Stress and sleep are a two-way street. Just as a lack of sleep can be a source of stress, a stressful day (or month) can keep you awake a night. Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to rest, repair, and recharge. While everyone experiences a restless night of sleep here and there, a consistent lack of sleep will inevitably throw your system off balance and increase your stress levels.
Although sleep is one of our basic human needs, one in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep. If you struggle with sleep, it may seem like getting deep, restorative Z’s is nothing more than a wishful fantasy. In many cases, however, you can improve your sleep by adopting good sleep hygiene—a term used to describe good sleep habits that set you up for a restful night’s sleep. Here are five habits you should consider to get sound slumber that will reduce your stress levels.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Try your best to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, allowing for seven to eight hours of sleep. While you can sleep in an hour or so later on the weekends, try your best to maintain your sleep schedule seven days a week. This reinforces your body’s sleep cycle (or internal clock), which can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night and get up in the morning.
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Our days are filled with errands, responsibilities, decisions, and activities, which naturally stimulate our nervous systems. A relaxing bedtime routine helps calm your mind and body so that you’re ready for sleep. While everyone will have different preferences, some soothing activities to try include taking a bath, reading a book, doing yoga, having tea, meditating, or doing deep breathing exercises. If you find that a racing mind is keeping you awake, try journaling out your thoughts before bed.
3. Cultivate healthy daily habits
Setting yourself up for a restful night’s sleep doesn’t just start in the evening. What you do during the day matters just as much. To encourage a good night’s sleep, regularly include these healthy habits into your days:
Get 10-30 minutes of midday sun several days a week
Engage in 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day
Limit daytime naps (and don’t take naps over 20 minutes)
Find ways to reduce tension and stress, perhaps through exercise, therapy, cooking, or journaling.
4. Optimize your bedroom for sleep
Your bedroom can have a big impact on your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. It’s important to set your bedroom up to be a relaxing place that encourages sleep. This entails investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow, setting your thermostat to a comfortable, cool temperature (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit), blocking out as much light as possible, and, if necessary, drowning out noise with a white noise machine, earplugs, or a fan. Also, be sure to stop using electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops, a half-hour to an hour before bed. These devices generate blue light which suppresses the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
5. Pay attention to what you eat and drink
While many people don’t give much thought to when and what they eat and drink, it’s something you should pay attention to, especially if you’re struggling with sleep. Here are some tips to guide you:
Avoid heavy, large meals in the evening and stop eating at least two hours before bedtime.
Eat a balanced diet filled with healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats. Do your best to avoid processed foods and refined sugar.
Quit smoking, if you do.
Reduce alcohol consumption and avoid drinking in the late evening
Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m.
Apply these tips for better sleep and reduced stress
Good sleep hygiene is a crucial part of getting the restful, restorative sleep you need to function at your best and support your overall well-being. By applying the above tips, your sleep is likely to improve and, as a result, your stress levels, too. Sweet dreams!
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this page are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this post is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, including but not limited to the benefits of mental healthcare, wellness and nutrition. It is not intended to provide or be a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed mental health practitioner. Always seek the advice of your therapist, physician or other licensed mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional mental health advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page.