How to sleep when stressed

Mar 10 2020


It can be hard to sleep when stressed so here are some things that might help to improve sleep during stressful times from Senior Sleep Scientist Dr Gemma Paech.

Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise. Eating well and exercising can help with both stress and sleep. Try to limit exercise to the morning or afternoon as exercising too close to bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.

Aim to start to ‘wind down’ around 30-60 minutes before bed. Avoid stimulating activities, dim room lights, try reading a book, taking a warm bath, listening to music or doing some gentle stretching.

Some people find that mediation or mindfulness can help before bedtime. Try to imagine a relaxing scene, or focus on having slow deep breaths. A guided meditation app (there are many that are free to download such as Headspace or Smiling Mind) may help, or you could try progressive muscle relaxation techniques (try looking up this on YouTube).

If you are a worrier, set aside ‘worry time’ each day. During this time write down all your worries. Try to think about solutions or options on how to deal with these worries. Work out things you can do something about and try not to dwell on things you have no control over. When in bed, tell yourself that you won’t worry again until tomorrows ‘worry time’.

Avoid dwelling on ‘what ifs’ and ‘worst case scenarios’, especially in the 30-60 minutes before bed. If need, write these down during your ‘worry time’. 

Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Rather focus on neutral or pleasant thoughts.

If you are struggling to sleep, don’t lie in bed for a long time. If you are getting frustrated or very alert, get out of bed and sit in a quiet, dark room. Claim your thoughts (using one of the tips above if needed) and return to bed when you are more relaxed or when you feel sleepy again.