Thursday, May 1, 2014

Anxiety: Sleep and Stress

According to the APA survey Stress in America only 20 percent of the adults reported good or excellent sleep.  Sleep doctors advise that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.  The APA results confirmed that those surveyed who slept 8 hours or more reported lower stress levels than those who slept less than 8 hours.  

The high stress/low sleep group was also more likely to report symptoms of low energy, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, skipping exercise, no motivation to complete responsibilities, and losing patience and yelling at their children and/or spouse.  You could lose sleep just thinking about those symptoms!

For the mildly sleep deprived there is always the hope of catching up on sleep tomorrow, or the next day…

But how can we get our nightly dose of 8 hours? The gurus suggest that we improve our sleep hygiene- with enough practice these habits should become as automated as brushing our teeth and washing our face:

Timing: You have heard it before, but it really is true: Setting a consistent sleep/wake schedule even during the weekends helps with sleep quality.

Screens: Sleep experts recommend shutting off all screens (TV, cell phones, laptops, ipads, etc) at least one hour before bedtime.  Technology lighting can make falling asleep more complicated. 

 Naps: Must be brief (20-25 minutes) and before 5:00.  Altho naps aren't for everyone- I am a big fan, it is one of my super powers (naptastic!).

Reading: Only Mrs. Stephen King should invite Stephen King to bed. Be selective about evening reading. 

Shower/bath: Our bodies have a thermal response that sets the mood for sleep. Taking a warm shower or bath before bed helps to induce a sleepy feeling by slowing down our breathing, heart rate, and digestion.  Consider comforting lotions for après bath.

Journaling: Some of us are plagued with “to do” lists or feel compelled to replay the events of the day as we settle down for sleep.  Hot pen journaling is one technique that I suggest at night:.  Pretend the pen is hot and write until you run out of things to write.  It is like a brain drain- no editing allowed.  Over time you will see patterns emerge in the thoughts that nag at you at night.  Getting them out of your head and onto the paper may help you with problem solving during the day.  Some of my teenage clients prefer a doodle log.  They take a sketch pad and favorite markers to calmly draw before sleep.

Go grab some zzzs - We are all just a  few habit changes away from filling our tanks with the restorative sleep our bodies and minds need to manage stress.  Sweet dreams!