Stop stress sleeping! Advice from Dr. Arnold

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- We are hitting that time of year when kids are close to the end of school and temperatures warming up so your schedules are filling up. It’s creating a possibly very busy and stressful time; and that's affecting how you sleep.

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine says people who are worried about work, family, money, or anything else, take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often.

As your schedule gets packed, we wanted to talk to Dr. Alicia Arnold about more ways to manage your stress this season.

Stress seems to affect almost everybody in some shape or form, how serious can its impacts to your health be?

“Stress can impact your health in many serious ways,” Dr. Arnold said. “It can affect your body, for example, by contributing to high blood pressure or higher cholesterol which can increase your risk for heart disease. It can affect your mental health as well by increasing anxiety, risk for depression, and affect your ability to concentrate.”

Is there something that affects men or women more that causes them to lose sleep?

“Women more frequently report having trouble sleeping compared to men,” she added. “Some research suggests that the number of women having difficulty with sleep may be close to double men. Women are also more likely to have conditions that can make it more difficult to sleep such as restless leg syndrome. For both men and women, stress can make it more difficult to fall asleep because of stress-induced muscle tension or being unable to calm their mind and thoughts.”

How else does losing sleep impact you?

“Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Being tired can also increase the risk of using behaviors to cope, such as choosing unhealthy foods. Fatigue can make you more reactive to stress too, which can lead to a vicious cycle with lack of sleep.”

Does it take a long time to recoup after a bad night of sleep?

“Statistics say that more than half of women are not getting enough sleep, so there are a lot of us out there who aren't getting enough rest at night. Not getting enough sleep raises your level of the stress hormone cortisol and can raise our blood pressure and even lessen our immune response. For a short term sleep debt, try to add an extra hour or so per night until you've made it up. For a longer running sleep debt, try lightening your schedule for a few weeks and just sleep each night until you wake up naturally.”

Right now is crunch time for a lot of parents. With kids coming home for the summer, they may be helping them study for final exams, or maybe their workload is just picking up…do you have any advice on how to manage your stress levels so you can be productive?

“Make time for yourself, by taking a break or a walk. Seek support, either through spending time with or talking to friends and family. Practicing deep breathing can help you relax by calming your nervous system and lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. Healthy food and regular exercise can help as well.”