Relaxation and Sleep
Wellness Center Relaxation and Sleep Information
Relaxation and Rest
Rest is what we do to let stress subside. Rest at the end of a day, and at the end of a week, helps us to calm down.
Doing fun things that we enjoy in our leisure time compensates us for the unpleasant stress we may experience in life, bringing some balance back into our world. This is particularly important if we routinely experience unpleasant levels of stress.
A good way of getting rest and reducing long-term stress is to take up an enjoyable, non-rushed sport or hobby. If you spend all your working day competing, then can be very pleasant to be completely noncompetitive for some of your free time. Slow physical activities such as sailing or walking are good for this, as are others where there is little or no pressure for performance. Reading novels, watching television or socializing can also be very restful. Find what is good for you and take some time to do it.
Vacations are particularly important, and you really do need to take these. Where possible, take two weeks off rather than just one week. A common observation that people make is that they really do not start to relax properly until the end of their first week of vacation. Make sure that you take your vacations and that you use them to relax. Also, make sure that you get enough good quality rest during the week to keep on enjoying life to its fullest.
On average, people need seven - eight hours sleep a night (although this can vary between as much as three - eleven hours, depending on the person and his or her age). If we are regularly short of sleep, then our concentration and our effectiveness suffer and our energy levels decline.
This diminishes our effectiveness in our daily lives, and can therefore increase stress. As our concentration wanders, we start to make mistakes. As our energy declines, we become less proactive in what we do, reducing our control over events. This means that a situation that is already difficult and stressful can become worse, needing even more sacrifice to bring it back under control.
Make sure that you get enough sleep. If you have become used to being tired all the time, you will be amazed by how sharp and energetic you will feel once you start sleeping normally.
Tips for Improving the Quality and Quantity of Your Sleep
- Limit caffeine late at night. Caffeine achieves its maximal effects two hours after ingestion, so if you want to be alert at 9 p.m., you should have your caffeine at 7 p.m. Since it can inhibit sleep if it is consumed too close to going to bed, it is a good idea to stop all caffeine intake after 7 p.m.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake. Although alcohol can promote drowsiness and is in fact a depressant, it can cause a restless sleep and may actually deprive you of necessary REM sleep.
- Avoid exercise in the evening. Exercising before bed will increase your heart rate and metabolism. Your body will need time to resume a resting heart rate and this will delay the onset of sleep, so exercise earlier in the day.
- Eat the right foods. A glass of milk before bed really will help you become drowsy. Milk contains an enzyme called tryptophan, which induces drowsiness. Tryptophan is also found in turkey and peanuts.
- Keep your bed for sleep. Psychologically it is not a good idea to get in the habit of studying, reading, or watching television in bed. Keeping your bed as a place for sleep only trains your body to go to sleep when it gets there.
- Take time to relax before bed. Stop studying or working at least 30 minutes before you go to bed and use this time to relax instead. Thinking about what you have just read or written can prevent you from falling asleep.
- Make notes instead of worrying. Keep a paper and pencil next to your bed so you can write down thoughts that keep running through your head, i.e. "Things I have to do tomorrow." This will help you to forget them until the morning, helping you to relax.
- Turn the face of your clock away from your bed. Watching the time pass will only induce more anxiety and further compound the problem of not being able to fall asleep.
- Try relaxation techniques. If you are feeling tense, try listening to peaceful music, or visually imagining yourself in a relaxing atmosphere. Muscle relaxation, beginning with your facial muscles and working down to your toes, can help induce sleep.
- Avoid eating late. Eating too close to bedtime can cause disrupted sleep and you will feel less rested the next day. If you are hungry, stick to carbohydrates, such as popcorn, bread or crackers, which are easier for your system to digest.
- Don’t nap during the day. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day because you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep for less than 30 minutes, early in the day.
- Don't smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body's natural biological clock. Likewise, try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.
- Check your iron level. Iron deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping so if your blood is iron poor, a supplement might help your health and your ability to sleep.
- Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen- or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets.
- Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep – doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.
If sleep problems persist over a long period, you should contact your physician