Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, and when you’re not sleeping well, it causes stress. When you’re experiencing high levels of stress, you’re inevitably not sleeping well.
STRESS AND THE BODY
When stress levels are high, several things are happening in your body that prepare you for action. Our “fight or flight” response puts everything into overdrive. Our heart races, stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, and our blood pressure, blood sugar, and core temperature increase. None of these things work together with our body’s need to slow down and recharge when we’re in our earliest stages of sleep.
Here are some proven stress-reducing options that can be worked into your evening routine:
GO FOR A WALK
Walking puts your brain in a meditative state, according to recent research. Walking through scenic spaces has been found to trigger “involuntary attention,” which means that it holds your attention while allowing for reflection at the same time. Being outdoors reduces stress and improves energy levels. Walking also releases endorphins, which reduces stress hormones.
CREATE A PLAYLIST
Listening to slow quiet music can have a relaxing effect on our minds and bodies. It slows the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing levels of stress hormones. Music can positively affect emotions, especially when it reminds us of pleasant memories from our past.
TAKE A HOT BATH
Soaking in hot water temporarily raises our body temperature, which improves blood and lymph circulation, detoxifies, increases metabolism, and calms the nervous system. The hot water can also ease sore muscles, aches and pains. A hot bath can make you sleepy, so it’s great as part of your evening ritual, as long as it’s not too close to bedtime. You’ll want to give yourself a cool-off time of at least 30-45 minutes before crawling into bed.
DO YOGA OR GENTLE STRETCHES
Similar to taking a hot bath, slow relaxing movement can ease sore muscles and help to calm your mind. Avoid strenuous exercise before bed, as it raises levels we want lowered in preparation for sleep. YouTube is great for finding yoga routines, and there is an app for everything!
READ A (REAL) BOOK
Six minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds. (Imagine what an hour can do!) It works better and faster than other methods, and transports you into another world instantly, which helps take your mind off your own worries. As this is a sleep course, go for a real paper book, instead of an e-Reader or an electronic device, so you don’t disrupt melatonin production with the blue light.
WORK ON A CREATIVE PROJECT
Being creative releases happy hormones and helps to relax your mind and body. Activities such as painting, knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, or playing a calming musical instrument can be soothing to your body, and the emotional expression that comes through a creative act disrupts mental patterns of stress. Creativity acts in the same way as meditation, in that it provides a mental space removed from the usual stressors.
Schedule time to relax before bed. Make it a priority, and your body and mind will thank you for it!