Insomnia, a common symptom of anxiety and stress affects many adults in the U.S. No one wants to toss and turn all night. Still a goodnight’s sleep seems to elude many adults. According to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey, an estimated 168 million Americans suffer from insomnia –a symptom of anxiety and stress. During sleep, our body has a chance to undergo repairs—both physically (e.g. torn muscles, organ cleansing, etc.) and psychologically (e.g. laying down memories, working through anxiety etc.), making sleep an essential component of the body’s natural healing process.
Stress and Sleep
When work and personal responsibilities collide, they wreak havoc on our mental and emotional well-being resulting in anxiety and stress. These daily stressors often make it difficult to quiet our mind and enjoy a restful sleep. When sleep is disrupted for long periods of time, it may lead to fatigue, decision-making difficulty, lack of focus and issues performing certain tasks.
The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Regular bouts of sleeplessness can lead to negative long- and short-term consequences. According to an article published on WebMD, “Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. Excessive daytime sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information, and carries a substantially increased risk of sustaining an occupational injury. Long-term sleep deprivation from sleep disorders like apnea have recently been implicated in high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.”
Promoting Sleep with proper “Sleep Hygiene”
Altering one’s sleep hygiene can greatly improve an individual’s ability to enjoy restful sleep and ease anxiety and stress. Sleep hygiene are the sleep conducive habits we practice regularly. According to Michael Thorpy, MD director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY, “The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular wake and sleep pattern seven days a week. It is also important to spend an appropriate amount of time in bed, not too little, or too excessive.”
Starting a Routine
Ease into transitioning from alertness to sleep by doing a series of relaxing activities an hour before bed. Make daily tasks like brushing teeth and picking clothes for the next day a part of your sleep hygiene by making these mundane tasks an indicator that you are preparing for bed. Performing a simple routine before bed gives us the chance to ease anxiety and stress, unwind and communicate to our bodies that it is time for rest.
If you are one of the millions of Americans that suffer from insomnia, here are 12 simple steps to develop a healthy sleep habits and have solid nighttime routine.
Healthy Sleep Habits to Ease Anxiety and Stress
1. Take a Hot Bath
Preparing for sleep should begin 60 – 90 minutes before getting in bed. According to a study conducted by New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in White Plains, NY, our body temperature naturally dips beginning two hours before bed. Soaking in a soothing bath for at least 20 minutes can help raise the body’s temperature and help you fall into a deep sleep.
2. Create a Comfortable Environment
Experts believe that temperature can affect your ability to sleep. Set your thermostat to around 65 degrees to make the temperature in your home comfortable and conducive to sleep.
3. Dim the Lights
Switching to dimmer lights at dusk can aid melatonin (our sleep-inducing hormone) which signals to our body that it is time for sleep.
To further create a calm atmosphere, engage your senses with aromatherapy. Light aromatherapy candles or essential oils in soothing scents like lavender, geranium or jasmine help set the mood for a relaxing evening.
Blue light-emitting devices including smartphones, e-readers and laptops suppress melatonin making it difficult to drift off to sleep. Experts recommend turning off electronic devices at least an hour before bed time.
6. Listen to Music
Research shows that music has healing powers and it is becoming an invaluable tool for improving our health and wellbeing. To further enhance the mood, try turning off the television and playing soft music in the background. Music streaming services like Soundcloud and Spotify have a number of playlists dedicated to soothing tranquil music that can be played in the background. We recommend Merkaela’s Zen Playlist to help you reach a peaceful state of mind.
Meditation can have profound effects on our sense of mental and emotional well-being and may ease anxiety and stress. Try sitting comfortably before bed and focusing only on your breath. Meditating before bed can help you let go of worry about the past or future by bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
8. Enjoy a cup of tea
One of the simplest ways to relax before bed is to sit down with a cup of caffeine-free tea. Clear your mind as you pour hot water into your favorite mug and enjoy your favorite herbal tea.
9. Read your favorite work of fiction
While nonfiction can stimulate the mind leading to sleeplessness, fiction takes the mind off mundane responsibilities allowing you to relax and unwind.
10. Write down your thoughts
Insomnia usually stems from incessant mind chatter that people are unable to shut off while trying to fall asleep. Before bed, jot down any lingering thoughts that prevent you from enjoying a restful sleep.
Performing a few simple stretches before bed can help relieve tension in the joints and muscles allowing an individual to feel relaxed before entering bed.
12. During the day, exercise and avoid caffeine after hours
Other ways to promote good sleep include exercise but not too close to bedtime. Exercise stimulates cortisol, which activates the alert mechanism in the brain. This can help you fall asleep faster as long as it’s done at least 3 hours before bed. People suffering from sleep deprivation should avoid caffeine past noon. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coke, and some pain relievers and may stay in your system up to six hours after you’ve had your first dose. Caffeine may also increase the instances a person experience anxiety and stress. Some experts suggest finishing dinner several hours before bed. Consuming alcohol and large meals before bed can hinder your ability to have restful sleep.
Did you enjoy our awesome list of healthy sleep habits to ease anxiety and stress? What healthy sleep habits do you practice? How do you ease anxiety and stress? Please share with us any
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“Healthy Sleep Habits,” Sleep Education, [Website] available at: http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits
“How to Sleep Better: ‘Sleep Hygiene’ Solutions for Better Sleep,” WebMD, [Website] available at: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/sleep-hygiene?page=2
Klein, Sarah. “This Is The Ultimate Bedtime Routine For Better Sleep,” The Third Metric, Huffington Post, [Website] available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/08/bedtime-routine_n_5659183.html
“Sleep Hygiene,” National Sleep Foundation, [Website] available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene/page/0/1
“Sleep Hygiene Tips – American Sleep Association,” American Sleep Association, [Website] available at: https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/insomnia/sleep-hygiene-tips/
“The Snooze Routine: Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep,” Young Living Blog, [Website] available at: https://www.youngliving.com/blog/the-snooze-routine-tips-for-a-better-nights-sleep/
“Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep,” Healthy Sleep, [Website] available at: http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips
Williams, Dr. D.A. and Dr. M. Carey. “You Really Need to Sleep: Several Methods to Improve Your Sleep,” UMHS 2003, [PDF] available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/painresearch/patients/Sleep.pdf