Stress and Sleep
I am so stressed out, I can’t sleep!!!! I can count the numerous occasions someone has said this to me in recent times. The reality is that we are living in unprecedented times, where stressors can be identified in various spaces. How this stress is managed has a significant impact on not just the ability to sleep but even more importantly the quality of sleep one is able to get.
Sleep is a necessary human function — it allows our brains to recharge and our bodies to rest. When we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep, such as muscle repair and memory consolidation. Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood. In addition to feelings of listlessness, chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to health problems, from obesity and high blood pressure to safety risks while driving. Research has shown that most persons would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.
Tips for Managing Stress for Better Sleep
These tips can help you ease stress and hopefully get a better night’s sleep:
- Assess what is stressful. The first step in getting a handle on stress is to figure out what’s causing it. Take a good look at your physical condition and your daily activities. Do you have pain? Are you overloaded at work? Once you identify your stressors, you can take steps to reduce them.
- Seek social support. Spending time with family and friends is an important buffer against stress. It can be helpful to share your problems with people who care for you.
- Practice thought management. What we think, how we think, what we expect, and what we tell ourselves often determine how we feel and how well we manage rising stress levels. You can learn to change thought patterns that produce stress. Thoughts to watch out for include those concerning how things should be and those that overgeneralize sets of circumstances (for example, “I’m a failure at my whole job because I missed one deadline.”) Many wellness videos, tapes, and books can help you learn thought management exercises.
- Exercise. Physical activity can help you blow off steam, reducing stress. In addition, flexible, loose muscles are less likely to become tight and painful in response to stress. But it’s best to exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime so your body temperature returns to normal. If you have a medical condition or are over age 50, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
- Learn to relax. Practice things like meditation, or deep breathing. Try taking a warm bath or a cold shower if that relaxes you, and turning off electronics (phones, laptops etc) to help you wind down before bed.
- Eat a healthy diet. Junk food and refined sugars low in nutritional value and high in calories can leave us feeling out of energy and sluggish. A healthy diet, low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, can promote health and reduce stress.
- Get adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep makes you able to tackle the day’s stress more easily. When you’re tired, you’re less patient and more easily agitated, which can increase stress. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Practicing good sleep hygiene along with stress-lowering tactics can help improve your quality of sleep.
- Delegate responsibility. Often, having too many responsibilities can lead to stress. Free up time and decrease stress by delegating responsibilities.
To be continued next week.