06/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Debt Got Your Sleep?

Recently, I was reading an article online about the health problems plaguing Americans as worries about mounting debt trigger extreme stress. Rather than blaming things like back pain, headaches, ulcers, depression, and even heart attacks on a specific underlying medical cause, all fingers are pointing toward plain old stress.

Stress is a fact of life...

...and unfortunately debt has also become a fact of life for many of us. 

Compounding the problem are recent economic woes as the real estate market sinks, cost of living expenses rise, and just driving the car to the gym or yoga class to work out those stress-related kinks is getting expensive.

According to an index tied to a recent AP-AOL survey, debt stress is 14 percent higher this year. Revolving consumer debt, almost all from credit cards, now totals $957 billion, compared with $800 billion in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Argh!

Debt, Stress and Sleep Problems

I don't have to outline all the statistics that point to our
heightened stress level. It's obvious to everyone living in the 21st
century, unless you're in denial or have miraculously found the cure to
conquering stress. But what the recent article and survey did not
indicate is how much this stress is affecting people's sleep.

I have no
doubts that today's intense stress levels are adversely affecting the
quality and quantity of our sleep. Not only do we take our worries to
bed with us, fueling insomnia, but we also delay going to bed as we
tool around the Internet late at night paying bills or seeking support
through others on the Web.

This sets us up for feeling more stressed
out when sleep deprivation lowers our thresholds for enduring high
stress levels. Our moods dim, our immune systems plummet, our body's
hormonal clocks tick a little off, our hunger and satiety signals
, our ability to learn new things weakens, our concentration
dwindles, our physical bodies miss out on a much-needed time-out to
fully recover for the next day, and on and on.

Sleeping More Can Help You Cope

I could list a litany of
problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation. I can also create
an even longer list of benefits that come with getting a good night's

And one of them would be this: being able to cope with and manage
something as difficult and stressful as serious debt.

With a good
night's rest, you feel energized, upbeat, refreshed, and focused. You
can problem solve more easily and find ways to work through your debt
so it doesn't become a pain in the neck, the back, your head, your
heart, and soul. That said, let me suggest...

3 Ways to Conquer Debt through Sleep:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes a day to focus on your debt and making plans to diminish it--but avoid doing this at night. Schedule it early in the day or first thing in the morning, and be done with it.

  2. If your
    debt worries keep you up at night, start a Worry Journal.
    Have it by your bedside, and write in it as your stressful thoughts emerge. Then close the book and close your mind off those thoughts. If solutions or things to do in relation to those worries crop up as you write, record those.

  3. Physical exercise is a great sleep promoter and stress reducer. If you find yourself avoiding exercise to "get more done" during the day, it's time to re-evaluate. Be sure to schedule in at least 30 minutes of physical exercise no matter what. It can be as simple as going for a brisk walk in the evening.

Don't let debt get your sleep. Becoming debt free will happen much more effortlessly if you have sweet dreams.

This post is cross-posted at Dr. Breus's blog, The Insomnia Blog.