It is really frustrating to be lying awake in bed, even when your body and mind is tired out. Stress or unwarranted thoughts can keep you from sleeping for hours. Your mind just keeps wandering, the sound of footsteps in the next room or the smallest of noise in the rest of the house keeps nagging you. Stress is said to be caused by the release of cortisol, a hormone responsible for a burst of energy in times when we feel threatened.
Sleeplessness is a common occurrence that we experience from time to time. It could be a small annoyance or a big problem that makes you get up in the middle of the night, and whatever you do the thoughts just won't let you sleep. The stresses in our daily life or the stress of work deadlines also result in spending the night tossing and turning. Elaine Aron, in his study of sleeplessness, observed that for about 20% of Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP), a sleepless night is a quite a common occurrence. As such, these people tend to have a highly sensitive nervous systems that leads to insomnia. Sleep, or a state of total relaxation, is not possible for HSP. Often, reasons for insomnia in the present stressful world are over-scheduling, anxiety, over- thinking and drinking excess caffeine.
Some lucky people have the ability to fall asleep the minute they hit the pillow. It is usually the sensitive who are unable to create an environment instrumental to sleeping peacefully. Try out these tips that will help in countering night time stress, and put you into a deep slumber.
Understanding and identifying the cause of stress
Stress is a physical reaction to some situation or behavior. So the first step should be to understand and identify the cause of stress. If the reason for your sleeplessness is stress, you should be able to exactly pinpoint the cause and go about eliminating it. If the cause is some upcoming exam or a presentation at work, you should try to soothe your nerves by studying well for the exam, or preparing thoroughly for the presentation. If the reasons are beyond your control you can try overcoming them by confiding in a friend, or writing a diary that can prove to be a stress buster.
Relax for a couple of hours before bedtime
The evenings before bedtime should be spent by generally slowing down and decreasing any stimulation. Try dimming the lights and involve yourself in activities like reading, practicing yoga, taking a shower or just relaxing while talking about your day to your partner. Just try to relax completely, but if you need to do some things before you sleep, do them in an easy and relaxed manner.
Have a nutritious but light meal at dinnertime.
Eat food that contains nutrients like melatonin, tryptophan and magnesium that will assist in promoting sleep. At dinnertime it is advised to eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein- rich food. An ideal combination would be quinoa, chicken breast, sautéed green vegetables and roasted pumpkin seeds. Frozen yoghurt with fresh or frozen cherries, with coconut milk, can do wonders for your sleep.
Try not to drink caffeine after noon
Caffeine is a substance that always interferes with your sleep. Actually, the effects of caffeine stay in the body for about 10 -12 hours. Try eliminating caffeine for a few weeks and see the results. Are you able to sleep better when you don’t have your cup of coffee at night? If the answer is yes, try alternative options like herbal tea, chocolate or simply plain warm water.
Practice breathing through your left nostril
It has been observed that breathing in and out through the left nostril soothes and relaxes the mind and body. Try this before bedtime by blocking the right nostril and take long, slow and deep breaths using your left nostril only. According to Kundalini Yoga, 26 deep breaths through the left nostril before bedtime will, along with relaxing your mind and body, also help to induce a relaxing sleep. In certain cases inhaling the smell of plants or essential oils can help in reducing stress and anxiety.
Take a shower before you sleep
Try a relaxing bath in a tub of hot water mixed with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender or any other essential oil. Soak your tired bones in the warm water for some time and let the Epsom salts absorb through your body, promoting a general feeling of relaxation.
Acupressure or gentle yoga in bed
Spread a yoga mat on your bed and lie on it. Before dozing off, do some progressive muscle yoga or acupressure by relaxing each part of your body, including your mind. You can even try acupuncture as an alternative therapy.
Play with sounds and lights
Exposing yourself to a little sunlight during daytime and spending the evening in dim lights will help to connect with nature, leading to a more restful sleep. At times when you just cannot sleep, wear an eye mask or try sleeping in a pitch dark room. Play a little background music on low volume if you feel that music relaxes you. Alternatively, ear plugs can be used by those who are sensitive to noise.
Watch a comedy show or a funny movie before bedtime
Either watch a comedy show or movie, or read an amusing book before bedtime. Laughter tends to decrease stress hormones, and increases hormones that will help to relax and sleep. Sometimes sleeping with pets or just stroking their fur will calm you down, decrease stress and induce a good sleep.
Plan the following day well before bedtime
Some people get stressed when preparing for the next day just before going to bed, which may result in anxiety and overthinking. Plan everything for the following day, like preparing lunch or laying out clothes or any other arrangement. This should be done at least a couple of hours before you go to bed and enable you to chill and wind down when finally you reach your bed.
Sitting still and meditating with your eyes closed at any time of the day or before bedtime, will definitely have a calming effect on your mind and body. Meditation keeps you more relaxed throughout the day and will also help in providing a restful sleep at night.
Determine any medical reason for your stress
Besides the above reasons, there could be some medical reasons contributing to insomnia, like some chronic pain, acid reflux or restless leg syndrome. If such medical conditions persist, it is better to get them treated by your medical practitioner. You could even consider getting the help of a sleep specialist, who would identify the cause of your stress through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He or she would then advise you to make specific changes to your lifestyle, which would reduce stress and help you to relax and sleep.
Lack of sleep or insomnia is related to many health problems, be it chronic fatigue affecting your work performance the following day or having an adverse effect on relationships. If you can counteract your reasons for lack of sleep with one of these techniques, you will be able to get the desired rest that will help you to face real life challenges head-on the very next day.
Is there any other method you follow to tackle stress-related insomnia? Let us know in the comments section below.