More than half of Americans are losing sleep due to stress, according to Better-Sleep-Better-Life. Not getting enough sleep comes with a number of unwanted side effects, including some that are rather serious. A lack of sleep can cause motor vehicle accidents, injuries on the job, weight gain, and numerous health problems like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just to name a few. It can even contribute to greater stress, creating a vicious cycle. Fortunately there are a number of simple ways to help relieve stress so that you can sleep better at night.
Taking part in physical activity on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to relieve stress and get better sleep. Optimally, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises like brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activities such as jogging or swimming laps each week. Take part in these activities at least two hours before going to bed, or it could have the opposite effect—keeping you awake.
Light exercise at night, such as yoga or going for a gentle walk, can help you sleep better as it relieves stress and tension without overstimulation. There are poses like upside-down relaxation that can be done right in bed. Just sit facing a wall, or headboard, keeping your bottom about six inches away. Lie back, and extend your legs up the wall. Allow your arms to rest at your sides with the palms facing up, gently breathing while you feel the stretch in the back of your legs.
EDITOR: There seems to be disagreement on the type, amount, and timing of exercise. The key if your mom’s been sedentary, here’s advice to get off her butt and at lease walk around the house a few times a day, then gradually venturing into the yard. Walk with her and encourage her to add a little distance each day until she can walk around the block and beyond. About bedtime, some people claim that exercise before bed can interfere with sleep, but that advice seems to only apply to sports or exercise that stimulate the mind into a heightened sense of awareness. It surely doesn’t apply SEX as exercise since that’s a great stress reliever?
Enjoy a Hot Soak
Soaking in a hot tub prior to bedtime helps to relieve stress by stimulating the body’s natural endorphins, and can help those suffering from insomnia to achieve a deeper, more relaxing night’s rest, according to the scientific journal Sleep. Soaking in 103-degree water about 90 minutes before bed can help you relax and reset your body thermostat which makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. Also, if you experience stiff joints or suffer from arthritis, the hot tub can be a soothing place to find relief through range of motion exercises, stretching exercises and breathing exercises. [Just don’t have the water too hot or do this just before jumping into bed, because your body will try to cool down with sweat for minutes after you get out.]
Meditating may offer almost instant relief from stress—in fact, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that practicing for just 25 minutes a day for three consecutive days could significantly reduce psychological stress. Getting into this good habit as part of your bedtime ritual not only offers stress-relief benefits, but you’ll be much more likely to get a good night’s rest.
There are a number of ways to meditate—you might try visualizing your “happy place,” such as lying on the soft sand at a tropical beach listening to the waves gently lap against the shore, or anything that makes you feel calm, happy and safe. Place your hands on your belly so that you can feel your breath. Breathe deeply from your abdomen, focusing on your breath and feeling the sensation of the abdomen rising and falling.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another option. Focus on one body part at a time, starting with your feet and work up to your head. Consciously tense and then deeply relax each body part, traveling from one end of the body to the other. Many people don’t realize how much tension they’re carrying until practicing progressive relaxation.
Related Articles (subset of sleep & stress articles on this site)
- Why do we Sleep?
- Why is Sleep Important (NIH)
- Insufficient Sleep, a Public Health Epidemic (CDC)
- TIME & SLEEP — America’s Real Deficit Crisis
- You Need More Sleep (INFOGRAPHIC)
- The Truth about Sleep Debt (Forbes)
- The Need & Positive Effects of Restorative Sleep
- Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
- Sleepy Yet? — How Light from Electronics Effects Sleep
- Sleep Deprivation Could Be Bad For Bones
- How Good Sleep Benefits Seniors
- How To Sleep Well As You Age
- The Emerging Sleep Wellness Market
- The Economic Value of a Good Night’s Sleep
- 5 Things You Should Be Doing Before Bed
- Twelve Tips For Better Sleep
- Brain Entrainment for Better Sleep and Health
- How Light effects Melatonin and Sleep
- Sleep Balance – Your Path to Better Sleep
- Stress Reduction (whiteboard animation)
- The Costs of Job Stress
- CES 2013, GPS for the Soul and Digital Health Revolution
- Zeo’s demise, a wakeup call for Sleep Wellness?
- Sleep Apnea and Poverty
- The Benefits of Napping