You have been working all day. By 9:00, your muscles feel crushed. You, somehow, manage to drag yourself another hour and complete the dishes from dinner. Finally, you move towards your room, turn the lights off and take a deep breath, happy that the day is done.
You shut your eyes and wait for a good night’s sleep.
But no, sleep does not even pass by. You flip over, change your pillow position, roll on your stomach, but the thoughts keeps on nudging your mind. You try to overpower your brain – demanding a STOP.
But, the next second, you are thinking of the red bright words, CHECK ENGINE, that you sometimes see flashing from behind your cars steering wheel. Could this be a sign of an upcoming costly problem? Your heartbeat speeds up and the stress can no more let you keep your eye closed.
You have no clue how to fight these brain intruders, so you eventually surrender. You extend your hands to your smart phone and open a social networking app, thinking that this may help.
You have actually impaired any chance of a healthy sleep.
As per fact, I and millions of others have been doing the same. A recent research showed that around 75% of the world population has trouble sleeping 3 to 4 days a week and it is adding to problems such as decreasing immunity, anxiety, gaining weight and depression.
Hence, you must make sure you receive a good night’s sleep for a better and longer life.
Here are few effective ways you can counter stress and gently have sleep settle over you.
1. Create a plan-of-action
This should be your first line of defense against stress driven sleeplessness. Take a pen and paper and start making notes. Right down, anything and everything that is disturbing your sleep – it could be your car related problem or an issue at your workplace. Plan out, whatever you could do for solving the problem in the coming day or so. Once you have a solution or possible ways out on the paper, you would definitely feel that your mind is empty enough to sleep.
2. Spend some time in prayer or meditation
Islamic history and teachings prove the importance of the remembrance of God before sleep.
The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam) said to Ali and Fatimah- (May Allah be pleased with them) after they approached him for a servant: “Shall I not direct you both to something better than a servant”?
When you go to bed say:
Subhaanallah. (Thirty-three times)
Alhamdulillah. (Thirty-three times)
Allaahu Akbar. (Thirty-four times)
…for that is indeed better for you both than a servant.’ (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)
Science too gives a little input into this. A recent research showed that people, who by any means, recall their god, before going to bed, find it easier to sleep. Researchers believe that the feeling of doing a good act and the feeling of the closeness to the God makes the brain to react in this manner.
Meditation is another way of obtaining such peace. You can play an mp3 track with a timer of 30 to 60 minutes, with sounds of nature: rainfall, wind, ocean waves and birds. A human brain is wired to these fresh sounds. This will allow your ‘thinking brain’ to calm down and drift you to sleep.
3. Take a relaxation bath
Since I live in Karachi, the coastal metropolitan of Pakistan, life here is sticky, sweaty and smoky. I have to shower almost each night before going to sleep, because if I don’t, the gift of the city will keep me up and my mind will eventually divert towards a continuous cycle of thoughts.
In conditions like mine, it is essential for you to shower each night and in case shower acts as a stimuli in staying up, as for some people, you may take a 10 min warm bath using a tub, which would relax you for bed.
4. Just say no to technology / Turn off the gadgets
It is must that you turn off all your beloved gadgets, or you would always be finding them as one resort to fight stress. You must think of them as sleep enemies. Research shows that social media, in terms of wakefulness, are neurological equivalent to one Redbull before bed.
So next time keep your electronics off and away at bedtime so that your brain knows that these would not come to rescue in any condition. The neurological acceptance would make you fight your stress yourself.
5. Play white noise while you sleep
From my personal experience I have observed that dead silence causes irritation. It makes me think of the minute sounds that can be heard, and at times sounds such minute that I start wondering if I actually heard that sound, noise or voice. This drifts the mind from sleep and causes stress. Likewise, irregular sounds, like dogs barking or trucks passing by disturbs my sleep and stimulate the stress hormones.
On my part, I cannot sleep without turning on the two fans in my room. I am a great ‘fan’ of the white noise they create, breaking the dead silence and absorbing the irregular background noises. You may use either this trick or may use air plugs, because it is always possible you are sensitive to noises you don’t know of.
6. Have a sleepy meal at dinnertime
You should try eating food containing tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium, as these nutrients promote sleep. You should also try to take carbohydrates and proteins at dinner time, while strictly avoiding coffee, chocolates and fizzy drinks – Try having a glass of milk or a bowl of yogurt, daily before bed.
7. Shift your perspective
Earlier, I used to stay up at nights, because of the fear or the excitement of the coming day. At times I couldn’t sleep because of the belief that I would not be able to sleep.
This struggle finally ended when I started assuring myself that what had to come next in the coming day could only be dealt properly if I get a right sleep. I reminded myself that night time was provided for rest and I must let go all other thoughts and relax now.
It worked for me, and I think, it would work for you or anyone else who completely believes in it.
8. Take relaxation breaks during the day
Last but not the least, you must not wait for night to fall, but should take small relaxation break(s) or at during the day, so that by the day end you are not dragging yourself to complete the left of chores. For some people power naps and for others meditation and Yoga act as a perfect relaxation break. Which one is yours?
I would love to listen to you. How effective you found this article – What works more effectively for you in managing stress and getting a peaceful sleep?
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