Stress is a big inhibitor of sleep. In the 2019 sleep survey sponsored by Nanu, being too stressed to sleep was the number one reason those surveyed said they didn’t sleep well. As the world becomes an even more rapid and instant place to be, stress levels can only increase, not helped at all by the current pandemic situation we find ourselves within.Everyone is different though, and what is stressful for you may not have any effect on someone else. In the same way, what will help you get to sleep when you’re in a stressful period may work for you, but not for somebody else.
But there are a few things that you can try to help you get through a tough time when you can’t sleep. There are some things on this list you’ll have heard before and some you may not have thought of.
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, rich and fatty foods won’t be making the situation any better. These foods stop you from being able to sleep well. If you’re in a period where you’re too stresed to sleep, cut these foods out near bedtime. Replace them with a small meal of carbohydrates and foods that promote the creation of melatonin instead.
When you’re too stressed to sleep, breathing and stretching can reduce how stressed you feel
Being in tune with your breath and doing yoga can relieve stress instantly.
In her blog ‘Immediate Stress relief,’ sleep guru Anandi suggests that breathing fully and more deeply will, without a doubt, help you sleep better.
“Deep healthy breathing calms the mind, and a calm mind creates deeper more profound natural breath. If the breath becomes shallow or irregular, it affects our emotional balance. By lengthening and deepening the breath it calms the nervous system and reduces stress.”
Traditional yoga can also help you to sleep better and relieve stress. Not the stand on your head and bend your body into crazy shapes kind of yoga. The kind that calms the mind. Anandi suggests four different types of yoga to help do this in her blog ‘what kind of yoga is good for stress, and sleep problems?’. Jnana yoga, Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Raja yoga.
Breathing is free, so you have nothing to lose by trying it. If yoga is your thing, there will be various classes in your area, and any good yoga teacher will offer you a free class to see if it’s for you before you commit. Alternatively, if yoga isn’t your thing, then tap into the meditation side of yoga instead and save the stretching for another time.
Write everything down
When you’re too stressed to sleep don’t lie in bed thinking of all the things you need to do. This will increase your stress levels. Write everything down in a prioritised to-do list so you can go to sleep knowing that you won’t miss anything as it’s in black and white. If you need to keep a pen and paper by your bed to scribble on in the night too, then do it. Avoid using your phone to do this if you can though.
Think about other things, not sleep
My mum used to tell us to think about ‘nice things’ if we couldn’t sleep, and I do this with my kids too. Thinking of something or somewhere ‘nice’ and imagining yourself there will relax you and stop you thinking about trying to get to sleep. Thinking about anything to do with how well you might sleep or not sleeping or when you might get to sleep is a sure-fire way of not sleeping. It’s not like exercise or eating well. The more you think about it, the more likely you are to do some exercise and make the right food choices. With sleep, it has the opposite effect.
In his article ‘The Only Sleep Hack That Actually Works,’ Darius Foroux states that,
‘The point with sleep is to not overthink it. When you stop giving sleep attention, you can focus on what matters – to get some rest so you can wake up full of energy the next day.’
If you’re too stressed to sleep don’t lie in bed awake
If you lie in bed, trying to get to sleep, you will start to associate your bed with not being able to sleep, and this is not a good thing. Get up and go into another room, do something calming like reading a book. Go back to bed when you’re feeling sleepy. Read the point above again.
Have a calming bedtime routine
Use the hour before bed to wind down and turn yourself off.
Know that this time is your time when you are to take care of yourself. Have you heard of the anecdote about putting your gas mask on when a plane is going down before anyone else’s, even your children’s? This is one of those times. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there to take care of anyone else or get through this stressful time.
Stop tracking your every move
Try not to use devices for at least an hour before you go to bed and try not to fall asleep watching the TV. Make the hour before bed technology free. Instead, read a book, take a shower or bath, or go for a stroll. Even plan your next day and update your to-do list – as long as it’s with pen and paper.
Make your room a suitable environment for sleep
Your bedroom should be a calming place without clutter, or anything that isn’t related to sleep. No piles of paperwork or your laptop. No bright lights, unnecessary noise, or distracting very busy wallpaper patterns. As a temporary measure you could think about wearing earplugs if you need to, and an eye mask too. Your bedroom needs to be cool so your body temperature can drop slightly so you drift off to sleep easily.
Go to bed and get up at the same times every day
This includes the weekends. If you’re too stressed to sleep having a regular sleep pattern is excellent for your internal clock. It easily knows when to sleep and when to wake. Trying to stick to the same sleeping pattern as you did before this stressful time will mean the hormones needed to go to sleep are secreted at the right time, and this will help you go to sleep.
When you’re too stressed to sleep try not to resort to pills
Try to get to sleep naturally. Sleeping pills, however natural they are, including melatonin pills, can leave you feeling more groggy and tired when you wake up than when you went to sleep. Which is the opposite of how you want to feel and can add to your stress levels.
And the last thing that can help you sleep… have sex
The hormones that are released during sex not only reduce stress but also make you sleepy. Oxytocin lowers the stress-related hormone cortisol and prolactin, which is released when you orgasm, makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. And if you’re alone? Throw a party for one.
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Photo by whoislimos on Unsplash