When it comes to overall one’s well-being, it’s common to hear the recommendation of getting enough sleep every night. Experts say that an adult should have at least seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Does this sound like you, or no?
Sleep has many benefits, the most obvious one being that it enhances your mood. You’ve probably noticed that if you don’t get enough rest, you’re irritable and easily fatigued the next day. Maybe you also lose your focus, and you have a lower threshold for stress.
Because all of these are inexplicably interlinked, getting enough sleep correlates to reduced stress levels. These two go hand-in-hand, often in a vicious cycle. If you only get around four hours of rest every night, you may feel that it’s impossible to manage your duties—and this level of stress and anxiety can affect your ability to relax and sleep the following night again.
Not only that, but lack of sleep can introduce a host of other problems and a risk of becoming immunocompromised. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who sleep for less than seven hours a night have an increased risk in the following conditions:
• heart disease
• kidney disease
While the occasional lack of sleep won’t immediately pose a threat to your health, things could get awry if you leave this unattended.
The Relationship Between Stress and Sleep
Stress hormones, or cortisol, are a fight-or-flight hormone that our ancestors heavily relied on for survival when hunting and engaging in dangerous activities. As humans evolved, the current lifestyle of most don’t need huge doses of stress—and too much can get detrimental.
Chronic stress can lead to sleep deprivation, with the added impact of a decline in physical and mental health in the long term. This phenomenon isn’t as unique as you think, as a National Sleep Foundation survey reports that 43% of people aged 13–64 have reported at least one event of lying awake at night due to stress.
How to Reduce Stress Levels for Better Sleep
Because of its chicken-and-egg situation, you have to get to the root cause of your stress and deal with the problem or try to do exercises to help coach your body to relax. Thankfully, there are specific lifestyle changes you can adapt so you can get better sleep quality at night and improve your stress management levels.
1. Practice mindfulness meditation
Meditation may be too scary to engage in for a novice, as the practice often advocates listening to your thoughts and subsequently letting them go. You may think that the latter half seems impossible if you’re an overthinker, or there are just too many things to think of.
If it helps, you can try listening to guided meditation tracks that can lull you to sleep or get you into a positive state of mind. These sessions can range from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how much time you have and the guidance you need.
There is a lot of evidence that proves that meditation offers benefits for mental health, especially in alleviating anxiety, depression, and stress.
2. Get up and get moving
Channeling your stress into a physical activity like exercise just might be the thing you need to release all that negativity and expend your energy so you can have a better sleep at night. This could be a healthier outlet than just lying awake at night and thinking of all your problems.
Plus, there’s also the undeniable benefit of getting some endorphins going in your body. Even just doing workouts for 30 minutes a day thrice a week can already do a lot of wonders to your body. You don’t have to pressure yourself to commit to one type of exercise, either. Switch it up until you find one you can genuinely enjoy, whether it’s boxing, circuit training, or yoga.
3. Adopt a healthier diet
Sometimes, what you consume can contribute to why you’re feeling so alert all the time. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, it may be helpful for you to avoid stimulants such as drinks with caffeine and cigarettes. That’s because it’s harder to relax if you keep triggering your internal system to stay awake, and you’ll have more room to think about your worries and problems.
Slowly wean out of these habits if you’ve been dependent on them for quite some time to avoid withdrawals. Be gentle and respect the timeline in which your body decides to rehabilitate from the caffeine it’s used to consuming regularly.
4. Vent it out to your friends or family
The people who love and support you will always be within reach when it comes to significant problems that you can’t carry on your own. For some people, talk therapy works. It’s the practice of talking about your issues and verbally processing your feelings, without the need for someone to give you advice.
Sometimes, just acknowledging your stressors and letting the truth of things hit the air is perfectly enough to help you manage your feelings and stress better. Reducing your stress can be challenging. You may not be able to remove it from your life altogether, but it’s essential to recognize where it’s coming from so you can evaluate whether there are things you can walk away from.
Healthier Sleep, Healthier You
Stress and sleep are inexplicably linked. If you want to sleep better at night, you need to identify and remove some stressors in your life; and if you want to manage stress better, you need to have your eight hours of rest to have a stable mood and be ready to take on the day.
If you feel that you’re not able to handle the pressure of your life, don’t hesitate to seek help from a therapist or other health professional. You don’t have to go through these things alone, and it’ll make you feel better to share the weight of your problems with people who understand you. Remember to put yourself first!