We all know how wonderful it feels when we get a great night’s sleep, we wake full of energy and ready to take on the world! Despite all of us knowing how good sleep is for us, it seems less of us are getting enough of the good stuff, and our health is suffering as a result. One of the biggest causes of missed sleep is stress. We flick off the lights and lay our head on our nice soft pillow, but instead of drifting off to the land of nod the little voice in our head begins to list all the worries we have for the following day.
Stress and sleep are strange bedfellows. The more stressed we are, the less likely we are to sleep well. But then the worst we sleep the more likely we are to develop anxiety, stress and even depression. A cruel cycle indeed; it’s all quite unfair! What can be done to break this cycle? Well, below I’m going to let you in my top tips on how to get more sleep and reduce your stress levels.
Get into A Routine
Regularity is probably the most important thing anyone can do to help improve their sleep. The human mind craves routine. Doing the same thing at the same time helps the brain build associations and with its shortcuts.
Go to bed at the same time every day, get up at the same time. Whether it is the weekday or the weekend, try and keep to the same time. Note, your body doesn’t care about weekends, Saturday is nothing more than a social construct. You will soon find your brain knows what time sleep should be and will start to prepare for it.
The same principle lays behind a having a good pre-bed wind-down routine. Avoiding screens in the hour before bed will help your overstimulated brain slow down. Replacing any activity that involves even the remotest possibility of stress with low key, relaxing things instead will do wonders.
So, that means no more tax returns, flight booking or attempting to help your son with their math homework before bed. Instead, why not slow down, read a book, listen to some music, or even take a nice hot bath.
For other ideas on what makes a great pre-bed routine, plus a host of other tips on how to improve your odds of a good night’s kip, check out the Sleep Advisor blogroll.
Take A Nice Hot Bath
Speaking of baths, AH! What is more relaxing than soaking into the bubbles and having a nice long bath before bed? A lot of people swear by it, Oprah Winfrey for one. If it is good enough for the queen of daytime, it’s good enough for us!
Pre-bed bath enthusiasts often claim it’s the toasty warmth of a good soak that lulls them to sleep. Well, they are partially right. Having a hot bath before bed is great for inducing sleepy times but not for the reason they think.
When you have a hot bath, a process known as vasodilation takes place, this is where the blood rushes to the skin. Hence why you get rosy cheeks. When you then step out of your nice warm bath all this heat at the surface of your body is transferred to the cold air around, and you experience a massive thermal dump, and your core temperature plummets. It’s this cooling effect that is incredibly soporific.
Having a hot bath, or an ice-cold shower will have a similar impact. It’s just a hot bath is a far more pleasurable experience. Both are ways to help you de-stress at the end of a long day and get your body and mind in a good place for sleep time.
Calm That Monkey Mind
One method to calm that chattering voice in your head at night is to take up a little meditation. And no, before you ask, meditation is not just for monks and hippies. Though, these two groups do seem pretty relaxed!
Everyone can benefit from the effects of a little meditation. It’s free and requires nothing but a place to sit. To genuinely feel the benefit it does, however, require the commitment of at least 15 minutes each day.
It might sound dramatic but meditation over time essentially works by reprogramming our brain.
I know that sounds outlandish, the brain scans substantiate such claims.
Daily sessions of simply sitting and observing whatever images and ideas that float through our mind’s eye, help us realize how futile it is to worry about every little thought. This helps to free us from negative patterns of thoughts, reduce anxieties and de-stress. Find a quiet corner and give it a go.
Well there you go – three simple and completely free (if you don’t count bath salts) ways reduce your stress levels and help improve your odds of a great night’s rest. A little unsure, well, why not give them a whirl. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You miss a bit of sleep!
Meet the Author
Hi there, my name’s Sarah, and I’m a sleep addict. I simply can’t get enough of the good stuff. When I’m not lying in bed dreaming (mainly of Chris Hemsworth) I spend the better part of every day researching and writing about sleep. I genuinely believe the world would be a happy, healthier, and even safer place to live if we all took sleep a little bit more seriously. Sweet dreams!
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