Stress and trauma can make it difficult to sleep, leading to insomnia and other sleep struggles. Among adults whose sleep is affected by stress, more than half say stress makes them worry about falling asleep at night. Seven out of ten people who experience excessive anxiety also have trouble sleeping.

At the same time, a lack of sleep can make it more difficult to deal with stress. People who are sleep deprived report greater subjective stress, meaning you may perceive situations to be more stressful, and you’re less emotionally prepared to deal with stress when you’re sleep deprived.

(Image: stressed person with short hair pressing hand on forehead)

However, there are steps you can take to sleep better, and reduce the effects of stress due to a lack of sleep. Strategies for improving sleep and reducing anxiety include:

  • Make sleep a priority. Even busy people need sleep. Most adults need seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night. Plan your schedule so you’ll have at least eight hours of rest time at night, which will give you time to settle down and go to sleep and wake up in the morning.

  • Use your bedroom exclusively for relaxing. Your bedroom should be a calming place that reduces your stress. Avoid working in bed or your bedroom, or watching the news on TV before bed. These types of activities can increase your stress when you’re trying to rest. It’s best to limit your bedroom activities to ones that relieve stress. Your bed should be devoted to sleep and sex, so keep your laptop out of it.

  • Practice yoga and mindfulness. Yoga and mindfulness meditation can help you relieve stress. Practicing yoga before bed is good for improving your circulation, stretching out tension, and becoming more centered. It’s even more powerful when combined with mindfulness meditation, such as mindful breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine. With a consistent sleep routine, you can train your body to get tired around the same time each night, making it easier to wind down and go to sleep. Keep the same sleep schedule each day, going to bed and waking up around the same time. Practice a regular bedtime routine as well, going through the same activities each night before you go to sleep. This will help you recognize that it’s bedtime and time to relax and get some rest.

  • Avoid sleep pitfalls. Exercise can be helpful for sleep, but it can leave you feeling too wired at night to go to sleep. Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals can interfere with sleep as well. Avoid screen time just before bed, as the bright light from your TV or mobile device can confuse your circadian rhythm and send cues that it’s daytime and time to be awake.

  • Keep a journal by your bed. If you’re plagued by stressful thoughts and anxiety that keep you up at night, write them out, so you don’t have to stay awake thinking of them, and can come back to reflect on them in the morning when you’re better able to deal with them.

High quality sleep makes it easier to manage stress and trauma. Lifestyle changes, like starting a sleep routine, may be enough to increase your sleep quality and improve how you perceive stress and negative emotions.

(Image: Person with shoulder length hair facing away towards the sun rising above the trees.)

 

Ellie Porter
Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org
[email protected]
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