Thrive 03/ 5/ 2021

Tips to Manage Stress Levels for Better Sleep

Sleep has never been more important than it is in 2021, with the stress of COVID-19, the election, the economy, and other everyday concerts throwing many people off-balance. With Proper, sleep is one less thing people have to worry about and something they can cross off their to-do lists. 

Below are five behavioral tips to help you manage stress levels for better sleep from Dr. Allison Siebern, PhD, Proper’s Head Sleep Science Advisor. 

1. If you’re worried about the following day, try a “Closure of the Day” exercise 

What to do: 

Reflect on your day, make a to-do list for the following day, and address any thoughts that come up. This practice of setting aside time at the end of every day will help you essentially “close up shop” and prevent any free-floating thoughts from arising at bedtime or in the middle of the night. 

The science behind why this is beneficial: 

Come nighttime, the mind may start to kick around thoughts from the day that were not addressed. Completing this “closure of the day” reflection exercise will signal that you have already thought about these things and prevent your mind from running off in thought during dedicated sleep time.

2. If your mind is leading you in a million different directions at once with random thoughts, try a mindfulness practice (either record yourself saying the words below or have someone read them to you)

What to do: 

Get comfortable, sitting with your feet on the floor if possible. If you prefer, you can close your eyes. Otherwise, soften your gaze to something in the distance. Feel your body sitting in the chair and just notice how that feels for you. (pause) If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the moment. (pause) Now gently bring your attention and awareness to your breath, not changing it but simply noticing it. (pause) Notice what it feels like as you breathe in and notice what it feels like when you breathe back out. Again, not changing the pace of your breath, but just noticing. If your mind wanders, just bring it back. (pause) Now gently bring your attention to any sounds in your environment. Notice the hum of the A/C running, or outside noises. (pause) If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back. 

The science behind why it’s beneficial:

Mindfulness is a way to pay attention with purpose to the present moment which, in turn, helps you be more present in your everyday life. Guided exercises like this help calm racing thoughts and facilitate stress relief. 

3. If there’s a singular stressor that’s concerning you, carve out a designated time to worry about it that is outside of sleep time 

What to do: 

Schedule 15 – 20 minutes of dedicated “worry time” every day over the course of a week—you can even put it in your calendar. Just make sure it’s not close to bedtime. During that specific period of time, go ahead and write down everything that’s stressing you out. Don’t hold back, since getting thoughts down on paper is oftentimes more productive than keeping them bottled up in your mind. Once your time is up, go about your normal schedule. If you find yourself worrying later in the day outside of the designated window, remind yourself that now’s not the time. Easier said than done, we know. But if you stick with it (and be gentle with yourself), you can build the habit over time. 

The science behind why it’s beneficial: 

While it may sound counterintuitive, scheduling “worry time” can help you control the frequency and timing of your stress response. In official science-y terms, it’s called stimulus control training, and it’s effective in freeing up the mind for other activities—in this case, sleep. 

4. If you’re experiencing general physical restlessness, engage in progressive muscle relaxation techniques 

What to do: Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing a group of muscles as you breathe in for 4-10 seconds, then relaxing them as you breathe out (suddenly, not gradually). Just be sure you’re not tensing to the point of pain or uncomfortable cramping. Relax for 15-20 second before moving onto the next muscle group. 

The science behind why it’s beneficial: Stress leads to muscle tension, which makes it difficult for the physical body to relax, which makes you even more stressed. And repeat. And repeat. By engaging in progressive muscle relaxation, you’ll calm your physical body and, as a result, your anxiety levels.

We hope these tips help manage your stress levels so you can get a great night of sleep! Check out Proper’s supplements, they are obsessively-researched, containing clinically-backed ingredients at effective dosage levels that are effective but gentle and won’t knock you out or leave you groggy the next morning.

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