The most recent statistic from the National Sleep Foundation states that almost 50% of the American population suffers from poor sleep at least once a week. Think about that: that’s about 150 million people every single week whose sleep cycles interfere greatly with their lifestyles.
We all know that one of the main culprits is stress. Stress affects both the quantity and quality of your sleep. You wake up unrested and push through another day. You probably don’t achieve quite as much as you’d have liked to, and this adds another tier of stress which affects your sleep… and a vicious cycle is born.
The good news is that you can take immediate action to improve your sleep patterns and consequently reduce your stress levels.
1. Your bedroom
Is your bedroom a soothing shelter from the storm? Or do you sit in bed with your laptop finishing up your work? Your bedroom is sacrosanct. If it is the scene of many a disagreement with your spouse, put a stop to that right now.
Find another place to work things out. The bedroom must only be associated with soul-nourishing thoughts and feelings. It may sound new age and ‘hokey’ but the vibes that are given off in your bedroom will affect the ‘feel’ of the room.
2. Your sleeping environment
The physical features of your bedroom are also very important. The temperature has to accommodate the weather and your body’s comfort level. Keep adjusting this till you find what’s suitable for you. In fact, be open to changing the temperature often. The seasons may be somewhat predictable but the way your body feels from day to day is not quite as fixed.
Make sure you have a good mattress. ‘Good’ doesn’t have to mean ‘expensive’ – you just have to find one that works for you. You’ll find many recommendations but all that matters are that it makes you feel relaxed.
Go to a mattress store and spend a decent amount of time there testing out as many as you can. Don’t settle one on that same day. Go back the next day, test your shortlisted options and you’ll find the one that’s meant for you.
If you’re a poor sleeper, you have to find a way to control the sounds in your bedroom. The regular solution is to downloads MP3s with the usual soothing sounds: the ocean, a summer’s day garden, and of course, the rainforest.
It may be the case that none of these work for you. Some people actually find relaxation and comfort listening to their families chatting and playing outside. Some enjoy the sound of a thunderstorm. Get creative and watch that stress melt away.
Also, look at the lighting situation in your bedroom. Do you have to get out of bed to turn all the lights off? If so, get a bedside lamp immediately. Are your curtains or blinds “blackout” ones that shut out all light, even during that day? This may sound like a good idea but it may be more difficult to wake up in the morning.
Look into the amount of light you are comfortable with and modify your bedroom accordingly.
3. Stop work
This may seem obvious but in a world dominated by smartphones and few boundaries, you have to train yourself to wind down from work. You will inevitably get text messages and emails after you’ve returned from the office. Most of us are tempted to reply them on the spot, either because it’s become an automatic response or because we want to get them out of the way.
It isn’t easy to shut off but it is necessary. Your mind needs a rest from work; otherwise, it’s only your body that’s home from the office. Decide on a time to stop looking at work messages and emails.
It should be at least 2 hours before your bedtime. Use those two hours to do something completely different from work such as play a game with the kids, sit down to a good dinner, take the dog to the park or anything that gives you a mental break from the daily stresses of life.
Think about other stress-management tools you can use to improve your sleep. Ultimately, no-one is better positioned than you to create the perfect, most restful sleeping conditions for yourself.