The effect of psychosocial stress on sleep: a review of polysomnographic evidence

Behav Sleep Med. 2007;5(4):256-78. doi: 10.1080/15402000701557383.


This systematic review examines the effect of diverse psychosocial stressors on polysomnographic measures of sleep. Sixty-three articles were located and categorized in terms of the types of stressors imposed. Experimental stress resulted in fairly consistent changes: decreases in slow wave sleep, REM sleep, and sleep efficiency (SE), as well as increases in awakenings. Data were limited in terms of response to non-experimental stressors, except for the case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on sleep, where a number of reports suggest that PTSD patients have increased awakenings and decreased SE. Future research needs to define stress more precisely in terms of duration and severity and to measure its impacts on sleep in populations that differ in terms of age, comorbid illness, gender, and so forth. Without such fine-grained analyses, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions about this important area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Research Design
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*