8 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety to Improve Sleep

You have probably had nights where your thoughts and worries keep you awake; we all get them. Whether it is because of uncertainty, stress, or anxiety, we’re about to show you eight ways to reduce stress and anxiety to improve sleep before facing the reality of tomorrow.

The amount and quality of your sleep is crucial for your ability to navigate the following day to the best of your ability. It helps you process today’s events, repair your body, and enhance your cognitive function.

If you struggle to fall asleep or your night’s sleep is continuously interrupted, you might not reap all the benefits from sleep and find it difficult to stay alert and awake the next day.

Here are a few techniques and activities you can do throughout your day and before bed to reduce your stress and get a peaceful night’s sleep.

1. Spend some time with nature

Step outside into the fresh air and take a few deep breaths.

Spending time outside exposes you to natural light, which can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve your sleep-wake cycle. This can help you feel more awake and alert during the day and more relaxed and ready for sleep at night. Fresh air is also beneficial for serotonin production, a chemical in your brain that promotes well-being.

Being outside and exposing yourself to fresh air and nature can have a calming effect on the mind and body, which can help reduce stress and anxiety levels that often interfere with sleep.

Try adding an outdoor activity into your daily routine, soak up the sun to boost your vitamin D intake, even if it is just for a few minutes.

2. Stay hydrated

When you feel anxious or stressed, it can be easy to forget and neglect your internal cues, such as hunger and thirst.

Symptoms of dehydration, such as headaches, dry mouth, and muscle cramps, can also make it hard to relax and get a full night’s sleep. In addition to this, dehydration can also cause an increase in body temperature, affect hormone levels, and create a generally disorganised environment in your body where you struggle to get restful sleep.

It’s important to drink enough fluids throughout the day and to stay hydrated to ensure that your body can function properly and get the rest it needs.

3. Minimise daytime naps

The urge to sleep is regulated by the build-up of a chemical called adenosine, also known as sleep pressure. Napping during the day decreases sleep pressure, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night and can lead to a disrupted sleep cycle.

While it might be tempting to take advantage of calm moments throughout your day and use them for a quick nap, especially if you feel exhausted after a stressful day and insufficient sleep the night before.

But if you want to restore your sleep pattern and ensure that you get good rest during the night, you must resist the urge for daytime naps.

4. Create a night-time self-care routine

Humans love to have routines; it makes us feel safe. When there are so many worries and responsibilities that occupy your mind at all hours of the day, creating a bedtime routine can divert you from the stress that keeps you awake at night.

Brushing your teeth and washing your face is a great start to a bedtime routine, but you might want to consider implementing something like yoga, journaling, or meditation into your routine as well. Compliment the necessities with something that relaxes your body and mind.

Create a routine that works for you, and that gives your mind 15-30 minutes each evening to wind down after a stressful day and prepare for sleep. Drink a cup of tea, read a book, put on a face mask – prioritise this time with yourself, put a pin in all your responsibilities until the morning, and spend some time doing something that you enjoy.

However, you might want to try to avoid ‘screen time’ from thirty minutes to an hour before bed to limit blue light exposure, as this has been known to disrupt the quality of sleep.

5. Keep a journal or notebook on your bedside table

A lot of people can attest to the fact that they do their best problem-solving and idea-developing once their head hits the pillow at night. When we’re free of distractions and lay in the comfortable safe space that is our bed, our creativity tends to flourish.

Unfortunately, this means that we can spend hours and hours in bed, feeling wide awake with the rumblings inside our minds.

For this reason, it might help to keep a notebook or journal close by so that you can write down everything that comes to mind so that you don’t worry about forgetting it before the morning. This can be anything from items added to your to-do lists, remembering that you have an appointment in the morning, and problem-solving an issue you’ve been facing at work.

Write it all down so that you can clear your mind and get a good night’s sleep.

6. Create a list of gratitude

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Write a list of things you feel grateful for and positive experiences you had throughout your day.

Whenever we struggle to sleep, it often means that we’re worrying about anything and everything and stressing about what is to come tomorrow.

Taking a few moments to think about what we feel grateful for redirects our mind towards a more positive place, where we pay more attention to the good than the bad. It might feel uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but as with anything in life – the more we do it, the easier it becomes.

7. Do a body scan

When you feel stressed, you probably won’t realise if you’re holding physical tension in your body. Doing a body scan in bed before sleep will ensure that you relax every muscle by bringing awareness to each part of your body and making sure that you relax entirely from head to toe.

When you lay down on the bed, take a few deep breaths and start by bringing attention to your toes. If you feel any tension, pain or discomfort, acknowledge it and then release it by visualising the sensation leaving your body with each breath. Next, do the same with your feet, then your ankles… Continue working your way up your body, making sure to relax each muscle until you reach the tip of your head.

8. Play white noise, relaxing music, or bird song

White noise can promote relaxation by creating a constant, soothing sound that can help calm the mind and body and block out any background noise as you try to fall asleep.

Alternatively, playing relaxing music or bird song can have a similar effect.

study published in 2013 found that calming music appeared to have the ability to lower stress levels. In the study, sixty female volunteers participated in a stress test. Each participant was tasked to listen to calming music, rippling water, or total silence before the experiment began.

At the end of the test, they concluded that listening to calming music before putting themselves in a stressful situation was helpful in lowering their overall stress levels.

Additionally, music tends to have the ability to transport us back in time to a certain feeling or experience. Choosing a song that you associate with happiness, relaxation, or peace might help you fall and stay asleep.

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