Stress Less with a Meditation Practice
Stress is a widespread barrier to quality sleep, resulting in more stress caused by this lack of sleep. Meditation and a few other simple, fun tricks can break the stress cycle so you can get the rest you need.
How stress impacts your sleep
It happens to nearly everyone. A stressful event occurs or appears on the horizon, and you struggle to fall asleep. You desperately need rest, but your mind keeps you awake at night. Yet, this lack of sleep doesn’t solve your problem. Instead, it actually increases your stress levels. So how can you relax your mind to get the sleep you so desperately need?
It’s a vicious cycle, stress interferes with quality sleep, and lack of sleep leads to more stress. The American Psychological Association reports that 43 percent of adults say that stress kept them awake in the past month and that 49 percent with high-stress levels are not getting enough shuteye.
With stress being such a common hindrance to quality sleep, what is the secret to breaking this exhausting cycle?
Benefits of meditation to reduce stress
The cause of the stress/no sleep/more stress cycle is pretty simple.
Stress signals the body to produce the primary stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone tells the body to launch into “fight or flight” mode, essential for handling extreme stress. Under certain circumstances, like managing an emergency, cortisol production is beneficial.
However, cortisol levels should be at their lowest in the middle of the night for optimal sleep when the body needs to “rest and digest.” Not only does cortisol overproduction interfere with sleep, but poor sleep also increases cortisol production, resulting in even more stress and – you guessed it – less sleep.
What can you do to return to your normal sleep patterns and get the quality rest you need? Reduce stress before you want to sleep with meditation.
Meditation is more than just a quiet, feel-good activity to do before bed. Research demonstrates that meditation helps reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. It also reduces inflammation caused by stress and alleviates high levels of stress. Furthermore, meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system that brings the body into the “rest and digest” mode, lowering the cortisol levels that hinder quality rest.
By carving out some quiet time during the day or before bed to listen to a guided meditation, you can break the patterns of stress that interfere with sleep and get back on the road to deep, rejuvenating rest.
Other tips for reducing stress
While meditation alone is helpful, reducing your levels of stress throughout the day is even more beneficial. Here are a few effective, and even fun, ways to combat stress:
Listen to classical or calming music. Calm music can relax your body and mind, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress hormone production. Whether you play it at bedtime or have it on while you’re busy with an activity, some soothing notes will improve your state of mind.
Get some laughs. Laughing is not just for fun - it releases endorphins while decreasing the cortisol and adrenaline levels that keep you awake. Choose your favorite show, movie, or book that gets your hilarity on before you tune out for the night.
Deep breathing. Like meditation, breathing deeply centers the mind and calms the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. You can even get the best of both by doing your deep breathing practice with a guided meditation.
While stress is a prevalent and frustrating challenge that interferes with rest, these simple tools can break the cycle and get you back on the path to quality sleep.
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