My friends over at Tuck.com have written a wonderful guest post about a very important subject: sleep – in particularly how to keep stress down at bedtime. I think you will find the tips helpful as you work to add more energy and focus into your day, and actively create a life you love.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. It’s the body’s way of keeping us alive in dangerous situations as well as helping us hyper-focus when necessary. However, in today’s technological, interconnected world, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep, which can come back to interfere with both your professional and personal relationships.
The Stress/Sleep Deprivation Cycle
When you’re lying in bed thinking about a work presentation or personal finances or the next day’s crazy schedule, your mind and body stay in a heightened state of arousal due to stress. Unfortunately, stress and sleep deprivation can begin to feed on one another.
Anytime you get less than seven hours of sleep, you enter a state of sleep deprivation. In this state the body changes the way it functions. For example, the emotional processing center of the brain becomes hyperactive and oversensitive to negative situations, thoughts, and feelings. Comments or situations you’d usually be able to shrug off can suddenly over-influence your reactions.
Simultaneously, the brain’s logic center slows and reduces its activity, which normally includes keeping tabs on your emotional responses. The combined result of these changes can increase stress even further, which further disrupts sleep and, potentially, your relationships.
Simple Daily Stress Management
I find that if I don’t take the time to address stress on a daily basis, it builds up. I become overwhelmed and tired, and have a restless night sleep. However, I’ve also learned that stress management doesn’t need to be formal or lengthy to be effective. Some of my favorite stress relieving techniques include:
Science now supports what some cultures have known centuries – meditation helps calm the mind and body. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation, in particular, can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure by triggering the body’s relaxation response.
Your sleep quality deteriorates as you age, but meditation has been shown to restore cellular health and rejuvenate the quality of your sleep to that experienced in your youth. A regular meditation routine can even strengthen the connection between the emotion and logic center of the brain, putting logic back in the lead.
Essential oils have become a popular way to manage any number of ailments, including sleep problems. The results of a 2010 study suggest that the scent of jasmine can be almost as calming on the nerves as a sedative. Lavender in conjunction with good sleep habits has been shown to improve the quality and quantity of time slept when compared to healthy sleep habits alone.
Aromatherapy can also help because of the body’s response to regular stimuli. With time, if you always use the same scents at bedtime, the brain recognizes activities associated with that scent. Before you know it, every time you smell jasmine or lavender you’ll automatically start to feel sleepy.
Put Technology Away
Technology brings us some amazing benefits but it can cut into your sleep time. Many electronic devices like smartphones and TVs emit a bright blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. Other than a baby monitor, most devices are better off outside the bedroom. If you need to use them in the evening, try to give yourself two to three hours of tech-free time to stay on track for your normal sleep schedule.
It might take some trial and error to find stress management methods and techniques that work for you. Bedtime works best for me because that’s when I finally get to slow down for the day. Children are in bed, my work is done, and I get a chance to breathe. The time of day doesn’t matter as much as the consistency with which you reduce your stress. Be mindful and consistent and before you know it, you’ll be getting the full seven hours of sleep you need.
Author bio: Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.