Too Stressed to Sleep? Here’s What to Do

A man appearing stressed as he sleeps in bed

Losing sleep due to stress and anxiety? You are not tossing and turning alone.

Most of us realize that when we are too tired, we struggle to focus, making it harder to learn new information — which means it may not make it into our long-term memory banks. Scientists also believe that when we are asleep, our brains perform key tasks in creating long-term memories.

But that’s not all. Research suggests that toxins in our brains are flushed away during our sleep. A lack of sleep might interrupt that process.

Other health effects of sleep deprivation can include weight gain, hardened brain arteries and a dampened immune system.

How can you break this stressful cycle? Try some of these techniques:

  • Stick to a regular schedule. Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Avoid lying awake in bed for hours. If you can’t sleep, get up to read a book, listen to music or fold some laundry until you feel sleepy.
  • Avoid smoking, caffeine or highly acidic foods two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Unplug from devices, including TV, computers and cellphones, for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. You will avoid blue light that can delay sleep and, perhaps just as important, take a break from news and social media.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. That means using the bed for sleep and sex only, keeping the temperature cool and, if needed, installing blackout shades. Some people also like sound machines that mask annoying noises.

Take a brain health assessment, play games, discover new recipes and more with AARP’s Staying Sharp.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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