There’s a strong correlation between how much sleep you get and how stressed you are. It’s a vicious cycle that can cause mental distress and even wreak havoc on your physical well-being.
It’s a well-known fact that people who don’t get enough sleep are lethargic and constantly experiencing an energy slump. This causes irritability, which also makes it hard to fall asleep. The reverse is also true. When you experience an exorbitant amount of stress during the day, it causes you to lie there awake – and that piles on more stress for the upcoming day. In many cases, this is leading to a vicious cycle that is complicating your stress more and more.
The Huffington Post conducted a poll where they asked people what their #1 stressor was. Lack of sleep was one thing that dominated the results. Stress and a lack of sleep combined can cause you to lose mental clarity and they can put more pressure on your body to perform at less than optimal standards.
For this reason it’s vital that you learn how to implement stress relief measures that also work to lull you to sleep at night. When you wake up fully refreshed, you’ll be able to tackle the world and anything it throws at you!
Rule #1 – Implement a Bedtime Technology Ban
If you want to toss and turn and have trouble to wake up in the morning, just keep your cell phone right by your bed. For some of you, that won’t be a problem – but for many people, it’s become an addiction that disrupts their sleep routine and causes a lack of sleep.
Some people have their computer right beside the bed and the glow of it lights up the room at night. The same is true for notifications that come in on cell phones – sometimes with lights and sometimes with the inclusion of sounds.
Not only is it a physical factor, but it causes a certain amount of mental unrest when you’re constantly checking emails or looking to see who posted what on Facebook.
The physical distraction of the computer glow tricks your body into thinking it’s time for you to be awake. Your body won’t produce the melatonin it needs and help you get (and stay) asleep, so you toss and turn all night.
Technology doesn’t just have to be left out of the bedroom – it needs to be shut down quite awhile before you go to bed. Your mind needs time to disconnect and wind down itself, and it can’t do that if you’re constantly feeding it information. If you go to bed at 10 PM, try disconnecting around 8:30 PM. Let your stress melt away and your mind relax. By the time you go to bed, all technology should be switched off or transferred to a different room. This isn’t an easy habit to break, but by having a plan you’ll be able to implement it.
Rule #2 – Create an Environment Conducive for Sleep
Your bedroom can do a lot to improve your sleep quality. First of all, it should be completely dark at night. Our sleep cycles are influenced by the dark light cycle, and a good night’s rest requires a completely dark bedroom. No lights on, and no electronic gadgets that are emitting light. If you have street lights out of your window, invest in a good curtain to block them off. Your sleep quality will appreciate it.
Next, your bedroom should be quiet. Some people got used to sleeping with radio or TV at night, and it seems to give them a certain sense of security. Just the sleep quality suffers from that, and in the long run, it might be better to find ways to overcome this habit. If you are impacted by street noise right outside your bedroom window, you may want to invest in double or triple glass sound blocking windows for your home. Your mind needs to be able to fully relax overnight and refresh your energies for the next day.
Be sure to also avoid any distractions inside your bedroom. This room should be designed for sleep, and not for continuing the frenzy you are suffering already all day long. The TV can stay in the living room where it belongs. And the less clutter you have in the room, the more your mind will feel at rest.
What can help a lot in the quality of your sleep is a good mattress. At the end of the day, you are spending one-third of your time in bed, and you should make sure that this time will be comfortable. A good mattress will be comfortable, but still firm, in order to give proper support to your spine. A pillow that is right for you can complement the comfort of your bed.
If you have trouble falling asleep, you can use a branch of lavender and put it below your pillow. As an alternative, you can purchase a lavender extract and sprinkle a few drops on your bed, just enough that you can smell it, but does not annoy you. For more severe sleep deficiencies you can try out to take some capsules of Valerian or Passion Flower, which are good options to induce you to sleep, giving you better conditions to resolve the underlying stress that may have caused your sleep deficiency.
Rule #3 – Wind Down Your Day With Exercise
It sounds almost backwards – putting forth extra exertion when you really need to be relaxing and calming down. But that’s just what exercise does for you! Exercise is a great stress reliever because it helps you release endorphins.
That’s why you sometimes hear of athlete’s bragging about their “runner’s high” – because although they may start out fatigued, they hit a point in their regimen where the endorphins are released and they feel good.
Feeling good is one of the first steps to you being able to sleep well tonight! Your body has probably been tensed and knotted up all day while you were at work. Allowing it to exercise gives you some relief – somewhere to pour all of that tension into. If you were sitting down all day long, this is exactly what your body needs.
Exercise also helps you sleep better at night. We joke as parents about letting our kids wear themselves out so they’re ready for a good, long nap – but the same goes for us as adults!
When the Huffington Post conducted a poll for people who exercise in terms of how they sleep, they discovered that people who exercise don’t just get more sleep – they get better sleep.
As you might suspect, the better your work out, the better you snooze each night! If you’re not used to exercising, start out slow and work your way up. You can start off with a simple 10-minute-a-day plan and increase it a bit each week.
Another good side effect of exercising is that you might shed some extra pounds! Poor sleep makes people gain weight according to recent studies – and stress definitely leads you to consume extra calories.
Try to exercise after work – but still plenty of time before going to bed. Making a strenuous workout just before bedtime will hype up your hormones. But if you do half an hour walk around 2 hours before going to bed, it will have a relaxing effect. If you exercise too close to bedtime and you discover that you still feel restless, just move your exercise up to an earlier time.
Rule #4 – Get a Soothing Bath
For some people, bath time is their only time of the day when they unwind and kick stress to the curb. There are no clocks ticking, no technology vying for your attention, and nobody talking to you.
It’s just you, your warm, soothing water, and whatever environment you’ve created to help you relax. The environment for your bath is just as important as the sleeping environment you create.
If it’s off, then you can’t relax. A cold, sterile bathroom won’t lend itself to a calming environment. Some people like to invest in a bubble bath or a lavender smell, while others put up candles to create a relaxing ambiance. Soft and relaxing music might be another option to get you into a tranquil mode.
Just as you’ve made the commitment to turn off technology at bedtime, do the same for your bath time, too. You can’t really relax if your smartphone is ringing off the hook. Just enjoy the moment, and forget about everything that was stressing you out during the day.
Rule #5 – Take a Light Supper
Eating a heavy meal late at night is a surefire recipe for troubled sleep. There is an old saying that we all know: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper. There is much truth in that.
Think for supper on something that is lightweight. This applies not only for quantity, but also the quality of our foods. What you should cut out as much as possible are fats, since they are very difficult to digest. So keep your fries for lunch and your nuts for breakfast. You should also go easy on proteins and focus more on carbohydrates for supper. So fruits together with a toast bread is a really good option, that will digest in a snap.
If you work all day long with your mind, you may even find that skipping supper altogether will improve your sleep. At night your body does not need this energy, and skipping supper helps you to wake up the next morning with appetite to face a substantial breakfast. Besides improving your sleep, this habit will help you a lot in your weight control, and controls your excessive sugar levels if you are diabetic. It may take you a few weeks to get used to it, but after that, you will feel the full benefit in your sleep quality.
For those who do not want to skip supper altogether, it should be lightweight and early enough to be completely digested before going to bed. A light supper should still be placed 2-3 hours before bedtime, to guarantee that digestion is done before you hit the bed. You do not want your stomach to work extra hours while you are at sleep. This will impact not only your health, but also sleep quality and your mood the next day you get up.
Rule #6 – Sleep at Regular Times
Have a regular time for going to bed and a regular time to rise that allows you 8-9 hours of good sleep. Cutting corners on sleep does not help your productivity. You will be running around like crazy, thinking you cannot afford to go to bed on time and let your work be undone. The truth is, that the next morning you will be irritated and with a foggy mind, not being able to think straight on what your next step should be to get you to the goal you are looking for. More than often you will realize that you will work more hours and accomplish less.
If you are really on a tight deadline, you may be better off to go to bed an hour earlier than normal, but wake up two hours earlier and get some undistracted work time early morning, while everyone else is still asleep.
Our body is adjusting its daily hormonal cycle according to the light and dark cycle of the sun. For this reason, one hour of sleep before midnight is just as refreshing as two hours of sleep after midnight.
Getting into the habit of going to bed before 9:30 PM will help you a lot to wake up refreshed and full of energy the next day. If you have created the habit of burning the midnight candle, it may take you some time to adjust to the new schedule, but after a few weeks you surely will start to feel the benefits.
Many people created the habit to get by on a minimal sleep time during the week, but at the weekends they sleep in as much as they can. This is detrimental in two ways. First, there is no way that you can make up for sleep that you have lost during the week. You cannot recuperate the lost productivity you had during the week, nor can you make up the toll that sleep deficiency had on your health.
Second, the body gets used to a regular rhythm of activities you do during the day. If you totally change your sleeping routine on the weekend, your body gets out of sync and you cannot enjoy completely the free time you have. So if you have the habit of getting up at 6 o clock during the week, and on the weekends you can’t get out of bed before 10, this is a sure sign that you were sleep deficient on your weekday schedule. If you aim for a regular time to go to bed and a regular time to wake up, ideally even on the weekends, you help your body a lot to optimize the circadian rhythm for peak productivity.
Rule #7 – Become a Master at Time Management
During the Huffington Post surveys about sleep and stress, they noticed that most people started with phrases like, “Not enough time to…” Time is one thing we need more of and have less of in this day and age.
We have no time to relax. We push ourselves from the time our feet hit the floor in the morning right up until we go to bed – and we never get to bed on time. Instead, we give ourselves a minimal amount of sleep hours – and much of that is spent tossing and turning due to the stress of what all we couldn’t accomplish this day.
If you’ll get firm with yourself and look at how much time you waste during the day, or how much time you’re not as productive as you should be, then you’ll free up more time for sleep.
Notice that didn’t say, “free up more time to get tasks done.” Many of you will learn new time management skills and forget to learn your lesson about sleep. Instead, you’ll pack in more on your to-do list.
Make the exercise to journal for a week your daily routine. Notice all the times when you’re surfing the web or standing around chatting with co-workers. That’s time that you could be spending really accomplishing things so that once your day is done, you are rewarded with free time – “me time” – to pamper and nurture your body and mind.
You might also find that when you implement the other rules here to accomplish proper sleep hygiene, you’ll be able to get more done throughout the day. That’s because your mental clarity improves and you tend to have more energy to tackle whatever the day may bring for you.
Rule #8 – Allow Deep Breathing to Replace Naps
There are some people who get in the habit of taking a daily nap – primarily because they’ve heard that power napping can help them achieve their goals for the day.
This might be true for many people. But if sleep eludes you, then naps could be causing the problem. A 10-minute power nap where you’re basically just shutting your eyes and deep breathing is beneficial. Going to bed for 2-4 hours in the middle of the day is a recipe for disaster. You’ll never be able to go to bed at a regular bedtime and you’ll lie there frustrated and annoyed that you can’t go to sleep. It’s a hard habit to break.
Try using deep breathing to energize yourself whenever you’re in an afternoon slump. Breathe from your diaphragm and try to watch how often you’re using shallow breaths throughout the day.
Rule #9 – Resolve Your Worries Before Going to Bed
If you find yourself troubled or upset make an effort to solve the problem as best you can before bedtime. If you had an argument with your spouse, or whether you were getting wrapped up with your coworker, if you are able to resolve it before bedtime, sleep will be so much sweeter. The Apostle Paul was saying already many years ago: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”1)The Bible, Ephesians 4:26 NKJV
Sometimes you find that worries are wanting to creep up on you and be your companion at bed in order to rob your sleep. Some worries are good in order to get us into action. But more often we are worried about things that we can do nothing to resolve. At this moment, we need to turn our worries over to your Heavenly Father, trusting that He is well able to take care of your needs. This experience of peace can do much more for a sweet night of rest than anything else. This is exactly what Solomon was speaking about:
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.Proverbs 3:24
I wish you can make this experience for yourself. Because if you are able to turn over your troubles into the Hand of God, then your sleep with a peace of mind that you maybe did not now for a long time. You want to try this out in your life?
Do you need a guide to help you understand how to cope with Stress in an all inclusive approach? Learn how to combat stress, mentally, physically, emotionally and strategically in your life.
Martin Neumann was trained for Lifestyle Interventions in 1998 at Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital. Since then he has lectured in different parts of the world about a healthy lifestyle and natural remedies. He is the founder of the Abundant Health website.
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