5 Ways to Sleep Better When You’re Stressed
Is stress robbing you of getting enough ZZZ’s? Then read on to learn 5 Ways to Sleep Better When You’re Stressed.
Today’s lifestyle demands for the busy career woman mean that you may be getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. A 2011 report by the CDC showed that people who sleep less than seven hours per night have greater difficulty concentrating, remembering, and driving than those who sleep more than seven hours.
A 2013 Stress in America Survey found that stress may be getting in the way of a good night’s sleep. American adults reported sleeping an average of 6.7 hours a night when they’re stressed — less than the minimum recommendation of seven to nine hours. In addition, 42 percent of adults reported their quality of sleep was poor and 43 percent reported that stress caused them to lie awake at night. And many reported that their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you restrict the time available for your body to achieve the third and most rejuvenating stage of deep sleep, called slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep (deep sleep), is a crucial part of your cognitive functioning. It plays a major role in memory consolidation and brain restoration.
Deep sleep also plays a role in boosting your immune system because this is when your body produces cytokines — a protein that helps to reduce infections and inflammation. In addition, recurrent sleep deprivation can have a cumulative effect on mental and physical wellbeing by increasing the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
I used to suffer from lack of sleep due to lots of stress with my job and it affected my relationships, performance at work, and mental health. Most days, I was too tired to have sex, cook dinner, or go to the gym. I was irritable, anxious, and used food to comfort me.
It was awful and I felt like a horrible mom and boss!
So I set out on a mission to find ways to relieve stress so I could sleep better without having to rely on sleeping pills. Just by tweaking a few nightly routines, I was able to calm my mind so I could sleep better. I now have more energy, fewer mood swings, and a positive attitude. And a bonus benefit is I am less anxious.
So if you’re stressed and not getting enough sleep, then read on to learn 5 ways to sleep better. I suggest you start with just two or three ways and note any changes in your mood, attitude, and performance.
Journaling to Relieve Stress at Bedtime
Stress comes from everywhere. Worries abound in all areas of life. Fretting about work, family, and obligations can become overwhelming. Running everything through your mind without an outlet for stress can make it hard to sleep.
When you need to rest, your mind gets hyper-focused on stressful things making it hard to fall asleep. During the day it can be easy to push worries down and think about other things but it’s much harder to distract ourselves when we are lying in bed trying to end our day.
There are a lot of ways to relieve stress and rid our minds of worries, one of the most effective is journaling.
The benefits of journaling include:
- Helps you get a handle on your thoughts: Journaling helps you focus your thoughts and get them out on paper. Instead of ruminating on the issues and stressing, journaling helps organize thoughts and process them. It makes it easier to better understand the roots of your stress and focus your thoughts rather than continuously running them over in your mind.
- Uses a different part of the brain: The act of writing and journaling uses the creative side of your brain. This can help ease stress. Depending on the type of journaling you do it may help raise the dopamine in your brain chemistry reducing stress. Journaling doesn’t have to be limited to writing. It can be as creative as you’d like including, coloring, doodling, writing poetry, or any other form of expression.
- Removes thoughts from your head: Writing things down tricks your brain into dumping them and leaving them on the page. Journaling can help get thoughts out of your head so your mind can wander on to something else. Psychologically, your brain believes that the thoughts are categorized on the page and don’t need as much intense focus anymore so your mind can begin to relax.
- Triggers problem-solving: In the same way clearing your mind in the shower leads to epiphanies, journaling can trigger problem-solving. Worrying about stress in your mind clutters it with negative thoughts and anxiety. The process of journaling triggers our natural problem-solving skills and makes it easier to find solutions.
Journaling before bed can help rid your mind of stress and leave your psyche feeling calm. This can help your mind shut down easily and drift into a deep sleep where the mind and body can repair and heal. Practice journaling before bedtime to help your mind release the worries of the day and prepare for a great night’s rest.
Use Phone Apps to Help You Sleep Like a Baby
Stress has a way of making itself known when we want to go to sleep. Somehow, we can shove our stressful thoughts aside most of the day but the moment we try to clear our minds and go to sleep, BAM- stressful thoughts overwhelm us.
There are times when it’s really hard to clear our heads and go to sleep. Try using one of these three smartphone apps to help clear your mind and sleep better.
Headspace app’s tag line is Be Kind to your Mind. This mantra is perfect when stress tries to rob you of your sleep. Headspace has a variety of benefits including helping to assess why you may not be sleeping, functions for power napping, and being mindful.
The Calm app is one of the highest-rated apps for relief from anxiety and stress. This app has a wide variety of meditations ranging from beginner to advanced and subscribers can choose how long and what type of meditation they prefer. Calm also has an option for nature sounds which can be great as white noise for stress relief.
Dare app is unique because its focus is on helping you face your anxiety and stressors rather than distract you from them. This app helps you move through anxiety using guided imagery you can focus on while the audio portion helps you sit comfortably with your stress. The Dare app can help you overcome and move on from stress which can lead to better sleep and less recurring anxiety.
Using your smartphone to help manage stress and sleep better makes sense. Having resources available that guide you through relaxing and letting go of worries is an asset at bedtime. Try various apps to see which ones meet your needs. Be willing to switch it up and try new apps when one feels too familiar, the variety will help.
All of these apps have free and paid subscriptions. I recommend investing in the small fees to upgrade and unlock the bigger and better features.
Meditation is an ancient practice that uses mindfulness to center thoughts, reduce stress, and help calm the mind. Meditating prior to bedtime can help prepare your mind and body for sleep and get control of stressful thinking.
If you haven’t experienced meditation in the past it can seem intimidating, weird, or even boring. Starting a meditation practice may feel awkward in the beginning, but soon you’ll experience the benefits first-hand and sing the praises of meditation. Learning to meditate is like working a muscle. The more often you use it, the easier it becomes.
Here are 3 Simple Steps to Meditate at Bedtime
Step 1. Commit to the practice.
Making the decision to meditate is the first and most important step. Since meditation gets easier over time, committing to using it is important. It may feel strange at first but stick with it.
Step 2. Choose the type of meditation that works for you.
There are three general types of meditation- mindfulness, concentration, and guided meditation.
- Mindfulness meditation is focusing on your breath and body and being keenly aware of how you feel inside your body and how your body is functioning in the moment. The goal during mindful meditation is to replace any wandering thoughts with mindfulness of what your body is experiencing instead.
- Concentration meditation is focused on a word, thought, or phrase. This meditation may include focusing on an object or repeating a mantra audibly or inside your mind.
- Guided meditation includes listening to an audio that helps guide you into stress relief and sleep. The instructor may focus on physical aspects of your body or may share a story and guide you through the details.
Step 3. Extend the length of meditation until you experience relief.
In the beginning, you may not be able to meditate for very long. That’s normal. Thoughts wander and stress has a way of overriding intentions. Don’t judge yourself or worry that you aren’t doing it right. Over time you can conquer your wandering mind and help it focus on your meditation practice and achieve relief and peace as you fall asleep.
Meditation is a wonderful tool to use to reduce stress throughout the day. It is especially helpful before bed if stress tries to rob you of your sleep. Find a meditation style that works for you and commit to trying it for a month and you’ll discover an amazing ability to regulate your thoughts and enjoy a restful sleep.
Implement a Bedtime Routine
The activities you engage in leading up to bed affect your sleep.
One of the biggest reasons people experience stress at bedtime is the failure to plan for a restful night’s sleep. Like most things, failure to plan is a plan to fail. It seems simple enough, get in bed, turn off the lights, close our eyes, and fall asleep. If only it were that simple. The key to getting to sleep is preparing for sleep ahead of time.
Having a bedtime routine can help combat stress and prep our minds and bodies for rest. The hour before you go to sleep is as important as the moment your head hits the pillow. Here’s why-
- What you do prior to going to bed can make or break your ability to fall asleep. Engaging in screen time, drinking caffeine, watching emotionally intense content, discussing sensitive topics, and other activities can trigger you to be more active when you should be winding down.
- Prior to bed, it’s best to do activities that promote and trigger your natural sleep rhythm. Drinking decaffeinated hot tea, taking a hot bath or shower, reading. Listening to meditative content, wearing comfortable clothing, and prepping for bed all promote restful sleep.
Your circadian rhythm affects your sleep cycle
Our bodies are designed with an internal sleep cycle. The circadian rhythm is a natural biological process in our bodies that helps us discern night from day. We have an innate wind-down window where our bodies shift towards sleepiness and ready themselves to go to bed. Disrupting this cycle with staying up late or overstimulation can cause significant stress and make it much harder to fall asleep and wake refreshed.
You can help keep your rhythm in sync by setting a routine bedtime and sticking to it. Sleep training your body to sleep and wake at specific times can help manage and override stressful thoughts at bedtime because your body will be used to going to sleep on a schedule. Once your body is accustomed to falling asleep and waking at specific times you likely won’t need an alarm clock nor have trouble falling asleep…even when you have stress.
Create a routine that works for you
Creating a bedtime routine that works for you will help you consistently get ready for bed and fall asleep with very little effort. Everyone is different, what one person needs to wind down may look different than someone else. Develop bedtime habits that help calm, relax, and destress prior to bed and you’ll experience an easier time falling asleep and have more restful nights.
Stop Doing These Three Things
Some people have a really hard time falling and staying asleep. They toss and turn and stay restless all night. It disrupts their sleep cycle and can cause their partners to lose sleep too. Before you know it, no one is getting any sleep.
Restlessness can be caused by many factors. Paying attention to what’s triggering your restlessness can help. You can keep a diary of your restlessness and pay close attention to patterns that indicate what’s keeping you up at night. In the meantime, until you’ve collected enough data, stop doing these three things and it could help you get better rest.
Eating and drinking after dinnertime
Eating foods late in the evening can cause the digestive system to work overtime. Spicy foods can cause heartburn and other foods can give you a jolt of energy when you need to be sleeping. Drinking caffeine can disrupt the sleep cycle too making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Drinking too much can also cause late-night trips to the bathroom disrupting restorative REM sleep.
Stop eating and drinking after your evening meal so you can digest your food and get your body ready for the most important task at hand- going to bed.
Smoking is toxic. Nicotine is a stimulant and can disrupt and override your circadian rhythm. Instead of slowing down for bed, smoking can rev you up. Smoking also causes a wide range of medical issues including emphysema, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Smoking can reduce the oxygen levels in the blood making it harder for the body to restore and repair itself at night leaving you feeling restless and tired throughout the night and into the next day.
Don’t sleep on your back
Sleeping on your back can cause sleep apnea–a failure to breathe during the night. Consistently being roused from deep sleep due to sleep apnea can result in restlessness, fatigue, and in some cases cause long-term health problems. Try sleeping on your side or stomach.
By now I hope you realize that sleep is an antidote for stress. And if you’re falling asleep reading this post, then there are now 6 ways to sleep better when you’re stressed.
To wrap up, a good night’s sleep helps our bodies by:
- Getting rid of toxins from our brains so we can sort out the events that happened throughout the day.
- Repairing and restoring themselves by reducing the levels of cortisol and increasing the levels of cytokines.
- Improves our memory.
- Stabilizes our moods.
- Sharpens our thinking skills.
It’s amazing how much our minds and bodies remain active even when we are sleeping.
Are you ready to optimize your health but don’t know where to start? Then schedule a free consultation and I’ll give you some say tips that you can right away.