Top Ways To Improve Your Sleep & Relieve Stress
By Jasmin Hepburn
When it comes to sleep, you may think that it’s just a matter of getting into bed and going off to sleep until the next morning. But you may also realize that sometimes, your best efforts to get a good night’s sleep don’t materialize, because you don’t fall asleep quickly. Or you wake up during the night unable to return to sleep, tossing and turning with your mind whirling. Then, when the alarm goes off, you get up with dread, knowing that you’re not rested enough to tackle the day’s activities.
And your day starts off stressful.
Adequate and restful sleep is important for your mental and physical health. Your brain rests, you repair and create new cells and your body creates antibodies that strengthen your immune system. That means that you decrease your risk of developing diseases and lower your stress levels when you sleep well.
There are ways to ensure that you get a good night’s rest, however, and the following points show you how.
1. Create a bedtime routine: Think of it as the 3 R’s to restful sleep: routine, regular and relaxing. A bedtime routine is important. You may be the free-spirited type who does not like to be tied to schedules and routines, but this one is worth the effort. You already have a daily routine, for example, getting to work at a certain time, getting the children out of the house for school, doing the laundry each Saturday and so on. Decide to set a routine for bed so that you can benefit from a great night’s sleep. After all, don’t you deserve to feel rested and energetic every time you wake up?
How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested? Not everyone requires the same number of hours of sleep, so figure out how many you need and plan accordingly. What time would you need to be in bed? Prepare ahead of time so that the important things are done by the time you’re ready to go to sleep. What makes you relax? A hot bath or shower? Down-time with your family or significant other? Find a relaxing state to be in when anticipating your bedtime. Do so regularly and soon it will be a welcome routine for you.
2. Avoid eating heavy meals 3-4 hours before your designated bedtime: Your body needs time to digest the food, so going to sleep with a full stomach stresses your digestive system. You can also gain weight and will most likely experience disrupted sleep.
3. Avoid nicotine, caffeine and vigorous exercise at least three hours before going to bed: These tend to keep you alert and awake and that is the exact opposite of what you need to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Prepare your bedroom for restful sleep: Make your bedroom a place for rest, sleep and intimacy. Remove clutter and keep it clean and neat. Avoid sitting in bed and doing work then leaving piles of paper around you. The paper will only remind you of the work that needs to get done and you will probably find it more difficult to fall asleep and rest well. A recipe for stressful living is being constantly reminded of work that needs to get done. Keep work out of your bedroom!
5. Turn off all electronics at least 30-60 minutes before your set bedtime: I know it’s probably unthinkable at the moment, but ask yourself if you really need the TV, radio, IPad, Ipod and cell phone going when it’s time for you to get the sleep and rest you deserve. Isn’t your well-being more important than the latest episode of reality TV? After all, there will be re-runs or you can set your TV to record them for later viewing. Be kind to yourself by turning the electronics off and encouraging others in your household to keep theirs at a level that does not disturb you.
6. Darken your bedroom: Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body, is made in total darkness. Therefore, if you darken your room and stay there for a long time, you will produce more melatonin. This hormone helps to regulate your sleep and wake cycles, destroys free radicals and improves your immune system. So close your blinds and curtains, cover the light that your alarm clock may emit and wear eye masks. One more reason to not sleep with the TV, computer or cell phone on in your room is that these devices emit blue wavelength light that suppresses the production of melatonin.
So what do you do if you get to this point and are still unable to sleep? You can try the following:
1. Read a relaxing book by the light of a bedside lamp, as opposed to a ceiling light: The latter is usually brighter and does not induce sleep. Avoid reading thrillers, dramas or books that are high-action that will make you become alert as opposed to creating relaxation.
2. Journal: Your life is busy and you take in a lot of information all day. Sometimes you are not able to process some of your experiences, so journaling can be a very useful exercise before going to bed. It helps to clear your mind and let go of whatever thoughts, feelings and actions that caused you to feel stressed during the day. Journaling often prevents me from waking up in the middle of the night and immediately thinking about something that I didn’t do or an unpleasant encounter I had with someone, then spending hours afterwards planning or processing the events.
3. Listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation: I mentioned the importance of putting away electronic devices in preparation for sleep, but I am also aware that life is not linear and events such as noisy neighbours or emergency vehicles can prevent or disrupt sleep. Therefore, if other ways do not work, get headphones and listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation for sleep or relaxation. Ensure that the light is not visible on the device and the audio is about 15-20 minutes long and stops on its own.
4. Pay attention to the messages your body sends: When you begin to feel tired and sleepy, go to sleep. Try not to push yourself to make the house spotless or finish the report that’s due next week. If your body is crying out for sleep NOW, please honor it. You will wake up feeling rested and energized to tackle the tasks that really were not important enough to lose sleep over.
Sleep is important to a healthy life and for stress relief, so understand how to get the most of it. When you make sleep a priority and see yourself as deserving of the benefits it affords, it will become easier for you to make it an important part of your daily routine.
Share your thoughts! What do you do to get a good night’s sleep?
Jasmin Hepburn is a Certified Holistic Health Coach specializing in helping women rid their life of unhealthy stress. She supports women who are ready and willing to live the life they desire, doing whatever it takes to achieve this with authenticity and purpose.
Jasmin merges her experience as an educator, counselor and health coach to guide her clients in understanding and appreciating their unique journey and the deeper meaning behind their stress. Using a holistic approach, she helps her clients to remove the blocks that prevent them from embracing all of life’s possibilities and creating one that makes them feel truly happy and fulfilled.
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