A disturbed sleep pattern is often both a symptom and a cause of stress. Delayed sleep and frequent waking cause fatigue and poor concentration, which leave you less able to deal with the pressures of life. The results are more sleepless nights and more stress. The good news is there are numerous ways to break this cycle. Follow the suggestions below to maximize your chances of a restful, refreshing night.
1) Have a routine that will help your body and mind to establish a rhythm. Go to bed when you feel tired and rise at a same time every morning, even on the weekend. Try not to nap during the day.
2) If you live in a part of the world where dawn sometimes comes very early, or you work shifts and have to sleep during the day, invest in light-blocking curtains or an eye mask. This works because your brain is tricked into thinking it’s dark, and your body produces a sleep-inducing substance called melatonin.
3) Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, uncluttered, relaxing space. Watch TV or play computer games elsewhere, but not immediately before going to bed. Anything that stimulates your mind can delay sleep.
4) If you don’t fall asleep within about a half hour of going to bed, don’t lie there becoming more and more frustrated – get up. Go to another room and sit quietly or listen to some relaxing music until you feel drowsy.
5) To avoid waking in the middle of the night because of a full bladder, don’t drink much immediately before bed. Forgo alcohol and caffeine-based drinks entirely if your insomnia is severe. Caffeine can keep you awake; alcohol makes you drowsy at first, but interferes with the quality of sleep. A warm milky drink, however, is reputed to aid restful sleep.
6) Don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Allow a few hours between dinner and retiring for the night or you’ll risk indigestion. However, don’t go to bed hungry.
7) Take a bath just before bed. Lavender essential oil is said to aid relaxation, so try adding a few drops to your bath water.
8) Listen to a guided relaxation exercise that takes you slowly through a series of steps towards a tranquil state. A commonly used technique is progressive muscle relaxation. During the exercise you will flex and relax muscle groups in turn, which creates a feeling of overall physical and mental calm. These exercises are available online, on CD or in mp3 format for download.
9) Don’t clock watch. Checking the time every few minutes isn’t going to aid relaxation. Turn your bedside clock away from you or move it out of eyesight.
10) Exercise or do some physical work each day, such as walking or gardening. Although exercise improves sleep quality, it can leave you energized at first, so allow a few hours between whatever activity you choose and bedtime.
11) If tomorrow is a busy day, create a to-do list and go to bed feeling organized and in control.
12) Invest in a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillow. A sagging bed and lumpy pillow will lead to aches and pains as well as poor sleep.
Adequate sleep is as important as good nutrition and exercise. It’s restorative for the brain and body. Restful sleep is particularly important when you’re stressed. A void adding the inability to function at your best during your waking hours to your burden of stressors. Help yourself by making your bedtime as peaceful, comfortable and conducive to a good night’s sleep as you can.