The Link Between Stress and Sleep

Sleep Science From Creators of Qualia Mind and Qualia Night

By Gregory Kelly, ND–Director of Product Development

Sleep and stress have a very complicated and interwoven relationship. Fully describing the relationship could fill lots of pages, but three key points are that: (1) stress can interfere with sleep, (2) when we are under more stress we typically need more sleep, and (3) insufficient or poor quality sleep is itself a form of stress. 

“Wired and tired” refers to a feeling of being exhausted, but too on edge to experience good sleep. In sleep research, the term “hyperarousal” is used as a way to describe this state of overactive neurobiological and psychological systems.

Hyperarousal is a leading cause of sleep complaints. It means the body, brain, or emotions—often aspects of all three—are on alert. The stress hormones and messenger molecules we create as a result—what the late Candice Pert, Ph.D. described as “molecules of emotion”—can interfere with the other processes that should allow us to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get a restful night’s sleep.

So, one of the links between stress and sleep is that the former can interfere with getting the latter. Unfortunately, when we are under more stress we also typically need more sleep to recover from it. Whether the source of stress is emotional, mental, or physical, it is during sleep that a lot of what might be called dealing with and recovering from it occurs. 

Lastly, getting an insufficient amount of sleep is itself a form of stress. When we don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones increase. We also tend to be more moody and reactive when we don’t sleep well. This can lead to reacting more strongly to stressful things in the environment, and sometimes interpreting something as being stressful that we would have viewed differently in a more rested state.  

The takeaway is that stress and sleep are closely linked. Stress can adversely affect sleep quality and duration, while insufficient sleep can increase stress levels and make things feel more stressful. This relationship between sleep and stress is the main reason we created Qualia Night and the reason it includes adaptogens and calming nootropic substances.

What morning habits support low stress and good sleep?

While there are lots of great morning habits that can help, taking early morning walks is near the top. Going outside for even a brief morning walk has a dual benefit. It counts towards your exercise goals. And it gives you exposure to the sun early in the day. This helps anchor light-sensitive circadian rhythms. In a sense, this habit strengthens the body clock, and both the stress system and sleep are body clock dependent.

The timing of caffeine intake can make a big difference for many people. Caffeine strongly interacts with the body clock. Consuming it in the morning at about the same time most days can have a synchronizing effect on circadian rhythms. Caffeine impacts our brain in ways that cause wakefulness and alertness, so taking it in the afternoon can have the opposite impact on body clock functions, disturbing body clock function and interfering with sleep quality. This is why Neurohacker Collective recommends taking caffeine-containing products early in the day.

A third early morning habit that can help is making sure to get some L-tryptophan early in the day. This can be done by having quality protein with breakfast or by taking a supplement with L-tryptophan—this is one of the reasons we included L-tryptophan in Qualia Life. L-tryptophan is a building block for melatonin, our darkness hormone. The combination of morning bright light and L-tryptophan at breakfast can help support healthier melatonin levels 12-14 hours later.

What evening habits support low stress and good sleep?

When Neurohacker Collective began researching sleep as part of the development of Qualia Night, we found that good sleep is about more than what happens just before bedtime or while you are in bed. What you do starting 3-4 hours before you go to bed seems to have a large impact.

Things that make you more relaxed, calm, and comfortable starting several hours before bedtime can relieve stress and promote good sleep. 

Strive to build habits and create an evening environment that invites feelings of safety, relaxation, and comfort. There are different habits, activities, and interactions that support these qualities…and others that don’t. Some people can watch a scary movie and go right to sleep after. Others can’t. It’s important for you as an individual to learn what works best for your evening.

During the development of Qualia Night, we also found that what was consumed at dinner—foods, beverages and supplements—as well as how much was consumed and when it was eaten could impact sleep for the better or worse that night. 

One evening activity that we’ve found worthwhile for many people is getting outside around the sunset as often as possible. Taking the time to do this seems to be stress relieving—and being in green spaces or nature can be particularly beneficial.

How does finding balance in life support higher productivity, lower stress and better sleep?

The general recipe for high performance, no matter what the area or endeavor, requires doing and recovering from it. The doing category is the time and effort you put into work, studying, exercising, or practicing an activity, as examples. The recovery category consists of things like sleep, breaks, days off, and vacations that allow your body to recoup from what you have been doing.

Doing and recovery from doing are both necessary. But society tends to value things that fall into the doing category much more than recovery, which can lead to higher stress and not allowing sufficient time for sleep.

Finding balance means starting to put more emphasis on all the behaviors and activities that fall in the recovery category. Oftentimes higher productivity isn’t going to come from doing more, but instead will come from being more efficient, which almost always requires finding balance.

Tell us more about the formulation approach at Neurohacker Collective.

The formulation process starts by figuring out what we want a product to accomplish, and determining metrics that indicate whether it does in fact accomplish it. We then spend a great deal of time researching processes and mechanisms that allow for or interfere with accomplishing the goal. After that stage, we start to research individual ingredients. Eventually, we move to a stage where we combine ingredients together and can start to get answers to the all-important question of “does it work?”

Which Qualia product would you recommend as an entry point for people who want to perform at their peak?

Qualia Mind is our original and best-selling product. It is a nootropic, which means it was designed to quickly support mental performance and cognitive skills like focus, concentration, processing speed, and memory. This is our flagship product and is the formula that put Neurohacker on the map. Try a combination of Qualia Mind and the Hapbee Focus signal for maximum concentration.

If you’ve been struggling with “wired and tired” feelings or you want to address nighttime and sleep performance as a way to perform at a higher level during the day, Qualia Night is an excellent entry point. Pair it with the Hapbee Sleepy signal to sleep soundly and wake up recharged and ready to face the day.