Don’t let stress and anxiety get in the way of a good night’s sleep…
Sleep and stress create a two-way street. Just as not getting enough sleep can make you feel more stressed and irritable during the day, feeling stressed can also disrupt your sleep routine and make it more difficult to rest easy.
When you’re trapped in this vicious cycle, it can be difficult to break it. In fact, between 10 and 30% of adults are currently living with insomnia brought on by stress, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to support a better sleep routine and manage your stress levels. Try these tactics to help improve your sleep quality and stress levels in the long run.
Don’t forget to breathe
Even something as simple as breathing can make a difference when it comes to getting to sleep and managing your stress. When we feel anxious, we tend to take shorter, sharper breaths. Being mindful about your breathing can help you take longer breaths that support a reduction in stress levels and greater relaxation. Try the 4-4-4 breathing method in the run-up to bedtime: inhaling for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, and exhaling for four seconds.
Opt for relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques are designed to slow your breathing, lower your blood pressure and make you feel calmer overall. There are a variety of classic relaxation techniques to choose from, including meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and even gentle yoga or stretching. Put aside a window of time every evening to incorporate some of these tactics into your routine.
Manage your screen time
Not only do devices like smartphones, tablets and TVs emit blue light that can inhibit the release of sleep hormones like melatonin, but they are also designed to keep you in a heightened state of awareness. Scrolling through social media forces your brain to digest huge amounts of information in a very short period of time, making it almost impossible to wind down. On top of this, there have been multiple studies linking the constant use of social media and smartphones to increased stress levels. So aim to give yourself a strict curfew from screens in the lead up to sleep.
Create a relaxing bedroom environment
If you suffer from chronic sleeplessness, even your bedroom itself can become a source of stress. We can start to associate our bedrooms with struggling to sleep, instead of seeing them as a sanctuary where we can truly relax.
However, changing your sleep hygiene habits can help to break these harmful associations. Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy only, and keep work out of the bedroom. You should also keep your bedroom cool and quiet, and turn off all bright lights (including your phone). Setting your alarm for the same time every morning – and going to bed at the same time every evening – can train your mind to start winding down as bedtime approaches.
Avoid heavy meals in the run-up to bedtime
A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that eating within three hours before bedtime can lead to more disrupted sleep while eating a heavy meal before lying down can also make you more prone to heartburn or acid reflux.
Give yourself plenty of time to digest your evening meal before you go to bed. If you have trouble sleeping on an empty stomach, opt for a small, nutritious snack or a glass of warm milk.