Six Ways to Improve Sleep and Lower Your Stress

Six Ways to Improve Sleep and Lower Your Stress

Are you getting enough sleep?  

Equally as important, are you getting enough of the right kind of sleep.  Those not prioritizing sleep miss a crucial part of overall  health and happiness. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep, including plenty of deep sleep, is one of the most underrated things we can do for both our physical and mental health.  It is as though sleep is a magic bullet for our health- if only we could just get a full, high quality sleep each night our health would improve in so many ways. I’ve been doing a lot of research and learning on this topic both for my own sleep and to help others.  One thing that came up again and again in my research was the important relationship between sleep and stress. 

When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, it has a major impact on the brain.  That may explain why sleep deprived individuals are more likely to experience heightened stress and anxiety than their well rested counter-parts.  Lack of sleep activates our fight or flight mechanism in the brain; making us quicker to anger and irritation, more reactive, less social, less rational, and more prone to stress.  This is why it is so important to get a good night of sleep when trying to manage our stress.  

Here are a few things I found that actually made a difference for me, hopefully it can help you too!

1. Make sure your sleeping area is black out dark

According to Dr. Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, you should get rid of ANY light at night. Even if you don’t think it’s bothering you, just the tiniest amount of light can negatively impact sleep or reduce the quality of sleep.  So many people have said to me that they sleep “fine” with light on in their bedroom or shining through their window. 

 Here’s the thing I want you to understand- even a little bit of light impacts deep sleep or slow wave sleep.  According to Walker, deep sleep is needed for things like learning and memory, strengthening immune function, and the regeneration of new, healthy cells.  To promote deep sleep, either black out your windows using blackout curtains OR use a sleep mask- trust me it will make a noticeable difference when you wake up in the morning and feel more rested and less prone to negative, stress causing emotions.  

2. Use Lavender

I’m not big into essential oils but this sleep hack is backed by science.  Not only is lavender known for its relaxation and stress-relieving properties, it has been shown to promote deep sleep as well as faster onset of sleep.  Diffuse a little bit of this at night to deepen your sleep… it worked for me!  

3. Get out of your bed

 it should be used for sleep and sex ONLY. Don’t read in bed, work in bed or talk on the phone… using the bed for other things trains the brain to think the bed is a place for being awake.  Try staying out of your bedroom until you are absolutely ready for sleep- cut the scrolling Facebook, checking your emails ,and online shopping (just me?) right before bed. Besides, cutting down on a little screen time never hurt anyone!

4. Get plenty of light during the daytime.

 This goes hand in hand with eliminating all light at night.  Our bodies are programed on a circadian rhythm, the 24-hour clock inside each of us that is regulated by the natural cycles of light and dark.  One of the major problems people run into is that in modern society we spend so much time indoors surrounded by artificial light. Our body’s internal clocks become dysregulated and confused.  Try taking a walk around midday when the sun is shining the brightest. 

The best way to reset your circadian rhythm and reorient your body to its natural rhythm of light and dark is to go camping for a week.  Camping tends to eliminate a majority of artificial light and exposes us to light and dark in a more natural way. Getting outdoors has the added benefit of naturally boosting mood and alleviating stress- sounds like a win-win!

5. Take a meditation class

When it comes to stress reduction, meditation has a reputation for being a big time stress buster.  Sleep and meditation go hand in hand when looking to reduce stress. Meditation helps calm the overactive brain which is so often the culprit in keeping us up at night and preventing sleep.  Try taking a meditation class or check out my 5 Steps to Get Started Meditating to learn how you can begin incorporating this stress reducing practice right away!

6. Last but not least

Prioritize your sleep!! This one may sound obvious, but it is probably one of the biggest sources of our nation-wide sleep crisis.  I too, have been guilty of putting off sleep in order to “get things done.” The truth is, we are so much more productive and energetic when we get a full night of sleep.  Putting off sleep ends up being counter productive since we have a clear mind and more energy after a full night of sleep.  

Good luck and happy sleeping!  

Did I miss anything? Is there something you’re doing for sleep that I didn’t touch on here? Comment below to let me know!


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