Stress and anxiety are normal feelings that everyone experiences throughout their lives. Studies indicate that American adults experience more stress than any other people in the world. This is a problem that continues to grow.
Why are stress and worry problematic? There are numerous mental and physical health risks associated with unmanaged stress and anxiety, including poor sleep or even insomnia. If worry and stress keep you up at night, you’re not alone. The good news is that you can do something about it. Proven relaxation techniques reduce stress, help you cope with anxiety, and contribute to better sleep.
How stress and anxiety affect your sleep
Feeling relaxed induces sleep. When your body and mind are at peace, sleep comes naturally. When stress and anxiety creep in, the body tenses, the mind becomes preoccupied, and sleep becomes more difficult.
According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, most adults do not get enough sleep. More than 40% of adults report that stress interferes with their sleep. Many people also report that not getting adequate sleep causes or worsens stress.
Studies also show a link between anxiety disorders and poor sleep or insomnia. You do not have to have a diagnosable anxiety disorder for worry to impact your sleep, of course. Many people feel anxiety at night and struggle to fall asleep.
Tips to get relaxed for better sleep
During the day, it may be easier to distract yourself from worries and stress. At night, with nothing to do but fall asleep, your mind comes alive with worries about work, what you have to do the next day, money issues, and more.
If you can relax before bedtime, you’ll have an easier time controlling these anxious thoughts. Relaxation techniques for anxiety and stress slow heart rate and breathing, lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, and even reduce stress hormones. Try these tips for relaxation and better sleep:
To relax, few strategies are better than regular meditation. Anyone can do it, but start with short periods of time and build up to several minutes. Initially, it is difficult to concentrate for very long. Sit somewhere quiet, where you can be comfortable. Close your eyes and focus on breaths coming in and out. As intruding thoughts enter your mind, return your focus to your breath. This will take practice and time to master, but it eventually leads to deep relaxation.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Stress is both mental and physical. This technique focuses on the latter. Starting in bed, ready to sleep, begin with your feet. Tense your muscles, hold for a ten-count and slowly release. Focus your thoughts on tension flowing out of those tensed muscles. Work your way up your body, tensing just one area at a time.
A type of meditation, this technique helps you relax by taking your thoughts somewhere pleasant. Think of a place you feel relaxed, like the beach. Visualize yourself there with all your senses. Feel your feet in the sand, listen to the crashing waves, and smell the fresh air. As with standard meditation, it takes some practice. Try to keep intrusive thoughts out as you dive into your happy place.
Yoga or tai chi
Either of these movement and meditation practices has the effect of increasing relaxation and decreasing stress when practiced regularly. You don’t have to do yoga or tai chi right before bed, either. Regular practice will make it easier to relax when needed, like when it’s time to go to sleep. The combination of movement and a focus on the body and breath relaxes the body and mind.
Exercise can be stimulating, but done regularly, it also promotes relaxation. Getting some exercise every day relaxes tense muscles and clears the mind. Even just a walk every day can make a big difference later, especially at bedtime.
Mental health treatment
Self-care and active steps to relax and manage stress help many people sleep more. The effectiveness of these relaxation techniques is limited if you have a mental disorder that impacts sleep, like anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, or acute stress disorder. If you put a concentrated effort into relaxing and managing stress and still can’t sleep, see your doctor or therapist. You could benefit from a mental health evaluation and therapy to manage symptoms.
Stress and anxiety are inevitable. We all experience these emotions and physical responses to the world around us and our own thoughts. However, they do not have to take over your sleep. Try a few relaxation techniques to find one or two that work best for you and help you get a better night’s sleep.
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