9 Ways To Get a Better Night’s Sleep When Stressed

Even when it feels impossible.

By: Emma Lunsford

Stress is one of those inevitable emotions that we all experience from time to time. Increased stress is a major culprit for many health risks, and it can wreak havoc on our sleep. Whether you’re ruminating over past events or stressing about the future, getting some quality shuteye can be difficult with all of those racing thoughts. I mean, how are you supposed to fall into deep REM when your mind is running a million miles an hour? Sleep can feel like an impossible feat. But, it doesn’t have to be! The good news is that there are simple stress-busting tips (that actually work) to support your mind and body and help you get the deep sleep you deserve. A good night’s snooze is just a scroll away!

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Sleep

How Stress Negatively Affects Sleep

“Losing sleep over something” is a pretty accurate way of describing how stress ruins your night. The worry or panic helps you miss out on valuable snooze hours. And unfortunately, lack of sleep only hikes up more stress hormones.

Here’s the thing. Stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, regulate our flight/fight/freeze response. They’re super important parts of our survival mechanism. And if you’re stressed about something, like a pressing deadline, your survival mechanisms are on.

When you’re in survival mode, your body deems it “unsafe” to fall asleep because it misinterprets whatever you’re stressed about as a threat to your life. So, of course, it’s hard to fall asleep!

But don’t worry! It’s not all bad. We just have to learn how to regulate this response to work for us —  to stress about appropriate things. You can start by training your body to relax when you want it to. 

9 Must-Try Hacks to Help You Sleep When Stressed

Attempting to fall asleep when stressed can seriously feel like you’re fighting a battle against yourself. But instead of forcing yourself to sleep, which can actually just stress you out, even more, try out some of these helpful hacks!

#1 Sleep Meditation

Meditation makes the cut for most wellbeing listicles for a reason: it’s incredible. Meditation trains your mind to focus and drown out all of the other worries — just what you need for sleep! It’s also been around for long enough now that meditation specifically designed to help you sleep exists! 

And, if you’re new to meditation, giving a sleep meditation a try can be more approachable. Simply prepare for bed and press play on one of our FitOn meditations! We’ll talk you through the rest.

Sleep Yoga Nidra with DeAndre Sinette: This 20-minute sleep meditation will lull you into a deeply restorative state. Aside from helping you snooze, this Yoga Nidra will have you feeling calm, rested, and energized the next day!

Deepest Sleep Ever with DeAndre Sinette: Trouble sleeping? Try this guided meditation to help quiet the mind and help you drift off into a restful night’s sleep.

Sleep Well with Amanda Gilbert: Easily drift off into sleep and wake up in the morning, feeling refreshed and well slept from the night before.

Peace Out Bedtime with Amanda Gilbert: Say peace out to your day and hello to sleep with these soothing mindful mantras focused on peace and ease.

#2 Try The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique 

Training your body and brain to relax is a lot about focusing on who you are being. So think about who you are when you’re relaxed? What does your body do? How does it respond to things? What’s your breathing like?

Replicate who you are when you’re relaxed. This is why deep breathing can be so effective. Relaxed breathing is slow and controlled. And it essentially causes the brain to say, “Oh, I’m breathing like a relaxed person. I must be relaxed!” *turns off stress response*

Deep breathing could be as simple as taking in a few deep inhales or exhales or using a particular rhythm to help you focus, such as the 4-7-8 technique.  

To start this technique, begin by taking a big deep breath and exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound. Next, start the 4-7-8 technique.

Step #1: Inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. 

Step #2: Exhale through your mouth, again making a whooshing sound for a count of eight. 

One cycle of this counts as one breath. Repeat a total of four times. 

#3 Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Again, when we’re talking about how to sleep when stressed, pay attention to who you need to be to feel calm. When you’re relaxed, your muscles feel light and loose. So make your muscle feel light and loose with progressive muscle relaxation!

Try these FitOn guided meditations to get started. 

Deep Body Relax: In this deep relax body scan meditation, you will find yourself asleep in no time.

Body Scan: Cultivate mindfulness by moving through the body one part at a time. This is an ancient technique that will help clear the mind of any superfluous activity.

#4 A Warm Shower or Bath

Your body’s cooling system naturally turns on to initiate sleep. You can speed up the process by taking a warm shower or bath! Your body will try to cool itself down in response to the warm water, which could help the sleep process. 

#5 Relaxing Yoga

Meditative movement is amazing for stepping into those relaxed vibes. And yoga? It is the go-to meditative movement around. You don’t even need equipment! 

Try this FitOn Tension Release yoga class with Vytas. 

Tension Release: The way we carry stress in our bodies can lead to discomfort and injury. This tension release practice will leave you feeling lighter and at ease.

#6 Create a Calming Ritual

Our bodies thrive off of routines. But, routines can also be used in the wrong way. For instance, if every night, you go to bed stressed, you’ve now created an expectation — a routine — of being stressed at night. To promote the best sleep possible, we want to break the cycle by going to bed relaxed.

You can do this by creating a calming before-bed ritual. It can include any of the above tips or other things entirely, as long as when you actually get in bed, you feel relaxed enough to fall asleep. And eventually, if you do it consistently, the routine will just automatically trigger rest. Easy peasy!

Other things you can include in your calming ritual, include aromatherapy, decluttering or organizing a space, brain dumping or journaling, sipping a calming, herbal tea, or reading a book. 

#7 Eat a Sleep-Supporting Snack or Dinner

Your diet plays a large role in sleep — so, as you can imagine, your last meal of the day is important! In general, eating a protein and complex carb-focused meal (such as salmon and sweet potato) that’s not too rich or too heavy (skip the processed fats, added sugar, and calorie-rich sauce and dressing) can help regulate your blood sugar and keep you satiated and satisfied throughout the night.

And aside from dinner, you’ll want to load up essential nutrients throughout the day, too! According to research, sleep issues are associated with a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K). So, make sure you’re loading up on a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats to get all those good-for-you nutrients in!

RELATED: The 8 Best Healthy Late Night Snacks

#8 Give Acupuncture (Or Other Alternative Therapies) A Try 

Research suggests that alternative medicine modalities such as acupuncture and acupressure may be beneficial for reducing stress and improving sleep. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, acupuncture may be a great addition to add to your sleep-supporting toolbox, especially during times of stress. 

#9 Keep a Journal Next to Your Bed

Even if journaling is part of your calming bedtime ritual, try keeping a blank journal and pen next to your bed. If you’re prone to racing thoughts, having a journal within arms reach can help quiet the mind and alleviate some of those anxious thoughts. This is especially helpful if you wake up in the middle of the night with a wandering mind. Simply grab your journal and get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper!

Enjoy Those Super Peaceful Snoozes!

Now you know pretty much everything you need on how to sleep when stressed. And in no time at all, you’ll be racking up the shut-eye more than ever before! Just remember: the more you force sleep, the less likely you are to fall asleep because you’re amping yourself up in frustration. Go easy on yourself! You’re doing the best you can. 

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