Financial worries disrupt the sleep of more and more Canadians

Since the economic downturn of 2008, money worries have been taking a toll on the sleep patterns of many individuals. In fact, over 50% of people who come into sleep clinics complaining of insomnia indicate that financial worries are a contributing cause. While we cannot control an erratic economy, we can control our response to stress and keep sleep loss caused by financial stress to a minimum. As Dr. Katy Kamkar, a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto says, “We might have the tendency to
overestimate the stress, to overestimate the anger, and we underestimate our abilities to cope with problems.”

According to the Canadian Medical Association, about one quarter of Canadians are losing sleep over financial worries. Many of these worries pertain to potential job loss, companies downsizing, and a downturn in the stock market. There are several resources available that can help reduce this kind of stress. Financial planners and credit counselors can provide sound advice, and even healthcare professionals are becoming more aware of the impact of financial stress on health.

When we are stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol in greater amounts. Normally, a surge of cortisol in the morning helps people to get out of bed and start the day as part of the body’s normal circadian rhythm. However if cortisol levels fluctuate during the day and night because of increased stress, it will negatively impact our normal sleep patterns.

No matter what the stressor is, it is always a good idea to consult a sleep specialist if you frequently experience insomnia. They can help you to determine the root cause of your insomnia – whether it be financial stress or an underlying sleep disorder – and help you get the treatment you’ll need to get back to sleep.

Here are several tips from sleep experts for those suffering from sleep loss due to financial stress:

  • Don’t look at the clock during the night – it will only make you worry even more if you know you’re not getting enough sleep
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime
  • Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Don’t use the computer right before bed, especially to view stock market reports or sports scores – it turns out that a simple stressor such as  seeing that your team lost can impact sleep
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy diet
  • Remember to take time for yourself -whether it’s watching a movie, visiting a gallery or museum, or reading at your favourite coffee shop.
  • Dr. Elliott Lee, a sleep expert at The Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group, suggests developing an early-evening habit of writing down short-term and long-term ways to address your financial worries. He explains that this habit helps you to establish a sense of control over at least the small things that affect your financial situation and will help you to go to bed with a little more peace of mind.
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