The impact of stress hormones on sleep
Everyone has different sleep cycles, and different factors that may affect their sleep. However, a common culprit for disrupted sleep patterns is stress and anxiety. If you have a lot of things on your mind, this can lead to racing thoughts, a feeling of restlessness, and inability to relax enough to either fall asleep, or stay asleep.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, then you may also find that you’re able to get to sleep, but that when you do – you have long, intense dreams and still wake up feeling tired. Currently, the question of ‘why we dream’ is still largely unanswered, but one common theory is that dreams are the body’s way of trying to work through difficult or complicated experiences of emotions.
So, if you’re feeling particularly worried or anxious, then these fears may manifest into disturbing or unsettling dreams – some of which may be recurring. The reason that we may wake up feeling tired when this happens is because during the dream phase of sleep (also known as REM sleep), our stress hormones remain elevated.
These stress hormones (such as cortisol) are involved in the fight or flight response that we feel when we’re afraid, and make it quite difficult to rest and relax.
The impact of cabin fever on sleep
‘Cabin fever’ is the term people use to describe how they feel when they are going stir crazy indoors and feel like they need to get out. We usually feel like this when we’re no longer being stimulated by our surroundings, and/or when we feel trapped in them. Taking these feelings of boredom and frustration to bed with us can negatively affect our sleep.
For example, if your working patterns or environment have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be tricker to separate work and home life, and switch off properly.
When this happens, we can enter a new state of “alertness” at home, making it harder to relax when the time comes. You may also find that if you’re doing less physical activity throughout the day, then you simply aren’t tired enough to get to sleep at night.