Stress Series: Stress and Sleep

Distress and anxiety caused by stress can lead to many restless nights. Even worse, once you are sleep deprived your anxiety levels tend to rise creating a vicious cycle that can feel overwhelming. The most important thing to do in this situation is to relax. Try to distract yourself from the fact that you’re having trouble sleeping because this in itself perpetuates more stress that makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Here are a few tips to help you relax for a good night’s sleep – which can make all the difference in having a great day ahead.

Get Active During Day

Getting some exercise during the day can help tire your body a bit for a better sleep at night. Not only a physical activity will get you more tired at night, it is also a great stress reliever in itself.  Make sure to schedule more vigorous exercise for earlier in the day to prevent any adrenaline from disrupting your sleep.

Maintain Regular Sleep Schedule

If you have an erratic sleep schedule, you will likely have more trouble falling asleep each night, as your body does not know that it should be getting ready to relax. By keeping your body on a regular sleeping pattern, you are more likely to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Our bodies are generally accustomed to a 10 p.m. to 6 a. m. sleep schedule, which ensures the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

Plan Dinner Meals Strategically

Certain meals like heavy salty starches and spicy food can be disruptive to sleep –they can cause adrenaline spikes and upset stomachs due to more difficult digestion. Instead, choose foods for dinnertime that promote the production of melatonin, including healthy complex carbohydrates, calcium and magnesium. Brown rice or quinoa, leafy greens, cheese and crackers for snacks, and tart cherry juice are good options to encourage restfulness at bedtime.

Outline Calming Nighttime Routine

Try to reserve time for relaxation for a few hours before bedtime every night. Many people can’t jump from answering emails straight to bed – you will likely be full of adrenaline or thinking too much. To relax, sit in a darkened room away from your phone and TV screens. Many find that reading in bed helps them relax and become sleepy. Things like taking a relaxing bath before bed or drinking a cup of chamomile tea may help as well.

Consider Background Noise

Many people find that a soothing background noise helps them fall asleep. This could be as simple as having a fan running in your bedroom, using a white noise machine, or a phone app that provides calming noises including rain, storms, oceans, etc. Some people, however, cannot tolerate background noise – they can’t have any distractions, either visual or auditory. For these individuals a sleeping mask and earplugs can be a great solution.

Ultimately, the most effective bedtime routine is going to depend on the person. Try out some of the above tricks and see what works best for you!