Are you feeling the pressures from all the stresses and strains in your life? Is anxiety taking a toll on your mind and body? Then welcome to the club. It’s not an exclusive club so don’t feel too special. There are billions of members and anyone can join. The dues are steep: insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating and lethargy are but a few. It gets worse: if the symptoms continue unabated, heart disease, high blood pressure and even cancer can be the result. It is estimated that 80% of all diseases are caused by stress and anxiety, either directly or indirectly. That said, it should be obvious to anyone that a membership to this club is not conducive to a long and healthy life.
One of the major triggers of stress and anxiety is a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is more far-reaching than most people think. Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time but when it become the norm, it can lead to elevated stress levels. Therefore it stands to reason that if we can improve sleep quality by adopting better sleep patterns, we can reduce stress naturally and recover our health and happiness. Having said that, the focus of this article will be an examination of the 10 best ways to sleep better and reduce your stress.
What can we do to help ourselves to sleep better? Let’s take a look at some proven strategies that will calm your mind and body and give you the refreshing and rejuvenating rest you require.
1) Don’t watch TV in bed. Your bed should be used for two things: sleeping and sex. Using your bed for eating, discussing emotional issues or watching TV can lead you to begin associating your bed with distracting activities and thus make it more difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
2) Keep your feet warm. Research has shown that cold feet send alertness signals to the brain. However, most people sleep better when their bedroom is slightly cool. So cranking up the thermostat could be detrimental to a good night’s sleep. The answer: wear socks to bed.
3) Imagine a peaceful scene. Counting sheep is only going to make you hungry for lamb chops. Instead, visualize a serene setting like a flowery meadow or a tropical sunset. You’ll fall asleep faster by replacing negative thoughts with calming thoughts.
4) Cut the caffeine. If you’re a coffee drinker, enjoy it only in the morning or afternoon. The effects of caffeine can stay in your system for up to eight hours. Additionally, the liver requires up to 11 hours to break down caffeine. So if you go to bed at 10PM, drink your last cup no later than 2PM. If you’re the kind of person who tosses and turns all night, this could make an immediate difference in the quality of your sleep.
5) Keep your bedroom quiet and dark. Some people seem to be able to sleep through anything. Most of us aren’t so lucky. For a more restful night’s sleep, keep your room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. Keep as much light out as possible by using curtains or blinds. A sleep mask can be helpful as well. Electric fans can help to reduce outside noises and provide a relaxing, rhythmic drone.
6) Sleep on your side. Side sleepers enjoy sounder sleep than back sleepers. They breathe better and wake up less. This is because side sleeping takes the pressure off of your delicate throat tissues which reduces heartburn and snoring-related awakenings. Keep rolling on your back? Tape a tennis ball to your back. Problem solved!
7) Take a hike. Exercising for 30 minutes a day has been proven to be an effective antidote for relieving stress and anxiety. Research has shown that it can also reduce insomnia by up to 70%. The important thing to remember is not to exercise too soon before going to bed because that can cause alertness which is the last thing you want at bedtime. If possible, plan your exercise regimen for the afternoon. If not, exercise no later than 3 hours before going to bed.
8) Have a snack. A protein snack before bedtime can actually help you sleep by reducing blood sugar spiking. A glass of warm milk, which contains the sleep-inducing amino acid Tryptophan, promotes sound sleep. Other sleep-supporting foods to consider are cottage cheese, canned tuna, avocado, oatmeal and bananas.
9) Read a book or magazine. Reading before bedtime has a calming effect and can help you fall asleep 50% faster, according to medical researchers. Stick with magazines and novels and save the newspaper for the morning.
10) Avoid alcohol. As a sleep aid, alcohol is ineffective. A drink or two can help you to fall asleep faster but the disturbances it creates can result in less restful sleep and more frequent awakenings. If you must imbibe, drink a glass of orange juice before going to bed. Why? Orange juice contains fructose which breaks down alcohol and speeds it out of your system. You will experience more tranquil sleep and less frequent awakenings.
Increasing sleep quality through better sleep discipline can have great benefits for the anxiety-ridden person seeking to reduce stress naturally. Heightened alertness, enhanced concentration and increased energy are only a few of the benefits. It is vitally important, now more than ever, to start building a solid foundation of good sleep practices. That will lead to a far superior quality of life both in… and out of the bedroom.