How to Deal With Stress-Related Insomnia

These tips can help you fall asleep easier

Woman resting in bed

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Are you so stressed about finances, your job, a relationship conflict, or another issue that you're experiencing insomnia? At any given time, about one-third of adults have insomnia in some form. Although these sleep issues aren't always due to stress, when the two are combined, it can make matters worse.

A sleep deficit can make you feel mentally slower and more emotional, for instance, which can exacerbate your experience of stress. And if your insomnia is stress-related, being overly tired does nothing to help solve the problems creating the stress.

Dealing with lasting insomnia can cause stress, which can lead to more stress-related insomnia. It's a vicious stress-insomnia cycle. How do you get out of it and relieve your sleep issues? These stress-related insomnia remedies can help you start to get higher-quality sleep.

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Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tension in your body can make it difficult to sleep. You may not even realize when you're stressed about something, but your body can still feel the physical effects of stress, leaving muscles tensed up as a result.

Progressive muscle relaxation has been an accepted evidence-based treatment for insomnia for years. It is also a great tool for de-stressing your body.

To practice progressive muscle relaxation for stress-related insomnia:

  • Find a quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • Tense the muscles in your face, hold for a count of eight, then let them go.
  • Keep tensing and releasing your face muscles until you feel relaxed.
  • Next, move on to the muscles in your neck, holding them tight for a count of eight, then letting them go.
  • Keep tensing and releasing your neck muscles until you feel relaxed.
  • Continue this tense-relax pattern, working your way down all the muscles in your body.

Journal About Your Stressors

The act of journaling carries several health and stress management benefits. In the stress-insomnia cycle, journaling can help you clear your mind, process strong emotions that are causing you to lose sleep, and brainstorm and construct plans that can help you manage the situations causing you stress.

If you can't fall asleep because you can't stop thinking about something that's causing you stress during the day, journaling may be an effective technique for you.

Change Your Perspective

If you're losing sleep due to stress, you may be able to relax and get better sleep with a change of perspective. The benefit of this approach is that it can help break the stress-insomnia connection.

Looking at a situation from different angles can help you see opportunities you may have missed. Cognitive restructuring—which involves recognizing and changing the way you think—helps you change your perspective about a stressful situation.

Stress-related anxiety (and the insomnia it creates) is often a natural response to situations that need some sort of action. Viewing your situation as a challenge to be faced rather than a threat can help you get into an active, decision-making mode rather than remaining in an anxious, passive state.

Why Is My Brain Overactive at Night?

Experiencing fewer outside distractions provides an opportunity for thoughts (and stressors) to creep in. Oftentimes, nighttime thoughts are negative, which activates the body's fight-or-flight system and results in stress-related insomnia.

Take the Pressure Off Sleep

If you are experiencing stress insomnia symptoms, bedtime itself can become stressful. If this is where you are, there are a few things you can do to take the stress off falling and staying asleep.

First, if you're having trouble sleeping and are sure that sleep is a long way off, you might want to get up and do something else. This stops you from watching the clock for hours and can help you feel more in control of your time as you engage in other activities, such as:

  • Reading a book
  • Getting small things done around the house
  • Participating in other not-too-stimulating activities that can help foster sleep when you're ready

It can also help to avoid caffeine during the afternoon and evening. Also, make the decision to use your bedroom primarily for sleep so that you associate it with rest and relaxation as opposed to stress.

Get Help for Your Stress Insomnia

Many people who suffer from insomnia do not seek help. This is unfortunate because treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can provide relief. These can help you take charge of your stress-related insomnia.

If you're experiencing persistent insomnia, talk to your healthcare provider about your options. They can provide the best stress insomnia remedies for you given your stressors and your individual situation.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roth T. Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequencesJ Clin Sleep Med. 2007;3(5 Suppl):S7–S10.

  2. Morin CM, Hauri PJ, Espie CA, Spielman AJ, Buysse DJ, Bootzin RR. Nonpharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia. An American Academy of Sleep Medicine review. Sleep. 1999;22(8):1134-1156. doi:10.1093/sleep/22.8.1134

  3. Colori S. Journaling as therapy. Schizophr Bull. 2018;44(2):226-228. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbv066

  4. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Cognitive behavioral therapy.

  5. Drerup M. When you're trying to sleep but your mind is racing, give these tactics a try. Cleveland Clinic.

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.