Stress Can Cause Insomnia

According to a recent study, stress can cause insomnia depending on how it is managed. The researchers involved discovered that the usual ways people cope with stress can often be the most harmful, and in turn can raise their chances of developing insomnia. The study suggests that modern therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy or meditation can help reduce stress more effectively and without risk of developing insomnia.

The researchers came to the conclusion that dealing with stress through behavioral disengagement or using drugs and alcohol can significantly increase the odds of getting insomnia. They also discovered that using the coping technique of self-distraction, like watching television or going to the movies, was also a large factor in the relationship between insomnia and stress. Furthermore, recurring thoughts about the stressor showed increased levels of insomnia, accounting for 69 percent of the stress exposure to sleep deprivation.

The study revealed that the likelihood of getting insomnia is not dependent upon how many stressors one has, but rather, how the stressors are dealt with. Even though a stressful event can lead to a lack of sleep for a night or so, what a person does to deal with the stress can be the deciding factor between a few nights of unrest and chronic insomnia.

The study involved 2,892 people from a community that had no lifetime history of insomnia or current sleep issues. The participants recorded the amount of major life stressors they had experienced within the past year such as a serious illness, divorce, financial issues or the death of a spouse. They were also required to report the perceived severity of stress from the event, as well as the duration of the stress. Questionnaires were given to the participants in an effort to identify coping methods that the participants had used in the first seven days following the stressful event as well as measure their levels of cognitive intrusion.

A follow-up assessment was given a year later to identify which of the participants had insomnia disorder, which is considered as having insomnia symptoms that occur at least three nights a week for the duration of one month or more, as well as daytime impairment or distress. The study is a reminder that stressful events and other life changes can often cause insomnia. However, the way a person reacts to stress and changes can either reduce or increase their risk for getting insomnia disorder, which only helps feed the stress.

If a person is feeling overwhelmed or stressed about certain events in their life, they can talk to their doctor about strategies that can be implemented to reduce stress levels and improve sleep. According to researchers the study was able to identify potential participants that could be helped the most through therapeutic intervention and by learning healthy coping methods in an effort to improve the way they deal with stress and reduce the risk for insomnia. The researchers noted that mindful meditation based therapies have been linked to considerable suppression of cognitive intrusion and better sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine mentioned that sleep deprivation and insomnia disorder lasting no more than three months was more prevalent in women than men and occurs in 15 to 20 percent of all adults. Although people can not change or control external events, they can choose how to react to them. One can ease the burden of cognitive intrusion by reacting in healthy, positive ways and reduce their risk of insomnia caused by the onset of stress.

By Laura Simmons

The British Psychological Society

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