When feelings of stress and anxiety overwhelm your senses, it can make falling asleep and staying asleep feel downright impossible. But with the right approach, you can calm your nerves and get more sleep.
The Connection Between Stress and Insomnia
This has been a stressful year for Americans. Stress levels are elevated when compared to previous years, and it’s possible that a cascading series of events could lead to a worsening of the problem before it gets better. This creates issues in multiple areas of life, including the pursuit of sleep and rest.
“Stress and anxiety often lead to insomnia and sleep problems,” SleepFoundation.org notes. “By the same token, lack of proper rest can contribute to stress. And because stress and sleep problems share such a reciprocal relationship, addressing one of these issues can often lead to improvements for the other.”
In other words, stress and insomnia are two variables in a self-nurturing cycle. The more stressed you are, the less sleep you get. And the less sleep you get, the more stressed you are. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that you address this issue head-on.
5 Tips for Better Sleep
Getting better sleep in spite of stress is a major challenge – but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are a few helpful tips, tricks, and techniques:
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body’s autonomic nervous system (which is responsible for regulating body processes that occur without conscious effort). It courses through the majority of your upper body – touching nearly every major organ you have.
For years, researchers have explored the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for reducing and eliminating seizures in epilepsy patients. But they’ve also discovered a slew of other benefits, including better sleep.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the benefits of VNS is by using Xen headphones, which connect to major streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify to deliver mild electrical signals to the vagus nerve. Try listening to peaceful music in the hour leading up to bedtime.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If you find yourself lying in bed and unable to fall asleep, you can try something known as progressive muscle relaxation.
“Progressive muscle relaxation involves deliberately tensing then relaxing various muscle groups for the purpose of becoming more aware of the contrast between tension and relaxation,” Dr. Steve Orma explains. “When muscles are first tensed, they relax more deeply when released, creating a deeper relaxation.”
The tightening and relaxing of target muscle groups is combined with deep breathing exercises. This promotes additional feelings of calm and makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Daytime Exercise
Physical exercise is an excellent way to release both physical tension and mental stress. For best results, you should aim to get at least 30 to 45 minutes of physical exercise every day. Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and playing sports are all good options.
The key is to make sure you exercise at least three to four hours prior to bedtime. Otherwise, the increase in physical activity could make you too alert to fall asleep.
Whether you’re spiritual or not, meditation is something that can have a positive impact on your ability to clear your mind and fall asleep. For best results, try meditating early in the morning and immediately prior to bedtime. (Here’s a quick guide for beginners.)
- Dietary Changes
Your diet has a direct and quantifiable impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Certain foods keep you awake – like coffee, tea, and certain sugary concoctions – while other foods help you drift off. The key is to consume a fresh, balanced diet that’s low in processed ingredients and high in natural, organic options.
According to SleepAssociation.org, the following foods might help you sleep better: poultry, fish, yogurt, kale, bananas, whole grains, honey, nuts, eggs, and white rice. However, these aren’t the only ones. As a general rule of thumb, look for foods that have a healthy mixture of potassium, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan, and B6.
Catch a Few More Zs
Sleep isn’t just important for alertness and focus. It also plays a paramount role in your physical health and mental well-being. So make sure you’re taking it seriously. It could mean the difference between running around like your hair is on fire and living a happy and fulfilled life.