Inspiration

Tapping into Better Sleep: Breaking the Cycle Between Stress and Poor Sleep

Written by: Nick Ortner

Even people who generally tend to be good sleepers know what it feels like to lie awake in bed with your mind spinning over worries. It can be incredibly hard to fall asleep, or stay asleep, when we are stressed out or experiencing strong emotions. 

Researchers have confirmed time and time again what most of us know to be true from first-hand experience; the more stressed we are, the less well we tend to sleep at night. That can be incredibly frustrating and take a big toll on both our health and wellbeing.

Luckily, there’s something we can do about it! By learning to better cope with stress and release strong emotions, we can improve our sleep and get better rest. 

Stress and emotions might be keeping you up at night

Stress and emotional arousal are known to get in the way of a good night’s rest.[1-3] 

Whether it is short-term stress or long-term stress, stress over day-to-day life challenges or anxiety over bigger concerns – it can all take a toll. Any number of factors can be barriers to good sleep, from job stress to relationship tension, from school stress to anxiety over global issues like climate change.[4-7]

It is important to understand that it isn’t just the stressors or difficult emotions themselves that impact sleep, but also how we cope with and respond to them.[1,8]

For some people, the link between stress and sleep quality can lead to serious problems with sleep and even the development of insomnia. Some of the most well-studied risk factors for insomnia include having a lot of stress in your life, being depressed, or having experienced emotional distress from a major life event such as divorce or the death of a loved one.[2,9]

Stress over lack of sleep only makes matters worse

If you’ve ever had difficulty sleeping or suffered from insomnia, then you know how frustrating and stressful it can be.

People who have trouble sleeping tend to experience plenty of ruminating, unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about sleep and the consequences of missing out on sleep.[10,11]

That makes a lot of sense, because sleep is so very important. It helps us to function in our daily lives, keep up with our responsibilities, maintain good health, and feel good. Without enough of it, many areas of our life and wellbeing can begin to crumble. So it’s not surprising that we tend to stress out about sleep loss.

But the problem is that stress and anxiety about sleep can lead to a vicious cycle. The less we sleep, the more we worry about not sleeping and become anxious about the effects of sleep loss. That adds to the pile of stress we are already under, which in the end just makes it harder and harder to sleep in the first place.

But there’s good news. As you’ll learn later on in the article, this is a cycle we can break. Restful sleep is possible!

Good sleep helps you let go of emotional distress

You might not be surprised to learn that stress and emotions can impact your sleep. But did you know that sleep can also affect how you manage your emotions?

In addition to the better-known benefits of restful sleep like increased energy, clearer thinking, and improved health, good sleep can also help us to better regulate our emotions and cope with stress.[1]

Fascinating research teaches us that while we sleep, we are able to release and let go of emotionally distressing situations that occur throughout the day.[11,12,13]

Studies show that when you suffer from insomnia and don’t sleep well, you aren’t able to “sleep it off” in the same way; you remain more hung up on events that bring up difficult emotions, like shame.[12,13]

This is yet another reason why improving our sleep is so important.

Managing stress and strong emotions has the power to transform your sleep

As we know, stress can really get in the way of a proper night’s rest. And the more we worry and stress over not sleeping, the worse things get. Plus, we need sleep to better manage emotions and resolve stress well in the first place.

Because stress can disrupt restful sleep in such a big way, it is vital that we learn to better let go of stress and manage our emotions.

Research shows that it is possible to improve sleep when we take this approach. Findings suggest that the more we work with our emotions and learn to better cope with stress (whether about sleep specifically or in a more general sense), the more likely we will be able to sleep peacefully at night.[1,11]

There are several techniques that have demonstrated the benefits of working with our emotions for better sleep. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown time and time again to help people sleep better, and it is one of the most common and effective treatment options for insomnia. In CBT, you are trained to reframe unhelpful thoughts, cope with stress, and manage emotions.[9,10,14]

Mindfulness and acceptance-based techniques also work well for insomnia and sleep problems.[11,15] A form of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which focuses on accepting our emotions and experiences, is known to be helpful in improving sleep quality.[16]

As the literature shows, understanding and expressing our emotions can help us to recover better from stressful situations and ultimately help us to get a better night’s rest.[1,11]

Tapping: an effective tool to release stress and help you sleep better

Fortunately, there are a wide range of tools available to us to help address stress and emotions and ultimately sleep better. And Tapping is an excellent choice to support you!

When you Tap, you send calming signals to the brain and body. The process of Tapping can actually help to turn off the stress response in the brain and even reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol.[17] As you help your body to relax, Tapping also helps you to let go of difficult or pent up emotions.

Tapping is a great tool to use before bed to help you relax your brain and body, release any worries or tension, and prepare for restful sleep.

Tapping can also be beneficial for sleep when used at any time of day. When you use Tapping throughout the day to address stressful situations and release emotions like anxiety, you can set yourself up for better sleep later on when it’s time to go to bed. 

As you use Tapping to release stress and you begin to sleep better, you may notice the positive effects magnifying themselves over time. The better you sleep, the more you can resolve difficult emotions, which can in turn help you to sleep even better. You have the power to change what was once a vicious cycle between stress and sleep into a positive, favorable cycle.

Evidence for the healing power of Tapping

Research studies suggest that Tapping can help people to treat insomnia and sleep better.[18-20]

In one study, for example, a group of lawyers with insomnia tried EFT tapping along with other stress-management techniques like progressive muscle relaxation. The lawyers who tried tapping not only noticed a reduction in stress levels, but they also experienced significant improvements in sleep quality.[20]

Researchers have also studied the effects of Tapping for many different purposes, such as stress relief. What is interesting is that they often notice improvements in sleep as a positive side effect of these interventions.

In another study, EFT tapping was used to help veterans with PTSD. In addition to measuring severity of PTSD before and after the intervention, the researchers also looked at other factors such as sleep. They found that in addition to improving PTSD scores, the Tapping also helped to decrease scores of insomnia and help the veterans sleep better.[21]

Acupuncture, which involves stimulating the same meridians and acupuncture points that Tapping does, has also proven to be extremely effective for people with difficulty sleeping.[22,23]

But it’s not just the scientific research that can speak to the power of Tapping. I have seen Tapping transform countless individuals’ experience with sleep over the years. I know from first-hand experience that Tapping has the potential to support peaceful and rejuvenating sleep.

Try Tapping for sleep support with the help of the Tapping Solution App

Focusing on improving your sleep is well worth the effort. It can help you to feel your best mentally and physically, and it can even help you to better process your emotions. Tapping is an excellent tool to try out if you want to take steps towards better sleep.

Tapping can be used before bed to specifically address sleep, and it’s also great to use throughout the day on any emotions or stressors that may come up so that you are able to rest more peacefully at night.

The Tapping Solution App is full of meditations to guide you through the process of turning down the stress response, relaxing your brain and body, and letting go of difficult emotions. Here’s a list of just a few of the many meditations within the app that are available to you:

Tapping meditations specifically designed for sleep support

  • Quiet My Racing Mind
  • Clearing Stress & Frustration About Insomnia
  • Big Day Tomorrow Keeping You Up
  • Fall Asleep Faster
  • Nightly Restorative Sleep Support

Tapping meditations for general stress relief and releasing emotions

  • Releasing Anxiety
  • Releasing Evening Stress
  • Turn Your Day Around: Evening Stress Relief
  • I’m Stressed About…
  • Help Me Stop Overthinking

 Tapping tips for a restful night’s sleep

To help you get the most out of Tapping for sleep support, we’ve got a couple of tips for you. 

  • Try Tapping throughout the day on whatever might be bothering you, or at night before bed to help you find peace and calm. Or, perhaps try a combination of both!
  • Consider including Tapping as part of a relaxing evening routine. Routines are important for sleep, so be sure to be intentional with how you spend the time leading up to bed. You might try dimming your lighting; doing calm activities like reading, yoga, or journaling; staying away from screens; and taking some quiet time to meditate or Tap.
  • Turn down the brightness on your phone – and enjoy the dark setting we have for all of our Sleep Support Tapping meditations within the Tapping Solution App if you choose to Tap before bed.
  • If the physical effect of tapping on the acupressure points feels too stimulating near bedtime, you can try just touching each one gently as you follow the meditation prompts.
  • Turn off the ratings within the app, so you can just gently listen and follow along without engaging with your device.

 

References 

  1. Vandekerckhove M, Wang YL. Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship. AIMS Neurosci. 2017;5(1):1-17. Published 2017 Dec 1. doi:10.3934/Neuroscience.2018.1.1.
  2. Kalmbach DA, Anderson JR, Drake CL. The impact of stress on sleep: Pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders. J Sleep Res. 2018;27(6):e12710. doi:10.1111/jsr.12710.
  3. Lee SH, Joo S, Chai HW, Jun HJ, Almeida D. The Relationship Between Experiences of Daily Events and Sleep Duration in Adulthood. Innovation in Aging 2020;4(Supp 1):63. doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igaa057.2174.
  4. Portela LF, Kröning Luna C, Rotenberg L, et al. Job Strain and Self-Reported Insomnia Symptoms among Nurses: What about the Influence of Emotional Demands and Social Support?. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:820610. doi:10.1155/2015/820610.
  5. Ogunbode CA, Pallesen S, Böhm G, et al. Negative emotions about climate change are related to insomnia symptoms and mental health: Cross-sectional evidence from 25 countries. Curr Psychol (2021). doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01385-4.
  6. Huelsnitz CO, Simpson JA, Rothman AJ, Englund MM. The interplay between relationship effectiveness, life stress, and sleep: A prospective study. Personal Relationships. 2019;26(1):73-92. https://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12266
  7. Alotaibi AD, Alosaimi FM, Alajlan AA, Bin Abdulrahman KA. The relationship between sleep quality, stress, and academic performance among medical students. J Family Community Med. 2020;27(1):23-28. doi:10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_132_19.
  8. Akram U, Gardani M, Akram A, Allen S. Anxiety and depression mediate the relationship between insomnia symptoms and the personality traits of conscientiousness and emotional stability. Heliyon. 2019;5(6):e01939. Published 2019 Jun 12. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01939.
  9. “Insomnia.” MedlinePlus. Medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/insomnia.html
  10. Galbiati A, Sforza M, Scarpellino A, et al. “Thinking About Thinking” in Insomnia Disorder: The Effect of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia on Sleep-Related Metacognition. Front Psychol. 2021;12:705112. Published 2021 Sep 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.705112.
  11. Ong JC, Ulmer CS, Manber R. Improving sleep with mindfulness and acceptance: a metacognitive model of insomnia. Behav Res Ther. 2012;50(11):651-660. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2012.08.001.
  12. Wassing R, Benjamins JS, Dekker K, et al. Slow dissolving of emotional distress contributes to hyperarousal. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(9):2538-2543. doi:10.1073/pnas.1522520113.
  13. Wassing R, Schalkwijk F, Lakbila-Kamal O, et al. Haunted by the past: old emotions remain salient in insomnia disorder. Brain. 2019;142(6):1783-1796. doi:10.1093/brain/awz089.
  14. van der Zweerde T, Bisdounis L, Kyle SD, Lancee J, van Straten A. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: A meta-analysis of long-term effects in controlled studies. Sleep Med Rev. 2019;48:101208. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2019.08.002.
  15. Ding X, Wang X, Yang Z, Tang R, Tang YY. Relationship Between Trait Mindfulness and Sleep Quality in College Students: A Conditional Process Model. Front Psychol. 2020;11:576319. Published 2020 Sep 29. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.576319.
  16. Salari N, Khazaie H, Hosseinian-Far A, et al. The effect of acceptance and commitment therapy on insomnia and sleep quality: A systematic review. BMC Neurol. 2020;20(1):300. Published 2020 Aug 13. doi:10.1186/s12883-020-01883-1.
  17. Church D, Yount G, Brooks AJ. The effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: a randomized controlled trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012;200(10):891-896. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e31826b9fc1.
  18. Lee JH, Suh HU, Chung SY, Kim JW. Preliminary study for the evaluation of the effects of EFT-I(EFT program for insomnia) for insomnia in the elderly. Journal of Oriental Neuropsychiatry. 2011;22(4):101-109. https://doi.org/10.7231/JON.2011.22.4.101.
  19. Lee JH, Chung SY, & Kim JW. (2015). A comparison of Emotional Freedom Techniques–Insomnia (EFT-I) and Sleep Hygiene Education (SHE) in a geriatric population: A randomized controlled trial. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(1), 1–8. doi:10.9769/EPJ.2015.07.01.JL.
  20. Christina D, Panagiotis K, Liza V, George CP. Stress Management for the Treatment of Sleep Disorders in Lawyers: Pilot Experimental Study in Athens, Hellas. J Sleep Disor: Treat Care 2016;5(2). doi:10.4172/2325-9639.1000171.
  21. Geronilla L, Minewise L, Mollon P, McWilliams M, Clond M. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Remediates PTSD and Psychological Symptoms in Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Replication Trial. Energy Psychology Journal. 2016;8(2):29-41. doi 10.9769/EPJ.2016.8.2.LG.
  22. Cheng FK. The Effectiveness of Acupuncture on Sleep Disorders: A Narrative Review. Altern Ther Health Med. 2020;26(1):26-48.
  23. Shergis JL, Ni X, Jackson ML, et al. A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complement Ther Med. 2016;26:11-20. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2016.02.007.

 



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