Please help me welcome our Guest Blogger, Sarah Jones, who is sharing natural tips on how to get a better night’s rest.
How to Reduce Stress: Improve Your Sleep Health
Stress is the main cause for a sleepless night. Stress factors plague us daily and heighten our anxiety which can cause precious hours of sleep to escape us at night. This can quickly turn into a vicious cycle as less sleep can lead to more stress, which then in turn makes sleep difficult again. To nip this in the bud we need to focus on improving our sleep health.
Sleep and Why We Need It
Sleep is one thing we all need, whether it be a few hours or several hours, our bodies need time to rest and recuperate. Sleep helps our systems restore as well as improve our cognitive abilities during the hours we are awake. Non-REM and REM are two states of sleep that each of us need as well. Non-REM is considered a deep sleep and in order to feel fully rested, we must reach this stage of sleep each evening.
Stress Versus Sleep
Stress and sleep are conflicting states that do not support or welcome each other. Stress can be accrued throughout the day, increasing and decreasing depending on the stimuli in our lives. Stress is counterproductive to sleep, and many of us toss and turn because anxiety from our stress has disturbed our ability to decompress and relax. Both stress and anxiety can be dealt with in healthy ways to help us relax and let us sleep.
Tips For A Restful Sleep
One of the most suggested tips for achieving better sleep is to avoid the use of electronics around bedtime. Many of us tend take our iPad, laptop or smartphone to browse through social media before calling it quits for the day. The brightness of the screen(s) and mental stimulation increase awareness and actually promote a more “awake” and distracting atmosphere which detracts from a restful evening.
Another key factor to reaching that restful night is to avoid caffeine. Caffeine can dwindle in our systems for much longer than many of us realize, so enjoy that cup of coffee in the morning, but avoid caffeine in the hours before its time to sleep for the night.
Caffeine isn’t the only liquid you should avoid before sleeping. Alcohol is a popular drink in the evenings and often used as a “night cap.” Alcohol can initially help us fall asleep, but it has consequences that may arise after the first few hours of sleep. Alcohol causes people to wake more often due to restlessness as well as to relieve a full bladder. This beverage too should be avoided in the evenings in the hours before bedtime.
To further reduce stress and achieve more restful slumber, you can actually promote rest with a few specific food items. Milk, halibut, avocados, eggs, walnuts, potatoes, bananas, and oats all encourage the body to rest. Keep in mind that overeating will keep you up at night as will heavy meals.
Exercising is not only beneficial for your physical state, it is beneficial to your mental state as well. Exercising daily helps relieve insomnia, according to the WebMD and studies that have been conducted. Exercise affects us differently, so if you are more alert after exercising, it is best to do so in the morning.
Relaxation exercises done before bed can also help lower stress and anxiety levels. According to Dr. Michael Breus the “Sleep Doctor,” breathing exercises are an excellent way to achieve a restful night. Dr. Breus suggests getting into a comfortable position and inhaling for 4 seconds, then holding your breath for 7 seconds. After that, exhale for 8 seconds, making it a long, slow exhale. Completing this exercise a few times before bed can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Dr. Breus also encourages the Progressive Relaxation technique. This exercise can be done as part of a nightly ritual to ease tension and to encourage relaxation. Starting with your feet, tense and relax the muscles in them, slowly working your way up to your head and neck, progressively tightening and untightening all your muscles. Focusing on the areas that hold more tension are those that you carry stress on the most. Relaxing these muscles will encourage better rest at night.
Trying one or all of these techniques can help increase relaxation and benefit us in a good night’s sleep that is restful, not wakeful. This exercises and tips can be done throughout the day or whenever you feel stressed.
Sarah is the Editor of Sleepy Deep. Feeling the repercussions of being an irregular sleeper for far too long, she decided to do something about it. She learned why sleep is so important and how to maximize it, and is now helping others who are struggling to find their right sleep routine.