Chronic stress and sleepless nights go hand in hand. It’s true that a highly productive workday or a heart-pumping gym session will tire you out and leave you ready to roll into bed for a good night’s rest. But on the other hand, a consistently rushed and frantic pace of life will have you tossing and turning at night, no matter how tired you are.
Why does this happen, and what can you do about it?
Making a habit of Gary and Michelle’s BE GREAT Principles could be your answer to better sleep. By using these simple tools, you’ll get a boost of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins, naturally produced hormones that help to balance your emotions and stress levels.
Stress Affects Sleep, Sleep Affects Stress
When you’re stressed out, you might struggle to let go of anxious thoughts and fall asleep, or you may wake up often during the night.This is because higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol coursing through your bloodstream are keeping your brain on high alert. Essentially, you’re stuck in “fight or flight” mode, rather than a restful state of mind.
Conversely, poor sleep also worsens the stress you experience during the day. If you’re not well-rested, you’ll feel run-down and irritable, you’ll struggle to concentrate, and overall you’ll end up more frazzled at the end of the day. And of course, a stressful day makes it harder to fall asleep at night!
So stress disturbs sleep, and disturbed sleep intensifies stress – it’s a nasty cycle that can only be broken with good daily habits and proper stress management.
Stress and Your Dreams
Vivid, strange or upsetting dreams can also be an unexpected side effect of stress. These dreams (which often follow recurring patterns) tend to pop up as your sleeping brain sorts through the stressors of the day, or your subconscious plays out the scenarios that you worry about when you’re awake.
Dreams like this can leave you feeling tired and on edge.If you’re experiencing disturbing, repetitive dreams, it’s time to take a look at your anxiety levels and identify the stressful parts of your daily life that need to be addressed.
Clean Up Your “Sleep Hygiene”
There are a few healthy habits you can start practicing, to improve the quality of your sleep and beat stress-related insomnia. These habits are also known as “sleep hygiene”.
The amount of sleep you need will depend on your age. Be aware of the recommended hours of sleep for your age group, and follow this recommendation.
- Most adults typically need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Make sure you set a bedtime that allows you to get enough sleep before you need to start your day.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times, and don’t stray from your schedule if you can help it.
- Don’t use your phone, tablet, laptop or other electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom completely if possible.
- Create a quiet, relaxing and comfortable environment in your bedroom.
- Set up a relaxing bedtime routine; try some gentle yoga, meditate or sip caffeine-free herbal tea.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime; try to schedule dinnertime for the early evening.
- Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol or other stimulants before bedtime.
- Practice the BE GREAT Principles in your daily life.
Remember to BE GREAT & Get Your DOSE
Here’s a breakdown of our BE GREAT Principles, and how they can stop you from tossing and turning:
B: BREATHING Take deep, slow breaths as you prepare your body for sleep; this lowers stress in the body and sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Breathe in to the count of four, hold for four, and breathe out for four. Repeat until you start to feel sleeeeeepy…
E: EXPECTATION Your expectations are tools you can use to avoid increasing your stress levels unnecessarily. If we expect the world to work in a certain way, which is not based on reality, then we will create anxiety, stress and disappointment. Rather than lying in bed thinking about what could go wrong tomorrow, shift your expectations towards what will go right.
G: GRATITUDE Focus on what you are grateful for throughout the day, to release regular amounts of dopamine, a stress-busting “happy hormone”. Especially at night, counting blessings instead of counting sheep will release a burst of dopamine, which will relax you and help you drift off.
R: REFRAMING Look at difficult situations from a positive perspective, to release serotonin, a balancing and calming hormone.
E: ENERGY Exercise daily to release endorphins and build up your energy levels.
A: ARTICULATE Choose positive, affirming words to improve oxytocin levels. Thisfeel-good hormone enhances social bonding, improves optimism and boosts self esteem.
T: TEAM Increase your support by taking note of when your colleagues, friends and family are under pressure. Help them when needed, and they’ll help you in return.
The four positive hormones mentioned above are the daily DOSE (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Endorphins) that you need to sleep better at night. Trust us, they’re better than any sleeping pill!
How good is your sleep hygiene? Are you getting quality shut-eye most nights, or is bedtime a constant source of anxiety and frustration? Start cultivating good habits like the ones above, and you’ll soon find it that much easier to get the rest you need.