Like an irritating car alarm that keeps going off in the street, stress will stop you from getting to sleep and sometimes worse still, keeps you awake when all around are sleeping soundly. However, if you think of it in terms of perspective, you can’t blame your body systems for jumping in to help. It was not that long ago in human history that stress would have probably meant a life-threatening event was surrounding you and it would indeed be unwise to simply drift off to sleep. Fast forward to 2022 and we have out-evolved the benefit of this protective reflex as stress is no longer an animal with teeth trying to catch and eat us, but has been replaced with the daily drip feed of danger signals coming from the ever present news feeds and modern world stresses. These may not be the life-threatening events of old but our bodies still retain the defence mechanisms of old - the ‘fight and flight’ response driven by adrenaline and other stress hormones. Is it any wonder that sleep problems are becoming so common in our evermore connected and media driven world?
10 top tips for resetting your sleep pattern
While it would be naive to think that this little article could cure all our stresses and sleepless issues, there are some general tricks and tips that may help all sufferers irrespective of the underlying poor sleep triggers.
These tips might sound obvious but correcting just a couple can have profound effects on your sleep pattern.
The technique known as progressive muscular relaxation dates back to the 1920’s when it’s father, the Psychiatrist Dr Edmund Jacobson, first stared to recognise the connection between muscular tension and emotional tension. He eventually published his book in 1934 aimed at a general readership entitled ‘You Must Relax’ where he described his techniques in detail.
While things may have moved on a bit since, the basic concepts still hold today and his techniques still have a lot to offer.
Progressive relaxation is a very easy technique and can offer specific support in getting ready to sleep.
Simply work from your neck down to your toes; select a muscle group, say your shoulders to start with. For a count of 5 seconds, contract the shoulders tight as you can then relax that muscle group completely. Now, move to the muscles of your upper arms (biceps) and repeat the same 5 seconds contraction followed by relaxation cycle. Work through to your forearms and hands making fists. Repeat now with the muscles of your bottom, then your thighs then your lower legs. Work to isolate the specific areas and not contract everything at once!
Repeat this cycle once or a few times until you feel you have relaxed / reset any muscular tensions that may be hampering feeling comfortable and getting to sleep.
For those looking to understand or manage their stress a few sessions with a stress counsellor may help. Learning to identify the key stress triggers and working to manage your response to it can unlock a level of control that in time can tame the beast and help you regain an inner peace and in turn enjoy natural sleep once more.
A look online or in the health store or pharmacy will reveal many options so it is important to talk to your doctor, pharmacist of a qualified health professional before taking any over the counter product especially if you are already taking prescribed medication or are pregnant or breast feeding. Products containing ingredients such as valerian, magnesium, hops, L-theanine, passiflora and Lactium either as single ingredients or as combinations are worth considering.