Wondering how to fall asleep when stressed?
Do you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, watching the minutes tick by on the clock, as your mind races through all the stressful thoughts that refuse to let you rest?
We've all been there - those sleepless nights when our worries seem to consume us, leaving us with nothing but exhaustion and frustration. Actually, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic, or ongoing, sleep disorders.
When stress is abundant, sleep can sometimes take a backseat. Many people are familiar with the feeling of lying in bed wide awake and unable to relax, despite how exhausted they may feel.
Stress can play a major role in our sleeping patterns - not only does it make it harder for us to fall asleep at night, but the quality of our sleep can become more shallow. This results in waking up feeling unrested and even more exhausted than when you went to bed.
Poor sleep from stress has various detrimental effects on our well-being, such as decreased immune system functioning, heightened anxiety levels, and difficulty focusing during the day.
This blog post aims to provide practical strategies to help you fall asleep despite stress. From self-care practices to sleep hygiene tips, here are some key steps you can take to ease your mind and body before bed.
Understanding the Link Between Stress and Sleep
Our bodies respond to stress in many different ways, including affecting our sleep patterns. When we find ourselves in a stressful situation, our body releases hormones like cortisol which can disrupt our ability to fall asleep. Cortisol is often known as the 'stress hormone' and its release turns on the fight or flight response, which can hinder our ability to relax and drift off to sleep.
This stress response primes us with energy and alertness, making it difficult for us to switch into the relaxed state necessary for a good night of rest. When we’re overwhelmed by worry or fear, sleep is often the last thing on our minds - but it’s important to realize that addressing our stress is key for improving sleep quality.
Practical Strategies to Fall Asleep Despite Stress
Identify the sources of your stress and develop a plan to manage it
It’s important to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings we have during times of stress rather than trying to ignore or push them away. Acknowledge them without judgement - let yourself feel the emotions, and allow your thoughts to pass through without attachment.
Addressing the underlying sources of stress in our lives is necessary.
Identify what is causing you distress, and develop a plan for managing these issues over time.
Is it work-related? Consider ways to reduce stress at the office, such as planning ahead and delegating tasks.
Is it a personal problem that you’re dealing with? Make sure you have a strong support system of people who can provide advice or just listen when needed.
Sometimes all we need to do is acknowledge the stress and identify what it's trying to communicate to us.
When we ignore the stress, it tends to grow and expand and feel way worst than it needs to.
When we can tackle the stress head on, we can identify a plan of action to handle the stress. This puts us back in control and alleviates the stress because there are actionable steps versus being in a helpless state.
By addressing the sources of our stress, we can better manage its negative effects on our bodies and minds - including improving our ability to fall asleep at night.
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Write down any worries or anxieties in a journal before bed
When we try to push away our worries and anxieties before bed, they can often linger in the back of our minds. Instead of allowing them to take over your sleeping environment, consider writing down these thoughts in a journal.
This can help you process all these feelings without having to worry about carrying them throughout the night. Journaling is also a great way to identify triggers or patterns that may be causing your stress.
If you find yourself worrying about something specific before bed, take a few minutes to create a “worry list” where you jot down all the things that are bothering you or keeping you up at night.This will take some of the burden off your mind, help clear your head and prepare your body for restful sleep.
Take steps to manage your stress throughout the day
Managing stress throughout the day can help to reduce its impact on our sleep.
The key is to take time for yourself and actually give ourselves moments of rest. 5, 10, 15 minutes- whatever fits our schedule.
In those moment of rest, do something that allows your brain to quiet.
This could be something as simple as taking a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or engaging in some light physical activity like walking or stretching.
It could be doing a mundane household task like washing the dishes.
It could be an activity you love like painting or drawing.
Find an activity that works best for you that takes you out of the stress and into the present moment.
Stressful situations are inevitable, however we can create a sense of self-awareness and control by responding mindfully to our emotions. This could be through practicing meditation or mindfulness, yoga, art therapy or any other type of activity that helps you stay connected to your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.
By balancing our stress levels throughout the day, we can better equip ourselves with the tools needed to fall asleep peacefully at night.
Every person is different, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to managing stress. It may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for you - but once you do, it will be well worth the effort to get a good night of restful sleep.
We all know that feeling of exhaustion after a stressful day – it can be hard to switch off and go to sleep even when we’re physically tired. What we may not realize is that the food we eat throughout the day can have a big effect on our ability to fall asleep, or lack thereof.
It’s no secret that stress can take a toll on our emotions, and it’s easy to turn to unhealthy food choices for comfort. Eating unhealthier when stressed often leads to an increased production of cortisol – the primary stress hormone – which prevents us from feeling relaxed.
Certain foods can also interfere with sleep quality once we lay down in bed. Consuming caffeine too close to bedtime can cause a spike in cortisol and interfere with our sleep cycles. Heavy meals or excessive sugar can also make it harder to transition into a restful state.
Instead, eating foods that contain tryptophan – an amino acid found in foods like turkey, cheese and nuts – and magnesium – found in spinach, quinoa and almonds – may help reduce stress and promote better sleep. Swap junk food for protein dense foods like cold cuts or a hard boiled egg.
Incorporating a few of these foods into your diet may be just what your body needs to relax and have a good night’s rest.
Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day. 68.5% of people consume caffeine in the evening (after 6pm), but having caffeine too late can cause significant sleep issues. Instead, opt for herbal teas like chamomile which can help induce relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Remember, it’s important to take steps throughout the day to manage our stress levels so that we can fall asleep more easily at night. By eating the right foods and implementing techniques that work for you, you will be well on your way to getting the restful sleep you deserve.
Establishing a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Having a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most effective things you can do to improve your sleep quality. When we have an irregular or chaotic sleep schedule, it can cause our cortisol levels to rise and create an overall feeling of stress.
Also, staying up late overthinking or worrying about the things that are causing us stress does not help either. This can lead to a vicious cycle of stress and lack of sleep.
That’s why establishing a regular sleep schedule is so important, even on weekends or days off. Setting yourself a consistent wake-up time will help your body adjust to the same rhythm every day. This helps regulate our circadian rhythms, which in turn keeps us feeling energized throughout the day and allows us to fall asleep more easily at night.
It’s also important to note that sometimes our bodies just need a bit of extra rest. Whether it’s taking an afternoon nap or going to bed earlier than usual, honoring your body's needs can make all the difference when it comes to getting quality sleep.
By cultivating good sleep habits and making necessary lifestyle changes to reduce your stress levels, you can ensure that the next time you fall asleep, it will be a restful night.
Creating a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Creating a bedtime routine is one of the most important steps in easing stress and ensuring quality sleep. When we create consistency in our pre-sleep habits, our body better understands when it’s time to rest.
Having a consistent nightly ritual can help calm your mind and relax your body, preparing you for slumber. Some ideas include reading a book, doing some gentle stretches or yoga poses, writing in a journal, or engaging in deep breathing exercises.
It’s also important to avoid screens before bed — this includes phones, laptops, TVs and tablets. Blue light from screens can be disruptive to our circadian rhythms and melatonin production, making it harder for us to fall asleep.
Along with the blue light, avoid taking in media 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed. If we are taking in media that is either stressful or triggering to us, even mildly, that will affect our subconscious mind and could interfere with our sleep quality. So, choose activities that are calming and peaceful for your pre-sleep routine.
By implementing a regular bedtime routine and avoiding screens or stressful media before bed, we can create an environment that is conducive to relaxation and getting quality rest.
Environment Optimization for Better Sleep
The environment we sleep in can also play a major role in our ability to relax and fall asleep. It's essential that the bedroom is set up for relaxation, with comfortable mattresses, proper room temperature, minimal light and noise. If your mattress isn’t supportive enough or is too hard, it won't help you to rest properly. And if the noise level is too high or the temperature is uncomfortable, it can make it hard to drift off.
If external noise such as traffic or neighborhood noises are a concern, consider using white noise machines or calming music to drown out disruptive sound. A fan pointed away from you can also be helpful in creating an environment of soothing sounds that will help your mind relax and transition into sleep.
Black out blinds or eye masks can also be helpful in blocking out light and ensuring a restful sleep. Investing in these tools for better sleep is an excellent way to create an environment that is conducive to relaxation.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom and make it a space for relaxation only. When we bring electronics into the bedroom, we subconsciously create associations with the bedroom that we do not want. We want the bedroom to be associated with calm, relaxation, and sleep, not associations of stress.
Creating the right environment for sleeping is essential to relaxing your body and having quality shut-eye. By taking the necessary steps to optimize your sleep environment, you can ensure that your bedroom is a place of peace and tranquility - helping you transition into better, more restful sleep.
Practicing Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing is an effective relaxation practice that can help reduce stress and tension in the body. To engage in deep breathing, sit or lie down comfortably, close your eyes, and take a slow breath in through your nose. As you breathe out through your mouth, count to four slowly.
As you do this, focus on how your body feels — pay attention to how the breath feels as it moves in and out of your body. After a few rounds, you should be feeling more relaxed and calm.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that can help reduce stress and encourage a better night’s sleep. This practice involves tensing and releasing certain muscles groups throughout the body. Start by tensing your toes for five seconds, then release. Do this for all the major muscle groups — your calves, thighs, arms, shoulders, and neck.
By consciously tensing each muscle group and releasing it afterwards, our bodies can relax from head-to-toe. This helps establish a sense of relaxation in the body that can help us to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
Mindfulness is a practice of being in the present moment and observing our thoughts without judgment. To incorporate mindfulness into your sleep routine, try focusing on an object for 10-15 minutes before bed. This could be something simple like a candle or a plant — just let yourself observe it without thinking too much about it.
By doing this, we are able to observe our thoughts and be present in the moment without getting caught up in them. This can help us to transition into sleep more easily, as we are not attaching any emotion or judgment to our thoughts.
Whether it’s deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness or a combination of all three, incorporating relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine is an effective way to prepare the body and mind for sleep.
For more grounding and relaxation techniques, check out this article.
Use a Hypnosis Recording Designed for Sleep
Sometimes, it can be difficult to relax our minds without external help. Hypnosis can be a great tool for relaxation and calming our stress levels.
Hypnosis recordings are designed to talk you through different steps of relaxation or meditation, allowing your body to drift off into sleep with ease. These recordings often come in the form of podcasts or videos found online — some of which are even tailored specifically to helping with sleep.
Listening to a hypnosis recording before bed can help us clear and calm the mind, allowing our bodies to settle into relaxation more easily. Many people find that this helps them achieve better quality sleep than they would be able to without it.
Hypnosis recordings don’t necessarily have to be used exclusively for sleep, though. They can also be helpful for winding down after a stressful day or transitioning out of a busy workday. If you’re feeling overly anxious or stressed, taking some time to listen to a hypnosis recording can help ground you and bring your focus back into the present moment — allowing you to drift off into a peaceful sleep.
I have a few free resources you can use:
Cognitive Strategies to Manage Stress
Journaling has been a helpful practice for many people when it comes to managing stress and anxiety. It can be as simple as writing down a few things you are grateful for each day, or making note of any thoughts that have been on your mind. Taking the time to unload your worries onto paper can help clear your head and free up mental energy, allowing you to relax and sleep more easily.
Another effective technique for managing stress is cognitive restructuring. This involves challenging and reframing any negative thought patterns that might be running through your head. By becoming aware of the thoughts you are having, you can use some simple techniques to challenge them and shift your perspective on things.
For example, if you find yourself worrying about the future, try to focus on the present and all of the things you have in your life right now. Instead of ruminating over what could go wrong, list off some of the positive possibilities that could come from a certain situation. By challenging our thoughts and shifting our perspectives, we can reduce stress levels and allow ourselves to drift off into sleep more easily.
When to Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, our sleep problems run deeper than just managing stress and anxiety. If you find that your struggles with sleep are persistent — or if there is an underlying condition like insomnia or narcolepsy at play — it may be beneficial to seek professional help.
Talking to a doctor about your sleep issues can help you to gain insight into potential causes of difficulty sleeping, as well as any underlying conditions that could be playing a role. A healthcare professional may also recommend medication or therapy to help you manage your sleep issues more effectively.
If you’re feeling hesitant about seeking help, try to remember all of the potential benefits it could bring. Professional treatment for sleep problems can provide a sense of relief and stability, helping you to create a routine that allows you to drift off into sleep without worrying.
Thinking about Starting Therapy? I put together some tips for you here.
At the end of the day, if you feel like you’ve tried every relaxation technique under the sun yet still can’t seem to fall asleep, there may be some subconscious motivators that are working against you. As a hypnotherapist who works with clients with sleep issues, I have helped many clients reclaim their right to restful sleep.
By taking an individualized approach to your care, I can guide you through the process of managing stress and anxiety and developing a healthy sleep routine. Together, we can work on uncovering the root causes of your sleep issues to put in place strategies that will allow you to drift off into peaceful sleep.
If this sounds like something that could help you, feel free to send me an email or give me a call. I would be more than happy to discuss how we could work together to create the sleep routine of your dreams.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you are in control of your own health and wellbeing. If your sleep problems are persisting and nothing seems to be helping, then don't hesitate to seek professional help. Doing so could drastically improve your quality of sleep and your overall wellbeing.
No matter what route you take, remember that there are many effective strategies for managing stress and anxiety so that you can achieve quality restful sleep. Finding the right techniques for you can make a huge difference — allowing you to wake up feeling energized and ready to tackle whatever comes your way!
LEARN MORE: What is Hypnotherapy and How Does It Work
Falling asleep can be a difficult task when we're feeling anxious or stressed. But with the right strategies and techniques, it is possible to calm our minds and drift off into peaceful restful sleep. Whether it's cognitive restructuring, hypnosis recordings, or journaling that works for you — there are plenty of options at your disposal to help manage stress levels and achieve quality sleep. Remember that you are in control of your own wellbeing, and if all else fails seek professional help to get the sleep routine of your dreams!
Good luck, deep breaths, and sweet dreams!