Stress messes with the quality and quantity of sleep we get. We all experience stress; it’s a constant in life. Sleep is an excellent antidote for stress because it allows our bodies and minds to recover. Let’s look at some ways we can stop stress from ruining sleep.
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The number one way to get better sleep is to have a good bedtime routine. I’m going to talk about a bunch of things you might want to consider introducing to your bedtime routine to help combat the effects of stress, but it all starts with a bedtime routine.
Like anything else in life, you should have a plan for getting ready for bed. This is vital if you struggle with executive dysfunction. A routine can help you stay on track and get everything done so you’re ready for sleep.
As you prepare for bed, you want a step-by-step process. It’s easier to build routines and habits when we do the same tasks repeatedly.
First, you want to understand your personal rhythms. We all have a natural wind-down period where our bodies prepare for sleep. Know when that is for you and feed into it. Do things that will prepare you for sleep. Set your bedtime routine around it.
Your body will get used to regular wake and sleep times. Keeping that schedule will enable your body to fall asleep even when you’re stressed. Our bodies like the rhythm of a schedule.
Once you know what time your body is ready for sleep work backward from there to include activities that will help you relax and be ready for sleep.
You all know how I feel about journaling. But I’m a writer, so putting pen to paper has always been my method of coping with things. Unless you really, really hate writing or have a physical issue with writing, I suggest giving journaling a try to ease your mind before sleep.
Journaling can help reduce stress that could interfere with your sleep.
Journaling helps you focus on your thoughts: Instead of dwelling on the things that are bothering you, journaling can help you organize those thoughts and process them. It can help you understand the cause of your stress and help you generate ways to manage it.
Once you write the thoughts down, it removes them from your head. The act of writing can free your brain space to think about other things. You can let your mind wander onto more relaxing things. Since you’ve written the worries down, your brain believes it’s being dealt with so it doesn’t require as much focus.
Journaling also triggers problem-solving. Once you write down what the problem is, your brain can focus more on finding solutions. Worry, anxiety, and stress can clog your brain, so journaling gives it an escape.
Meditation is the practice of mindfulness. It emphasizes self-awareness to clear your mind. If you’re new to meditation, it might feel awkward, and it will take some practice. However, it’s not for everyone. The only way to know if it can work for you is to try it.
First, you have to commit to actually doing it. Meditation is not natural. You can’t just decide to do it. Because it takes practice to see the benefits, you need to make the commitment to really put in the effort to try.
Next, you want to find a method of meditation that works for you.
- Mindfulness meditation focuses your breathing and how your body feels. You become more aware of yourself and let your mind clear.
- Concentration meditation has you focus on a key word, thought, or phrase. It might also involve repeating a mantra.
- Guided meditation involves listening to an audio recording to guide you through meditation. This is often a good place for beginners to practice meditation.
Finally, choose a time and place in your bedtime routine where you will meditate. Remember, consistency is key.
Apps for help
Even if you have a solid bedtime routine, sometimes your brain just runs with stressful thoughts, no matter what. Those thoughts can be overwhelming because there’s nothing to distract us as we lie in bed.
While I am normally a person who will tell you to stay off your phone before bed (the blue light is awful for your brain), there are apps that might help you calm your brain so you can sleep.
Headspace is an app that focuses on your brain. It can help you meditate or it can play soothing music to ease you to sleep.
Calm is another app that you can use for meditating. It also has an option for white noise.
Dare is a little different because it focuses on helping you work through your anxiety and stress. There are guided imagery and audio messages to help you face your fears and anxiety.
All three of these apps have free versions so you can try them out. Then, you can upgrade to a subscription or in-app purchases, or just stick with the free plan.
Final Tips for Better Sleep
Getting caught up in stress is not conducive to quality sleep. Stress will often lead to insomnia and poor sleep, and lack of sleep will take its toll on you. Doing what you can to reduce stress before bed can make a huge difference.
Tip 1: Do something about it
Often, stress comes from the failure to act on something. If you are procrastinating on making a decision or you’re avoiding a situation, your stress will increase. You need to handle issues that come up in life. Inaction is still a response. Even if you don’t like the outcome, you can feel better knowing that you did something.
Tip 2: Let it go
Learn to let go of the things you can’t control. Getting upset over the things you can’t change is adding unnecessary stress to your life.
Tip 3: One day at a time
You can’t do everything, no matter how hard you try. Lying in bed at night berating yourself because something didn’t get done or was forgotten about is not productive or healthy. Accept that you can only do what you can do. Be proud of what you do accomplish.
Tip 4: Add comfort
When you want to create better sleep, you should be in a place that feels homey. Your bedroom should be like an oasis, a getaway from the real world. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just needs to be an environment where you are comfortable and you look forward to being there.
Tip 5: Try sound
For some people, noise helps them relax. Choosing a relaxing sound is important, though. White noise can aid in reaching deeper sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper. There are apps that can produce white noise sounds like storms or jungle noises. If you choose music, something soothing and instrumental is better than something you’re more likely to sing along with.
One well-rated, well-known machine is the Hatch (it appeared on Shark Tank). A less expensive and more minimalist machine is the Yogasleep machine. It doesn't offer nature sounds or variety – it's the basic white noise of a whirring fan.
Tip 6: Weighted blanket
Many people who suffer from anxiety use a weighted blanket. Blankets come in a variety of sizes and weights, so you can find one that suits you. A weighted blanket is a form of at-home pressure therapy. It’s almost like swaddling a baby. The weight of the blanket can offer relief from your anxiety and help you reach deeper sleep.
Getting a good night’s sleep has positive effects on many aspects of your life. Combating stress to improve your sleep is important. It will enable you to create an environment that is conducive to sleep and designed for optimal rest.
Use a variety of strategies in your bedtime routine to stop stress from ruining sleep. Better sleep will make you more alert, more productive, and happier.