If you are having problems with anxiety at night, and want to know how to get better sleep when stressed, don’t worry. You’re not alone! Many people suffer from this. Sadly, stress is part of life.
At some point, everyone experiences stress. Physical, emotional and other types of stress take their toll on our minds and bodies. That’s why sleep is so important. Sleep is an antidote for stress.
Our bodies use sleep to restore and recover. While we sleep our bodies carry out important restorative functions. Our brains rid themselves of toxins and sort out the events that happened throughout the day.
Our bodies repair and restore themselves as well. It’s pretty amazing how much our minds and bodies remain active even when we are sleeping.
How Does Stress Affect Us
Stress categorically affects our body and mind. And the sooner we accept it the better. We cannot pretend that it will eventually go away if we just stand by. Now, before getting into the details of how to get a good night’s sleep when you’re stressed, let’s first touch on the consequences of stress.
Effects of stress on body and mind
Stress takes its toll on our minds and bodies. Stress causes the release of cortisol, a powerful hormone that triggers the fight or flight response in our bodies. This hormone can cause overwhelming sensations in the body, raise blood pressure, and cause anxious feelings. Sound sleep helps reduce the levels of cortisol and balance the chemistry in the brain and body. Chronic stress without adequate sleep can raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Stress affects our mood
Stress affects our mood. When we are stressed, we tend to over or under-react. This can lead to an onslaught of problems. Living in a heightened sense of worry or anxiety can result in eating too much or too little, emotional outbursts or withdrawal, or a wide range of other behaviors. After a long day of stress, the best thing to regulate mood swings is a restful night’s sleep.
Stress affects our relationships
Stress changes how we engage with other people. Being worried, anxious, or overwhelmed makes it harder to be present and engage positively with other people. From co-workers to family, stress can fracture relationships if we aren’t careful.
Being able to unplug from people and take some time for yourself can help. Sleeping provides a significant amount of time to recharge and get ready to face the world again. Even the act of relaxing in bed prior to sleeping can aid in rebuilding your energy and make it easier to get along with others.
Antidote for stress
Sleep is a wonderful remedy for a stressful day. Relaxing in the comfort of your bed and letting go of the worries of the world can give you new perspective, renew your spirit and energy. Sleep can be the escape you need from the pressures going on and give you the uninterrupted time to recover. Making sleep a priority, including naps when necessary, can help your mind and body recover from stress and manage difficult situations easier.
How to relieve stress before bed
Before we let you know how to get better sleep when stressed, we need to tell you that stress comes from everywhere. Worries abound in all areas of life. Fretting about work, family, and obligations can become overwhelming.
Running everything through your mind without an outlet for stress can make it hard to sleep. When you need to rest, your mind gets hyper focused on stressful things making it hard to fall asleep. During the day it can be easy to push worries down and think about other things but it’s much harder to distract ourselves when we are lying in bed trying to end our day.
There are a lot of ways to relieve stress and rid our minds of worries, one of the most effective is journaling. Journaling works because it:
- Focuses your thoughts
- Is a creative outlet
- Gets thoughts out of your head
- Creates an opportunity for problem solving
Journaling before bed can help reduce stress and make it easier to fall asleep. Here’s why:
Journaling helps you get a handle on your thoughts- Journaling helps you focus your thoughts and get them out on paper. Instead of ruminating on the issues and stressing, journaling helps organize thoughts and process them. It makes it easier to better understand the roots of your stress and focus your thoughts rather than continuously running them over in your mind.
Journaling uses a different part of the brain
The act of writing and journaling uses the creative side or your brain. This can help ease stress. Depending on the type of journaling you do it may help raise the dopamine in your brain chemistry reducing stress. Journaling doesn’t have to be limited to writing. It can be as creative as you’d like including, but not limited to, coloring, doodling, writing poetry, or any other form of expression.
Journaling removes thoughts from your head
Writing things down tricks your brain into dumping them and leaving them on the page. Journaling can help get thoughts out of your head so your mind can wander on to something else. Psychologically, your brain believes that the thoughts are categorized on the page and don’t need as much intense focus anymore so your mind can begin to relax.
Journaling triggers problem solving
In the same way clearing your mind in the shower leads to epiphanies, journaling can trigger problem solving. Worrying about stress in your mind clutters it with negative thoughts and anxiety. The process of journaling triggers our natural problem-solving skills and makes it easier to find solutions.
Journaling before bed can help rid your mind of stress and leave your psyche feeling calm. This can help your mind shut down easily and drift into REM sleep where the mind and body can repair and heal. Practice journaling before bedtime to help your mind release the worries of the day and prepare for a great night’s rest.
Apps To Sleep Better
Stress has a way of making itself known when we want to go to sleep. Somehow, we can shove our stressful thoughts aside most of the day but the moment we try to clear our minds and go to sleep, BAM- stressful thoughts overwhelm us. There are times when it’s really hard to clear our head and go to sleep. Thankfully, there are ways to help.
Our smartphones are never very far away. They can be useful when it comes to reducing stress and helping us sleep. iPhone and Android have apps that help us better understand our sleep cycle and help us clear our minds and sleep better. Here are three apps worth trying.
The Headspace app’s tag line is Be Kind to your Mind. This mantra is perfect when stress tries to rob you of your sleep. This app has a variety of benefits including help to assess why you may not be sleeping, functions for power napping, and being mindful. The app is free for basics and charges a monthly fee for advanced features.
The Calm app is one of the highest rated apps for relief from anxiety and stress. This app has a wide variety of meditations ranging from beginner to advanced and subscribers can choose how long and what type of meditation they prefer. This app also has an option for nature sounds which can be great as white noise for stress relief. This app is free and does offer some in-app purchases.
The Dare app is unique because its focus is helping you face your anxiety and stressors rather than distract you from them. This unique app helps you move through anxiety using guided imagery you can focus on while the audio portion helps you sit comfortably with your stress. This can help you overcome and move on from stress which can lead to better sleep and less recurring anxiety. This app is free with in-app purchases available.
Using your smart phone to help manage stress and sleep better makes sense. Having resources available that guide you through relaxing and letting go of worries is an asset at bedtime. Try various apps to see which ones meet your needs. Be willing to switch it up and try new apps when one feels too familiar, the variety will help. Be willing to invest in the small fees to upgrade and unlock the bigger and better features too.
Meditation To Sleep Better
Meditation is an ancient practice that uses mindfulness to center thoughts, reduce stress, and help calm the mind. Meditation emphasizes focus and self-awareness to rid the mind of stress. Meditating prior to bedtime can help prepare your mind and body for sleep and get control of stressful thinking.
If you haven’t experienced meditation in the past, it can seem intimidating, weird, or even boring. Starting a meditation practice may feel awkward in the beginning, but soon you’ll experience the benefits first-hand and sing the praises of meditation.
Learning to meditate is like working a muscle. The more often you use it, the easier it becomes. So if you were looking for an alternative way of how to get a good sleep when stressed, give meditation a try!
Here are some simple steps to meditate at bedtime and reduce stress and sleep well:
Commit to the practice
Making the decision to meditate is the first and most important step. Since meditation gets easier over time, committing to using it is important. It may feel strange at first but stick with it.
Choose the type of meditation that works for you
There are three general types of meditation- mindfulness, concentration, and guided meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is focusing on your breath and body and being keenly aware of how you feel inside your body and how your body is functioning in the moment. The goal during mindful meditation is to replace any wandering thoughts with mindfulness of what your body is experiencing instead.
Concentration meditation is focused on a word, thought, or phrase. This meditation may include focusing on an object or repeating a mantra audibly or inside your mind.
Guided meditation includes listening to an audio that helps guide you into stress relief and sleep. The instructor may focus on physical aspects of your body or may share a story and guide you through the details.
Extend the length of meditation until you experience relief
In the beginning you may not be able to meditate for very long. That’s normal. Thoughts wander and stress has a way of overriding intentions. Don’t judge yourself or worry that you aren’t doing it right. Over time you can conquer your wandering mind and help it focus on your meditation practice and achieve relief and peace as you fall asleep.
Meditation is a wonderful tool to use to reduce stress throughout the day. It is especially helpful before bed if stress tries to rob you of your sleep. Find a meditation style that works for you and commit to trying it for a month and you’ll discover an amazing ability to regulate your thoughts and enjoy restful sleep.
Bedtime Routines that Combat Stress
One of the biggest reasons people experience stress at bedtime is failure to plan for a restful night’s sleep. Like most things, failure to plan is a plan to fail. It seems simple enough, get in bed, turn off the lights, close our eyes, and fall asleep. If only it were that simple. The key to getting to sleep is prepare for sleep ahead of time.
Having a bedtime routine can help combat stress and prep our minds and bodies for rest. The hour before you go to sleep is as important as the moment your head hits the pillow. Here’s why-
The activities you engage in leading up to bed affect your sleep
What you do prior to going to bed can make or break your ability to fall asleep. Engaging in screen time, drinking caffeine, watching emotionally intense content, discussing sensitive topics, and other activities can trigger you to be more active when you should be winding down.
Prior to bed it’s best to do activities that promote and trigger your natural sleep rhythm. Drinking decaffeinated hot tea, taking a hot bath or shower, reading. Listening to meditative content, wearing comfortable clothing, and prepping for bed all promote restful sleep.
Your circadian rhythm affects your sleep cycle
Our bodies are designed with an internal sleep cycle. The circadian rhythm is a natural biological process in our bodies that helps us discern night from day. We have an innate wind down window where our bodies shift towards sleepiness and ready themselves to go to bed.
Disrupting this cycle with staying up late or overstimulation can cause significant stress and make it much harder to fall asleep and wake refreshed.
You can help keep your rhythm in sync by setting a routine bedtime and sticking to it. Sleep training your body to sleep and wake at specific times can help manage and override stressful thoughts at bedtime because your body will be used to going to sleep on a schedule.
Once your body is accustomed to falling asleep and waking at specific times you likely won’t need an alarm clock nor have trouble falling asleep…even when you have stress.
Create a routine that works for you
Creating a bedtime routine that works for you will help you consistently get ready for bed and fall asleep with very little effort. Everyone is different, what one person needs to wind down may look different than someone else. Develop bedtime habits that help calm, relax, and destress prior to bed and you’ll experience an easier time falling asleep and have more restful nights.
Tips For Good Sleep
Going to bed stressed won’t help you fall asleep. If anything, being stressed leads to insomnia and a horrible night’s sleep. Doing what you can to reduce or eliminate stress before bed can make a big difference. Activities like journaling before bedtime and having a bedtime routine can help, but there are other ways to reduce stress so you can sleep better too.
Top Tips To Sleep Well
Stress comes from every angle in life. From work woes to family dysfunction to generalized worry, they all add up and equal significant reasons to stress. Here are some tips that will help you stress less.
A lot of stress comes from failure to act on important issues. Whether it be procrastination, avoidance, or being downright lazy, failure to handle life’s issues can cause stress. Learn to take action and mark things off your to do list so you can reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Learn to let it go
Disney hit a nerve with the hit song Let it Go. Learning to let go of what you can’t control helps reduce stress. Giving up the need to control and stopping the worrisome fretting over things you can’t control will reduce a significant amount of stress.
Take things one day at a time
There’s only so much you can do in a day. When you end your day accept what you’ve accomplished and be proud. Set your worries aside knowing tomorrow will take care of itself. Learning to compartmentalize your fears, anxieties, and worries day by day can help you face each day as it comes and rest each night when the day is through.
Top tips that create better sleep
Doing what you can to stress less will help you go to bed prepared to sleep. Here are some tips that can help you sleep better each and every night.
Create an oasis in your bedroom
Your room should feel like a getaway from the world. Create an environment where you can’t help but feel relaxed and refreshed. Your bed should be comfortable, your bedding should feel luxurious, and the temperature should be ambient. Create an environment where you are comfortable and relaxed and you’ll fall asleep and stay asleep with ease.
Use sound to help you sleep
Some people enjoy sound when they sleep. White noise can help you achieve deeper sleep if you tend to be a light sleeper. Having a fan or white noise machine can help. There are also apps that can create ambient noises like the jungle, winter storms, or sounds of a coffee house to help lull you and keep you asleep.
People who suffer from anxiety and stress can find relief with weighted blankets. These blankets offer an in-home version of deep pressure therapy and offer relief and deeper sleep. Blankets come in a variety of sizes and weights and are great for children and adults.
Getting a great night’s rest is easier when you get a handle on stress and create an environment conducive to sleep. Combat the stress mindset before going to bed and make sure your room is designed for optimal rest. The two tactics go hand in hand and can greatly improve your ability to sleep, even when you’re living with a great deal of stress.
Restless Sleeper? Stop Doing These Three Things
Try as they may, some people have a really hard time falling and staying asleep. They toss and turn and stay restless all night. It disrupts their sleep cycle and can cause their partners to lose sleep too. Before you know it, no one is getting any sleep.
Restlessness can be caused by many factors. Paying attention to what’s triggering your restlessness can help. You can keep a diary of your restlessness and pay close attention to patterns that indicate what’s keeping you up at night.
In the meantime, until you’ve collected enough data, stop doing these three things and it could help you get better rest.
- Stop eating and drinking after dinnertime
- Stop smoking
- Stop sleeping on your back
What you eat could be keeping you up at night
Eating foods late in the evening can cause the digestive system to work overtime. Spicy foods can cause heartburn and other foods can give you a jolt of energy when you need to be sleeping.
Drinking caffeine can disrupt the sleep cycle too making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Drinking too much can also cause late-night trips to the bathroom disrupting restorative REM sleep.
Stop eating and drinking after your evening meal so you can digest your food and get your body ready for the most important task at hand- going to bed.
Smoking can disrupt your sleep
Smoking is toxic. Nicotine is a stimulant and can disrupt and override your circadian rhythm. Instead of slowing down for bed, smoking can rev you up. Smoking also causes a wide range of medical issues including emphysema, cancer, and respiratory diseases.
Smoking can reduce the oxygen levels in the blood making it harder for the body to restore and repair itself at night leaving you feeling restless and tired throughout the night and into the next day.
Sleeping on your back can make you restless
Sleep apnea can cause obstructions that lead to failure to breath during the night. Sleeping on your back can contribute to the intensity of sleep apnea. Obesity is a contributing factor to sleep apnea and can cause soft tissues to collapse when the throat and tongue relax during the night.
This happens more often when lying on our backs. Consistently being roused from deep sleep due to sleep apnea can result in restlessness, fatigue, and in some cases cause long-term health problems.
Being restless at night can contribute to stress during the day. Not getting enough quality sleep can manifest physically and emotionally. Doing what you can to overcome restlessness in bed will help.
If you find you are eating and drinking past dinner time, try giving it up and see if things improve. Quit the smoking and try sleeping on your side or stomach too. Each of these can help improve your quality of sleep and reduce the level of stress you manage on a daily basis.
David is a writer and graduate professor. He writes for different websites. With 7+ years of experience in writing and education, David has combined his expertise in teaching with his passion for physical and mental wellness. He researches and writes to bring you valuable information about weight loss, nutrition, fitness, community, society and more.