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  • Writer's pictureDr. Julia

How to Stop Being Irritable: Improve Your Sleep

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

Understand the role of sleep in irritability, and how to stop being irritable by improving your sleep quality.

Tired. Cranky. Snappy with Others. Emotions feel out of control.

Irritability can be so frustrating and interfere with our mood, relationships, and productivity in the workplace.

A *major* culprit to irritability is poor sleep.

That’s right, quality sleep is underrated, but it impacts so many things and is one of the biggest reasons for the irritability that you are experiencing.

The good news is, improving sleep quality can greatly decrease irritability and improve mood.

Understanding the role of sleep in irritability and improving sleep is how to stop being irritable, improve mood, and boost productivity.

how to stop being irritable

How to Stop Being Irritable: Understand The Role of Sleep

Quality sleep is highly under rated. When we sleep well, our mood is positive, stress is lower, we are healthier, and productivity is higher.

However, it is estimated that up to 30% of American adults suffer from insomnia and up to 50% experience some kind of sleep issue.

This suggests that 50% of American adults may be experiencing irritability, low productivity, and decreased mood due to poor sleep.

Sleep is so important not only for our quality of life, but also for managing irritability. Sleep allows us to feel refreshed and restored, which tends to help us feel calm and relaxed.

When we are not sleeping well, we are more prone to stress, anxiety, irritability, and other negative moods.

When we do not sleep well, we accumulate sleep debt, which is the accumulation of insufficient sleep over a period of time.

Sleep debt has been correlated to mood swings, anxiety, depression, and anger. Poor sleep has also been shown to exacerbate existing mood issues, such as irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression.

Poor sleep has been specifically tied to increased irritability, anger, and aggression. In a study of males, research indicated that those with shorter sleep durations had a higher instance of aggression and anger.

There is a big link between poor sleep and stress and anxiety. When we don’t sleep well, more of the stress hormone, cortisol, is released. This in turn increases stress and anxiety, which tends to increase irritability.

Not only is irritability a product of poor sleep, but it is indirectly impacted as well since poor sleep increases stress, which in turn increases irritability.

feeling irritated for no reason

Improving Sleep Quality is How to Stop Being Irritable

Now that you've seen how poor sleep impacts irritability, let's talk about how to improve your sleep so you can stop being so irritable.

There are many factors that impact sleep, and most of these are related to our behaviors and how we live our lives. There are many sleep hygiene practices that can help address poor sleep.

While these are important, what is less frequently talked about is the importance of addressing poorly managed stress that negatively impacts sleep and increases irritability.

Addressing poorly managed stress helps decrease stress and irritability and improves sleep, which further decreases stress and irritability.

All of these are connected, so improving sleep through better stress management and specific strategies to decrease stress factors negatively impacting sleep can be helpful in reducing irritability.

3 Strategies to Improve Sleep and Feel Less Irritable

Address the following three stress components for an improvement in your sleep quality and quantity to decrease irritability:

1. Quiet Racing Thoughts

how to stop getting irritated on small things

One of the most frustrating reasons for not being able to fall and stay asleep is due to racing thoughts.

This can be about stressful topics, an explosion you had earlier because you were feeling irritable, what you have to do the next day, and other unhelpful thoughts you have when trying to sleep.

Racing thoughts can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Not being able to fall and stay asleep is also quite frustrating, so this can in turn further increase irritability.

Address racing thoughts by externalizing any stressful or upsetting thoughts earlier in the day. This can help clear the mind to fall asleep better at night. Calming the stress response before bed is also important for quieting racing thoughts.

2. Calm the Stress Response

Not only does calming the stress response help quiet racing thoughts, but it also reduces muscle tension in the body that builds from stress and irritability. When we are feeling stressed and irritable, we are more likely to carry muscle tension throughout our body.

However, muscle tension makes it harder to fall and stay asleep and increases irritability, creating a vicious cycle.

Therefore, calming the stress response is important for being able to fall asleep and ease irritability. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are excellent ways to do this. Incorporate these exercises into your nighttime routine to see positive sleep benefits.

why am i so irritable and want to be alone

3. Increase Physical Activity

Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce stress, irritability, and improve sleep.

Physical activity gives you a lot of bang for your buck since it addresses so many areas at once.

Physical activity reduces muscle tension, calms the body and mind, and helps induce sleepiness. Therefore, regular physical activity is one of the best ways to improve sleep and reduce irritability.

Be mindful not to engage in an intensive workout at least 2 to 3 hours before bed since exercise can boost energy.


Irritability interferes in our relationships, mood, productivity, and so much more. One of the biggest culprits of irritability is poor sleep. And poor sleep is often caused by poorly managed stress.

Address the tips shared today to improve your sleep and decrease irritability so you can step into the best version of yourself.


Irritability and stress getting you down? I got you.

My 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of people decrease irritability and stress, improve sleep, and boost productivity.

Book a discovery call so I can help you take back your life next!

----About Dr. Julia

Hi! I'm Dr. Julia. Health psychologist, stress and sleep expert, and creator of the Master Stress Method.

I have worked with thousands of individuals in major hospitals, university medical centers, and primary care settings to improve their stress levels, sleep, and overall emotional and physical well being.

My current focus is helping busy professionals prevent and manage the high stress that is getting in the way of their productivity, mood, sleep, and their ability to reach their full potential.

My 8-week, 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of stressed out, overwhelmed, and burned out clients significantly reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their sleep, and maximize their productivity, in just 8 short weeks.

I can't wait to help you stop the struggle with stress, for good. Let's chat :)


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