Do you wake up with morning headaches, and feel drowsy throughout the day? Do you find yourself nodding off unexpectedly or relying on naps or caffeine to make it through your daily routine? According to Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, a board-certified physician and certified clinical sleep health specialist, these are all signs of sleep deprivation.

Although there is widespread awareness of the importance of sleep for better health, are Americans getting sufficient sleep? A recent Gallup poll report suggests that the majority of U.S. adults (57%) said they would feel better if they got more sleep.

There is a clear link between rising stress levels and declining sleep quality, according to the poll. Out of those who expressed a need for more sleep, a significant 63% reported higher stress levels, whereas only 31% of those who were satisfied with their sleep experienced similar stress levels.

"Stress triggers the body's flight or fight response system leading to an increase in the release of the hormone cortisol. This leads to an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, causing you to be more aroused, and putting you in a state that is not conducive to sleep. This often leads to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as remaining in the lighter stages of sleep longer than you should be," Dr. Holliday-Bell, who is also the founder, and CEO of a sleep coaching company, The Solution is Sleep, told Medical Daily.

Insufficient sleep is not just about feeling tired or sluggish; it can also lead to serious long-term consequences. Lack of sleep can take a toll on various aspects of life, ranging from weight gain and weakened immunity to heightened risks of anxiety, depression, and heart disease, ultimately impacting both quality of life and longevity.

"Sleep affects every facet of our health. When we do not get better sleep, it sends our bodies into a state of stress in which excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol are released. This increase in baseline cortisol leads to inflammation that can lead to the weakening of the blood vessels and heart disease. Sleep also helps us to regulate our hunger and full hormones such that the hunger hormone ghrelin is released in higher quantities when we do not get enough sleep and the full hormone leptin is produced in lower quantities," said Dr. Holliday-Bell.

"We are also less likely to be active when under-slept and more likely to make poor food choices leading to an increased risk of obesity. Our immune system is regulated and functions best overnight, so consistently insufficient sleep increases our risk of infection We are also significantly more likely to experience anxiety and depression when we don't get sufficient sleep. By prioritizing and obtaining adequate quality sleep, we decrease our risk of all of these conditions, leading to increased longevity," she added.

The connection between stress and sleep operates both ways. Heightened stress can disrupt sleep quality and duration, while insufficient sleep can contribute to increased stress levels.

To reduce stress levels and for improved sleep quality, Dr. Holliday-Bell recommends implementing simple bedtime rituals like indulging in a warm shower and incorporating relaxation practices such as meditation.

"I recommend engaging in a consistent relaxing bedtime routine to help wind down from the day and decrease stress. This should include a few soothing activities like taking a warm shower or bath, listening to music, and/or reading a book. Keeping a gratitude journal before bed is also a great way to mediate stress. Do a brain dump activity in the evenings in which you take 10 to 15 minutes to write down all the thoughts that are coming to your mind so that you are less likely to ruminate over them as you attempt to fall asleep. I would also recommend incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery to help ease stress and anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep," Dr. Holliday-Bell said.