It’s clear that stress and sleep are exquisitely linked. But that begs the question: Which comes first, insomnia or stress?
Actually, at times, it can be either one, or even both. There are many reasons for sleeplessness: stress, worry, too much caffeine or a snoring bed-partner. Sleep problems may also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
When Worry Keeps You Awake
Worry and stress are the main causes of sleeplessness. Stress has a ripple effect on just about everything you do. At any given time during the night, stress can affect your sleep dramatically. You may have trouble falling asleep at all, or you may drift off into dreamland but then wake up at 3 am and not be able to get back to sleep, your worry wheels turning.
Without taking steps to eliminate the cause of your sleep problem, you could end up tossing and turning away any potential of sound, peaceful sleep.
How Can You Get Better Sleep?
The mind can be a powerful ally or a dangerous enemy. When you try to release or deal with stress, consistency is a key factor. There are many successful ways to help ensure a continuous pattern of sound sleep. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Treat your bedroom as a peaceful environment for sleeping only. No television or computers allowed.
- Sleep on a supportive mattress that is comfortable for you.
- Pillows should be changed or washed at least every six months (check the labels for washing instructions).
- Wash your bedding once a week – use lavender scented detergent/softener and for a special touch, spray with lavender scented linen spray.
- Reduce your caffeine intake.
- Prepare yourself by adopting a ritual intended for slumber: wash your face with gentle soap, brush your teeth, take time to wind down, and consciously prepare your mind for sleep.
- If you can’t get to sleep within 10 or 15 minutes, get up and read or meditate. Try sipping a cup of warm milk or chamomile tea, or taking a warm bath with lavender oil — all have calming effects.
- Release any anger you may be holding onto from the day. It’s wasted energy and keeps you awake.
- Try meditation, prayer, or simply writing in a journal as a way to redirect that energy.
- Try relaxed breathing by inhaling slowly from your diaphragm, not your chest. You can learn how to do this by consciously expanding your stomach muscles while breathing in.
- Worry can become a difficult habit to break, but it can be done by replacing one stressful thought with another more peaceful and productive one; by doing that, you can be healthier, more alert and able to face the stresses of the day. Many people accomplish this by writing down their worries and concerns, and possible solutions, before going to bed. Preparing notes for the day ahead helps eliminate the worry that a task might be forgotten. This is a way of “wrapping up business” to assure a better night’s sleep.
- A similar tactic can be employed if you wake up in the middle of the night. Consciously work through what you believe to be the cause. Keep a notepad by your bed to jot down your thoughts to address when daylight comes. Writing down your ideas, worries, or “to do’s” that wake you during your sleep will help to clear your mind and allow sleep to return more easily.
Stress and insomnia are the arch enemies of good health. Take mindful steps to control your stress so that it does not control you.