Stress Management: I’ll Have Some Sleep with That Part 1

stress_11Is it just a coincidence that workplace stress is so prevalent in our chronically sleep-deprived society? Or is there a connection that we have been too tired to notice, let alone act upon? Let’s face it: We work hard, our stress levels are rising, and we are sleeping less. The frenetic pace of our demanding, 24/7 lifestyles is leaving us frazzled, multitasking, working more, beholden to our electronic devices, and either unable to find the time to sleep or too stressed out to fall asleep. As a result, many of us end up trapped in an insidious cycle of escalating stress and exhaustion that is negatively impacting every aspect of our lives.

Stress and Sleep: The Perfect Storm

Workplace stress combined with inadequate sleep is a recipe for disaster. Increasingly, research indicates a reciprocal relationship between sleep and stress (especially work stress) that creates the potential for a vicious cycle. The more stressed work leaves us, the harder it is to sleep. The harder it is to sleep, the less sleep we get. The less sleep we get, the more stressed we become and the less able we are to respond appropriately to the stressors in our lives. The stress and exhaustion combine to further undermine how we cope, think, feel, perform, react, make decisions, and problem solve, further impairing us.

Workplace Stress: American Style

Numerous studies show that the workplace is by far the major source of stress for American adults. According to the 2013 Work Stress Survey, stress in the workplace is rising, and more than eight in ten employed Americans said they are stressed out on the job. A mere 17 percent of workers polled said that nothing about their jobs causes them stress.

Prolonged or constant stress can be detrimental to performance, productivity, safety, and quality of life. Workplace stress can leave us unmotivated, unable to concentrate, irritable, dissatisfied with our jobs, anxious, depressed, and unable to sleep. Studies have shown that workplace stress increases the risk of health problems, including weakened immune systems, hypertension, and heart disease. In terms of healthcare expenses, workplace stress-related health problems carry a hefty price tag, which by some estimates has exceeded $180 billion.

Sleep: You Gotta Get It

Sufficient sleep is not a luxury, but a biological need, and for the majority of adults, that means 7–9 hours of shuteye per night. (Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to function at your optimum level on less sleep than needed.) As if workplace stress and demands and the toll they take on us aren’t enough, we live and work in a culture that applauds burning the candle at both ends, respects long hours, and expects constant contact, all while glorifying sleeplessness. As a consequence, too many of us disrespect or ignore the critical need our minds and bodies have for sleep—or we just don’t make time for it—and this renders us increasingly vulnerable to the serious problems that accompany lack of sleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 50 to 70 million adults suffer from chronic sleep loss. As workplace stress levels continue to rise, the hours of sleep the average American gets each night continues to decline, with too many of us sleeping only 6.5 hours a night during the work week. A survey conducted by Virgin Pulse of 1,139 employees from three companies in the U.S. revealed that 76 percent of workers felt tired many days of the week, with 15 percent falling asleep during the day at least once every week.

Compounding the problem is that sleep deprivation sets a trap for the unsuspecting stressed and sleepless among us. We fail to notice when sleep deprivation causes our performance to plummet. However tired we are, we think we’re fine—but we’re not. In effect, our sleep loss impairs our prefrontal cortex, and we simply don’t “see” just how our performance is negatively impacted by our sleep deficiency. In effect, if we don’t get sleep, we just don’t get it.

Similar to the negative consequences of stress, sleep deficits result in an increase in stress hormones and appetite, an impaired metabolism and immune system, impaired performance, accidents, relationship problems, an inability to focus and problem solve, and mood problems like anger and depression. Conversely, sufficient sleep provides us with resilience, improved physical and emotional health, clarity of thought, improved problem solving, motivation, improved outlook, positivity, and mental toughness—all effective countermeasures to stress and its unwanted consequences.


Blogger: Terry Cralle

Sleep Health and Wellness Professional / BSC Spokesperson Terry Cralle, RN, MS

Sleep Health and Wellness Professional / BSC Spokesperson
Terry Cralle, RN, MS


  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post! It was very interesting and I really enjoyed reading it..It was very helpful..

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