If we had to choose just one area of our lives that has the biggest impact on our health but that we typically ignore, it’d be sleep. Let’s be honest. We’re all so busy with work, family, and life that sleep can become a chore instead of a necessary part of our healthy living routine. We don’t know about you, but we’ve been known to push off sleep to fit in a workout or to get up early enough to make our meals for the week.
The problem is that sleep is closely connected to your mood. Poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep enhances your entire wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation can have a significant adverse effect. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects who received only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. And such a bad mood inevitably leads to poor nutrition, lack of motivation to work out, and more.
Stress and Sleep
Now, you may have noticed that we said that a lack of sleep causes more stress. It makes sense. However, the problem is the reverse is also true. Stress causes a lack of sleep. It’s a cyclical problem that can be hard to break.
When we’re stressed, our minds race with thoughts, making it hard to shut down at night. Then, even when we do finally get to sleep when we’re stressed, more likely than not, it won’t be a deep sleep. According to the American Psychological Association, 42% of adults report getting only fair to poor quality sleep when they’re stressed.
It’s bad news all around. And even worse, if you deal with chronic stress, you’re also more likely to also deal with insomnia. Recent research published in the journal SLEEP revealed that every additional stressor increases the risk of insomnia by 19%.
Reducing Stress and Getting More Sleep
So, what can you do to reduce your stress and make sure you get the sleep your body needs? It won’t be easy, but there are a few things you can do to get a better night’s sleep.
When you’re low on sleep, the last thing you want to do is put in energy and exercise, but it’s exactly what you should do. Exercise helps you blow off steam, reducing your stress. Exercise also helps to keep your muscles loose, meaning that when you do become stressed, you’ll be less likely to also become tight and painful. However, to make sure that your exercise doesn’t mess up your sleep, make sure you do it at least two hours before bedtime.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Stress makes you want to eat junk food, but the best thing you can do is resist them impulse. Junk food and refined sugars have little to no nutritional value and can actually leave you feeling more sluggish. Instead, a healthy diet can help reduce your stress and promote your overall health, helping you sleep.
Stress comes to us all. The key is learning how to deal with it. Try practising some relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Engaging in these practices before bed and throughout the day can help quiet your mind. It’s also a good idea to practise your breathing. When you get overly stressed, try taking a few deep breaths. You find that the action of inhaling and exhaling activates the body’s naturally-calming parasympathetic system.