Think about what physically is happening to you when you are stressed.
Your symptoms may be headaches, physical pain, and extreme fatigue to name a few.
Your mental and emotional symptoms can be even more severe: an inability to focus, mood swings, irritability and a lack of energy.
Whatever the causes of stress, its repercussions can wreak absolute havoc on our professional and personal lives.
And of all the things stress robs us of, arguably the most CRUCIAL element it steals is-
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the relationship between stress and sleep is a causal one.
The less you sleep, the more stressed you are. The more stressed you are, the less you sleep.
Considering that quality sleep (or lack thereof) has been empirically proven to be THE determinant of longevity, outweighing even diet and exercise, we’ve got to somehow find a way to get our stress under control.
Look around. Life is only getting more stressful.
But there’s good news. We can’t control stressful circumstances in our lives, but we CAN choose how we react to them.
We can employ healthy methods to cope and consequently, receive more of that glorious sleep we all want and desperately need.
Let’s take a look at 5 NATURAL ways to give stress the boot and sleep the go ahead.
Magnesium is an excellent source of nutrition that not only calms anxiety and stress, but will help you sleep too. And many magnesium-rich foods are tasty, crowd favorites! Cashews, bananas, cooked oatmeal, and dark chocolate all contain very high levels of this essential mineral.
So how much do you need?
Experts say to consume around 400 mg of magnesium per day to fully reap the benefits.
If you can’t quite get there with diet alone, try a magnesium supplement, and take it before bed. There are many to choose from, but the most fast-acting are the powders that dissolve in warm water. Make this part of your pre-bedtime ritual to destress and boost your overall nutrition.
Is exercise the cure to all of our health issues?
No. But sleep might just very well be. And exercise will ALWAYS aid in this department.
In its most basic form, stress is simply energy. And energy must be kinetically worked out through the body in order to be released; hence the term “workout”. Any energy that is left at the end of the day will be worked out while you sleep. This can take the form of insomnia, or things like night sweats and sleep walking.
So go for that 30 minute walk, even if you don’t feel like it. Make time for the gym. Need to exercise at home? We live in the information age. YouTube has thousands of free yoga classes and workouts right at the click of a mouse.
No matter what form of exercise you do, the more energy you release during the day, the lengthier and more quality shut-eye you will get at night.
3. Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets have been used for over a decade to do exactly what we’re trying to accomplish: minimize stress and anxiety to sleep better. Recently, more and more people have been buying this product due largely to testimonials of friends and colleagues-
If you have one, you already know.
It’s like being enveloped in a giant hug. You feel safe, secure, and deliciously calm. This sensation is due to what’s called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation, and it’s clinically proven to increase your body’s natural release of melatonin and serotonin. It also lowers cortisol, THE stress hormone.
Weighted blankets are just another amazing way to naturally soothe the body and mind. You can make way for great sleep, without the use of unhealthy or artificial aids.
4. Chemical Sleep Aids- AVOID AT ALL COSTS!
We’ve all done it out of desperation. We’re awake at 2:00 AM. We’ve got work the next morning, and we just CANNOT afford to lose any more time idling awake.
We reach for a pill, or a cough syrup, or an antihistamine.
The next day, while we may have indeed gotten some precious hours of sleep, we are groggy. We’re out of it. The entire day passes and we’re not quite sure how it all happened.
Whether it’s an over-the-counter medication or prescribed by a doctor, avoid these chemically derived sleep aids AT ALL COSTS! They are a danger to your health.
The literature on this is staggering. If you don’t want to delve into the research, simply read the side effects on the packaging at your local drug store.
Sleep aids, both OTC and prescription, have a slew of negative effects including vertigo and drowsiness. On a scarier level, they can cause memory lapses and both physical and psychological dependency. These “medications” are created in labs and mess with your body’s natural ability to find a stable sleep pattern.
Refuse the drugs. You can lower your stress and sleep soundly the natural way. Don’t become one of the millions of Americans suffering from chemical dependency.
5. Meditation and Deep Breathing
The Native American shaman, or tribal medicine man, has used a practical technique before hitting the hay that both lowers anxiety and encourages good sleep. This practice dates back hundreds, maybe thousands of years-
So we know it works!
Before going to sleep, the shaman closes his eyes and recounts his entire day, from waking up to the present moment in bed. Like a movie, he sees his entire day played out. And while watching this movie, he is able to see instances of success and shortcomings. Were there things he wished he’d done differently? Were there moments where he accomplished exactly what he wanted? What is left to be desired?
After mentally visualizing and sorting through the day, he finally is ready for sleep.
This is just one of many great meditative tools to use just before sleep. The idea behind this particular method is that you can fully mentally process your day mindfully, rather than tossing and turning and being anxious all night.
Give this process a whirl. Or say a prayer. Or simply take a few deep, cleansing breathes.
Again, we live in the information age. These tools are right at your fingertips. And they will help you. Use them!