BLOG SLEEP, MOOD, LIFESTYLE
September 12, 2016
Part 2: Strong against Stress: Tips to Improve Deep Sleep
Now that we have discussed stress and why sleep is important to handling stress here are some quick tips to improve and increase the slow wave, or restorative sleep in your life. These will bolster your ability to be resilient against stressful situations.
Many of us go to sleep with anything but a calm mind. Our brains are full of everything from a play-by-play of the previous day, to an anxiety ridden to-do list for the coming week, or a stress-filled brain storming session about an upcoming work project. As important as these tasks are, they aren’t going to improve our sleep or improve our ability to complete the task we are ruminating over.
Dr. Preston suggests a quick and simple solution of just writing it all down before bed. He suggests making a “to do’ list for tomorrow. He says writing down what is going through your mind, thoughts, feelings and stressors- verbatim, can help to calm down a busy brain and ease you into more restful sleep.
Evenings prior to going to bed should be a calming experience. Ideally, our evenings should be a wind-down from the day and a relaxed preparation for going to sleep.
Dr. Preston explained during the seminar that bright light exposure during the day can help reduce all forms of depression and lower anxiety. It also helps to boost energy. He recommended 10-20 minutes of light exposure daily, either a light box or going outside. He emphasized that the light needed to hit the retina of the eye, versus just the skin. Light exposure can also increase serotonin levels, giving you a little burst of happy hormones as well.
- Avoid interfering substances
This topic is especially pertinent for us coffee-driven Seattleites. Caffeine consumed during the day can stay in your system well into the evening and disrupt your sleep. Modest amounts of caffeine can inhibit our first cycle of restorative, or slow wave sleep. Dr. Preston suggests to keep your caffeine intake under 500 mg, and stop caffeine intake completely at 12 pm.
Regular exercise is crucial for slow wave sleep. But remember the point above about calming down your evenings? No strenuous exercise within 2 hours of going to bed.
For deep sleep, the body must cool down 2-3 degrees. This is why cooler bedrooms are recommended and exercise before bed is not. Moreover, avoiding blue light (things like cellular phones, computers and TV’s within an hour of going to sleep) is also suggested.
Give these tips a try and see if your sleep improves and your ability to fight stress improves along with it!
Preston, J. D. (2016, April). The Habits of Stress-Resilient People. Paper presented at Institute for Brain Potential: The Habits of Stress-Resilient People, Lynnwood, WA.
To read more of our Strong Against Stress series follow to: Introduction, Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.