18 Stress Fixes for Better Sleep

Reducing stress can impact your sleep significantly. Here are 20 smart ways to calm down and rest up.

By Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain from Sleep to Be Sexy Smart and Slim


  • 3.

    Take charge of your gadgets.

    Although each new, more multifaceted electronic device that appears in the marketplace promises to make the logistics of our lives a snap, they may actually tie us into too many never-ending webs.   First we have to pay for them. Then we have to master how to use them. Next we have to show them off by contacting our network of business associates and friends. They will, of course, respond in kind. Being able to keep in touch with the kids is a boon to working parents. Allowing the office to track you down after hours is not. We need to keep the two things separate, save discrete times in the day to receive and answer business e-mails, and learn to screen the after 6:00 P.M. cell phone calls. That goes for the whole rest of the evening as well. It also wouldn’t hurt if everyone in the family turned off their devices  for a stress-free dinner. And under no circumstances should you check your e-mail right before bed.

  • 4.

    Do with less.

    According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 4 of the top 10 stressors we experience are related to money — how we get it and how we spend it. Given that, doesn’t it make sense that if we want less and are content with less — smaller houses, fewer gadgets, and simpler forms of transportation — our stress levels will go down?   Perhaps that applies to our career choices as well. Do you really want to work yourself to death to be the woman in charge of the world? Or will just being in charge of a small portion of it make you happy and let you sleep? A recent poll of nearly 2,000 Americans reveals that 22 percent declined a promotion or refused to seek one because they thought the job would be too stressful.

  • 5.

    Give a nod to a nap.

    It’s doubly unfortunate that stress makes it hard to get to sleep because, chemically speaking, the antidote to stress is sleep, says Sara Mednick, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. That’s because when you’re asleep, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop and your levels of growth hormone — cortisol’s opposite number — significantly rise.   Unfortunately, if you’re getting the typical working woman’s six hours of sleep (or less) a night, you’re sleep deprived on a chemical level — your cortisol’s too high and your growth hormone never gets enough time on the streets to hit its stride.    There is a way to tamp down the cortisol and get a hit of growth hormone during the day, however. And that’s by taking a nap.   It’s true that several naps during the day, particularly after dinner, will reduce your ability to fall sleep at your usual 11:00 P.M. bedtime, but studies show that one nap of up to 90 minutes between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 P.M. will not interfere, says Dr. Mednick. In fact, it will reenergize anyone who’s not dead.   Begin orienting your body to afternoon naps with a 20-minute period of quiet relaxation that occurs at the same time every day, says Dr. Mednick. If you have a sofa in your office, all the better, but you can create a temporary nap place with a chair and an improvised ottoman. You may want to keep a pillow and an alarm clock at work, too, for nap time. Some cities even have sleeping pod franchises where you can rent a comfortable sleeping chair for 20-minute naps for less than $15. But what about your job? “If you can take a 20-minute break to run to Starbucks for coffee,” says Dr. Mednick, “you can find 20 minutes for a nap.” If your employer objects, send him or her to Dr. Mednick. She will be happy to show him data from NASA studies demonstrating that a 26-minute nap boosts on-the-job performance by 34 percent.

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