Everyone raves about the importance of sleep. It has restorative powers that are essential to every process in the body. Your sleep quality affects your physical and mental functioning — it has a key role in your ability to fight disease, develop immunity, maintain a strong metabolism and it reduces your risk of disease.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that if you’re trying (and failing) to keep stress at bay, consistent restorative (high quality) sleep is key.
It’s quite frustrating to feel like you consistently prioritize sleeping enough hours each night, yet still feel exhausted day to day. Here are 6 keys for you can sleep better to effectively lower stress.
1. Keep a consistent routine
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is key. This means, going to bed around the same time each night and waking up around the same time each morning.
Maybe you know that, but did you know that there are some even more specific tips within this? Make sure to keep consistent bed time and waking times and ALSO:
- Try for an earlier bed time (10 pm) AND avoid blue light for two hours before bed time. Both blue light & staying up too late can spike your cortisol. This affects your sleep quality and contributes to waking up feeling tired.
- Get sunshine (or outside light, even if cloudy) in your eyes first thing in the morning. Not only does this help your body effectively wake up in the morning, but it actually contributes to your body’s ability to produce melatonin, which helps you get a better nights sleep.
2. Spend enough time outside daily
Don’t stop at morning light. Getting additional time outside in fresh air (and if possible, in the sun) throughout the day is beneficial to sleep for a number of reasons.
- It regulates your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural cycle that tells you when to feel awake and when to rest)
- Fresh air and natural light are grounding. Spending periodic time outside throughout the day helps you train your body’s relaxation state, making it easier to access it at night when you’re ready to wind down
- Studies show that Vitamin D is important for sleep regulation. There is still additional research that needs to be done on how to properly supplement vitamin D. But if you’re able to get the real day by spending more time outside, your sleep will benefit immensely.
3. Are you moving enough daily?
For those of you that work a desk job, I’m looking at you! It can be easy to get wrapped up in all the mentally stimulating tasks of the day and completely forget to move your body. Working your mind is important, but your body craves movement.
It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. At a minimum, make sure you’re walking and standing periodically throughout the day. If not, you may have a lot of pent up energy when you try to sleep.
4. Experiment with adding a bedtime snack
Does your sleep quality suffers because you wake up frequently during the middle of the night? Or, do you wake up in the morning feeling stressed? One possible cause is that your blood sugar is not regulated. This can be due to a number of reasons.
Regardless of the cause, one thing you can experiment with is eating a bedtime snack. The snack should include some protein, carbs, and fat around 60 minutes before bed. Be careful to not eat way too much, and play around with what you eat/how much before bed. No one knows your body better than you. Listen to its feedback and see if this tip is what’s missing from your bedtime routine. If it helps you sleep better, great! If not, simply stop!
Related: How to Reduce Stress: Tips For How to Eat For Stress Resilience
5. Try a guided sleep meditation to help your mind and body relax
When all else fails, try a short meditation right before bed. Meditation slows down your breathing, lowers your heart rate, which lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
There are plenty of free guided meditations on YouTube, and using various paid or free apps. Here are some to get you started: Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace, and more.
You can try a guided body scan, a deep breathing meditation, or a mindful meditation. It can’t hurt to try, but remember, this is best combined with other healthy sleep habits!
If you ever feel like you’re at the mercy of your stress hormones despite getting adequate sleep each night, a few strategic tweaks to your daily habits and pre-bed routine can make a big difference. And make an honest assessment of your sleep habits! It is one thing to know and understand what is helpful and what is not, and another to actually do it.
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