I know you're stressed about work, money, and your family, but how would you rate your stress level?
Mild: Life's too short to spend time worrying.
Moderate: I have a lot of pressure, but most days I'm able to cope.
Severe: I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and on the verge of a breakdown.
Now I want you to think about your sleep. Would you say:
I enjoy at least 7 hours of peaceful slumber every night.
I try to go to bed early, but I lay in bed worrying about my to-do list.
I'm an insomniac. I can't fall asleep until after midnight, and then I toss and turn all night.
Just like diet and exercise, sleep and stress management are the foundation of your improved health.
Lack of sleep and increased stress can also create a vicious cycle, so if one's not status quo, the other will be off as well. Insomnia can happen for a variety of reasons, but what I've found in my practice is that stress is often the culprit.
When you're stressed out, your body goes into a hyper arousal state, so not only do you have difficulty falling and staying asleep, but the quality of your sleep subpar too.
And when you're not sleeping, you feel irritable, overwhelmed, and less equipped to deal with that aforementioned stress.
So over time, this sleep-stress toxic relationship can make you fat, increase your risk for conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, and impact your relationships and your happiness.
But there are simple ways you can cope. Here are 7.
Squeeze out shut-eye. Even if you only get 5 hours of sleep, go to bed at 12 am and get up at 5 am, even if you plan to get more. Then, go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night to gradually increase the amount of time you're sleeping.
Ban the iPad from the bedroom. Blue light from the TV, your iPad, and smart phone is too stimulating and can actually disrupt your sleep. Keep all electronics out of your bedroom; unplug at least two hours before bedtime; and read, take a bath, or meditate instead.
Create a calm space. Your bedroom should only be used for sleep, sex, and getting dressed - anything else should be done in another room. Draw the blinds and use dim lighting at night to increase melatonin production and use a white noise machine to cancel out a snoring partner or street noise. A calming scent from a candle or esential oil diffuser can promote sleep too.
Put pen to paper. Your mind can become a hamster wheel of worry at night, but writing it down can make it seem more manageable. Keep a journal on your nightstand and spend 10 minutes writing down your to-do list for the next day, or possible solutions for things you're worried about.
Lose weight. Shedding those extra pounds can do wonders for sleep. In fact, a recent study finds obese adults who lost five percent of their body weight slept better, longer, and saw an improvement in their mood.
Exercise every day. Studies show regular exercise can reduce stress and anxiety and improve sleep. Aim for at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week, but try not to exercise too close to bedtime.
Have fun. Carve out at least 15 minutes every day to decompress, recharge, and do something that you enjoy. Chances are, you'll feel less stressed and more relaxed come bedtime.