Most people don’t like stress, but it can serve an important function. Stress pushes us to be careful, to be our best, and to stay alert. It can give us energy. But too much, for too long, can cause a whole lot of problems. Getting better sleep can help – but it can be hard to do, because you’re too stressed to get in bed on time & stay asleep! Break the cycle by starting healthy sleep habits.
How to Tell if You’re Too Stressed
Is stress getting you through your challenges, or causing you problems? If you’re feeling regular depression and anxiety, have trouble concentrating, and never feel rested, stress could be the source. Stress in America is at an all-time high, and 45% of adults report lying awake at night instead of sleeping.
What are some signs? First, aches and pains. From migraines on weekends (when your stress levels drop) to jaw pain from grinding your teeth at night, your body tenses when you’re stressed. Too much tension and your body feels it! Stress goes straight to your gut, too, so if you’ve got belly aches or an upset stomach all the time, you could have too much stress.
Your skin also reacts. You may have breakouts, or be extra itchy. It can even make your allergies worse, and might be the cause of junk food cravings. These might all be signs that you need to reduce stress in your life (talk to your doctor if you’re ever not sure).
What to Do About It
It’s a good idea to address what’s stressing you and figure out the best way to deal with it. Here are some tips:
- Spend time with loved ones.
- Exercise – this is good for you overall, and helps relax those tense muscles.
- Eat healthy. Food with little nutritional value may feel comforting at the time, but those empty calories don’t give you good energy to face your day.
- Take time out. Spend time each day unplugging from your worries. Leave the phone on the charger and go for a walk, practice meditation, take a bubble bath, read a book – whatever helps you refresh and recharge.
- Get restful sleep. If you’re tired it’s hard to deal with anything. Adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. It’s good for body & mind!
How Sleep Helps Reduce Stress
If you’re well-rested, you’ll be energized enough to face the challenges of your day. More sleep gives you improved concentration, so you’re better able to complete tasks, and helps sharpen those decision-making skills. You’ll be better at solving problems, and thus reducing stress. Good sleep also leaves people in a better mood. You’ve probably noticed when you’re tired that everything seems to go wrong? That’s because studies show that lack of sleep makes people more emotional and sensitive to negativity. That lack of sleep means that even a normal day can feel more challenging.
A clean bedroom with soothing colors can help to make it a stress-free zone.
How Stress Hurts Sleep
We just saw how sleep can reduce your stress, and stress can also reduce your sleep. If you’re anxious and tense, it’s hard to fall asleep. Stress hormones also usually peak in the afternoon to early evening, when you should be winding your day down and relaxing more.
Health issues caused by stress also make it harder to rest easy. Those aches and pains might wake you up in the middle of the night. The sleep that you do get can be low quality, which doesn’t help, and is easily broken up.
Reducing Stress for Better Sleep
It’s important to find a healthy approach to managing your stress. In addition to the tips we already mentioned, you can focus specifically on unwinding before bed. Releasing those anxious thoughts and tense muscles will allow you to sleep better, and the next day should be easier to handle because of it.
Start up a bedtime routine. Leave yourself enough time to put aside busy thoughts and unwind – and also those 7-9 hours of sleep you need! Start an hour before you go to bed by turning off your screens and getting ready for the next day. Don’t drink alcohol, but try some herbal tea or water instead.
You can try some mindfulness practices which relax your brain and your body. Meditation, deep breathing, or even some light movement like yoga can help. A hot bath or shower will soak away tense muscles. Or, just listen to music that will take your mind off things. Usually instrumental is best, but if you’re relaxed by heavy metal, we won’t judge!
Make sure that your bedroom is a relaxing space, too.
De-Stressing Your Bedroom
The Feng Shui in your bedroom absolutely impacts your stress levels and ability to regenerate. Take time to declutter enough that you can look around without thinking of all the things you should be doing. In another issue of our blog, we talked about some general tips to change your bedroom to get better sleep already, like switching to softer light bulbs and blocking out night time lights.
Don’t use your bedroom for work or anything else that causes stress. That includes workout equipment! Seeing that treadmill might only cause guilt. If it has to be there, try screening it from the bed with a divider or curtain. Electronics should be hidden if possible. If you’re someone who needs a TV to fall asleep, try white noise instead. You want all your associations with the space to be calm and positive.
Decoration is important, too. You want the space to be relaxing – whatever that means to you. Usually it’s cool, calming colors, and soft accents. Light candles for a sense of peace (not to mention romance), with a scent that soothes you (lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, rose). Most people also prefer natural elements when they’re relaxing. So try putting in more wood and adding plants and fresh flowers. It doesn't have to be expensive!
And of course – the bed. It’s the focal point of the room, and where you sleep. That means your eyes and your body are drawn to it, so it can really impact your mood. Pick soft and comfortable bedding, paying attention to colors (blue is often suggested because it reminds people of water). The bed should be comfortable and supportive, and big enough for whoever is in it. Need more support? We have some options to stop the sagging. Make sure to choose a headboard that doesn’t say “I really need a new headboard” every time you look at it (we have some options for that, too).
By focusing on your sleep, you can give your body the boost it needs to combat stress and feel better.