Although we all have different strategies for coping with stress, many don’t realize that simply getting a full night of sleep can do wonders to lower stress levels and improve your overall mental health..
The Types of Stress
In small doses, stress can be helpful. It helps increase our awareness when something important demands our attention. It can initiate a fight-or-flight response that helps us survive hazardous situations.
This autonomic survival instinct only becomes problematic when it's no longer a temporary response to a specific event.
When the body's stress response gets switched on in a more permanent way because stressful events are ever-present, chronic stress is the result. Since our bodies are not meant to function in an elevated stress state for extended periods, the toll on physical and emotional well-being can be profound. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
- compromised immune system
- digestive issues
- reproductive health complications
- muscle pain
- heart disease
- weight gain
The Importance of Sleep for Stress Relief
Getting the appropriate amount of sleep has a wide-ranging impact on our overall health. Issues like depression, poor immune function, and chronic illness, which, over time, can become root causes of chronic stress, are improved by healthful sleep.
Getting a good night's sleep is like hitting the reset button. It gives us the chance to release toxins and recalibrate our hormones.
Finally, we can think more clearly when we're rested, gaining much-needed perspective on the challenges we face each day.
Strategies to Achieve a Great Night's Sleep
In a frustrating catch-22, stress can keep us up at night; even worrying about not getting enough sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep.
There are effective strategies we can implement to improve sleep quality and quantity even when we are coping with chronic stress:
- Stick to a Schedule, Especially Around Bedtime—Our bodies thrive on routine. Keeping a journal of what works best for us can help establish healthy, lasting habits.
- Power Down Electronics and Dim the Lights Before Bed—Bright lights and blue light from devices can trick your body into thinking it's still time to be up.
- Watch What You Eat and Drink Before Bed—Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine all impact the body's ability to regulate sleep. It's also recommended to wait for at least 2 or 3 hours after having a meal before heading to bed for the best quality sleep.
- Exercise Regularly—Even moderate activity releases chemicals that promote better sleep, which, in turn, helps us have the energy to keep active.
- Get the Right Mattress—A comfortable bed not only helps us fall asleep faster but allows us to sleep better all night long.
Although some of life's stressors are out of our hands, small changes in our sleep hygiene can reap big rewards in our efforts to ease stress.
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