Many people have experienced a rise in stress in the past few months. Sleep problems arising from that stress have some people seeking natural ways to reduce stress and enjoy the restorative sleep we all need.
Self-quarantine, social isolation, closed schools, lost jobs, fears of infection, and not knowing what lies around the corner are all weighing heavily on our minds. Even the vacations that would help us unwind have been put on hold indefinitely.
Of course, for some people, the slowdown resulting from the pandemic has been a chance to unwind. But for others, it has brought on entirely new problems.
For people facing unexpected and unwelcome upheaval, stress and anxiety can take a significant toll on the body, mind, and spirit, contributing to health concerns.
Sleep deprivation, one of those problems, feeds a vicious cycle: You are stressed and anxious during the day and can’t sleep, and due to lack of sleep, you are more stressed and anxious as you try to get through the day.
Strategies to Reduce Stress
It’s been said that knowing other people share your suffering can help you better cope. However, the best strategy is to take action. Here are a few ways to reduce stress naturally.
Self-care: Practice some self-love routines. A massage, bubble bath, home facial, dry brushing, and self-manicure can be a way to tend to yourself. Self-care can also mean taking the time to do something you really enjoy and makes you feel good about yourself.
Deep breathing exercises: Try this simple stress reducer several times throughout the day: Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of eight, hold it for four to five seconds, then release through your mouth to the count of seven. Repeat three to five times each session.
Practice yoga. You don’t need to put yourself into a pretzel pose. Watch a beginner’s yoga lesson on video or TV and practice a few simple poses every day. The combination of controlled breathing with poses and meditation can do wonders for reducing stress.
Be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the moment-by-moment passage of your feelings, thoughts, and environment. Allow yourself to put the past and future aside, and focus on what is before you—and inside you.
Nourish yourself. Treat your body, mind, and spirit to nutritious, whole foods, and minimize or eliminate processed foods as much as possible. This approach will help keep you in balance.
Enjoy exercise. Physical activity releases the feel-good hormones known as endorphins. It also improves the health of your heart and nervous system, and enhances mood. Make it a point to do activities that you enjoy every day, such as walking, biking, jazzercise, tai chi, swimming, or gardening.
Strategies to Improve Sleep
To really make sure you unwind and get the best sleep possible, it’s a good idea to combine your favorite strategies to reduce stress with ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
Tune out. You may love your electronic devices, but they aren’t sleep-friendly. Tune out or turn them off at least one hour before retiring. Their blue light interferes with the sleep hormone melatonin.
Keep a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even the weekends. Resist taking a nap in the afternoon (unless it’s truly needed) and avoid staying up late and then sleeping in. These habits can play havoc with your circadian rhythm.
Chill out. Before bedtime, enjoy a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath, or drinking a cup of chamomile tea. Meditation is a great way to deeply unwind. An essential oil diffuser with lavender, rose, or peppermint oils can help provide a calming atmosphere.
Use a natural supplement. A wide variety of natural supplements can help calm the mind and relax the body—both essential to the goal of getting a restful night’s sleep. Let’s look at some of those possibilities.
Supplements for Stress and Sleep
The above strategies can go a long way toward relieving stress and aiding restful sleep. However, sometimes a natural supplement can also help.
D-Stress: The key ingredient in this supplement is steam-distilled lavender oil, known for its ability to help relieve stress and restlessness. Lavender has several constituents, including linalool and linalyl acetate, which work in the body to promote relaxation.
Sleep 8: This supplement includes some of the most effective natural sleep aids available, such as chamomile, hops, passionflower, melatonin, skullcap, catnip, and magnesium.
Merry Mind Omega 3: This contains the healthy essential fat known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) It’s called essential because the body doesn’t produce EPA, so it’s important to keep providing it in the form of foods, such as certain fatty fish, or supplements.
Joyful. This supplement contains 11 botanical extracts, vitamins, and amino acids that can benefit mood and cognition, and also restore calm to the nervous system. Those ingredients include 5-HTP, tryptophan, vitamin D3, methylfolate, methylcobalamin (B12), vitamin B6, L-theanine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), san qi, phellodentron, and magnolia.
GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an amino acid that plays a critical role in calming the nervous system. Once you take GABA, it interferes with GABA receptors, which, in turn, ultimately reduces the excitability of neurons and promotes stress reduction.
L-Theanine. Green tea is the source of this amino acid, which has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This allows it to boost alpha brain-wave frequency, which in turn reduces stress. But green tea also contains caffeine, so if you are getting your L-theanine there, don’t drink it close to bedtime.
The unprecedented levels of stress that many people face today take their toll. Sleep problems are important to address because sleep is when our body restores itself: Heart rate decreases, tissues are repaired, growth hormones are secreted, immune system cells are produced, cellular waste is cleaned out, and stress hormones are turned off.
A combination of lifestyle changes is the most crucial way to ensure good sleep but high-quality supplements designed to address these concerns can also help.
Lisa Roth Collins is a registered holistic nutritionist and the marketing manager at NaturallySavvy.com, which first published this article.