Have you had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as a result of stress? Perhaps your sleeping habits were great prior to a few months ago, and now the current stress and change has caused you to experience some insomnia. If you are, you are not alone. Recently, an overwhelming amount of people have expressed sleep difficulty. A lot has changed during these past few months, including the circumstances we each must face. Here are 6 healthy habits you can do to sleep well and feel well.
1. Develop a routine
Regardless of our age, most people function better in some sort of a routine. You probably have habits that you are doing each day as part of a daily routine. Consider the way that you wake up each morning. What is the first thing you do? Make your bed? Start the coffee? Take a shower? Hit the snooze button to sleep 5 more minutes? Whatever you choose to do, that is the essence of having a routine.
Routines are easy to get out of and seem more difficult to re-establish. However, the effort is well worth it. How does having a routine make you sleep well and well? Because like any other system in our bodies, your sleep pattern is cyclical. That is, it performs better when there is consistency. A routine signals to your body that the day is drawing to a close, and it is time to start winding down to sleep.
Stressors often cause some lifestyle changes, but it is still possible to develop a daily routine. How do you get into a routine? You just start. It’s really that simple. Try getting up at the same time each day. Or go to bed at the same time each day. Eat breakfast at the same time. The goal is not perfection. Just start somewhere. Anywhere.
2. Exercise every day to sleep well and feel well
So much information has been communicated about the benefits of exercise. Exercise is good for our physical and emotional health, and it has been proven to be a great stress reliever. Long-term exercise has been observed to help you fall asleep quicker and help you stay asleep longer.
There is no need to enroll in a bodybuilding class or join a gym, especially if you are trying to watch your budget. Even a short bout of exercise can help you sleep well and feel well. Taking brief walks or doing simple weight-bearing exercises will go a long way to improving the quality of your sleep at night. Life-long activities as swimming, biking, and tennis are also great exercises you can do to improve your sleep. If you are experiencing injuries or physical limitations, rehab exercises are equally beneficial to gaining your strength and improving sleep.
3. Take care of your mental health
As a licensed professional counselor, I believe there is a connection between mood and sleep. Emotional distress can cause sleep problems. Additionally, poor sleeping habits can create emotional distress. This reciprocity underscores the need to safeguard and take care of your mental health. Insomnia often accompanies depression and anxiety. However, very often, when the depression and anxiety are resolved, insomnia can remain. If this sounds like you, you may want to consider CBTI to treat your insomnia for a holistic approach to your well-being.
Also, practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are excellent ways to reduce stress and improve your mental health. Learning to relax and getting centered may help you to overcome life challenges. If you are having trouble falling asleep and tend to lie awake in bed, trying relaxation exercises as you climb into bed may help you fall asleep quicker. Additionally, if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night because of worry or stress, using mindfulness exercises to stay present may help you stay asleep longer.
If you are having trouble pinpointing the source of your emotional difficulties, reach out to your physician or a trained healthcare professional that can help you begin the journey to improving your mental health. At times, it may feel like you are the only person that is feeling out of sorts. However, everyone has been experience circumstances that effect them emotionally. The courageous are the ones willing to seek help. Learning the skills to thrive despite the stresses of life are an essential tool to sleep well and feel well again.
4. Socialize with others
Humanity was not designed to live in isolation. From prehistoric times, people have lived in a community for survival. Life in the 21st century is no different. We need to have friends and to be a friend to others. Daily engaging with other people lifts our mood and reminds us to look beyond ourselves. Having an open-mind we grow stronger in who we are and evolve on a personal level. Even being friendly towards others in an elevator or having a brief interaction with someone at a local shop is an excellent way to stay connected to others.
Technology has created some very fun ways to stay connected. Graduation parties, family comedy nights , and virtual happy hours have been a great way for people to connect remotely. Socialization in any form is helpful for human connection and mental health.
Loneliness has been cited as a contributor to poor sleep, especially in young people. How does having friends and interacting with others help you sleep well and feel well? The answer is an emotional one. Feeling apart of a community brightens our mood, keeps us involved in work and hobbies and is beneficial emotionally and physically. So that when we go to bed at night, we know that we have a community of people we can laugh with, cry with and have fun with and give of ourselves. In essence, being apart of a community brings a sense of security that helps us sleep better at night.
5. Spend two hours outside each day
There was a reason our parents liked to take us outside when we were younger: it helped us sleep better. Spending time outdoors allows us to engage with nature with all five of our senses. Being in a natural setting will enable us to experience our environment that we would not be able to indoors. We can hear the birds singing. We feel the wind against our bodies and face. We become eyewitnesses as we observe wildlife from a distance or look at plants, rocks, and mountains. We taste the snow and rain.
Contemporary society spends hours on end engaging with computer screens, cell phones, and television screens. Working at home is becoming more popular, and gaming continues to soar. While technology helps us accomplish many things, the blue light can contribute to insomnia and poor sleep. Spending two hours outside each day, also improves our sleep because of our circadian rhythm, which is our natural biological clock. Spending an hour in daylight in the morning helps to become alert and oriented. While spending an hour during the early evening initiates our natural sleep drive.
Looking for a way to spend some time outside that will reduce stress and help you sleep? Spend some time gardening. Gardening is a great way to spend some time outside and improve your sleep. Studies have shown the benefits of gardening across the lifespan. Too cold or unable to go outside for a day or two? Even sitting by a window will help. As we get older, our circumstances may change, but the principle remains the same: spending time outside will help you sleep well and feel well.
6. Eat right
When we are not sleeping well, it is easy to feel out of control. What if there was something that you could do to help improve your sleep that is entirely within your control? Would you do it? Well, there is: Eat healthily. Your diet may have gone downhill, but it does not have to remain that way. Just begin eating one piece of fruit each day and build from there.
Studies have shown the benefits of improved sleep by eating a healthy diet, especially the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet is more of a concept rather than a list of what not to eat. Being mostly plant-based, the Mediterranean Diet consists of limiting meat, increasing fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Refined and processed foods are discouraged.
Eating healthy can help reduce inflammation, benefit your health, and even provide. Eating poorly often contributes to insomnia. When we are tired, we reach for unhealthy carbohydrates that we think will give us energy and keep us alert. In addition to poor food choices, we tend to eat later in the night. Likewise, there are foods that you can eat that may help you sleep well and feel better.
Need more help getting better sleep? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you sleep well and feel well.
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Matthews, T., Danese, A., Gregory, A. M., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., & Arseneault, L. (2017). Sleeping with one eye open: Loneliness and sleep quality in young adults. Psychological Medicine, 47(12), 2177-2186. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1017/S0033291717000629