A good night’s sleep: It’s foundational to health, but often overlooked. If you’re struggling with getting enough sleep, you may find yourself feeling tired, irritable and unproductive. Two factors – reducing stress and creating structure – can be instrumental in helping you reclaim sleep. Geoffrey Rulong, MD, a pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist with ProMedica Physicians, explains why.
Try to Reduce Your Stress
Stress has a way of creeping in to many aspects of our lives, especially our sleep habits. And right now, it can be difficult to manage.
“We’re all having a lot of stress regarding the uncertainty in our lives right now,” says Dr. Rulong. “We’re worried about getting sick, we’re worried about our jobs. This leads to stress and anxiety, which can lead to insomnia or difficulty sleeping.”
As much as possible, try to reduce the stress in your life. Dr. Rulong suggests making it a priority to have some time each day for yourself.
“This can definitely be challenging, especially if you have little kids, but you need to set aside some time for physical activity, enjoying a hobby, talking to friends or family members, or some sort of outlet to reduce stress in your life,” he explains.
Create a Daytime and Sleep Routine
Letting go of daily routine can sometimes feel relaxing and freeing, like during a vacation or at the start of retirement. But having some structure plays an important role in our health and managing our stress levels.
And it’s not just about sticking to a bedtime. It’s about our daytime routines, too.
“Structure is very helpful for sleep and reducing anxiety because the stress is taken away because we know what is coming next. It allows us to take control of our lives, and right now we may feel like we don’t have control,” explains Dr. Rulong. “Try being consistent with your daytime schedule – schedule a time to wake up, meal times, work time, socializing time, physical activity. Really try to have order to your daily routine.”
For those with insomnia, consistency around sleep is especially important. Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Dr. Rulong recommends setting an alarm for 7-8 hours after you go to bed, then getting up when that alarm goes off. Laying in bed in the morning can affect your sleep pattern.
“Another thing you can do is minimize napping,” advises Dr. Rulong. “If you had a poor night’s sleep the night before, you can try to nap for about 30 minutes, but really try to limit it to no more than that in the morning and early afternoon.”
Remember that you don’t have to do too much, too soon. Find small ways to work toward reducing stress and building a daily routine. Little by little, you’ll find your way to a healthier sleep pattern.