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7 Rules for Reducing Stress and Improving Sleep
There’s a strong correlation between how much sleep you get and how stressed you are. It’s a vicious cycle that can cause mental distress and even wreak havoc on your physical well-being. Learn how you can reduce stress and improve your sleep.
It’s a well-known fact that people who don’t get enough sleep are lethargic and constantly experiencing an energy slump. This causes irritability, which also makes it hard to fall asleep.
The reverse is also true. When you experience an exorbitant amount of stress during the day, you are unable to fall asleep at night – and that piles on more stress for the upcoming day.
The Huffington Post conducted a poll recently where they asked people what their #1 stressor was. Lack of sleep was one thing that dominated the results. Stress and a lack of sleep combined can cause you to lose mental clarity and they can put more pressure on your body to perform at less than optimal standards.
It’s vital that you learn how to implement stress relief measures that also work to lull you to sleep at night. When you wake up fully refreshed, you’ll be able to tackle the world and anything it throws at you!
For more information on getting a good night’s rest, check out our free downloadable on 7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene.
Rule #1 – Implement a Bedtime Technology Ban
Don’t put your cellphone right by your bed. It can cause you to toss and turn throughout the night and make it difficult for you to wake up in the morning. Phones have become an addiction that disrupts people’s sleep routine and causes a lack of sleep.
Some people have their computer right beside the bed and the glow of it lights up the room at night. Ditto for notifications that come in on cell phones – sometimes with lights and sometimes with the inclusion of sounds.
Not only is technology a physical factor, but it causes a certain amount of mental unrest when you’re constantly checking emails or looking to see who posted what on Facebook.
Remove the phone and laptop from the bedroom
The physical distraction of the computer and phone glow tricks your body into thinking it’s time for you to be awake. Your body won’t produce the melatonin it needs and help you get (and stay) asleep, so you toss and turn all night.
Technology doesn’t just have to be left out of the bedroom – it needs to be shut down quite a while before you go to bed. Your mind needs time to disconnect and wind down. It can’t do that if you’re constantly feeding it information.
If you go to bed at 10 p.m., try disconnecting around 8:30 p.m.. Let your stress melt away and your mind relax. This isn’t an easy habit to break, but you’ll be able to implement it. Try disconnecting in baby steps, such as not taking the phone in the room with you, but using it right up until bedtime, and gradually creating a routine that’s beneficial for your health.
Rule #2 – Adopt an Aromatherapy Habit
Aromatherapy soothes your mind and body for both sleep and de-stressing. Scents are a powerful element of our lives, and you can use the power of it to help you feel more rested.
Start off by choosing the right scents for you to unwind, let go of the anxiety the day brought and get a good night’s sleep. You don’t want anything invigorating for bedtime – like peppermint.
That’s a scent that’s perfect to help you start your day – not end it. You want to look for scents that soothe and relax. Here are some possibilities:
What’s the best way to use these to unwind and get better sleep? You have many options when it comes to aromatherapy, such as scented bath products (if you enjoy a bath before bed).
Use candles, diffusers, wall plugins and more. Some people like to create or buy a special mist that they can spray on their pillows at night (or put on their wrists).
Rule #3 – Wind Down Your Day With Exercise
It sounds almost backward – putting forth extra exertion when you really need to be relaxing and calming down. But that’s just what exercise does for you. Exercise is a great stress reliever because it helps you release endorphins.
That’s why you sometimes hear of athlete’s bragging about their “runner’s high.” Although they may start out fatigued, they hit a point in their regimen where the endorphins are released and they feel good.
Feeling good is one of the first steps to you being able to sleep well at night. Your body is probably tensed and knotted up all day while you are at work. Exercise gives you some relief – somewhere to pour all of that tension into.
Exercise helps you sleep better at night
We joke as parents about letting our kids wear themselves out so they’re ready for a good, long nap – but the same goes for us as adults.
When the Huffington Post conducted a poll for people who exercise in terms of how they sleep, they discovered that people who exercise don’t just get more sleep – they get better sleep.
As you might suspect, the harder you work out, the harder you snooze each night. If you’re not used to exercising, start out slow and work your way up. You can start off with a simple 10-minute-a-day plan and increase it a bit each week.
The side effect of exercising to get better sleep and stress less is that you might shed pounds if you’re overweight. Poor sleep makes people gain weight according to recent studies – and stress is a definite factor in consuming too many calories.
Try to exercise after work – plenty of time before bed, but in the evening. If you exercise too close to bedtime and discover that you still feel restless, just move your exercise up to an earlier time.
Rule #4 – Let Bath Meditation Boost Your Sleep Count
For some people, bath time is their only time of the day when they unwind and kick stress to the curb. There are no clocks ticking, no technology vying for your attention and nobody talking to you.
It’s just you, your warm, soothing water and whatever environment you’ve created to help you relax. The environment for your bath meditation is just as important as the sleeping environment you create.
If it’s off, then you can’t relax. A cold, sterile bathroom won’t lend itself to a calming environment. You can use bath meditation whether you have a 10-minute bath or an hour-long bath.
Create an atmosphere for relaxation
Some people like to incorporate aromatherapy during their bath meditation. You can find candles or bubble bath that soothes you like lavender or chamomile.
Music is another option for you to consider. You can choose soft, relaxing music – or even use a meditation app while you soak in the tub. My favorite app is Brightmind. However, there are a number of other great apps, such as Calm and Headspace.
Just as you’ve made the commitment to turn off technology at bedtime, do the same for your bath time, too. You can’t really relax and meditate if your smartphone is ringing off the hook. However, if you need your phone to use a meditation app, try turning your phone to airplane mode or put it on “do not disturb.”
Use your senses to relax and stay Present
Make sure that when you ease yourself into your bath, you start to get familiar with how you’re breathing. Most people go through each day using shallow breathing. However, deep breathing cleanses the stress from your body and helps you sleep better.
Let your mind wash away all the troubles and irritation of the day. Replace that stress with whatever the senses are experiencing at that very moment – the warmth of the water, the tranquil sounds and the smell of the candle.
Everyone’s different with how they meditate. Some like the guided imagery, while others want to have nothing to think about. Some like to use a mantra they can repeat throughout the meditation process. See what works best for you and then use that as your staple for better sleep and less stress.
Rule #5 – Become a Master at Time Management
During the Huffington Post surveys, they noticed that most people started with phrases like, “Not enough time to…” Time is one thing we need more of and have less of in this day and age.
We have no time to relax. We push ourselves from the time our feet hit the floor in the morning right up until we go to bed – and we never get to bed on time. Instead, we give ourselves a minimal amount of sleep hours – and much of that is spent tossing and turning due to the stress of what all we couldn’t accomplish in the day.
Be Productive and Use the Extra Time for Sleep
If you’ll get firm with yourself and look at how much time you waste during the day and put that time to better use, then you’ll free up more time for sleep.
Many of you will learn new time management skills and forget to learn your lesson about sleep. Instead, you’ll pack in more on your to-do list.
Keep a diary or journal of your daily routine. Notice all the times when you’re surfing the web or standing around chatting with co-workers. That’s time that you could be spending accomplishing your tasks. If you get everything done, at the end of the day you are rewarded with free time – “me time” – to pamper and nurture your body and mind.
You might also find that when you implement the other rules here, along with proper sleep hygiene, you’ll be able to get more done throughout the day. That’s because your mental clarity improves and you tend to have more energy to tackle whatever the day may bring.
Rule #6 – Allow Deep Breathing to Replace Naps
There are some people who get in the habit of taking a daily nap – primarily because they’ve heard that power napping can help them achieve their goals for the day.
This might be true for many people. But if sleep eludes you, then naps could be causing the problem. A 10-minute power nap where you’re basically just shutting your eyes and deep breathing can be more beneficial.
Sleeping for 2-4 hours in the middle of the day is a recipe for disaster. You’ll never be able to go to bed at a regular time and you’ll lie there frustrated and annoyed that you can’t go to sleep. It’s a hard habit to break.
Try using deep breathing to energize yourself whenever you’re in an afternoon slump. Breathe from your diaphragm and try to watch how often you’re using shallow breaths throughout the day.
Rule #7 – Focus on Nutrition for Better Sleep and Less Stress
Foods are one area where what you eat can benefit or damage both your sleep and stress levels. If you want to alleviate stress and get better sleep, you need to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine and eat foods that will help with both. Eat healthy, whole foods and cut processed snacks and sugar from your diet.
That means eating good protein like turkey or lean chicken, salmon, avocados, nuts like almonds or walnuts and apricots (which soothe your muscles). Regular meals are key, too. You want your blood sugar levels stabilized so that you don’t have to deal with mood swings and energy highs and lows.
Why Reducing Stress and Increasing Sleep Are Important
One of the biggest indicators of longevity is sleep. If you can reduce the stress in your life while creating better sleeping patterns you will find yourself with more energy.
Getting enough sleep every night will make a huge impact on your ability to function and will help increase your productivity on a daily basis. The trick is finding ways to relax your body so that you can get the sleep your body so desperately craves.
John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, FACEP is an emergency physician by avocation and entrepreneur at heart. He is an author, speaker, serial student, airline transport pilot and multidisciplinary entrepreneur, who has founded and operated several multi-million-dollar businesses.
Throughout all of his endeavors, John has maintained a relentless drive to help people rescript their future and reach their full potential.
His multifaceted experience as a physician, attorney, speaker and entrepreneur gives him rare insight into what makes a business succeed.
Over the years, John has come to realize that successful businesses don’t just happen. They succeed as a result of strong leadership, learning from failures and a well-executed business plan. An efficient organization is built on lean practices, proactive teams, a positive work environment and a solid foundation for continued growth.