We’ve all felt the flames of stress in this world. Prior we discussed in Caveman Insomnia, stress and sleep are not very compatible. The truth however, is that stress will never end, but sadly one day life will. There are many ways to deal with stress, from Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to Blowing Bubbles. And I think you’ll find it reassuring that even in times of stress, there are ways to still get good sleep! Journalist Anne Ball discusses some of these.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep when You’re Stressed
If you’re feeling stressed, your work schedule is too hectic, or you’re worrying about money or family problems it can make it challenging to get a decent night’s sleep. Lying awake most of the night and then getting up, unrefreshed and exhausted the next morning only contributes to more stress.
To break the vicious cycle you don’t need sleeping pills. There are things you can do to restore a healthy sleep routine.
Address any Problems
If specific problems are keeping you awake, speak to someone who may be able to help. For instance, if you are having difficulties at work, speak to your boss, or if possible, see if you can take some annual leave in order to wind down. Facing the problem head on can bring solutions and relief for stress.
Review Your Medication
If you are taking any medication, check the patient information leaflet and check with your doctor whether it interferes with sleep. Some medications, such as beta blockers, can cause insomnia. If your medication has this side-effect, speak to your doctor about the possibility of adjusting the dose or changing the prescription. Never do this without supervision as this may be dangerous.
Be Strict with Your Routine
Bedtimes aren’t just for babies. Setting a time for going to sleep and sticking to it will help regulate your body clock and help you sleep when you are supposed to. Healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
Find a Relaxing Activity Before Bed
Try to relax before you go to bed. You can do this by avoiding the television and the internet at least an hour before you intend to go to sleep. You could still listen to calming music or relaxation CD’s to help you drift off. Reading a book in bed can also help you switch off from the stresses of real life as you escape into the plot of your novel. A relaxing bubble bath or warm shower can ease aches and pains and prepare your body for sleep. This is why so many people swear by a pre-bed bath.
Avoid Heavy Eating
You should avoid eating a heavy meal later in the evening, which may interrupt your sleep and could also make you gain weight.
Specific foods you should avoid include:
Chocolate – This popular treat contains caffeine. The FDA estimate that in a 100g portion of dark chocolate, there is 43mgs of caffeine, while milk chocolate contains 20mgs.
Tea and Coffee – You should not drink tea and coffee in the evening. Even uncaffeinated teas contain trace amounts of caffeine. Try the good old fashioned grandmother’s remedy – a glass of warm milk, instead. If you don’t drink milk you could try almond milk which will boost your brain’s ability to produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing, anti-inflammatory hormone.
Alcohol – Alcohol is another no-no. While it might initially help you feel relaxed, you will probably wake right up once the effects have worn off. Alcohol is a nervous system depressant so once the ‘merry’ feeling has dissipated, you may feel more stressed than before.
Have a Magnesium Rich Diet
Magnesium plays a role in sleep cycles so make sure you eat magnesium rich foods, such as nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables. You could also take a multi-vitamin supplement that contains magnesium.
Get Black Out Blinds for More Melatonin
Get black out blinds or an eye mask so you can sleep in total darkness. The reason people feel drowsy at night is because as it gets dark, melatonin levels climb and this increase in hormones triggers the desire to sleep, so making sure you sleep in total darkness will ensure you have higher levels of melatonin and you will have a more restful night.
It is also a repair hormone and will be busy fixing injuries, calming inflammation and boosting your immune system while you sleep. As inflammation affects behavior and can make you feel anxious, its soothing effects can stop anxiety better than any pill.
Try Memory Foam
Many people are kept awake by a chronic health condition. If you have painful joints, cervical migraines or other discomfort that prevents you from having a good night’s sleep, don’t put up with it. You can try a memory foam mattress and pillow. These mould to your body shape. Overly hard mattresses can do more harm than good and may damage your spine. Full body pillows are another good idea.
Put Lavender on Your Pillow
Another remedy from yesteryear is lavender essential oil. Just put a couple of drops on your pillow when you go to bed. Inhaling the fragrance can help you drift off into a peaceful slumber.
Post written by Journalist Anne Ball