Have you ever had one of those nights? You know the kind; the constant tossing and turning, the tight muscles, the inability shut your mind off? It seems like that stupid alarm clock is staring you in the face. If only you could just relax and let it all go instead of worrying if you'll have enough coffee to make it through tomorrow.
Sleep is a strange thing. We need it, we crave it, we fight it, we do our best to control it instead of it controlling us. Unfortunately, our bodies don't function as they should when we are sleep deprived. The crux of it is, ongoing research has now established that not getting enough sleep is detrimental to our health. When we sleep our bodies repair vital organs and body systems, such as our adrenal glands, and cement our long-term memory while helping us to make sense of the days events.
For example, lack of sleep can severely weaken your immune system, accelerate tumor growth, cause a pre-diabetic state which can make you feel hungry even when you've already eaten. Even one night of poor sleep can impair your memory, decrease your problem solving ability and impair performance on physical and mental tasks, not to mention how these issues can manifest themselves in your body.
The average person needs six to eight hours of sleep each night. For most people sleeping under six hours will actually accelerate aging and increase your risk of diabetes. But everyone is different, some need more and some need less, if you feel as if you're dragging during the day, you need a full eight hours of sleep.
So the question becomes, when we are stressed and can't get a good night's sleep what are we to do? While nutrition, exercise, meditation and how we think about our life are major factors in our health and stress levels, whether we get enough sleep may be the most deciding factor in our health and well-being. Here are some suggestions to help you get out of the stress rut and get some much-needed sleep.
Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible When light hits the eyes, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and production of melatonin and seratonin. Also, there should be as little light in the bathroom as possible so you aren't jolted by bright light (think Gizmo and Gremlins) if you have to get up in the middle of the night.
No TV right before bed Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom or even out of the house, completely. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. Also disruptive of pineal gland function for the same reason as above.
Read something spiritual or religious This will help to relax. Don't read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel, as this may have the opposite effect. In addition, if you are really enjoying a suspenseful book, you might wind up unintentionally reading for hours, instead of going to sleep.
Pay off debt Make a plan to pay off what is burdening you. It's hard to sleep when we are worried about how we are going to make those payments. Devising and implementing a plan of attack will empower you, making you more relaxed that everything will be alright now that there is a plan to work from.
Avoid toxic and negative people or situations If you are constantly bombarded with stressful people or situations, find a way to remove yourself. Either discuss your situation with them and let them know how you feel so you can work on improving the situation or you may have to eliminate them from your circle, even for a short time.
Use breathing techniques Like EFT, breathing exercises help refocus our minds and allow our parasympathetic nervous system to come forward. This will help relax you and regain control of your thoughts.
Bring ALL thoughts under YOUR control Negative thinking leads to more stress. Most of the negative thoughts are about what you can't control anyway, so why not take control of those thoughts? Write a list of all the negative thoughts that go through your mind. Now, take some time and restate those thoughts in a positive way. Something like, "Why did I just try to do that? I did it wrong, I should have known I wouldn't get it right." Now try saying, "Oopsies, I just messed up. But I'm trying something new, I will get better at it."
Write in a journal Keep a journal or spiral notebook next to your bed. When you find yourself having thoughts racing through your mind, write them down. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be as simple as get milk tomorrow at the store, or as extreme as admitting you feel stressed and hopeless. Just the act of writing things down removes them from constantly coursing through your mind.
There are many ways to deal with stress and bring your body, mind and spirit back into balance. Because stress is a major factor in the majority of health problems plaguing people today, taking steps to learn how to manage the traps that drag us into the spiral of sleepless nights will empower us to take the steps needed to climb out. Not only that, being able to manage stress will help your mental well-being. Being a positive thinker has an effect on our health because our bodies actually respond to our emotions on a cellular level.
There are many pills out there promising to reduce your stress and/or help you sleep. The problem is, some of them can be harmful or addictive. Learn how to use any of the techniques above in a way that works for you and you won't have to resort to dangerous drugs to bring on that lovely slumber.
So, bottom line, give yourself the tools you need to combat stress so you can get some much-needed rest.