In certain situations, stress can be a good thing. It pushes us to be careful, to be our best, and to stay alert. It can give us energy. This last year has been too much – and being under stress for too long has negative effects. Getting better sleep can help, but it’s hard to do when you’re under stress. We want to help break the cycle so you can get better rest.
How stress impacts your sleep
If you’re anxious and tense, it’s hard to fall asleep. Stress hormones usually peak in the afternoon to early evening, so that you’re getting anxious instead of winding down.
Stress can also cause health issues, which in turn make it difficult to rest well. Tense muscles, headaches, and other pain can cause sleepless nights. Even the sleep that you do get is usually not deep enough to wake up well-rested.
Being tired and groggy makes it harder to deal with even an ordinary day, much less stressful times like these, so it can become a circle. The goal should be 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night for most adults.
How to reduce stress so you can sleep
There are a lot of ways to do this, and it’s important to find a healthy option that works for you. Many of tips you may already know about: exercise, eat healthy, and take time to unplug. It may also be worth talking to your doctor and a mental health professional for professional recommendations.
Since we’re talking about sleep here, you can focus just on trying to improve that aspect. Try setting up a bedtime routine to relax your mind and body. If you can, it will help you fall asleep and get better quality rest.
Start an hour before you go to bed by turning off your screens and putting aside any stressful activities. Do mindless or relaxing tasks, which are different for everyone. Maybe it’s reading a bedtime story to your kids, or getting lunches ready for the next day. Don’t drink alcohol, but try some herbal tea or water instead.
Even just a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing can help give peace of mind. Try some light visualization techniques or reframing your thoughts. Thinking about how much you're not sleeping may lead to more stress, and even less sleep. Instead focus on other calming thoughts, like how your body is resting simply by lying comfortably in bed.
For the body, a hot bath or shower will relieve tense muscles, or try light stretching and movements like yoga. One of the easiest things to do is to play relaxing music while you’re doing things. If you have a smart speaker, you can set up a routine where it starts playing at a certain time. Once you have a routine in place for about three weeks, this will help set up an automatic response to wind down and get ready for sleep.
Make your bedroom an oasis
What’s in your bedroom is what you’ll be looking at when you’re trying to sleep. If it causes you stress, it might be time for a change. Here are some tips:
- De-clutter enough that you can lie in bed without thinking about the chores you need to do.
- Avoid using your bedroom for anything that causes stress, including exercise. If your equipment needs to be there, consider a divider to block it off from the bed.
- Electronics should be hidden if possible. If you’re someone who needs a tv to fall asleep, try white noise instead.
- Block out light and noise that might disrupt your sleep.
- If you need some light in the room, try warm shades instead of cool bulbs – salt lamps have a relaxing glow.
- Introduce light aromas in scents that relax you (lavender, vanilla, and jasmine have been shown to do the trick)
Your bedroom space should bring you peace – whatever that means to you. Usually it’s cool, calming colors and soft accents. Natural textures like wood and wool give a comfortable feel. Plants may also help absorb odors and mold that impact your breathing. Lavender, aloe, and ivy are popular.
Last, but certainly not least, is the bed itself. It should look and feel relaxing. Pick soft and comfortable bedding, and a headboard you love. Upholstered headboards are soft, adding to the feeling of comfort, and wood beds provide additional warmth with natural materials and finishes. Your bed should also support you without sagging or squeaking. Sagging means your body isn’t getting the right support, which can lead to aches and pains. Those and squeaking can interrupt your sleep. Check your support to make sure it’s still in good shape, and replace if needed.