Tonight I am giving a presentation to a group of women who are all a part of a health co-op focused on living a healthy lifestyle. Most of the time, the topics are more food-related, but tonight, I have the pleasure of talking about another important component of a healthy living: Stress Management.
As I have been preparing for this talk, I have thought about so many aspects of stress management and the importance of each. It’s sometimes hard to focus in on just a couple pieces to this larger “stress” puzzle that, in our American culture, seems to be the norm. For tonight, I’ve narrowed in on two areas, one of which is the importance of sleep for managing stress.
Creating an environment for your body to get restful sleep is extremely important. A good night of sleep helps us to deal with whatever stress comes out way. It increases our ability to cope, decreases irritability, and gives our brain a much-needed break from the day-to-day stress of our lives.
In this age of phones, computers, and tablets being nearby at all times, the signal for the body to go into “sleep mode” gets easily crossed. Bright screens trigger the brain to stay awake and active, rather than moving into rest.
Here are some tips to create a sleep environment that will help improve your chances of getting a restful night of sleep.
- Make your bedroom a tech-free zone at night. This one is so hard. Trust me, I know! Make your room as dark as possible – remove all cell phones, computers, and tablets. Make sure the.TV is off. The bright screens contribute to your brain not wanting to shut down to go to sleep. Try to turn off the screens an hour or more before you want to go to bed to help your body transition to sleep.
- Morning light. As soon as you wake in the morning, get into some sunshine. Doing so triggers your body to be awake. Then, about 14-16 hours after being in the sun, your body will naturally head for sleep.
- Schedule your sleep time. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Getting into this routine can help the body develop and keep its rhythm for sleeping and waking.
- Take advantage of white noise. A fan, air purifier, or other white noise can be useful. White noise is often soothing and helps to decrease other noises that can wake us up in the night.
- Cool down. A cooler body temp and room temp can help the body transition to sleep and stay asleep. Use a fan or air purifier (bonus for white noise too!) to help keep your room cool. If you like to take a shower or bath at night, you might also consider doing that well before bed to make sure your body temperature comes back down before you are trying to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine after 2 pm. Caffeine actually stays in your body and can affect your ability to fall asleep long after when you think it has worn off. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. While it may help you fall asleep, it can disrupt your sleep when its effects wear off in the night.
- Jot down the thoughts racing around in your mind. If you have a hard time falling asleep because it’s hard to turn your brain off, consider keeping a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed and jotting down the thoughts. Putting them on paper allows your brain to relax because you know you won’t forget it while you sleep.
This, of course, is a partial list. There are many ways to help your mind relax and your body fall asleep. What have you tried that has worked well for you?