WEEK 4: BETTER MANAGE MENTAL STRESS
Welcome to your final days of the Sleep30® Challenge by Sleep Number. Weeks 3 and 4 can be mixed and matched for you to select what’s most useful to you. Week 4 covers mental stress and how to reduce it’s impact on your sleep (Week 3 covers food & exercise’s relationship to sleep). Below, you’ll find information on how to do a gratitude journal to feel calmer; a simple 4-7-8 breathing technique to help you unwind; and what to do if you wake up in the middle of the night.
You know the story: The job. The house. The kids. The news. Everywhere you turn there’s work to be done, a problem to be solved, a person in need of our help, a crisis that’s out of our control. Put them all together and it’s no wonder that falling asleep—and staying asleep—can be a real challenge. Sleep Number® SleepIQ® data shows sleepers who have a low stress level are the most restful and have the lowest heartrate. These are good things. Also, working more hours leads to less restful sleep and less sleep overall. These are bad things.**
TRY A GRATITUDE JOURNAL TO KEEP CALM AND SLEEP ON
Helps (re)teach yourself to fall asleep naturally. — Karen P., Columbus, OH*
A recent study in the journal Applied Psychology found people who practice gratitude can quiet their minds and sleep better than those who don’t.
One easy way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. This is simply a notebook or ledger where you write down daily things you are grateful or thankful for. You can also use your computer, tablet or smartphone. Just make sure you’re in night mode or are wearing blue light blocking glasses if it’s in the evening.
What you write in your gratitude journal is up to you. Big, concrete things like a promotion or a vacation; or, a smaller trivial good cup of coffee works. Gratitude is a transformative emotion that empowers you to cope with challenging life circumstances.
The quickest way to start is to jot down a single thing you’re grateful for in your calendar. If you want to be more ambitious try writing down five things that fill you with gratitude. Either way, the next step is to take a few minutes to explore why you’re grateful.
Does this part of your life represent a challenge you’ve overcome?
Or perhaps it’s something like family and friends that provide enduring joy?
As the week progresses you may be tempted to jot down the same things every day. See if you can stretch your mind to embrace new targets of your gratitude. You’ll start to notice a heightened awareness of moments you want to add to your gratitude journal—a kindness shown to you, a funny thing your child said, or a random moment you might have otherwise overlooked. You’ll also find yourself in a more peaceful place come bedtime.
TRY 4-7-8 BREATHING TO HELP YOU FALL ASLEEP FASTER
4.7.8. 4.7.8. 4.7.8.
Sometimes it’s all in the numbers. In this case the numbers 4, 7 and 8. These simple digits can help change the way you fall asleep. After you’ve done your pre-bedtime routine and climbed into bed, try this technique to get rid of any remaining stress.
Typically, you would try this breathing method upright with your back straight, but you can do it lying down on your bed too. Place the tip of your tongue against your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
HOW TO DO THE 4-7-8 BREATHING TECHNIQUE
- Close your mouth
- Inhale for the count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth (tongue against teeth) for a count of eight
It’s a little weird at first, but then it gets easy: 4. 7. 8. 4. 7. 8. 4. 7. 8. Repeat the cycle three more times, if you can. You might fall asleep in the middle of . . .
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WAKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
Often when people wake up in the middle of the night they lay in bed and worry about falling back asleep. They don’t want to get up because they’re nervous that getting out of bed means getting out of bed for good. But the truth is sometimes getting up can be the best thing for getting back to sleep. If you do it right. Here are general rules of thumb for going back to sleep, followed by ideas to try the next time your sleep is interrupted.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Just as your bedtime routine prepped your mind and body to go to bed originally, you can create an interrupted sleep routine. Give yourself 20 minutes to try some techniques, knowing it may take time to get sleepy again.
MEDITATE, REFLECT OR JUST BREATHE
If you meditate, do a short meditation. Or try the 4-7-8 breathing technique above. Or, reflect on the day’s entry into your gratitude journal. Whatever brings your mind peace and takes your mind off the fact that you’re awake.
IF YOU’RE STRESSED, WRITE DOWN YOUR WORRIES
Writing down what’s on your mind ensures you won’t forget, which automatically helps calm your mind so you can stop worrying and fall back asleep. Just don’t turn on any bright lights.
AFTER 20 MINUTES GET UP
If you still haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, then it’s okay to get out of bed. You’ll either want to turn on lights that are on a dimmer, or guide yourself using non-blue light nightlights.
The reason why you want to get out of bed is that you don’t want sleeplessness to be associated with “learned insomnia.”
- Go to another part of your house that is quiet, dark and cool.
- Read a book or a magazine for fun (nothing for work)
- Or have a very light snack, like those shared in Week 3.
- Or hold (don’t drink) a hot beverage to trigger the drop in body temperature you’d get from taking a warm shower.
- If you’re still having racing thoughts, write them down in a journal to clear your head; use a orange/reddish hued reading lamp.
- Do not turn on bright lights or blue lights from your cell phone as they’ll cause you to stay awake longer. Read Week 2 for more about the right & wrong kinds of light exposure.
TRY AGAIN IN 20
Then, after about 20 minutes, go back to bed and give sleep another try.
The Sleep30® Challenge won’t fix everything in 30 days, but will you put on a path toward better quality sleep. You have to continue to work to make it right for you. We hope these tips help you as we’ve seen them help other challenge participants.
Sleep30 helped me remember ways to get better sleep and how important sleep is. – Miriam E., Odessa, TX*
*Participant received InnerCircle loyalty points for doing challenge.
**Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/1/19 to 1/31/19 and self-reported survey data (from a Sleep Number study) among SleepIQ® sleepers.”