There’s no doubt about it – we’re living more stressful lives than ever before and it’s having a knock-on effect on everything we do, including how we sleep. While experts recommend the average person should aim to get between seven and eight hours sleep each night, a study conducted by Sealy UK has revealed that the majority of people (77%) fail to get the rest and recovery time they need to feel healthy and happy , and stress is playing a big part in this.
To mark International Stress Awareness Week (Monday 5th – Friday 9th November), Neil Robinson, Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK, has shared his top tips on how to get a more restful night’s sleep if you are feeling stressed.
Reset your routine
With our increasingly busy and hectic lives, many of us are rushing around to the very last minute of the day and then expecting we’ll get to sleep as soon as our head hits the pillow. Unfortunately, while we may think we’re ready to go to sleep, mentally and physically our bodies are still in fight or flight mode, meaning you could be up for hours before being ready to drop off.
That’s why a good night time routine is vital to help your body switch off from stress and prepare for a restful sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. You might think that you can catch up on sleep, but a weekend lie in can play havoc with your body’s circadian rhythm – the internal ‘clock’ which controls your energy levels. A regular bedtime on the other hand, will signal to your body that it’s time to feel tired, meaning you’ll be more likely to drop off to sleep no matter how stressed you are.
Ditch the booze
When you’re stressed out, it’s tempting to reach for an alcoholic drink to relax. However, while you may find an alcoholic drink can help you drop off to sleep quicker, when it comes to having a deep, restful slumber, alcohol can actually play havoc with your sleeping pattern. This is because alcohol causes your body to spend less time in deep sleep, and more time in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep which is characterised by more bodily movements, more dreams and a faster pulse.
In a nutshell, it’s a less restful stage of sleep, which means after a drink you’ll often wake up more tired, no matter how many hours of sleep you’ve had. As such, try to avoid using alcohol to destress, especially late at night.
Create a sleep oasis
If you’re already struggling to drop off to sleep at night, an uncomfortable bed, cluttered bedroom or lumpy pillow is going to do you no favours. Try to make your bedroom an oasis from stress by making it an area of the home you do nothing but sleep in – meaning no more watching Netflix or checking your work emails for hours on end in bed. This will help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep once you enter the room, making it much more likely you’ll drop off.
To reap the full benefits, try to make your bed a place you long to be in rather than somewhere you dread by upgrading your bedding. Invest in a high-quality mattress, new pillows and cotton sheets to give your bedroom a feeling of luxury – you’ll be rushing to go to bed in no time!
Write it down
You can get to bed early and make your bedroom as cosy as possible, but you’re never going to get to sleep if you have a million thoughts, to-do lists and worries still running through your mind. When we’re stressed many of us push away our worries and try not to think about them, meaning they come to the surface when we do finally stop and think, which is usually when we’re lying in bed trying to sleep.
To help, try to put aside 10 minutes a day to write down all the worries and stresses on your mind, either during the evening at home or just before bed. This will help you work through your anxieties on paper, helping you to find solutions or simply get them off your mind. Once you’ve done this, close the book on them until the next day.
Get out of bed
It might sound counterproductive, but if you’re still struggling to nod off after lying in bed for more than 20 minutes, it’s best to get out of your bedroom and do something else.
Avoid the temptation to switch on the TV or pick up your phone and choose an unstimulating activity such as reading a relaxing novel or something mundane like organising your shelves. This will break up the time spent lying in bed watching the clock and take your mind off getting to sleep, even if only for a short time. After 10-20 minutes of light activity, you should be ready to head back to bed and feeling a bit more relaxed.