Is Stress Ruining Your Sleep?

If you’re like most folks, the summer means more than just picnics, sitting by the pool, and vacations. It can also mean stress. Stress of hosting picnics, keeping your pool or outdoor areas looking nice, and planning those wonderful vacations. And if you’re a parent, then you can add a gazillion other things onto your summer to-do list! How on Earth are you going to keep your children entertained all summer long? If they go to daycare or camp in the summer that’s about half the battle. And if not, you can double your load then! Regardless, all kids want to know (and expect) that you’ll be doing a few fun things throughout the summer.

With all that stress, it’s no wonder that the quality and/or quantity of your sleep might take a backseat to all these festivities. When we’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, it definitely affects how quickly we fall asleep and whether or not we stay asleep all night. For some people, it means that you will have a terrible time “shutting your brain off” so you can get some sleep. As soon as you close your eyes, your mind seems to turn on and start running in a hundred different directions. Pretty hard to sleep when you’re planning your entire vacation in your head! For other people, you’re so exhausted that you fall right to sleep without any issues…well, not initially anyway. But come 4am, your eyes just pop right open, or a trip to the bathroom turns into a bout of insomnia for the remainder of the night. Either way the result is the same…your brain is back in full gear and your done sleeping for the night. It’s super frustrating, when all you really want to do is get some shut eye! So what can you do about this? Here are 3 things that you can do to help…

1) Take 10 minutes during the day: Stress doesn’t just happen before or during sleep. It is there all day long, manifesting itself in everything you do. It’s there when there’s no more coffee (ahhhhh!); it’s there when you can’t find your favorite pair of shoes (gasp!); it’s there when you can’t find your keys and you’re going to be late for work or an appointment (w&t!@#); and it’s there when you discover the dog ate your toast when your back was turned (grrrrr!). Yes, we have stress all day long, though it tends to build up throughout the day and settle in for the night when we’re trying to do the same. One way to combat these stressful situations is to take some time each day for yourself…to take a pause, breathe, calm down, and “reset” yourself. It’s super simple to do, and it can make a big difference in how you feel!

2) Using relaxation techniques: During those 10 minutes, find ways to decompress or “let go”. For instance, you might take a walk or a jog to clear your head. Or you might try deep breathing through your nose, letting that crisp (preferably outdoor) oxygen fill your nose, brain, and body. Or you can listen to a short guided meditation or guided imagery piece. We all have 10 minutes in our day to spare (or even 5 minutes if you can’t do 10 right away), so make this a priority in your day and see if it helps you to feel better by bedtime.

Use these same techniques should you have trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep in the middle of the night. Clearing your mind will help you find the peace and sleep you’re looking for. Using these simple techniques can help you clear your mind and turn your brain off!

3) Keep a positive journal/to-do list: For some reason, men typically have a hard time with this one. I’m not saying you need to keep a diary like a teenage girl might do. I’m saying that writing down positive things that occurred throughout your day can be a very nice way to end your evening. You know that old saying, “don’t go to bed mad”? Well, I’m pretty sure they said that because it’s nearly impossible to do so! Did you ever try to fall asleep with a frown on your face? It doesn’t work! We can’t sleep like that! So even if your day was miserable…you were late to work because of traffic, your son spilled milk all over the freshly washed kitchen floor, your daughter got pen on your brand new shirt, your spouse accidentally deleted your favorite TV show from your DVR lineup, and the cat knocked over your glass of wine…you have to let it all go before bed! Find something positive to say about the day and write it down. For instance, you got complimented by your boss or by your spouse, the kids played together nicely for a whole hour, you finally got to sit down and watch a TV show that wasn’t animated, your mom complimented your parenting methods, you finally got to have that long-awaited get-together with your old high school friend, or your child told you he loved you for no reason other than he really does love you. Whatever it is, we can all find something positive about our days, so again take the opportunity to focus on the good, happy, positive things before bed and you’ll have a much easier time drifting off to sleep with a smile on your face instead of a frown.

The second part of this is keeping a to-do list. Men and women alike keep to-do lists. Some of us have a list on the fridge, some of us have them in our phone or computers, and some of us have them somewhere in our head. Having them written or typed up somewhere is the best way to go, though a lot of us fall into the last category of having things in our heads only. The problem with this is that overnight while our bodies are asleep, our brains are hard at work. They are “cleaning up” in there, where they’re transferring some thoughts to long-term memory and discarding other short-term memories. If you didn’t think enough about taking out the trash throughout the day, there’s a good chance that thought will disappear by morning. You have two choices here:

1) think about taking out the trash all day long

2) write it down on your to-do list so you can stop thinking about it all day

Clearly, writing it down would be the best solution. By the time we go to bed, we tend to have tons of small, trivial things like this on our mind, which clouds our brain and makes it hard to fall asleep. Or worse yet, just as you’re ready to actually fall asleep, your eyes pop back open thinking about something you need to get done tomorrow. Then you try to keep thinking about it to ingrain it in your brain so that it will be there in the morning. Instead of doing all of that, just write it down before bed. You can make it part of your bedtime routine each night, so it’s the last you do before bed and the first thing you see in the morning, if you want to look at it immediately. The point is that it’s off of your mind once it’s written down, then the stress you have about those things is gone, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.

 

***

 

*Note: If you need further help with your sleep, click here to set up your free 15min phone assessment. Then, you can fill me in about your sleep issues, and I can tell you if/how I think I can help you. You can also check out my Adult Sleep Services page for more information!