Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Find a Center
Use the following fields to locate sleep centers in your area.

Search radius:

The way you handle stress may affect your sleep

Filed in

By Lynn Celmer  |  Jul 11, 2014
Email   Print

A new study finds that the way we handle stress could cause insomnia.

Results show that coping with a stressful event by giving up on dealing with the stress or by using alcohol or drugs each helps trigger the relationship between stress exposure and insomnia development. Surprisingly, the coping technique of self-distraction – such as going to the movies or watching TV – also helped trigger stress and incident insomnia. Furthermore, the study found that frequent thoughts about the stressor - was a significant and key trigger, accounting for 69 percent of the total effect of stress exposure on insomnia.

“Our study is among the first to show that it’s not the number of stressors, but your reaction to them that determines the likelihood of experiencing insomnia,” said lead author Vivek Pillai, PhD, research fellow at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. “While a stressful event can lead to a bad night of sleep, it’s what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia.”

The study involved data from almost 3,000 people with no lifetime history of insomnia. Participants answered questionnaires about stress, coping and insomnia. People who had more stressors were more likely to have trouble sleeping.

The study looked at three different coping strategies: using drugs or alcohol, distracting yourself with TV or a movie or giving up trying to deal with the stress.

“Though we may not be able to control external events, we can reduce their burden by staying away from certain maladaptive behaviors,” said Pillai.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that short-term insomnia disorder lasting less than three months occurs in 15 to 20 percent of adults and is more prevalent in women than in men.



  1. 1 AASM 10 Aug
    We encourage you to contact an AASM accredited sleep center near you for help. The link at the top of our website will take you to a searchable, online directory. 
  2. 2 Glenda 03 Nov
    In May I had total knee replacement surgery to both knees at the same time.  I know it was a huge trauma to my body, but it is now Nov. and I still haven't been able to sleep more than 3 hours a night.  I am miserable and sleeping pills have not helped.  I am 75 yr. old and otherwise very healthy.  Can you help me PLEASE?
  3. 3 udaya kumar 15 Jul
    Hi There, I would like to tell you my problems, I am not getting proper sleep for ex if i get sleep for one day another 2 to 3 days i have to wait to good sleep. this leads to me face so many problem to my health and stress too. I am not sure what to do. Plz help me. I also have a habit of smoking 3 or 4 per day not sure because of smking I am facing this problems. My age : 27. I thought of doing Yoga. Pls let me know if i can do.