Ongoing stress can lead to physical and mental health issues, as well as impacting the quality of your sleep. Find out ways to manage stress for better sleep.
Some things go together naturally. Peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Bacon and eggs. Stress and insomnia. Research indicates that several factors can reduce a person’s ability to both fall and stay asleep when feeling stressed. Among them are how they perceive stressful events, whether their stress is chronic or acute, the ways they cope with stress, and if they misuse substances during stressful times. (1)
With these factors in mind, here are some ways to get better sleep, even when stress feels like it’s at an all-time high.
Reframe Stressful Situations
Two people can go through similar situations yet perceive them differently. One example is receiving a cancer diagnosis. Upon learning that they have cancer, some people place more emphasis on the negatives of their diagnosis, such as how uncomfortable treatment might be, how their family will cope, and even the potential of their own mortality.
While all of these are natural responses, others react to a cancer diagnosis differently. They dig deep inside themselves and bolster the urge to fight as hard as they can. They also think about all the things that they want to accomplish despite their diagnosis and get working on this list.
One option is to think about the situation’s upsides, such as how having to call into work for a sick child allows you to better bond with the child or get more housework done. Another option is to consider what you can learn from the stressful event. How can you use this experience to benefit you moving forward?
Make Stress-Relieving Activities a Regular Priority
Stress can be acute or chronic. If it’s acute, this means that your stress levels may rise temporarily but will soon fall. An example of acute stress is getting in a minor fender-bender on the way to work. Right after the accident, your stress levels will likely rise. However, once you know that you’re okay physically and your vehicle may only need minor repairs, the stress you feel slowly dissipates.
Chronic stress is a bit different. This is stress that is constant and consistent, never really going away. The problem with chronic stress is that the mind and body remain in a fight-or-flight state. This has negative health consequences, some of which include an increased risk of anxiety and depression, digestive issues, muscle pain, heart disease, stroke—and sleep problems. (3) This outlines the importance of regularly relieving stress for better sleep.
Take time out of each day to calm your body and mind. Place this time on your calendar and give it the same priority as personal or work-related appointments and other time-sensitive obligations.
Figure Out What Helps Reduce YOUR Stress Levels
Some people find that meditation works well for reducing their stress, thus enabling them to fall and stay asleep. Others get this same effect from taking a long walk or spending time in nature.
The point is that not every activity lowers stress for everyone.
Take a few moments and consider how different activities make you feel. What things do you do that leave you feeling calmer, happier, or otherwise better about life? If you can’t think of anything, consider activities you’ve been wanting to try that could provide this effect.
Stress relief is a personal process that is as unique as the individual. Figure out what helps reduce your stress levels and engage in these activities often.
Avoid Using Substances to Cope with Stress
While having a few drinks before bed may help you fall asleep despite your stress, consuming alcohol prior to bedtime actually decreases sleep quality, making it harder to stay asleep all night long. Using alcohol long-term can lead to sleep issues as well. (4)
If you have a tendency to use alcohol or any other substance in an effort to cope with your stressors, this can contribute to your inability to get good sleep. So, avoiding the misuse of these substances for stress control is critical to getting a good night’s rest.
Admittedly, changing this habit can be sometimes difficult, especially for people who’ve been using substances as coping mechanisms long-term. Your healthcare provider can help create a treatment plan. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to learn what resources are available to you.
Just as stress and sleep issues often go hand-in-hand, so do stress and inflammation. Too much stress over time tends to increase inflammation in the body, also reducing immune system function. (5)
One study found that taking the herb ashwagandha with certain minerals, such as magnesium, appears to help reduce inflammation by regulating pro-inflammatory cytokines, positively affecting the body’s immune response. (6)
Natural Wellness offers both ashwagandha and magnesium supplements. Together, these substances may help promote more restful sleep, also reducing the body’s negative stress response.