In this month’s newsletter, I would like to discuss the “sleep-stress connection” and some recommended behaviors that we can all adopt to promote less stress and better sleep.
Better Sleep Can Lower Stress
It may come as no surprise that there is a direct correlation between overall mental health, including the amount of stress experienced, and quality of sleep or better yet, our sleep health. In a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2022, results demonstrated that lower levels of stress are strongly associated with higher sleep quality. Additionally, results showed that folks who consider themselves to be in better overall health tended to report lower stress levels and better sleep health.
Taking a few simple, manageable steps towards achieving healthier sleep can help set you on a more positive path towards less stress and overall well-being. And who wouldn’t want more sleep and less stress?
6 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Quality
Below are some recommended behaviors for you to try on. If they work, I encourage you to adopt them into your daily and nightly routine. Try one, or try them all, first starting with the one that takes minimal effort to begin implementing. Then, feel free to adopt more healthful sleep behaviors as you start to feel more comfortable.
1. Mindfulness of Dinner Time: A light dinner, about 2-3 hours before bed is ideal, so that you have time to fully digest. Restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and next-day irritability can all occur if you have eaten too late, or too heavy a meal.
2. Mindfulness of Alcohol Intake: Contrary to popular belief, a nightcap before bed actually disrupts your natural sleep and circadian rhythms, which interferes with the ability to achieve deep, healthy sleep.
3. Mindfulness & Relaxation Training: Breathing exercises, meditation, a warm bath, diffusing essential oils such as Lavender and Chamomile, and journaling are all techniques that allow you to wind down from the motion of the day.
4. Mindfulness of Sleep Environment: A darkened; quiet, semi-cool bedroom (between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit) promotes sleep signals. Perhaps consider earplugs to drain out outside noise, a sleeping mask, and/or room darkening shades to block out excess light. Extra perk if you have the right mattress, pillows, and sheets that best fit your needs.
5. Mindfulness of Screentime: Television, tablets, iPhone, and iPad – you name it – are purposely designed to attract us into interacting with them, but they also signal the stress reaction inside of you. It may be impossible to think about eliminated all forms of screentime from your bedroom, so instead, try resisting their call for attention at least an hour before bed.
6. Mindfulness of Sleep/Wake Cycles: Your mind and body want to naturally sleep and wake up at regular times. You can either chose to fight them, or feed them. If you choose to feed them, commit to a steady rate of regular bedtimes and wake-up times. Yes, even on the weekend, when the kids are having a sleepover at grandma’s house.
Try it out!
Healthy sleep can make us feel better and be able to tackle the everyday challenges of life. What committed action are you willing to engage in today, in the service of promoting healthier sleep, less stress, and overall increased well-being?
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*Peace, Love, & Fierce Acceptance*
Dr. Amanda Aster-McKenna, Psy.D.
NJ Licensed Psychologist #5888, Private Practice, Montclair, NJ
Adjunct Professor, Kean University, Department of Advanced Studies in Psychology
Manager, New York City Chapter of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science
Board Member, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris