Stress and sleep problems go hand in hand. You know that a stressful day can leave your mind racing and your body tossing and turning all night. Now a study shows that anxiety brought on by a stressful event can affect your ability to sleep for six months.

The stress sleep study, conducted by researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, involved a population sample of 16,627 men and women with undisturbed sleep and 2,572 with disturbed sleep, all of whom participated in a five-year longitudinal observational cohort study.

The degree of anxiety was measured by a general feeling of stressfulness and symptoms of hyperactivity at the onset of the study, with the occurrence of post-onset life events – for example, death or illness in the family, divorce, financial difficulty or violence – and sleep disturbances and follow-up five years later.

Follow-up showed that exposure to severe stressful events can trigger sleep disturbances in people with undisturbed sleep before the event. Those liable to anxiety before the event seemed to be at a higher risk of post-event sleep disturbances compared with those not liable to anxiety, say the authors in the  journal Sleep.