Stress Awareness Month: how better sleep can reduce stress
Author: Jonathan Warren
Ever found yourself lying awake at night worrying about the day ahead, or unable to properly switch off? Whether it’s fleeting moments of panic or longer periods of anxiety, stress is a feeling familiar to many of us, and it can have quite the impact on our sleeping patterns.
As April is Stress Awareness Month, we’ve rounded up everything that you need to know about the impact of stress on our sleep, and suggested some easy changes that you can make to your day-to-day routine to reduce stress and sleep soundly.
How does stress affect sleep?
Though it’s normal to feel mild levels of stress from time-to-time, it can sometimes feel overwhelming and worrying. According to the mental health charity Mind, the definition of stress is:
‘Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don’t feel we can manage or control.’
Sound familiar? Stress can sometimes be triggered by issues such as pressures at work, big changes in your life, financial worries, bereavement or trauma. According to Sleep Foundation, stress and anxiety can often lead to sleep problems. And, because sleep and stress share a reciprocal relationship, a lack of good-quality sleep can sometimes lead to additional stress.
How can better sleep help with stress and anxiety?
But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel! It’s widely believed that getting eight hours of good-quality shut-eye per night not only improves our general wellbeing but can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. SleepScore Labs say:
‘Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgement and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested.’
5 ways to reduce stress and sleep better
Not sleeping well due to stress? From creating a calming evening routine to decluttering your bedroom, our series of stress-busting tips is here to help.
1. Create a clear bedtime routine
Your evening activities can have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep. And, if you’re feeling the pressure of stress and anxiety, creating a relaxing evening routine will ensure that you feel calm and settled before heading off to bed. If you have a comfy upholstered bed or headboard, sitting up and reading in bed can be a brilliant way to unwind after a busy day. Or, rather than checking emails, watching TV or scrolling on your phone, why not try a calming soak in the bath, or listening to a soothing sleep podcast?
2. Banish blue light
As tempting as it might be to watch Netflix in bed or scroll through Instagram, it’s well known that the blue light from phones, tablets or laptops can wreak havoc with our sleeping patterns and increase our levels of cortisol (the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone). For a blissful night’s sleep, we recommend banishing blue light from your bedroom in the hour before you fall asleep.
3. Clear your bedroom of clutter
Ever heard the saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’? Well, there’s some truth in that. A bedroom that’s chaotic and disorganised is known to exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety, which can then negatively affect your sleep. To transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, we recommend making sure that the floor and surfaces are completely clear of clutter. Why not try investing in a new wardrobe and chest of drawers, or take some time to organise your underbed storage? You’ll be sleeping soundly before you know it!
4. Eat a balanced diet and cut out the caffeine
Eating a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables is a brilliant way to boost your nutrition, aid your body with the management of stress and to ensure that you sleep better. Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol or nicotine are also known to cause a restless night’s sleep. To ensure you sleep soundly, herbal or fruity teas can be a brilliant alternative – especially those which contain soothing ingredients such as chamomile and lavender.
5. Manage stress with exercise and relaxation
Incorporating a little light exercise into your evening routine is an easy way to unwind your mind before bed. A short walk followed by some gentle stretches or yoga is a perfect way to prepare your body for sleep – especially when followed by some calming meditation, breathing exercises or journaling.