12 tips to relieve stress, insomnia, and fatigue

12 tips to relieve stress, insomnia, and fatigue

Photography: Michael Lupo
Photography: Michael Lupo
12 tips to relieve stress, insomnia, and fatigue

Temporary insomnia may involve difficulty falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep (waking up frequently), awakening too early, experiencing unrestful sleep, or a combination of the above. It can be a single episode or recurring episodes of insomnia separated by periods of normal sleep lasting anywhere from one night to a few weeks.

The biggest thing to remember is that there are no formal criteria for diagnosing insomnia, and what constitutes sufficient sleep for one person may be inadequate for another. Like most things in life, it’s different for everyone and we all need to find what works best for each of us. So, here are a few options to try and help get a better night of sleep: 


1. Wind down.

Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

2. Increase Bright Light Exposure During The Day

Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it's time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration. Try getting daily sunlight exposure or — if this is not practical — invest in an artificial bright-light device or bulbs to use while you’re waking up in the morning, while you’re at work, or for when you first get home after work.

3. Back Off of Blue Light

Smart phones, e-readers, tablets, computer screens, TVs, and digital clocks emit blue light, a short frequency of light that may be harmful to the eyes and disrupt sleep. Minimize screen time for several hours before bedtime to get a good night's rest. Apps are available for your computer, tablet, and smartphones that prevent the screens from emitting blue light. Besides blue light exposure, it makes sense to power down several hours before bedtime to maximize your chances of getting a good night's rest. Cover up any displays that may be visible from your bed, like a digital clock.

4. Napping can be a healthy habit.

Naps are a good way to get some extra rest if you are tired, but too long of a nap will make sleeping at night harder. The best naps are under 20 minutes - naps longer than 10 to 20 minutes are associated with sleep inertia which is grogginess and disorientation that occurs for a few minutes up to 30 minutes after waking up from deep rest. But, be sure to avoid napping too late in the day as this can also negatively affect nighttime rest.

5. Watch Out for Hidden Caffeine

Many people rely on morning coffee to stay awake, but caffeine consumption after noon may contribute to sleep problems. To maintain good sleep habits, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is found in many foods, beverages, and even certain medications. Some hidden sources of caffeine include chocolate, tea, some pain relievers, weight loss pills, soda, and energy drinks. You may need to experiment a bit since people actually have different abilities to metabolize caffeine. Some people are super sensitive and may even have to avoid decaf coffee which still contains a tiny amount of the caffeine.

6. Turn Down the Lights to Get Better Sleep

Bright indoor lights inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. Put dimmer switches on indoor lights and lower the lighting level in your home for at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. If you like to read before bed, read by a light using a low wattage bulb to avoid being exposed to levels of light that will make it hard to fall asleep. Use heavy black out curtains on bedroom windows to keep light outside from sneaking in and wreaking havoc on your sleep schedule, especially in the summer when the sun rises very early.

7. Establish a Relaxing Nighttime Routine

It is an especially good idea to avoid stress and do relaxing activities in the evening. If you are a worrier, scribble your thoughts and feelings down in a journal to help get them off your mind. Wind down before bed by taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music, meditating, or reading a soothing book. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day benefits both body and mind.

8. Exercise Improves Sleep Quality

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of insomnia and helps you get a restful night's sleep. Studies have shown that getting as little as 10 minutes of aerobic activity per day is enough to significantly improve sleep quality. But., to make exercise as conducive to sleep as possible, avoid working out 3 to 4 hours before you plan to go to sleep.

9. Alcohol Disturbs Sleep

Alcohol is deceptive. Initially it may make you sleepy, but it is actually disruptive to sleep. Alcohol interferes with the sleep cycle and may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night or too early the next day.

Also, Alcohol blocks deep restorative rapid eye movement or REM sleep where you get your best sleep to feel truly refreshed and rested the next day.

10. Create a space for only sleeping.

Avoid use of the bed for watching TV, eating, working, or any other activities. Therapists often use "reconditioning" as part of a treatment plan for insomnia. With this method, people are "reconditioned" to associate the bed with sleep. If you find yourself unable to sleep at all, get out of bed and move to another room, so that you only associate the bed with sleep and not with wakefulness.

11. Write away your worries

If you tend to lie in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, set aside time before bedtime to make plans for the next day. The aim is to avoid doing these things when you're in bed, trying to sleep.

12. See Your Doctor for Chronic Sleep Problems

Everyone suffers from occasional sleeplessness from time to time, but chronic sleep problems may be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. Certain medical conditions or medications may interfere with sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and an increased risk of accidents. See your doctor about your sleep problem. Be honest about any trouble you're having falling asleep or staying asleep. Let your doctor know if you wake up feeling unrefreshed or if you feel sleepy or even fall asleep during the day. Keep a diary of your symptoms so you and your doctor can notice any patterns that may be contributing to your condition.