We’ve all experienced it from time to time. Anything from a slight annoyance to a big problem comes to visit us in the middle of the night, keeping us awake when we desperately need sleep. Try as you might, it won’t leave your thoughts. However, once you understand the reasons behind your stress and inability to sleep, there are ways to calm the beast that haunts you in the late hours of the night.
Why Do We Feel Stressed At Night?
Our bodies react to stress by releasing cortisol, among other things. This hormone is partially responsible for the fight or flight response – that burst of energy you get when you feel threatened in some way – but we actually need cortisol in our system at all times. If our hormone pathways are working correctly, our cortisol levels are elevated at the start of the day and gradually decline until the evening. However, certain factors (like caffeine or chronic stress) can lead to our cortisol cycle becoming dysregulated, or eat into our sleep time. To ensure a good night’s sleep well, we should try to avoid behaviors like:
If you have so many activities that it eats into your sleep time, then you’re trying to do too much. The hectic schedule can get in the way of you even being able to relax enough to sleep when you finally get the time. Although over-scheduling may be necessary for the short term, don’t make it a lifestyle.
- Drinking too much caffeine
When you drink gallons of coffee each day to make you feel energized, it may affect your ability to sleep, especially if your sipping extends into early afternoon. Be sure you don’t eat or drink anything with caffeine within 6 hours of your bedtime. Even better, switch to green tea or give up caffeine completely.
- Anxiety & over-thinking
While you mind is busy thinking and re-thinking scenarios and trying to find solutions, your body and mind cannot fall asleep. Sometimes it’s difficult to leave work at work. And no wonder; with the increased workloads and expectations of the workforce, you might find yourself over-thinking decisions you made or projects you’ve taken on.
Techniques For A Good Night’s Sleep
While you’re working on dealing with the underlying reasons behind your midnight anxiety, there are a few things you can do to finally drift off to sleep despite your life challenges.
- Herbal remedies
Several studies show that inhaling the scents of plants or their essential oils reduces anxiety and stress. In some cases, drinking tea made from the plant produces similar effects. Lavender, vanilla, chamomile and lemon balm top the list of most common herbs used for this purpose.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Start with your head and work to your feet-think about each muscle and relax that muscle. When you’re done, it’s likely some muscles have become tense again, so do this over and over until your muscles stay relaxed.
- Imagine a Blank Wall
It can be any color, but it must be blank. Pick a color that’s soothing to you and stare at it in your mind. Your mind will likely wander, but keep redirecting your mind’s eye to the blank wall.
- Pleasant Memories
Think back to times when you were relaxed and having fun, and relive those memories.
- Sexual Activity
Sexual activity often leads to stress relief and is a great distraction. Ironically, stress often makes people not feel like engaging in sex, but it could send you off into a nice, relaxing sleep.
- Make a list
If there are some particular things that are causing you stress, write them down on a list. Write down some possible solutions you’ll consider. When you wake up with these things on your mind, assure yourself that they are on the list and you have a plan for dealing with them, starting in the morning.
Watch a funny movie or show, or read or listen to something comedic. Laughing decreases the amount of stress hormones released, and increase hormones related to relaxation.
Sleeping with a pet decreases stress levels. Even if you don’t sleep with your pet, stroking its fur will help calm you down.
Lack of sleep can cause a number of health problems, be challenging to your relationships, affect your performance at work, and lead to chronic conditions like adrenal fatigue. Learning about your stressors, how to deal with them, and how to fall asleep even when they invade your sleep period will help you feel better throughout the day. Using one technique or several techniques together increases your chances of getting that essential rest that helps you to face your daytime challenges head-on.