If You Do At Least 3 Of These 10 Things In Your Sleep, Your Body May Be Stuck In A Stress Response

Are you in fight-or-flight mode?

person sleeping face down on bed Alina Perekatenkova via Unsplash / Yuliia Osadcha and Tainá de Castro Rodrigues via Canva

We all know that stress can have a deep connection to our physical well-being. It turns out your body could actually be trying to send you a message through your sleep habits.

Liz Tenuto, also known as the Workout Witch, is an expert in helping clients heal trauma through somatic exercise. She recently took to TikTok and shared the 10 signs that your body could be stuck in a stress response, commonly referred to as a “‘fight-or-flight’ response


As you can imagine, it’s not healthy for your body to always be stuck in this kind of loop.



Doing at least 3 of these 10 things while sleeping means your body may be stuck in a stress response.

1. Waking up covered in sweat.

No one likes the feeling of waking up and finding themselves covered in sweat. But, this can actually be a sign of something more than just an overly warm blanket. According to the Mayo Clinic, night sweats can be caused by multiple different medical conditions, including anxiety disorders.


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2. Grinding your teeth.

Grinding your teeth in your sleep can also be a sign of a stress response. If teeth grinding is severe enough, it can lead to TMJD or a temporomandibular joint disorder.



3. Frequent nightmares.

No one likes being woken up by a disturbing dream. If this happens often, it can be a sign of something more serious.


The Mayo Clinic listed stress, anxiety and trauma as three main causes of nightmares. If your body is constantly stressed, it may get into a pattern of having regular nightmares.

4. Sleeping with T-rex arms.

Sleeping with t-rex arms occurs when you curl up on your side and pull your arms across your chest with your hands tucked into your neck. The sleeping position resembles the short-armed look of the ancient dinosaur.

“This happens when your nervous system is so overloaded or dysregulated that it becomes difficult to shift out of that state, even when you’re asleep,” Tenuto said. In addition to being a sign of a stress response, this can lead to significant pain.



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5. Talking in your sleep.

Talking in your sleep may seem like something laughable, but it can be serious. It can often be triggered by anxiety and stress.

The subconscious can do strange things, especially when under pressure. Mumbling about something in your sleep is one of them.

6. Regularly sleepwalking.

For many, sleepwalking may seem like something out of a movie. For others, it’s part of their reality.

This, too, can be connected to stress. According to The Cleveland Clinic, “Research links anxiety, stress, childhood trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to an increased risk of sleepwalking.” If you find yourself wandering around in the middle of the night, it might be time to consider stress as a potential cause.


7. Waking up multiple times throughout the night.

Getting a good night’s rest is so important, so waking up fitfully throughout the night can be incredibly frustrating. Apparently, it’s more than just an annoyance, however. Waking up during the night is another sign that your body is in a stress response.

According to Calm, “Stress and anxiety can activate your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response, making it hard to stay asleep.” If you are under a lot of stress, it makes it hard for your body to truly rest. This can make staying asleep especially difficult.

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8. Having a hard time falling asleep.

If you find yourself tossing and turning instead of quickly falling asleep, it could be a sign of a stress response. “High levels of stress impair sleep by prolonging how long it takes to fall asleep and fragmenting sleep. Sleep loss triggers our body’s stress response system, leading to an elevation in stress hormones, namely cortisol, which further disrupts sleep,” wrote Baylor College of Medicine


9. Feeling exhausted when you wake up.

It’s understandable that someone would feel exhausted after waking up during the night or struggling to fall asleep. But, if your body is in a stress response, there may be even more to it. Anxiety can cause the body to release hormones to prepare you to fight, flee, or freeze. This sudden onset of hormones can cause exhaustion.

So, even if you feel like you got a good night’s sleep, you may still feel tired when you wake up.

10. Waking up with unexplained pain and tension.

Stress naturally causes muscle tension. The American Psychological Association said it is almost like a “reflex.” If you are sleeping in a position like t-rex arms, you are causing your muscles to tense up, which can lead to pain. Waking up with tension and pain is a sure sign that your body is experiencing stress.


Stress is never healthy for your body, but being in a full-on stress response is a sign that your body is truly dysregulated.

It’s not healthy to always be in fight-or-flight mode. Finding that your body is operating this way may be a sign that it’s time to get some help. 

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Mary-Faith Martinez is a writer for YourTango who covers entertainment, news and human interest topics.