Contributed by: Amy Highland, Sleep Expert at Sleephelp.org
If you are too stressed out to relax and sleep well at night, you are not alone. 70% of U.S. adults say they experience stress daily. Most of them agree that it interferes with their ability to sleep. While losing a few hours of sleep may not seem like a big deal, sleep deprivation can reduce your ability to deal with stress.
A recent study showed that sleep-deprived people perceive greater anxiety in response to small stressors than well-rested counterparts. Even small amounts of stress can get under your skin when you’re sleep deprived. Since getting insufficient sleep increases irritability and creates more stress that can then interfere with sleep, people can get in an unpleasant cycle. Stress makes it difficult to sleep and sleeping less makes stress more likely.
You can break this unpleasant cycle by improving your sleep conditions and reducing your stress.
Rest and Stress Less
A small step toward better sleep is making sure that your bedroom is set up for a good night’s rest. Your mattress should support spinal alignment. If you’re sensitive to smells, you might want to trade your old mattress for a new organic bed, which may have lower amounts of chemicals that cause unpleasant smells. Those who are sensitive to light and sounds should also work to mitigate these disturbances. Blackout curtains can block sunlight and night light pollution. A white noise machine or fountain may obscure unpleasant noises in the night.
Your bedroom should be a place where stress can’t find you. Try adding calming scents like lavender to your bedding and pillows. A couple of houseplants might also help you relax. Many people find nature to be calming.
Changing your sleep environment may not be enough to reduce your stress to levels where you can sleep soundly. If you are still feeling stressed, acupuncture and other alternative treatments may provide a solution.
Treating Stress with Acupuncture
Acupuncture may help you to sleep in two ways - by reducing anxiety and increasing the amount of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Anxious adults who underwent five weeks of acupuncture treatment reported that they fell asleep faster and their sleep time increased. They also started to release more melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy, at night.
Other Ways to Reduce Stress
Alternative therapies can often be combined with each other to improve results. For example, herbology and acupuncture are often used together. You can try different stress-reducing activities and see which mixture is the best one for you.
Yoga was shown to reduce work stress and improve sleep quality in a small study on staff nurses.
Mindfulness meditation may reduce insomnia, depression, and fatigue.
A bedtime routine and regular time that you go to sleep can help align your internal clocks and may lead to better sleep.
Most adults deal with stress, but they shouldn’t have to deal with insomnia too. You can take steps to reduce stress, like making time for weekly acupuncture sessions or daily mindfulness meditations. These activities may help you sleep better, which makes it easier to deal with stress the next day.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.