Sleep Strategies: Stress

Our previous post discussed how to reduce stimulation that drives a sympathetic state.  Stress can “turn on” our internal ⏰ alarm system causing hypervigilance, anxiety, and unproductive energy1.  These are incompatible with sleep and can cause problems such as difficulty falling asleep, fragmented sleep, and nightmares.

Here are some strategies to help calm the body and “turn off” the alarm system for longer, more restful sleep.

 Keep A Journal By Your Bedside

A journal can be helpful to jot down the non-stop, repetitive internal dialogue that can occur when trying to fall asleep.

Use it to write down To Do Lists, plans, ideas, worries, and items you don’t want to forget.  Basically, anything that runs through your mind more than once.  Please, don’t use your phone or computer to write down your thoughts…remember our previous post on Blue Light and sleep!  Physically writing it down can help the mind process the work going through your head with the reassurance you won’t forget it.

 Exercise

Habitual exercise has been shown to reduce sleep onset latency, time awake after sleep onset, increase slow wave sleep, and longer total sleep time1.  This means you can fall asleep quicker, stay asleep better, have a deeper sleep, and sleep longer.

The time of day you exercise also has an impact.  Exercising in the afternoon had the greatest positive effects on sleep.  Caution when exercising before bed as this produces a stress effect that can reduce deep sleep and impede the ability to fall asleep.  You know that endorphin high from exercise? You don’t want that too close to bed time.  A safe recommendation is ending vigorous exercise within three hours of bed.  However, each person is different.  For some, easy to moderate exercise can be a way to calm the mind, which may be beneficial closer to bedtime.

Breath Work

Please see our first post Beginning with the Breath

Compression

Ever feel very anxious and just want a hug? Remember that sense of calm and “aww” once arms are squeezed around you tight?  Compression, or Deep Touch Pressure, can create a calm and peaceful feeling.  The deep pressure results in the release of endorphins (happy hormones) which counteracts the effects of cortisol (stress hormones)2.  This can help the body calm the alarm system and enter a more parasympathetic (resting) state.

Ideas3

  • Tuck the covers to mimic being swaddled
  • Squishing yourself between two soft pillows
  • Use a weighted blanket

Establish A Routine

Our last post will tie together all the strategies in order to Establish a Routine!

 

References

  1. Uchida et al. (2012). Exercise effects on sleep physiology. Frontiers in Neurology, 3(48), 1-5. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2012.00048
  2. Harkla. (n.d.). The Ultimate Guide to Deep Pressure Therapy. Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://harkla.co/blogs/special-needs/deep-pressure-therapy
  3. Ames, C. (2018, November 13). Do Weighted Blankets Work for Anxiety? The Science Explored! Retrieved February 11, 2019, from https://harkla.co/blogs/special-needs/weighted-blankets-anxiety

 

 

 

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