By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
Sleep is a valuable and restorative resource that’s vital to wellbeing and stress management, but can sometimes be hard to come by for the busy and stressed. (According to a recent poll on this site, for example, about half of you are getting 6 hours of sleep or less, and are in dire need of more and better sleep!) Here are some effective nighttime habits to get into, to help enhance the amount and quality of sleep you get!
Exercise has so many stress management and health benefits, and for many of us, nighttime is when it best fits our schedules. Light exercise like yoga or walking at night can also help sleep as it releases tension without overstimulating the body.
Music can soothe your mind and body to the point that it’s now being used as a therapeutic tool by some. You can use music to your benefit by playing relaxing tunes before bed, and throughout the evening to help you wind down and release tension as bedtime approaches.
A recent poll on this site found that close to 80% of you live with a level of clutter that can cause additional stress. Cleaning up at the end of the day can leave you feeling less stressed because you’re doing something to tackle the problem, and the anticipation of waking up to a cleaner house can make your rest more peaceful.
While many people like to zone out in front of the T.V. before bed, playing low-key computer games can be a refreshing alternative. They can create a nice distraction from the stress of the day and be a great way of ‘shifting gears’, but aren’t so exciting that they make sleep elusive. These games can also sharpen your mental abilities and help you learn new skills: The Stress Relief Memory Game and The Stress Management Word Game.
Soaking in a tub of bubbles can rinse away tension and leave your body pampered and your mind free. It’s also a great segue to sleep, as any parent of a small child can attest.
Massage is a great stress reliever that also feels good. If you can’t trade massages with people you live with, you can do a self-massage or use massaging tools to relieve tension. Either way, having a massage before bed can loosen stress in your body, relax you, and make sleep come more easily.
Journaling has many stress and health benefits, making it a great way to end the day. Writing in a journal before bed can clear your mind, help you process emotions, solve problems, mentally prepare for the next day, make plans, and get your thoughts out of your head and on the page, where they can be picked up the next morning. A gratitude journal can get you in a positive frame of mind for sleep, and over time helps you change your whole frame of mind to a more positive, less stressed one.
Meditation has been used by many, many people to relieve stress in the body and mind. It’s a great technique to use before bedtime because it segues so naturally into sleep: it relaxes the body, clears the mind, and creates inner peace. Be patient with yourself and follow these tips for beginners, and you should find meditation to be a great stress management tool.
For those in a committed relationship, sex is known as a great nighttime stress reliever for a reason! Not only does a healthy sex life enhance your relationship, but it relaxes your body, releases ‘happy’ chemicals, and even promotes wellness. And, of course, it welcomes sleep. Unfortunately, excessive stress can also be a libido dampener.
10. Avoid These:
Some activities can be too stimulating at night and can make it harder to fall asleep, or make your sleep less restful. For a restorative night’s sleep, you should avoid caffeine after 2 p.m., interpersonal conflict or stressful conversations, or anything else that’s overstimulating. (Dealing with finances or even certain T.V. shows can be overstimulating to some.) Everyone’s different, so try to pay attention to your internal states, and respond accordingly.