The Stress-sleep Connection
People with less stress report better sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2022 Sleep in America® Poll, lower levels of stress are strongly associated with higher quality sleep. Among those surveyed, Americans who consider themselves in better overall health and who report lower stress levels also report better sleep health.
Clearly, there are larger, demographic factors affecting people’s overall health and stress and the impact of stress on healthy sleep. Moreover, health and stress management are entire fields that go well beyond sleep health alone. But there is a strong connection between overall health and sleep health, so taking a few simple steps toward healthier sleep can set you on a more positive path toward less stress and overall well-being.
Start with adopting bedtime behaviors that are proven to promote healthier sleep. They will train your mind and body to recognize that it’s time to prepare for sleep—like tapping into the circadian muscle memory that is hard-wired into us.
We’re not telling you to do all of these things all at once (although there’s certainly no harm in trying!), but consider starting with at least a few of them that work within your daily routine and that don’t take too much effort. Then add more as you start to feel more comfortable. And we think you will.
Some recommended behaviors you can adopt include:
- Take charge of dinner time. A light dinner about 2-3 hours before bedtime is ideal, so you have time to fully digest. You know the next-day scaries and restlessness that can plague you after a too late, too heavy meal if you’re up late waiting to digest and fall asleep.
- Skip the nightcap. Contrary to popular belief, that evening drink only seems calming. It actually disrupts your natural sleep rhythms, interfering with deep, healthy sleep.
- Practice relaxation. Breathing exercises, meditation, a warm bath, and journaling are helpful techniques that allow you to wind down from the day’s events. Even smells can help calm your senses—essential oils in scents like lavender can get you to that relaxed state of mind.
- Make your lair sleep-friendly. A darkened, quiet room signals sleep. Consider earplugs, a sleeping mask, and/or room-darkening shades to block excess noise and light. Keep the room temperature cool, between 60 and 67 degrees. Of course, it helps to have the right mattress, pillows, and sheets that best suit you.
- Show your screens who’s boss. Televisions, tablets, and phones are designed to lure you into interacting with them. But they also signal the stress reaction inside of you. We know you won’t remove them altogether from your bedroom. Instead, resist their call for attention for at least one hour before turning in.
- Turn in and wake up at the same time. There’s a reason why they call it “bedtime” and “wake-up time.” There are times when each is appropriate. We’ve mentioned circadian rhythms before: your mind and body want to sleep and wake up at regular times. You can fight them or feed them. We recommend you feed them a steady diet of regular bedtime and wake-up times.
Don’t let sleep (or lack thereof) add to your stresses
Healthy sleep is just that; it can make you feel better and more able to face the challenges of life. Just try as few or as many of these recommendations to help you get it. We believe they will help you to be on your way to your Best Slept Self™.