Sleep: The 12 Days of Lower Stress Levels
Your secret hiding spot is starting to fill up with Amazon packages and your bank accounts are starting to feel a little underweight. A chill is in the air. You've heard Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree probably 700 times already and store greeters now ring a bell and ask you for your laundry quarters. Christmas is on the horizon.
It's a stressful time of the year for many of us. What the hell does dad want for Christmas? Am I going to have to host dinner? Will I get that extra day of leave approved from my supervisor?
Somehow I've managed to stay relatively chill. No one's perfect and we all get a little anxious at times, but there are a bundle of ways (12, to stay festive) to keep your heart rate at a healthy tempo and keep yourself from having a conniption. For the next 12 days, you'll get 12 tips. By Christmas morning, you should be fully prepared to listen to your relatives complain or scroll through your feed of acquaintances that got engaged.
On the 1st day of lowering your stress levels, you'll truly love some SLEEP.
The sleep-stress relationship is cyclical.
Sleep problems create psychological conditions, like depression and anxiety. One study showed that adults with chronic insomnia were five times more likely to become depressed. That same study showed that insomnia sufferers were 20 times as likely to develop panic disorder.
Your health relies on a healthy sleep pattern. A good night's sleep helps your brain function normally, which quickens your physical response time and helps your brain recall information. It also makes a massive difference in your mood.
Sleeplessness can cause moodiness, irritability, inability to concentrate, inability to understand new concepts, and forgetfulness. These symptoms are stressful in and of themselves and they manifest themselves in other aspects of our lives, like our jobs and relationships.
It's also a health and safety concern. Sleep deprivation screws up your immune system so you get sick more often, is hard on your heart and can increase your blood pressure, and turns your hormones against you and can lead to weight gain and infertility. It also lowers your brain's response to sensory input, making driving insanely dangerous.
All those hours you're awake when should be asleep are accumulated in a sleep debt. Your body will take those hours back. Maybe it will be on Monday morning when you sleep through your alarm, further adding to the never-ending circle of stress.
The best course of action is, obviously, sleep better. Breaking the cycle is simple, but it really requires dedication. You need to be a regular worshipper at the temple of YOU.
1. Take a warm bath.
My mom has always believed in the healing powers of the bath. She prescribes taking a bath for all ailments from headaches to muscle aches and broken bones to broken hearts.
Hydrotherapy, the bougie word for it, relaxes the muscles and brings your heart to a rest rate quicker. It's a natural pain reliever and increases circulation. It's also warm and cozy and wonderful.
You can also add Dr. Teal's soaking salts in relaxing scents like lavender or green tea (my favorite).
2. Set a routine.
When someone says they "slept like a baby," I always imagine them waking up every 45 minutes to eat, but maybe the adage refers to routine.
Kids need routine, like bedtimes and morning rituals, to help them establish stability and keep them tolerable. Adults need routine for the exact same reasons.
Set yourself a bedtime and a daily alarm. My bedtime is about 11:00pm. My alarm is set for 7:30am. That's so much sleep, so many nights I wake up earlier, feeling refreshed. It just keeps me feeling productive and rested.
3. Turn off the TV.
Your brain pays attention to things, even when you're technically asleep. If you don't turn off the TV or laptop before you go to sleep, your brain can't turn off enough to get the restful REM sleep it needs.
The use of electronics disrupts your circadian rhythm, your internal clock. An important function of your clock is to release the sleep hormone, melatonin, when your brain recognizes that it's bedtime. If your brain doesn't know it's bedtime because it still feels like day, it won't properly go to sleep.
4. Turn on some rain sounds.
My bed partner snores like a freight train. I used to spend hours trying to fall asleep, ultimately spending about 10% of my nights on the couch. This year, I downloaded the Rain Rain app on my phone and play Rain Downpour or Rainy Day Laundromat on a 30 minute timer. I rarely wake up in the night and I have no issues falling asleep now.
5. Put some lotion on.
I have a hard time sleeping with dry feet. It seems terribly distracting and I can't ever get quite comfortable enough until I've put some lotion on them.
It's also a great way to use aromatherapy to get you ready for sleep. Vanilla and lavender are both great scents to promote sleep. I tend to prefer scents like white tea or literally any of the Victoria's Secret Love My Body lotions (which is unfortunately discontinued, so stock up on whatever you can find).
6. Skip the nightcap.
Alcohol is a funny thing because so many people think it improves your sleep, since it can help you fall asleep faster, but it actually reduces REM sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is the good kind that allows you to dream and recharge.
It basically gets you to sleep but prevents your body from enjoying the sleep or getting any of the benefits sleep provides. The more you drink before bed, the less rested you are the next day.
Tonight, try some of these tips to get you ready for bed. Get a great night of sleep. Rock your day tomorrow.
In the comments, tell me what bedtime ritual works best for you!