Does stress negatively affect the way you sleep? Alternatively, do you feel more stressed when you sleep badly? You are not alone…
An enormous 74% of Brits admit to feeling so stressed that they feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. Of those, 60% report at some point suffering from insomnia or problems sleeping.
Experts at premium mattress brand, Tempur, and charity partner, the Mental Health Foundation, have teamed up to provide a guide to alleviating stress and setting better sleep rituals for Stress Awareness Month this April.
“We spend about a third of our lives asleep,” says Tobin James, Tempur UK Managing Director. “Good quality sleep is essential to maintaining good mental and physical health. It’s as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing, and can affect our performance, concentration, energy levels, relationships, moods and interpretation of the world.
“Common mental health problems such as stress and anxiety often underpin sleep problems or insomnia, whilst on the flip side, poor sleep can lead to poor mental health.
“We can all benefit from improving the quality of our sleep. For many of us, it may simply be a case of making small lifestyle or attitude adjustments to help us sleep better and thus, stress less.
“Together with the Mental Health Foundation, we have put together the following tips to help those struggling with sleep and stress to form better habits in order to work towards improving or maintaining good mental health.”
Try these simple tips to see if you can feel better today…
Exercise is great for releasing stress and regular light exercise – even just a brisk walk in the fresh air – is a good way to improve sleep. Exercise floods the body with feel-good hormones that stimulate our minds and bodies, so beware of exercising late at night as it can actually keep you awake.
- Relaxation techniques
Meditation, mindfulness, self-hypnosis, or yoga, are all useful techniques to help settle the mind, attend to our thoughts and feelings, and increase our ability to manage difficult situations and make good choices. Research suggests that a regular relaxation regime can significantly reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and related problems such as insomnia. Try integrating 10-20 minutes of your chosen relaxation technique into your daily routine to improve wellbeing and rest.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet and ensuring a good mix of essential minerals, vitamins and adequate hydration, is proven to improve our mood and overall wellbeing. Try to avoid or reduce consumption of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and refined sugars. All of these can have a negative impact on our sleep and in waking hours, affect our mood, energy levels or the way we deal with day-to-day tasks or challenges.
Health can be a major stressor. If you lie awake mulling over concerns about your health, or the health of a loved one, try a relaxation exercise or mindfulness practice to help settle your internal worries. The key thing is to find ways of addressing anxieties and worries rather than letting them fester.
- Manage your time and responsibilities
Self-care is vital to promoting wellbeing. Make sure that you balance responsibilities with down time. Manage time by creating check lists and prioritising tasks but make sure that daily or weekly goals are realistic. Sleep will come far easier if you’ve managed to tick everything off of your to-do list. It is also important to admit when you’ve taken on too much and share out responsibilities where possible to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Wind down to induce sleep
Our bodies release a hormone called melatonin that makes us feel naturally tired at around 10-11pm. If you go with it and head to bed as you feel tired, you’ll sleep better. Try establishing a bedtime routine that can help you recognise and promote that wave. Avoiding any mentally demanding tasks, turning off the TV, listening to music, having a milky drink or enjoying a warm bath are all good ways to calm the mind and open ourselves up to sleepiness.
- The bedroom environment
Make your bedroom a temple for sleep. That means a good bed that suits you, a comfortable pillow, curtains or blinds that keep out the light, and a suitable temperature – ideally a little cooler than the rest of the house. Declutter the room, use a calming colour scheme, make sure the bed is made before climbing in… A tidy bedroom will most certainly help to tidy the mind and achieve a bedtime free of stress.
- Put the phone away
Checking your phone last thing at night, browsing social media or emails when we can’t sleep… We’ve all done it. Not only does the content stimulate our minds and potentially causes stress when we’re trying to settle the mind for a restful night, but the light from a phone also fools our minds into believing its daytime, making sleep less attainable.
- Don’t force it
Don’t lie in bed awake tossing and turning. If you can’t get off to sleep or get back to sleep, get up. Try a warm caffeine/sugar-free drink, meditate, read a book, or listen to some calming music for a while. Don’t be tempted to check your phone!
- Don’t let insomnia drag on
Basic techniques can often help with stress and thus improve your sleep. If tips like these don’t work however, do speak to your GP. It may be that you have an underlying health issue.
If you have insomnia for more than a couple of weeks, or often feel so sleepy you could drop off during the day, it’s worth speaking to the doctor, as sleep disorders can increase our risk of developing depression, heart disease or stroke.
“We’re delighted to be working with Tempur to highlight the importance of good sleep in preventing stress,” says Chris O’Sullivan, sleep expert at the Mental Health Foundation.
“Problems with our sleep can be one of the first signs of stress or overwhelm. Noticing changes in your sleep quality, waking early, or finding it hard to drop off can all be key warning signs. Try to listen to this kind of early warning and if you can, take steps to sort out the things that are causing stress. If you can’t address stress at source, other self-care activities like exercise, mediation, improving diet or taking time out can help your stress levels, and your sleep.
Improving the quality of our sleep is one of the easiest ways to improve our mental health
“When we sleep well, we are able to meet challenge head on, focus on work, and have the time and energy to devote to our relationships and our interests.”
For more information on the Mental Health Foundation, or for tips, guides and resources, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk.