Creating a Stress-Relieving Lifestyle, Part 2: Sleep

Last week, we examined stress and how it affects the body. To recap:

Our body can’t distinguish between real, life-threatening situations and psychological stressors. That means that being chased by a dog and getting in a fight with your partner both cause the body to respond in a similar way, drawing blood and energy away from vital processes such as digestion, immunity, and sex drive.

How can we begin to lessen these ill-effects of our stressful lives? As we mentioned last week, the key is in our lifestyle choices. Last week we discussed the importance of proper diet and nutrition to combat the ill-effects of stress. Today, we’ll focus on the second foundation: sleeping well.

Adults who are sleep-deprived are more likely to report being obese, physically inactive, and current smokers.

Sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice when life gets busy; we work into the wee hours of the night to finish that project or wake up earlier and earlier to check off those chores before starting the day. We know it is one more thing that you may not have time for. But trust us - you don’t have time NOT to sleep!

Here are some shocking statistics taken from the 2010 Sleep in America poll (performed by the National Sleep Foundation, based in the United States).

  • The average person needs 7 hours and 18 minutes for a good night’s sleep but receives only 6 hours and 40 minutes. That doesn’t sound like a big difference, but over the course of the year that’s about 230 hours of sleep debt!

  • 28% of adults stated that sleepiness interfered with their daily activities at least a few days a month, while 5% reported that it does so almost every day.

  • About a quarter of adults have driven while drowsy.  

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some alarming statistics. “Adults who were short sleepers (less than 7 hours of sleep per 24-hour period) were more likely to report being obese, physically inactive, and current smokers compared to people who got enough sleep (7 or more hours per 24-hour period).” Moreover, they were also more likely to report heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, asthma, depression, diabetes, and depression.

The take-away: proper sleep is one of the most important lifestyle factors for lowering stress and improving health.

Try these tips to help you get a good night’s sleep. 

  • Use your bed for sleeping only – not for reading, watching TV, working, etc. Likewise, try to sleep only in your bed, not on the couch or in the armchair.

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable place, with curtains to keep light out, an appropriate amount of blankets, and minimal noise or distractions.

  • Try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. Consistency is key to synchronize our circadian rhythms.

  • Have a routine before you go to bed. A cup of tea, a few stretches, a few moments of meditation, a warm bath, and quiet music are all great ways to relax.

At Internal Wisdom, we believe stress is one of the biggest factors affecting overall health and well-being. Whether from sound therapy, infrared saunas, coaching or nutrition programs, we work with each individual to encourage small tweaks in lifestyle to create lasting change over time. You don’t have to do this alone.

Stay tuned next week for Part III: Exercise!