I’ve spent too many days feeling irritable, sluggish, distracted, and struggling to stay awake. It took too many nights of poor sleep to understand how important quality sleep is for my health. I was unable to let my mind and body rest, and I was unable to process what was going on in my life. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, which made it impossible to reach my goals.

I was only able to give activities at work half of my attention and effort. Housework fell by the wayside. I didn’t have enough energy to enjoy my hobbies. I could barely make it through daily activities, let alone pursue my dreams.

It felt like my life was passing me by, and I was caught in the current, too tired to fight it.

I began researching ways to improve my sleep, and they worked at first. Small adjustments and quick tips weren’t a long-term solution for me — I had to figure out the root of the problem. So I thought about why I wasn’t sleeping, and the main culprit was stress. Whether it was stress about work, money, or family, the bottom line was that stress was holding me back from sleeping well.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of American adults do not get enough sleep. Generally, adults need to sleep at least seven hours per night; if you consistently get fewer than seven hours, you are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and a host of other chronic conditions. Consistent lack of sleep, called insomnia, is also detrimental to your mental health.

A wide range of factors can cause insomnia, including genetics, caffeine intake, and stress. In particular, stress is detrimental to sleep, as adults report getting less sleep and having a reduced quality of sleep due to stress in their lives. Depending on what your dreams look like, they can tell you a lot about your stress levels. For instance, almost half of millennials believe their dreams indicate they are stressed.

Stress creates a vicious cycle; many people feel more stressed when they do not sleep enough, which can then make it more difficult to sleep the next night. When I’m tired and stressed, completing daily tasks is difficult enough; achieving your goals can feel impossible, if I can manage to think about them at all.

Dealing with Stress

Though correcting this issue seems monumental, you can control how stressed you feel and how that stress affects your life. I began to spend a few moments each day to identify and attempt to reduce the stressors in my life. At first it was difficult to give myself even five minutes to relax, but the investment in my happiness is worth it.

If you’re constantly checking your email just before bed or taking work calls on your day off, focus on maintaining a better work-life balance by learning to say no or finding excitement in something outside of work. If you feel overwhelmed by all the chores or errands you need to take care of, create a schedule or list of these tasks so you have a concrete plan of when they will be finished. By directly dealing with stressors in your life, you free up energy and time that you can spend on your aspirations.

The Beauty of Meditation

Unfortunately, there are some stressors in life that you cannot fix on your own. You can still decide how you respond to and deal with that stress. Meditation is a great way to give your brain a break and reduce stress in your life. Best of all, you don’t need any special equipment to meditate; whenever you have time to do it, you can. Even a five minute session has benefits that last all day, such as helping with sleep problems, managing stress, and reducing negative emotions.

I like to meditate before I get up and start my day, so I’m centered and ready for the day ahead. Figure out how meditation can work in your life. Consider meditating right before bed, to help calm yourself down and get ready for a good night’s rest. Take the last few minutes of your lunch break to re-center before getting back to work. If you need help focusing on your goals, use meditation to visualize your success and concentrate your energy on accomplishing them. If you aren’t sure where to start, try downloading a meditation app on your smartphone to guide you through the process.

Don’t let your dreams exist only in … well, your dreams. Though stress and lack of sleep may hold you back initially, don’t be afraid to take control. @DevMorrissey (Click to Tweet!)

Through meditation, you can improve your quality of sleep and quality of life. Reset, refresh, refocus — then you can conquer any of your goals, whatever they may be.

Devin Morrissey dreams of writing abroad, but he’s settling for writing on the road.  You can find him on Twitter or across the Pacific Northwest, but tweeting him is probably easier. ​


Image courtesy of Burst.