5 Ways to Deal with Stress-Related Insomnia

Contributed by Sarah Johnson of Tuck Sleep Foundation. See below for more information.

Insomnia can develop for any number of reasons, from a medical condition to trauma or stress. The trouble with insomnia is that sleep deprivation makes it more difficult to deal with stress in a healthy way. It can become a vicious cycle that’s tough to escape. There are proactive steps that you can take to reduce the stress that leads to sleepless nights. As you work on eliminating sleep deprivation, you’ll find your ability to handle day to day stress increases.

1. Try a regular yoga routine. There are many benefits of yoga. While it builds muscle tone, strength, coordination, and flexibility, it also has incredible benefits for the mind as well. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and inflammation in cancer patients and nurses. It also leads to improved moods and an increase in positive self-perception. When performed before bed, it can relieve tension in the muscles for better relaxation.

2. Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. Like yoga, mindfulness meditation has a direct effect on the mind and body. Mindfulness meditation focuses on training the mind to stay in the present moment. It uses deep breathing techniques and sometimes guided imagery to reduce thoughts of the past and future, which often cause stress and depression.  

3. Establish a bedtime routine. The body thrives off on routine. Circadian rhythms, which control the sleep-wake cycle, rely on daily cues to signal the start and end of the sleep as well as other critical biological functions. Establishing a regular bedtime routine helps the brain recognize when it’s time to start the release of sleep-inducing hormones. Any relaxing activity can become a part of a healthy bedtime routine, including yoga or meditation. Perform the activities at the same time and in the same order each night for the best results.

4. Write down your worries. Some people benefit from writing about the thoughts or circumstances that are troubling them. Writing in a journal often gives you time to reflect on events from the day. It also provides a way to reevaluate your feelings and actions. Many people write down their concerns for the next day, too. It’s almost like giving yourself permission to forget about those worries by leaving them in a journal.

5. Turn off your screens. The bright blue light from televisions, smartphones, laptops, and e-readers sends your brain an “awake” signal that can suppress the release of sleep-inducing hormones. This interference in the sleep-wake cycle may leave you up for hours. Turning off the screens an hour before bedtime leaves enough time for your brain to stay on schedule.

It’s important to create optimal sleep conditions to help you not only fall asleep but stay asleep. Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary where it’s quiet and dark at night. Blackout curtains or heavy drapes may be necessary to block out both sound and light.

Body temperature falls in preparation for sleep and a cool room, somewhere between 60-68 degrees, prevents a rise in body temperature and premature waking. If a lumpy or sagging mattress causes you to wake at night or leaves you sore and achy in the morning, it’s time to look for a new mattress or a mattress topper.

As you implement the stress-reducing steps into your life and focus on getting more sleep, hopefully, you’ll find yourself feeling energized and ready to handle what the day brings.

"Eternal Insomnia," by  Quinn Dombrowsky,  via Flick,  Creative Commons    

"Eternal Insomnia," by Quinn Dombrowsky, via Flick, Creative Commons


Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.