Lost sleep and the
resulting daytime sleepiness affect our mood,
behavior, and performance. In effect, we are how we
sleep. How we sleep at night affects who we are,
what we do, and how we do during the day. A night of
seven to nine hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep
becomes particularly important during times of high
stress and anxiety.
In order to
help people address their sleep problems and their
need for sleep, the National Sleep Foundation and
The Bellevue Hospitalís Sleep Disorders Center offer
the following information about sleep problems and
symptoms that can signal inadequate sleep, and tips
for helping people maximize the sleep they do get
during times of high stress and anxiety:
∑ Donít expect to
fall asleep immediately after hearing or watching
disturbing news. Stop listening or watching to news
programs at least one hour before going to sleep.
∑ Engage in a
relaxing, non-alerting activity at bedtime such as
reading or listening to music. For some, soaking in
a warm bath or hot tub can be helpful. Avoid
activities that are mentally or physically
∑ Do not eat or drink
too much before bedtime. Alcohol is not a sleep aid;
donít use it to try to help you sleep.
∑ Only get into bed
when you're tired. If you donít fall asleep within
15 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and
engage in a relaxing activity such as reading.
Return to your bed when youíre sleepy.
∑ Create a
sleep-promoting environment that is quiet, dark,
cool and comfortable.
∑ Consume less or no
caffeine during the day. If you feel tired,
substitute a short nap of 15-20 minutes for
caffeine, but for people suffering from insomnia,
daytime naps should be avoided.
∑ Avoid alcohol and
nicotine, especially close to bedtime.
∑ Do not exercise
within three hours of bedtime.
Seek professional help if you are unable
to deal with your sleeplessness and it is becoming a
problem for you.
sleeplessness associated with an acute stressful
situation usually improves on its own. Be patient.
There are several common sleep
problems associated with times of stress and
anxiety. These may include:
characterized by difficulty falling asleep, waking
up frequently during the night, waking up too early,
or feeling unrefreshed upon waking. Seek the help of
a physician if the problems persist for more than a
∑ Nightmares: can
increase during periods of great stress for all
people, although they occur most frequently in
children ages 3-6. Avoid eating or taking high-dose
vitamins before bed. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine,
or other stimulants.
∑ Excessive Daytime
Sleepiness (EDS) and Fatigue: characterized by
difficulty concentrating or dozing while watching
television or reading. It is best handled by
stopping what you are doing and taking a nap or
going to sleep for the night. Speak to your family
physician if symptoms persist more than a few days.
At times of acute stress or trauma,
parents and guardians should expect children to
experience sleep problems, regardless of their
age. It may take a few weeks to return to normal
sleep patterns. There are things parents can do
to help minimize the impact of stressful events
on their children, including:
∑ Find out about
your childís concerns and talk about them. Try
to avoid those conversations at bedtime, but
donít shut them off if they happen. Talk briefly
and offer to continue the conversation in the
∑ Try to maintain
your childís usual bedtime and bedtime routines.
∑ Avoid foods and
beverages containing caffeine at least four
hours before bedtime, and exposure to news
broadcasts at least one hour before bedtime.
∑ If your child
has trouble falling asleep, avoid a drastic
response such as everyone sleeping together.
Stay near the child and offer to check on them
every now and then.
∑ Turn on a light
in the hallway or next room, but not in the
bedroom. Music can provide some soothing noise,
and the presence of a family pet can be
∑ If your child
has a nightmare, donít have a long discussion
about it. Be reassuring and help the child to
fall back to sleep. Talk about the dream in the
∑ Set limits for
your teenage children and keep them to a normal
For any additional
information, contact The Bellevue Hospitalís
Sleep Disorders Center at 419.483.4040, Ext.