18 Stress Fixes for Better Sleep

When stress interrupts your sleep on a nightly basis, it sets you up for a chronic insomnia that can send you sliding down the rabbit’s hole toward sleeping pills, alcohol, and chocolate cake at night and a zillion cups of coffee during the day. Here’s how to step back from that precipice.


  • 1.

    Target the enemy.

    “Every night a couple of hours before bed, sit down and make a list of all the issues, problems, and things you have to deal with,” says Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. “Next to each item, write a solution or plan.” If you’re mad at your mother-in-law, for example, the solution could be to call her and talk it out.   Even if it’s not something you want to do, write down your ideas for dealing with each stressor you’ve listed, urges Dr. Arand. Then mull the solutions over.   When you’re ready for bed, put the list by the bedroom door. That way, if thoughts of your problems arise as you’re trying to sleep, you can tell yourself, “I’ve got a plan and I’ll work on it tomorrow,” says Dr. Arand. The reassuring presence of your plan by the door will give it a concrete reality that will allow you to shift your mind to more peaceful things.

  • 2.

    Put your work in perspective.

    A Canadian health agency that tracks health-related statistics reported recently that on-the-job stress has reached alarming levels. They point to the fact that the workplace no longer has any boundaries and that work has spread into every corner of your life. It’s gotten to the point that 52 percent of employees take work home — almost double the number who did in 1990. What’s more, 69 percent of employees check their work e-mail from home, 59 percent check voice mail after hours, 30 percent accept work-related faxes at home, and 29 percent keep their cell phones on at all times.   Not surprisingly, 46 percent feel this work-related intrusion is a stressor, and 44 percent report “negative spillover” onto their families. A poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 52 percent of American workers said that work interfered with their responsibilities to their families. The problem, however, is not just that work is intruding into familial life, it’s that it’s actually interfering with the most effective buffers to workplace stress available.   A joint study of 314 workers conducted by the University of South Australia and the University of Rotterdam found that workers with higher levels of active leisurely activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and social activity, were able not only to bounce back from workplace stress better than their always-on-the-job coworkers but also sleep significantly better than others.

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