If you find that you have high levels of stress and are not getting enough sleep, you are not alone. Many of the stressors we face in our daily lives, such as conflicts in our relationships, work stress, and traffic jams can trigger our stress response. We can have a fight-or-flight response, and prolonged exposure to this stress without any relaxation can result in poor quality sleep and sleep apnea stress. There are many strategies to improve sleep quality and duration and cope with chronic stress. I have personally found some of these very helpful and hopefully some may also work for you if you are dealing with stress and sleeping issues!
What happens when you have chronic stress?
When you experience a perceived threat that is physical or psychological or real or imagined, your hormonal stress response gets triggered, creating a cascade of physical events. These changes lead to the release of glucocorticoids like cortisol by the endocrine system. The release of cortisol and other stress hormones creates a burst of energy that allows you to fight or run from a real and present danger that triggers your response.
A normal stress response involves a quick cortisol spike followed by a rapid decrease once the stressful event has occurred. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the central nervous system is largely responsible for this increase and decrease. The HPA axis also plays an important role in modulating the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Prolonged stress levels have been correlated with HPA axis hyperactivity, decreased sleep duration, and reduced REM sleep and delta power. This leads to poorer quality sleep, impaired memory, and poorer mood regulation, which can, in turn, lead to more stress.
Sleep apnea stress
Sleep apnea is a largely undiagnosed condition. Around 80-90% of individuals with sleep apnea do not know they have it. This could lead to problems when doctors try to treat related conditions. For example, sleep apnea often underlies medication-resistant hypertension and post-stroke dementia. Sleep apnea is also a high-risk factor for re-hospitalization after treatment. After a diagnosis for a related medical or psychological condition, talk to your doctor or seek an outside opinion on sleep apnea. This can help you get more effective treatment and help you get and stay healthy.
Stress is an important risk factor for sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) involves physical causes, and central sleep apnea (CSA) involves causes related to the nervous system. Individuals with OSA who have been prescribed with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy often have sleep apnea caused by physical factors and not from stress or other lifestyle issues. However, even if you are on CPAP therapy, it is still recommended that you follow the basic guidelines for general sleep health (R). These guidelines include minimizing stress.
Stress can affect your overall health
Chronic stress plays a definite negative influence on physical and mental health, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression and autoimmune disorders. People who do not manage their stress levels are at high risk of unhealthy behaviors, including smoking and alcohol abuse, poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. They might also present low compliance to the treatment for their pre-existing conditions.
It is essential to understand that stress must be dealt with, in order to avoid long-term health-related consequences. Effective management should concern not only the situations leading to stress exposure but also finding the most effective coping strategies. Apart from altering the relationship with the environment, one must also learn coping strategies to become more resilient to stress (R).
Health apps, such as CareClinic, are considered useful complementary tools in addition to various therapies and interventional programs. It motivates people to adopt healthier behaviors and evidence-based strategies for managing stress and sleep apnea stress (biofeedback, emotional feedback, acupressure, hypnosis, massage, yoga, tai chi).
Sleep apnea stress management
If your sleep problems are being compounded by stress, stress management techniques before bed can be helpful in reducing stress and improving sleep. Coping with stress can take many forms, and can involve emotional engagement or emotional disengagement. Different management methods may work best for different people – you can find what works best for you!
Keeping a stress diary
CareClinic’s health app can be used as an effective stress diary, allowing you to record the way you feel and potential stress relief solutions. For example, many people who have stressful jobs find that meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing are helpful. Others may also find cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques and coloring or art activities (R).
I have used app to record how I feel every day, especially when stressful situations occur in my life. I found that reviewing my daily diary entries is very helpful. CareClinic helps me to get a better idea of my mental health, stress triggers and causes for poor sleep. This app also assists me in finding the best solutions to improve my health and well-being.
Sleep apnea stress monitoring
With the help of the stress log, you will be able to see how stress has affected your life over a specific period of time. The CareClinic app can also be used to set goals, such as those for stress relief, allowing you to concentrate on the specific measures that can be taken to reduce your stress.
You should not put too much pressure on yourself and start small. Add a goal for each day and reward yourself for succeeding. The end goal should not be exclusively about stress relief. You should strive to become happier and fulfilled from an emotional point of view.
By using the CareClinic health app, you can record stressful events and, thus, easily identify factors causing chronic stress. Once you know which factors are causing you the most stress, it will be simple to resort to effective coping strategies. You can rate your everyday stress levels and see how these change over a specified period of time.
Many people are stressed because of their jobs, either because they have an increased workload or tight deadlines, or as a result of poor time management, inadequate work conditions or being discriminated. Failed personal relationships, chronic conditions and the lack of satisfaction can also lead to stress (R).
With the help of CareClinic, you will see which major life events have affected you the most. For instance, there are a lot of people who developed a stress disorder after having lost their partner, experienced financial difficulties or had to take care of a sick family member. Fear and uncertainty often make stress worse, as well as a negative attitude on life (R).
Tracking your stress and mood
CareClinic is a very useful stress tracker, helping you see when you are more stressed or relaxed. As you continue to track your mood, you will be able to see a general tendency and even a pattern in your stress level changes.
From a different perspective, the stress tracker app will help you understand that there are a lot of moments in which you felt perfectly fine, relaxed even. For this reason, it is important to take your time and record not only the moments that seem difficult or when your stress level is at its maximum. You can also record positive experiences and these will help you see the bigger picture. You can identify which factors help you deal with your stress.
The mood tracking feature in CareClinic is important, it allows you to become more aware of your feelings and when stress occurs in relation to various situations. You will figure out the connection between a particular life event and your mood, discovering more effective stress management strategies.
Sleep meditation for stress
Meditation for stress relief can help with reducing sleep apnea stress and insomnia due to chronic stress. If stress is keeping you awake and affecting your sleep, sleep meditation for stress can help.
Mindfulness is important. Shortly before bedtime, try a relaxation strategy that incorporates mindfulness, such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. All of these methods can increase your sleep time and quality.
Decreasing your screen time can also help with improving sleep. The blue light emitted by digital devices such as TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets can offset your body’s internal clock. Therefore, you may find benefits in avoiding devices and screen light before bedtime, which can help reduce stress.
Drinking tea can also help reduce stress. Taking a hot bath or shower is also very relaxing and the warmth may help to induce sleepiness.
Relaxation music for sleep stress and anxiety relief
Music therapy uses sound and rhythm to reduce stress and increase anxiety relief. For people who have problems with sleeping and sleep apnea stress, listening to relaxation music for sleep stress and anxiety relief is helpful.
Relaxation music for sleep stress and anxiety relief stimulates the limbic system. This is the central station in the brain for our feelings. People listening to classical music did recreate the structure and meaning of the music in their limbic systems. At the same time, the limbic regions release dopamine when listening to music, which is known as the happiness hormone.
Relaxing music is what makes us feel at home before sleeping. We can also affect our well being with the help of the right environment. We have a way to create the perfect home environment for sleep through music.
Mediation music for meditation practice may also help you reduce stress and fall asleep. It can serve to neutralize external disturbing sound sources. It can also help to let go of thoughts and worries while concentrating on the sounds during your meditation sessions before bedtime.
Other methods for reducing stress to improve sleep
Another method is picturing yourself asleep. By envisioning yourself in a peaceful sleep, you will instantly put yourself in a state of relaxation.
While exercising right before bed can sometimes keep you awake, gentle leg exercises are unlikely to negatively affect your sleep. Low energy exercises such as leg lifts and squats help bring blood flow down to your legs. This can have a soothing effect and make it easier to drift off.
Exercise is a great stress reliever and has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. You should make sure that you do not do more intense workouts close to bedtime.
When your mind is racing and full of concerns and worries, it can be hard to fall asleep. Instead, set aside 15 minutes during the day to process these thoughts. Writing a to-do list or thinking about solutions can be a healthy way to deal with stress. Thinking about your to-do list and worries earlier in the day can help you fall asleep easily. You will keep a clear mind before bedtime through this method.
Using CareClinic to reduce sleep apnea stress
You can use the CareClinic app as more than a stress tracker diary. The CareClinic app is a complex tool, which can be used to break off the cycle of negative thinking and manage stress at your own pace. Reducing your stress can help with improving your sleep duration and quality. You can use the app to track your progress and record new solutions for stress relief, such as positive visualization.
With the help of the CareClinic app, you can pay more attention to your mood, emotions and feelings throughout the day. You will notice situations that cause you to become stressed and how certain triggers cause behavioral patterns to appear.
The CareClinic app helps you understand your thought processes, emotions and causes for your sleep apnea stress. It is possible to modify your behavior and reduce not only stress but also anxiety levels. When you learn to think in a more balanced way and eliminate negative thoughts, you can also improve your overall quality of life.
As you will discover and record effective coping strategies, you will also find it easier to make healthier choices and change both your behavior and lifestyle. You will improve overall stress resilience and emotional wellbeing.
Thought diary and coping strategies
When dealing with stress, many people, such as myself have a tendency to internalize their feelings! They hide their anger and frustration until they begin to suffer the consequences. Using a thought diary, you can easily express your feelings and reduce the risk of such problems hitting you later on.
Seeing your thoughts transported onto the screen, you will be able to detach from them and think with clarity. This can help improve your sleep duration and quality. You might also notice that you are more stressed when feeling pressured, or that you have trouble accepting negative emotions. Based on your entries, a monthly report will be created and you can share that with your therapist, making genuine breakthroughs.
These reports can be more useful than you might think. When you go to therapy, you get to spend one hour, or perhaps two, with the therapist. During that time, you will have to relate how you have been feeling over the past few weeks. It can be difficult to remember every useful piece of information, so referring to your CareClinic health app can help you a lot with this.
You can also use the app to record potential coping strategies and stress-relieving solutions. When needed, you can review these and opt for the one that suits you the best in that specific moment. You can record breathing and relaxation exercises, as these will help you overcome the “fight-or-flight” response that occurs in stressful situations.
It is also important to understand that a huge part of stress management requires that you learn how to cope with stressful situations. You need to address risk factors as well, including smoking & alcohol, sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression. With the help of CareClinic, organizing a comprehensive intervention plan and following it becomes easier.