia, you might not need excessive therapy or medication. It can be improved by correcting your sleeping habits. Try going to bed early, get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and avoid caffeine and sugar in the morning. Making your health your number one priority can help you recover from it.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a more severe type of insomnia and can last for months. It occurs usually as a side effect or a symptom of other primary problems, such as medical conditions, excessive consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol or sleep disorders, like sleep apnea. Some common ways to get rid of chronic insomnia include going to therapy to talk about stressors causing it, taking prescribed medication, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, exercising regularly, going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding gadgets like cellphones before bed and avoiding heavy meals before bed.

Stress and Insomnia

Stress has been linked to many sleep problems for decades now. Many people have or will experience a time in their life when they have trouble falling or staying asleep because of the circumstances that they are in. The two are linked together regardless of culture, age and geographic location.

Different studies have been conducted all over the world to determine the relationships between insomnia and stress. A study conducted in Sweden found that the risk of insomnia in employees was significantly increased when they were exposed to a stressful work environment. Another study conducted in Japan found out that employees with high levels of stress and fewer rewards were more likely to develop sleeping and anxiety disorders. A study of college students conducted in the United States discovered that stress from family problems contributed more towards the high risk of insomnia than tension from academic pressure.

So how does being stressed out effect us? Scientifically, it can cause certain reactions to take place inside our body, brain, immune system and nervous system. Stress can boost the production of a hormone called endocrine and creates a state of hyperarousal, kicking the mind and body into a state of high alert. This state of high alert is one of the underlying causes of insomnia. For most insomniacs, the state of hyperarousal persists throughout the entire day but at night, it can cause great difficulty in falling asleep.

Not being able to sleep at night is another reason why people feel stressed. So while stress causes insomnia, insomnia can further enable you to become stressed. It is a cycle where both feed off of each other. Health Magazine describes this relationship clearly in their YouTube video titled “How Stress and Insomnia Feed Off Each Other | Health.”





Products That Can Help You Sleep Better

  1. Genius Sleep AID – Smart Sleeping Pills & Adrenal Fatigue Supplement: These sleep aid supplements claim to provide natural stress, anxiety and insomnia relief. Made from natural ingredients, these supplements can help optimize your sleep pattern. The formula of these supplements is backed by a lot of research and relies on amino acids, herbs and caffeine-eliminating ingredients to provide adrenal support and help you sleep better. Rated 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, these supplements are a must have.
  2. Dodow – Sleep Aid Device: Dodow is a light system sleep device that can be kept on your nightstand. It emits lights that you must sync with your breathing pattern when going to sleep. Someone who takes an hour to fall asleep will be able to sleep within 25 minutes with this amazing device, allowing them to gain hundred more hours of sleep per year.
  3. Natural Riches Stress Relief Essential Oil: Made of lemongrass, ylang ylang, tangerine, blood orange and geranium, this essential oil can help calm the mind and the body, uplift mood and stabilize emotions. The calming blend of ingredients can also help relieve anxiety and reduce stress levels. The oil can be used as a massage oil on the entire body. You can also place a few drops on your bed sheets and pillows to help release tension.
  4. thisworks Deep Sleep Pillow Spray: Rated 4.5/5 stars on Amazon, this bestselling product promises to help you fall asleep faster so you can wake up feeling more refreshed. The pillow spray includes chamomile, lavender and vetivert. These ingredients can soothe the mind and reduce anxiety levels. This product is safe for your skin and makes it look rejuvenated in the morning. Talk about beauty sleep!
  5. The Book of Sleep: 75 Strategies to Relieve Insomnia: Written by Dr. Nicole Moshfegh, this book includes dozens of easy and quick strategies to make your bed more comfortable and fall asleep readily at night. Some of these strategies are also said to be more effective than stress and anxiety medication.


Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Insomnia?

Yes. Stressing out or suffering from an anxiety disorder can make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night. There is tension in your body when you are stressed out and while you might not even realize it, your mind and body can feel the tension and as a result, you can suffer from what is an insomnia.

Can Stress Keep You Awake?

Yes! Even though the right amount of stress can increase your focus and make you alert, stressing out too much can keep you awake even when it’s time to fall asleep. Having an anxiety disorder can result in a bad sleep pattern, leading to physical and mental health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night.

How Does Stress Affect Sleep?

Stress causes a boost in the production of the stress hormone called endocrine. This causes a heightened state of alertness, which causes delays in sleep and can also lead to sleep deprivation. The rapid and anxious thoughts we get at night can disturb us significantly, preventing us from getting sufficient sleep .

What Are the Causes of Insomnia?

Following are some common causes of insomnia:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Eating too much before bed
  • Excessive caffeine, tobacco, nicotine and alcohol consumption
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • uncomfortable sleep environment
  • Mental health disorders like PTSD and depression
  • Medical conditions like cancer or chronic pain
  • Medications like antidepressants and asthma medication
  • Sleep apnea
  • Changes in health and sleep patterns
  • Aging
  • Changes in activity patterns

Final Words

In conclusion, stress and insomnia are a vicious cycle. They have a strong relationship. They affect and feed off of each other. If you are suffering from insomnia please:

  • Improve your sleep habits
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and nicotine in large quantities
  • Take care of your stressors (face any problems)
  • Talk it out at therapy
  • Avoid self medication
  • Avoid large meals or beverages shortly before bedtime
  • Use your bed only for sex or sleep
  • Make your room comfortable
  • Limit the number of naps you take
  • Avoid medications that can induce insomnia
  • Exercise regularly
  • Consult a psychiatrist if the problem persists

If you have any more questions about your condition or want to ask anything related to insomnia or mental health, please drop down comments in the comment section below and we will try our best to answer them!