Learn to Leave Stress Behind at Bedtime
This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
It can be difficult to fall or stay asleep if you’re stressed out. In fact, stress can lead to insomnia by causing hyper-arousal in your body and mind. Making matters worse, getting too little sleep can make you feel even more stressed, leading to a vicious cycle of continuous tossing and turning and tension. That’s why it’s smart to take steps to leave any stress behind before you go to bed. These strategies that will help you do that.
Exercise in the morning or afternoon. Whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, playing a sport, using a cardio machine, or taking an exercise class, engaging in physical activity is a great way to release both physical and mental tension. Since exercise increases body temperature temporarily, it’s best for many people to work out at least three hours before bedtime so that their body temperature has enough time to drop and set the stage for sleep. However, if you find that evening exercise doesn’t negatively affect your sleep, then there’s no reason to make a change.
Take time to downshift before bedtime. For at least 30 minutes (preferably an hour) before bedtime, avoid doing anything stimulating or stressful. That means: No texting, no catching up on work, and no watching tense TV shows. Instead, dim the lights and lower the volume; read an interesting book, take a warm bath, do some gentle stretching, or listen to music that helps calm you.
Tame your tension. Spend five to 10 minutes doing a calming routine—such as deep breathing, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation—before you turn in. These decompression techniques can help you feel less stressed and reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.
Turn off your thoughts. To prevent daytime worries from sabotaging your sleep, make a concerted effort to switch your mind into “off” mode before you turn in for the night.You can do this by jotting down your concerns in the afternoon and putting them aside to address the next morning. Or, you can practice mindfulness meditation: Sit quietly with your eyes closed, clear your mind of thoughts, and focus on your breathing. When thoughts do come to mind, simply notice them as if they were clouds floating across the sky and return your attention to your breathing. Having a clear, calm mind puts you a sleep-friendly state.