July 28, 2020
Tips for Getting Sleep In Stressful Times
Getting sleep in stressful times may be more difficult. But when stress is higher, it is even more important for our physical and mental wellbeing to make sure we are getting sufficient sleep.
Experts recommend getting 7 hours or more of sleep per night, sometimes more depending on age and specific circumstances. However, according to the CDC, over 1/3 of adult Americans (35.2%) do not get 7 hours of sleep consistently.
During uncertain time like these, ongoing feelings of stress and pressure can cause the nervous system to remain on high for extended time periods. This can lead to racing thoughts and anxiety, which may contribute to a loss of sleep.
These tips for getting sleep in stressful times may seem simple, but they are effective and especially helpful, if you are able to employ most or all of them. Plus, it’s their simplicity that makes them so useful and actionable.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever that helps release physical and mental tension. Just thirty minutes of moderate physical exercise a day can help reduce feelings of stress and improve sleep. Medical News Today reports, “A review published in 2017 found that physical activity is effective at reducing the symptoms of anxiety and stress.”
The Sleep Foundation recommends exercising at least three hours before bedtime, so that your body temperature is lower when you are ready to go to bed.
Prepare for Sleep
A nightly routine to prepare your body and mind for sleep can help. Most experts recommend that at least 30 minutes to an hour before you retire, avoid doing active, stressful activities. This includes things like checking emails, watching action movies, and listening to loud music. Try doing something quieter, like reading, taking a bath, or doing gentle breathing exercises. Taking time to calm your body and mind every night can pay off with better, more consistent sleep in the long run.
Avoid Screens and Blue Lights 1 Hour Before Bed
Avoid screens and blue lights (computers, tablets, phones) at least one hour before bed. If you read books on a tablet, or if scrolling through Instagram is your before-bed escape, be sure to turn your screen to its nighttime setting. This adjusts the colors of your screen to the warmer end of the color spectrum and limits blue wavelengths, which send signals to your body to stay awake.
According to Harvard Health, “blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night.”
Keep It Dark
Make sure to keep your bedroom dark when you’re sleeping. Light is a primary signal to your body – signaling when it’s time to sleep and when to wake. The CDC advises, “Keep in mind your circadian clock uses light and dark signals to predict what to do in the future: when to prepare you to be active and when to prepare you to sleep.” If you do have to get up in the middle of the night, try to keep the lights dim so that wake signals are kept to a minimum.
Keep It Cool
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the ideal sleeping temperature be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This may be harder to achieve in the height of summer. If you have an air conditioner in your bedroom, turn it down a little before bed so that your room is sleep-ready when you are.
Some studies have shown a heavy blanket or gravity blanket can also help with better sleep and less anxious feelings at night – more ideal when your room is nice and cool.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption and Caffeine Intake
Many people have a drink to calm their nerves. However, contrary to popular belief, drinking before bed can actually get in the way of a better night’s sleep. Even if you think it’s helping you to fall asleep, the quality of sleep you’re getting – especially in the second half of your slumber – is probably not the best (for more details, read the WebMD article).
Regarding caffeine, if possible, don’t have caffeine in the afternoon or evening. If you still need your late-day coffee fix, try shifting to decaf (but remember, decaf is not caffeine-free), or better yet, caffeine free tea.
Sleep and Wake at the Same Time Each Day
Sleep experts, including the CDC, encourage going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. Even on weekends. Your body responds well to this sort of regularity and will likely reward you with better sleep in the long run.
With so many worries and unknowns these days, it’s good to know that these simple tips for getting sleep in stressful times can truly help. Even if much of our world may seem out of our control, these straightforward techniques are definitely something we can use to take charge and manage our rest.