Is stress keeping you up at night? The simple 4-step plan to help you nod off

If so, stress could be stopping you from catching the proper number of Zs required to feel fully restored.

Stress is a completely natural response to daily life and we need a certain amount of stress hormone (cortisol) to even get of bed in the morning.

But too much stress can leave us feeling tired and anxious – and often can interrupt our sleep patterns.

In fact, a new survey has found that one in five Brits isn't getting enough sleep due to stress.

Stress about work, relationships and family problems were the top reasons for stress-induced insomnia.

Physical pain (12 per cent) was the next most popular reason, followed by financial worries (11 per cent).

Sleep is absolutely vital to our wellbeing because it's only when we're kipping that our bodies can repair itself.

It helps maintain healthy brain function, metabolism, heart health – you name it, sleep is when it happens.

But what if you're lying awake at night worrying about that meeting in the morning, or stressing about things you have no control over?

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, Medical Director of the London Sleep Centre, said: “Everyone is different and so is the amount of sleep they need each night. On average, a 'normal' amount of sleep for an adult is considered to be around seven to nine hours a night, but children and babies sleep for much longer than this.

"The quality of sleep is as important as the amount of sleep and if you don’t get enough good quality sleep you will feel tired the next day, no matter how many hours you’ve had.”

It being Stress Awareness Week, it's time to address what's stressing you out and stopping you from really getting some shut-eye.

Stress and relaxation expert Carole Spiers has teamed up with Dr Irahaad Ebrahim to come up with four simple slumber-promoting tips:

Write it down

People have been keeping diaries and journals since day dot, and not just so that they can have an account of the day's activities. Writing your thoughts down before bed can been really catharitc – the process of empying your brain onto a blank page can make you feel mentally lighter.

Carole explained: “Sometimes we find ourselves lying awake with an endless amount of worries on our mind. Writing them down in a notebook before turning out the light will help you “let go” of these problems before going to bed and allow you to stop thinking about the important tasks to be done tomorrow.”

Swap screen time for reading

Again, an age-old trick but one many of us seem to have forgotten. Don't take your laptop to bed with you but keep a good book by your bedside instead.

Try putting your phone down 30 minutes before bed and indulge in some proper "me-time".

Reading also helps to deter us from clock-watching, Carole added: “If you’re lying awake and feeling the hours slip away, turn the clock away or move it to a different room completely – so long as you can hear your alarm. Seeing time move on will increase your anxiety about sleeplessness – that will keep you awake longer!”

Lights off

The changes in light (and dark) helps us to regulate our sleeping patterns, so it’s important that your sleeping environment is as dark as possible – in fact, just 6 per cent of us sleep with the lights on.

It sounds simple, but lined curtains or blackout blinds will reduce light pollution if light is creeping in when you’re trying to sleep. It’s a speedy and low-cost solution but could make the world of difference.

You might also want to get rid of any devices which shine, like TV standby lights, your phone or an electric toothbrush charger.

Once light pollution is minimised, you can then focus on winding down.

Carole’s has a breathing exercise that can help: “Our breathing is linked to our parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.

"If you’re feeling stressed, particularly when having a sleepless night, try focussing on your breathing: breathe deep and slowly, and try and make each inhale last for at least four seconds through the nose and exhale for seven seconds through the mouth.”

Visit your pharmacist

Insomnia is thought to affect one in the three people in the UK and it can have a real detrimental effect on your day-to-day life.

If you're really struggling with it and you've tried everything, then you may want to visit your pharmacist.

Dr Dr Irahaad Ebrahim, said: “If you’re worried that your insomnia isn’t improving, then speak to your local pharmacist.

"They are highly trained healthcare professionals who can offer expert advice and will be able to recommended a short-term sleep aid to help you get a good night’s sleep and break the sleepless cycle.”



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