As one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, sleep is essential for your physical health, mental well-being, daytime alertness and performance. However, stress is a common cause of insomnia, which involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Types of insomnia

Insomnia can result in part from ongoing, stressful life situations that occupy your time and preoccupy your mind. This type of stress may involve time pressures at work, frequent travel, relationship challenges or taking care of a family member who has a chronic illness.

Sleep also can be disrupted by sudden, stressful events such as a job loss, divorce or death of a loved one. Insomnia that is caused by stress often occurs along with anxiety, sadness or depression. However, insomnia also can be caused by positive — yet stressful — life changes, such as having a baby or moving to a new home.

“You should make sure that you establish healthy sleep habits, such as waking up at the same time every day and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.”

For most people, insomnia is a short-term problem that goes away once a stressful event is over. However, about 10 percent of people have chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months. It is associated with daytime problems such as fatigue or irritability.

Treatments for insomnia

The best treatment option for chronic insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy. It helps you change habits and thoughts that prevent you from sleeping well. Strategies can include relaxation training, which helps you to reduce tension and eliminate negative thoughts that interfere with sleep.

Your doctor may prescribe a sleep medication for you, especially if you have short-term insomnia that is caused by a stressful event. You also should make sure that you establish healthy sleep habits, such as waking up at the same time every day and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoidance of light from electronic screens close to bedtime also may help.

Talk to your doctor if stress is causing you to suffer from insomnia. Your doctor may refer you to an accredited sleep center where you can get the help you need to achieve optimal health through better sleep.