Ask the therapist: What can I do to sleep better and have less stress?

In the “Consulting Therapist” series, I will answer all your questions about mental health and psychology. Whether you are struggling with a mental health condition, coping with anxiety about living conditions, or just seeking the insights of a therapist, you can submit a question. Please pay attention to my answers to your questions in the Healthy Mind newsletter every Thursday.

Our readers ask

During the epidemic, I was stressed and couldn’t sleep. And I realized that not sleeping makes it harder to manage stress. I am not particularly stressed about one thing. I just feel pressured by everything. I am very tired during the day. And I don’t think I can do much. what can I do?

Amy’s answer

What you describe is a common problem—especially during a pandemic. Stress can cause difficulty sleeping, and difficulty sleeping can cause more stress. This is a cycle that is difficult to break. You may be wondering which problem to solve first. Fortunately, you can handle both at the same time.

Talk to your doctor

However, the first thing to do. Talk to your doctor to see if you have any potential health problems that may affect your sleep. Your doctor may wish to conduct a sleep study or perform some tests to ensure that medical problems are not blamed.

Committed to good sleep hygiene

It is important to understand the unhealthy habits that may interfere with good sleep. Sometimes a small change (or even a change) can greatly help you sleep better. Here are some things that can help:

  • Don’t play with mobile phones in the room while you sleep. Although it may be tempting to use your phone as an alarm clock or scroll through social media when you can’t fall asleep, placing your phone nearby may interfere with your sleep.
  • Eliminate screen time before going to bed. Watching TV in bed or reading articles on your laptop may keep you awake. The light from the screen can interfere with the production of melatonin in your brain and wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.
  • Don’t work in bed. Whether you are writing a report or paying a bill, working in bed may allow your brain to associate the bedroom with stressful activity.
  • Don’t consume caffeine later in the day. When you feel tired, you may want to rely on caffeine to stay awake during the day. But this will make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Don’t let yourself sleep in on rest days. Going to bed as late as possible seems to be a good way to make up for sleep. But in the long run, it will cause more sleep problems because it will disrupt your body’s sleep/wake time. Try to establish a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it (even on rest days).
  • Exposure to light during the day. Whether you are out for a walk at lunch time or sitting near a window, exposure to natural light during the day is good for your brain. It can help you sleep better.

Practice good self-care

When you solve your sleep problem head-on, try your best to manage your stress. Exercising a lot and eating a healthy diet are two good starting points.

Since you said that your stress levels have increased during the pandemic, but you are not sure why, you may want to limit your media consumption.

Watching news reports on the death toll and reading articles predicting economic collapse will keep you on high alert. This may seriously affect your mental health and sleep ability.

Consider receiving news once a day at a fixed time-such as the first thing in the morning or the first thing in the evening.

And pay attention to the tendency to blindly browse social media. You may find that checking your social media accounts will also increase your pain.

Incorporate healthy stress reduction strategies into your day

Set aside some time in your day to relieve stress in a healthy way. Try different strategies to see which strategy suits you best. Yoga, meditation, journaling, and deep breathing are just a few examples of relaxation activities that can help you feel more peaceful.

There are many applications that can also help you relieve stress (such as those that provide guided meditation).

The key is to arrange time throughout the day to focus on calming the brain and body. This is especially important when you feel overwhelmed.

Seek professional help

If your efforts to improve sleep or reduce stress do not help, consult a licensed mental health professional.

You may be wondering how talking to someone makes you feel better, but cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be an effective way to help people sleep better and manage stress more effectively.

If you don’t want to see the therapist face to face, you can consider online therapy. The online treatment service allows you to communicate with the therapist via messages, phone calls or videos from the comfort of your home.