Is stress keeping you awake at night? Whether stress comes from work, family, or from an overbooked schedule, it can keep your mind whirling long past your bedtime. Sleep deprivation often makes it harder to handle daily stress, which can magnify its effects. Regaining control over your stress levels for better sleep can be done by developing good sleep hygiene, incorporating stress-reducing yoga into your bedtime routine, and making sleep a priority.
The average adult needs a full seven to eight hours of sleep to perform at their best during the day. When you are regularly getting six, five, or four hours of sleep each night, sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on your mind and body. The brain uses sleeping hours to perform maintenance like removing waste and pruning and strengthening pathways to enhance your thinking and reasoning skills.
The immune system goes to work repairing and rejuvenating the body. It also gets a chance to recharge itself. Lack of sleep can lead to immune system inefficiency, which means you get sick more often and stay sick longer.
Sleep deprivation also affects your appetite. Appetite controlling hormones like ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, which makes you feel full, get released in altered amounts when you’re tired. The result—you’re hungrier when you’re sleep deprived even though the calories your burn doesn’t increase. The chronically sleep deprived are at risk for unwanted weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.
So sleep deprivation is bad, but what can you do to get better sleep? Be sure your mattress and pillow support your preferred sleep position. Uncomfortable bedding could be waking you during the night preventing you from getting the high-quality sleep you need. Your sleep hygiene, all those habits in your life that affect your sleep quality and quantity, plays a big part in your ability to fall and stay asleep. Healthy sleep hygiene habits to incorporate into your routine include:
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Waking up at the same time every morning
- Maintaining your sleep schedule on the weekends
- Avoiding caffeine within four hours of bedtime
- Turning off television, laptops, smartphones, and e-readers an hour before bed
- Eating an early, light dinner
- Exercising regularly
All these habits support healthy circadian rhythms, those biological activities that follow a regular cycle throughout the day.
If stress keeps you awake at night, a gentle yoga routine can make all the difference. Yoga has been shown to reduce signs of inflammation, improve mood, and reduce blood pressure, all of which contribute to less stress. Try performing a few yoga poses in bed before you go to sleep to take full advantage of the relaxing benefits. A few poses worth trying:
- Child’s Pose
- Legs Up the wall Pose
- Corpse Pose
- Supine Spinal Twist
- Reclining Butterfly
As you develop good sleep habits and stress relieving techniques, the last step is to make sleep a priority. Your ability to perform at work, make sound decisions, and function at your best depends on getting enough rest. Go to bed early so you’ll have the best chance of getting the right amount of sleep because better sleep means a better you.
Written by Alicia Sanchez who is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.