The stress from the day comes to haunt you at night — and not in your dreams because you're not even asleep. Lying in bed, tossing and turning, your mind is racing. You could be thinking about the stresses from the day or dreading that meeting you have tomorrow — maybe even feeling the embarrassment from the infamous incident in third grade. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to combat these disruptive thoughts to get the Zs you desperately need.
Depending on the various activities of your daily life (e.g., family and work responsibilities), you may find it quite challenging — if not seemingly impossible — to get away, even for a night or two. It's essential to take time off occasionally, whether for a week-long vacation on one of the many cruises from Florida or an overnight road trip close to home. Getting away, even for a short time, is especially important if you work from home; you need a change of scenery.
Clear the Clutter
Research has shown that clutter can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. You may not even realize that it's causing this amount of stress. Try to keep the clutter down as much as possible, at work, home and even your car.
Exercise is not only great for your body, but it's also very beneficial for your mind. Studies have shown that people who have higher levels of physical activity tend to sleep more efficiently. It doesn't have to be anything complicated or intense. Just try to get your heart rate up some each day with a moderate-pace walk. Walking like this at least 3 days a week will benefit your overall health more than you may realize. Exercise lowers adrenaline and cortisol (two stress hormones) levels. Lowering these levels can help ward off negative thoughts and even help you lose a few pounds (cortisol promotes fat production in the body). Exercising outdoors provides even more benefits, as spending time in nature tends to lower stress levels. It's best to exercise at least three hours before bedtime since exercise can energize your body for a while afterward. Depending on the exercise's intensity, it can take your body a few hours to completely unwind from it. In addition to lowering stress levels, physical activity can also stimulate endorphin (mood-boosting chemicals in the brain) production.
A healthy diet is good for your overall health and can even help keep stress at bay. When you feel healthier, you're generally happier. Some foods are natural mood-boosters, and some can give you an energy boost, which can also help your mood.
Adding vitamin and herbal supplements to your daily health regimen can help you de-stress, maybe even break out of the stress cycle that you've been maintaining for some time. Some can allow you to sleep better. For many, ashwagandha is useful for helping calm the mind and body. Melatonin is one of your body's natural hormones that it uses to help you unwind and fall asleep at night. Taking melatonin supplements each evening could significantly improve the time it takes to fall asleep after you go to bed.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that only allows you to be cognizant and present in the moment. If you've never practiced mindfulness, it will probably take a while to get good at it. However, with a little practice, you should notice a significant positive difference in your health. When you focus only on the present, you're not regretting things from the past or worrying about something that might happen in the future. If you start thinking about any of these things, you must immediately bring yourself back to the present. You'll soon learn to break the cycle of disruptive thinking. You can try to clear your mind by only being aware of the senses you’re experiencing in the moment. For example, if you're outside, you would feel the sun’s heat and cool breeze on your skin, smell the freshly-cut grass, hear the birds chirping and take in the beauty of the nature that surrounds you.
Create a Bedtime Routine
A nightly bedtime routine can significantly help your stress levels. Optimize your bedroom for sleep. You'll probably need to turn down the thermostat since the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. A weighted blanket can be a great pairing with a cool room for a good night's rest. Also, keep out as much ambient light as possible. You might have to invest in some blackout curtains or a sleep mask. You'll also need to block out any noises that may disrupt your sleep, such as road traffic, noisy neighbors or your family or roommates who may still be up. A fan, white noise machine or soothing music can be helpful.
Writing can sometimes help ward off stress. Keep a journal next to your bed. If your mind is racing and you can't sleep, turn on a dim light and write down your thoughts. Make a list of everything that's bothering you and how you can deal with them. You may not come up with a permanent solution tonight, but getting your feelings on paper should give you enough peace of mind to get through the night.
Think about things for which you are thankful. This will take your mind off the negative aspects of your life for a while. You might just realize that you've got many more positives than negatives in your life. This recognition can positively adjust your perspective.
Sometimes when you're stressed, you don't feel like socializing. It can help to hang out with loved ones, though. Whether it's your family, close friends, Fluffy or Fido, you'll find that your stress will probably lower significantly for a while. Being around the ones you love can help relax your mind. It may help you to talk about what's causing your stress, but don't spend too much time on it. Try to just enjoy being together and talk about the positives mostly.
Research has shown that the physical act of laughing can reduce stress. Even a big smile can send a signal to your brain that things aren't super-stressful. Whenever you're feeling stressed, try to do something that will boost your mood and make you laugh. See a funny movie or visit someone good at making you smile.
Every night, realize that there's nothing you can do to change the past, and at this moment, you can only focus on the present. There's no point in worrying about the past or future tonight. Try some or all of the techniques listed above to de-stress and consistently get sound, restful sleep.
What is Your Next Step?
If you cannot seem to get to the bottom of what triggers your anxiety and sleepless nights, call Alaska Sleep Clinic today. We are the only sleep lab in the state with a Cognitive Behavior Therapist specializing in sleep medicine, Dr. Angie Randazzo. Watch Dr. Angie's KTUU "Moms Everyday" Segment on how stress affects sleep by clicking the video below.
We are ready to help you Improve Your Sleep and Improve Your Life.