Sleeping well is an important part of stress management. It’s a no brainer that having a high level of stressors can interfere with sleep. So while we focus on sleep let us not forget that we must also look to our other stressors and work to manage them as well. Don’t forget to review the steps in the previous section Stress-Management here. That said getting in the habit of sleeping well could greatly reduce the stress you feel while awake and your ability to manage any stresses that do come up.
So what constitutes good sleep?
We often focus on the hours of consecutive sleep as one measure. February 2015 the National Sleep Foundation changed the sleep ranges for many categories of humans.
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Check out the full article here.
For the purposes of this article we will focus on the young adult through older adult ages.
First determine if you are getting enough sleep. Track your sleep on paper by writing down when you go to bed and when you wake as well as estimating how long it takes to fall asleep and any interruptions to your sleep through the night. You could also use one of the fitness trackers on the market to track your sleep.
If you find you are not getting enough sleep take a look at your habits around sleep. Are you…
- Getting to bed at approximately the same time each day?
- Rising at the approximately the same time each day?
- Using your bed only for sleep and sex?
- Turning off the television and stepping away from screens at least one hour before bedtime?
These are important components to having the best shot at a good night of sleep. Changing schedules from day to day can wreak havoc on sleep quality. Having a good routine is a must. Another important component is not using your bed as the command center for your life. Your brain needs to know that the bed is for certain activities which allows it to relax when bedtime rolls around. Things like solving the problems of the world and watching television or using computers cause the brain to become more stimulated which interferes with sleep. The blue and green pixels from television and other screens also suppresses melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) which naturally rises as bedtime approaches.
Doing those things and still not sleeping well? Start looking at your daytime habits. Are you…
- Getting at least 30-60 minutes of natural light?
- Avoiding stimulants like caffeine at least 5 hours prior to bedtime and nicotine at least 1 hour prior to bed?
- Getting 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the day?
- Avoiding intense exercise within 4 hours of bedtime?
Exposure to natural light (sunlight) in the early part of the day helps to reset the circadian rhythm which helps make you more alert during the day and sets you up for better sleep at night.
Stimulants used through the day and into the late afternoon and evening can interfere with sleep. If you don’t experience sleep difficulties no worries, but if you are struggling with sleep cutting off the supply of caffeine to your brain earlier in the day may be helpful. If you are a heavy caffeine user it is best to taper your use over time as cutting off the supply suddenly could cause a major headache.
Exercise helps the body in multiple ways, but can also help improve your sleep. According to the folks over at hopkinsmedicine.org “30 minutes of moderate exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.” And moderate exercise isn’t marathoning or olympic style speed stuff. The moderate zone is when you are noticing the effort, are breathing heavier, but can still talk and hold a conversation (but can’t sing), and you notice you are sweating a bit after 10 or so minutes of effort.aking one or more of these changes is a benefit to your sleep and helps to decrease stress during your waking hours.
Give it a try
Make one or more of these changes and decide for yourself if they help improve your sleep and help decrease stress during your waking hours.
Sleeping better and still stressed? Take a look at a previous post for other stress reduction strategies here and here.