Sometimes when you are stressed, resting seems like the last thing you want to do! If you have a lot on your plate, you might feel inclined to get it all done. If you are able to accomplish what is in front of you, great! If your stress is coming from something that can’t be easily taken care of, rest just might help.
If you are stressed, you likely aren’t sleeping well either. If you aren’t sleeping well, you aren’t going to be able to handle stress as well. It is a catch 22. So how do you stop the cycle?
- Try just sitting down in a quiet place and closing your eyes for 2 minutes. This may seem simple, but keeping your eyes closed for 2 minutes helps to block out extra sensory inputs that distract you from being in-tune with your body. This is also a good time to try practicing abdominal breathing, which can slow your heart rate and decrease your arousal response.
- Take a 20-30 minute nap. The 20 minute nap, also known as the Power Nap, is effective in that it lets your body recharge without putting you into a full-blown sleep cycle. Make sure to set your alarm though- going for more that 30 minutes could take you into a deep sleep and cause you to wake up groggy. The best time for a Power Nap is between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. If you take a Power Nap too close to bedtime, you might interrupt your normal sleep cycle.
- Change your sleep pattern. If you aren’t sleeping well, there may be something in your environment that is causing you to lose out on quality z-time. Lack of sleep increases stress levels, and decreases the capacity to handle stress. Now might be a good time to think about what might be contributing to the lack of sleep.
- Watch what you eat
- Foods with caffeine (soda, chocolate, coffee) are likely to keep you up. In fact, the more caffeine you consume during the day, the harder it will be to fall asleep. A better night-time snack is something that combines carbohydrates and protein. Carbs contain Tryptophan (you know, that chemical in turkey that makes you comatose after Thanksgiving dinner). Protein has the amino acids that make Tryptophan. When you combine the two, you create a nice cocktail to make you drowsy and fall asleep. Trycereal with milk, toast with peanut butter, or cheese and crackers. Also, don’t be fooled by alcohol. While consuming alcohol might make you sleepy at first, it disrupts your sleep cycle and causes you to have less quality sleep and you will likely wake up still tired. Whatever you are eating or drinking, try to finish up 2-3 hours before bed and stick to water after that.
- Keep a consistent schedule
- Your body is set on a circadian rhythm and can’t tell the difference between a school night and a weekend. Pick a time to go to bed and wake up and try to keep it consistent every day of the week.
- Keep it cool.
- You body functions better when the air is a little bitcooler. If you like to be warm at night, turn down the thermostat and grab and extra blanket. Not only are you helping the environment, you are going to sleep better too!
- Save your bed for nighttime activities
- Your body tends to associate places with events. If you bed is for sleep, then when your body is in bed, it will know to go to sleep. If your bed is for sleep, homework, watching movies, texting friends, and whatever else, your body might not know what to do when you climb in at night. In a dorm room, your bed is your only major piece of furniture, so this might be a bit tricky. Try using your desk and chair for homework, or sitting on a pillow on the floor for movie watching.
For more information, go to http://www.sleepfoundation.org/