Sleep is more than just a time machine to breakfast. It’s your body’s chance to reboot, repair and revitalize its systems. We all know the feeling when we’re running low on sleep: a foggy head, sluggish demeanor and irritability are just a few of the side effects of sleep deprivation. Add stress into the mix and it’s a Molotov cocktail for some serious health concerns.
“Lost sleep is lost health, because sleep is required to repair from the previous day and rest for the next,” says Dr. Martha Cortes of the TMJ Sleep Center in New York. And when you’re losing sleep on the regular, say, because of a high-stress job or a busy schedule, side effects can move from irritating to downright dangerous.
You’re more accident prone, your neurological system can be damaged and, according to Cortes, your immune system will no longer have the ability to protect the body from harmful outside influences. Why? Because your body has not had the opportunity to repair itself through the vehicle of sleep. This means you’re more prone to becoming ill, and when illness hits, you will be less prepped to combat it.
To combat stress-induced sleep loss, Cortes suggests really focusing on your early evening routine, because it acts as a transition from day to night.
According to Cortes, the best ways to prep for a better night’s rest is to:
- Refrain from using electronics—if you must use them, use a blue-light blocker
- Leave electronics outside of the bedroom
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime
- Engaging in meditative or zen-like activities like reading or yin yoga
- Take a warm bath before bed, such as an epsom salt bath which aids in recovering from stress
- Dim the lights leading up to bedtime
Looking to prep for better ZZZs before you head home from work? According to Cortes, during the day it is important to remember the following:
- Drink a sufficient amount of water
- Exercise, but not too close to bed
- Eat nutritionally dense foods—stay away from processed, refined, synthetic or sugar filled ‘foods’
- Stop caffeine consumption several hours before bedtime.
For those overcoming stress-related insomnia, following a consistent sleep schedule can help. Go to bed and wake within the same hour window every day (yes, even on the weekends) and create a evening relaxing routine that will help signal to your body its time for sleep.
If you’re laying in bed and your mind is abuzz with a list of to-do’s, consider keeping a notepad by your bed where you can write these thoughts down. This will signal to your brain you’ve got these tasks covered, so you will be more inclined to mentally let them go until morning.