By Mark Loewen

Sign #1: Not Getting Enough Sleep

Everyone experiences stress. And stress by itself is not purely negative. In fact, positive experiences such as traveling, getting a promotion, or starting a new relationship all cause stress on our minds and bodies. But have you wondered if you are experiencing more than just stress? Knowing the signs can help you recognize the root of your discomfort so that you can take steps to feel better. In this post I’ll describe one often overlooked sign that you may be dealing with more than just stress, specifically lack of restful sleep.

Sleep is important for us to recharge and operate at peak performance.  The optimal amount of sleep for an adult 18-64 years old is 7 to 9 hours each night. If you don’t get enough sleep, you operate at a less efficient level and incur a “sleep debt.” This type of debt, however, is not easily paid off. Your body does not recover from loosing six hours of sleep with an extra six hours the next day. To recover, you require a few nights of consistent sleep. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, you may be incurring sleep debt. Consequently, you become physically, cognitively, and emotionally impaired.

Also, how you feel at night when you are not sleeping is important. Our minds have evolved to pay more attention to the negative thoughts at night because our ancestors were more vulnerable to dangers after dark. Negative thoughts are harder to push aside when you aren’t distracted by your work or other daily activities. If you notice yourself feeling more stressed, anxious or depressed at night, your mind may be point ing you toward emotional needs that need to be addressed. Many describe this struggle as not being able to shut off their thoughts.

Just as our body naturally and automatically starts a healing process when it gets hurt, our mind does the same. It wants to heal wounds and resolve issues that come in the way of your happiness. It does this by directing your attention to these issues when it’s most successful to do so - at night.

There will always be stressful situations. Even so, stress shouldn’t get to the point where it has a drastic effect on you. When stress changes the way you want to live, and keeps you from feeling the way you want to feel, it may be time to take action. For emotional stress, help most often comes through relationship. But sometimes it feels as if friends or family don’t “get it.” Or you fear that people around you may become tired of listening to you. A trained counselor can help you find solutions to the source of your stress. You can feel better. Finding resolution for your feelings of anxiety or your sadness can be the key to getting your sleep back!

Mark Loewen is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Richmond, VA.