Stress is pretty much a normal factor in life. In fact, stress can be a great motivator if we use it to challenge ourselves to change things we don’t like. But stress can also be a great disruptor, especially if we bring it home with us after work and let it disrupt and/or destroy our night’s sleep.
As the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) notes about stress and its effect on our sleep:
“Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep. Stress causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.”
The solution, then, is not letting stress come to bed with us by winding down when we get home from work and our daily activities. But how do we accomplish this winding down?
The keys to shedding stress once at home are eerily similar to good sleep hygiene techniques. Consider:
- Relaxing with family and friends is one of the surest ways to combat stress, and of course to prepare us for a good night’s sleep.
- Exercise is another way to shed the demons of stress. For example, doing martial arts such as aikido lessons helps decrease a stress well. But you have to be sure that your exercise time-frame isn’t too close to beddy-bye time, lest it disrupt your sleep rhythm. You need at least a two-hour interval between exercise and bedtime to settle your body down for sleep. Four hours, of course, is even more ideal.
- Junk foods and refined sugars will do you no good stress-wise but will make you sluggish and not in a good state to get a good night’s sleep.
- Alcohol, though a jolly-giver for a while, is also no solution, as it will disrupt your sleep and wake you once its effects wear off.
- Delegating responsibilities to others and not trying to do it all yourself will reduce stress dramatically. Taking on too many responsibilities can only build up your stress levels.
- Practicing the other essentials of good sleep hygiene by keeping a darkened, quiet, and TV- and electronic-device-free bedroom environment will help you achieve the rest you need.
Remember, getting a good night’s sleep of 7 to 9 hours is the key to combatting stress the next day. If you’re sleep deprived and fatigued in the daytime, your challenges will only increase your stress level. Everything begins and ends with learning to master a good night’s sleep, If you’re having difficulty doing that, then by all means seek professional help.