Do you know that weird situation when you find yourself in the middle of the night lying in bed and thinking non-stop about a thing that had happened to you? No matter how hard you try to persuade yourself that it is already time for sleeping, no matter how many sheep you have already counted, your brain keeps on sticking to the hectic thoughts that trigger all kinds of emotions. If you have found yourself in this situation not once but many times, then welcome to the club! You are one of those 40 percent of Americans who often suffer from stress.
If stress also affects your sleep, then you are in danger of entering a vicious circle: the more stress you have, the worse your sleep gets, and the lack of sleep makes you feel even more stressed, irritable, and anxious. That is why it is so important to start reacting to the situation before it leads to serious consequences.
Find your own lifebelt
No matter how much information you read about stress, there is no universal strategy on how to get rid of it. There are no magic words or magic passes―unless your belief in esotericism is so strong that you can persuade yourself that it works. For those of you who are more down to earth, try to do something that can make you relaxed and calm in the evening, before you go to sleep. The better sleep you have, the less stressed you will be the next day.
If you like writing, try to express your thoughts in a private journal. Do not let those ideas and unspoken words buzz in your mind―put them to paper. You may also write down all the good things that happened to you during the day―it can switch your attention from negative to positive moments of life. A recent study shows, that only 15 minutes of writing before going to bed can improve your sleep and quiet your mind.
Try some yoga, if you already know the practice. It is not only about becoming more flexible and limber; the right system of breathing can also help you cope with stress. Keeping both your body and your mind busy can give you wonderful results: a Psychosomatic Medicine journal study shows that expert yoga practitioners have significantly lower stress markers in their blood than novices do. So, the more you practice yoga, the better.
If yoga exercises seem too complicated for you, we can offer something much simpler but still effective when it comes to relaxing in a stressful situation. The Sleep Disorder Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a very easy technique of progressive muscle relaxation. It does not require any athletic skills at all, that is why anyone can do it.
And finally, even if you cannot think of anything that could reduce your stress, try to go to bed earlier than usual. It might seem counterintuitive, but it can indeed help you. If you go to bed early, you will not give the repetitive negative thoughts a chance to occupy your mind and, therefore, your sleep will be better.
Consider your dinner
You may wonder whether there is indeed a connection between your stress and your dinner. And in fact, there is.
Some food can make you feel anxious and/or full of energy while other food contains special chemicals that can help you feel drowsy and relaxed.
So, when you choose your dinner menu, decide in favor of the following:
• Omega-3-rich fish: you can find the omega-3 fatty acid in salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. This acid helps regulate sleep, so it is perfect for your dinner during a stressful period.
• Cheese: it is rich in tryptophan, which produces chemicals that make your body feel sleepy and relaxed.
• Almonds: apart from tryptophan these nuts also contain calcium and magnesium that are responsible for achieving a nice deep sleep.
• Cherries: cherries are the source of hormone melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. Even if it is not the season for the berry, you can have cherry juice, it has the same properties.
And the things that you should avoid on your dinner table (at least until your stressful period is over) are all the caffeine-rich products (including black tea, black chocolate, and cola), any kind of alcohol, fat and spicy food.
Create useful habits
You can avoid your non-stop inner monolog by changing your evening habits. It is so easy to follow the same routine every day that your mind simply learns how to get inside the “stress-sleeping problems” vicious circle. If you add something new to your evening schedule, it will give you some strength to ease the stress.
• Choose a book or a magazine instead of your smartphone or tablet. The blue light of the screen makes your brain feel revved up, so it will be difficult for you to fall asleep.
• Take a warm shower. A long warm shower is known for its relaxing effect. Plus, if you want to sing in the shower, then do it―it will definitely improve your mood.
• Have sex before going to sleep. Sex will not only make you tired, but will also make your body produce prolactin, which is a sleep-promoting hormone, and oxytocin, which is responsible for feeling good.
• Try aromatherapy. Some scents, like lavender, vetiver, clary sage, myrtle, and frankincense have a powerful effect on a human’s state. You can try them and choose what is better for you.
Just remember, the better sleep you have, the more relaxed you feel the next day. Good sleep can give you enough energy to manage your everyday problems and to deal with any hardships.