Stress, Screens, and Sleep

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What do our stress levels and screen time have to do with sleep? Both can have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of our rest.

 

Nighttime Stress Management

Stress levels can build throughout the day, and if not managed properly, they can linger on to cause sleepless nights. While we can’t get rid of stress completely, there are strategies that we can practice to help manage stress and give our minds a break. The keyword here is “practice” since relaxation techniques work if you do them regularly.

Try these stress-busters for a better night’s rest:

Meditation. From guided videos to progressive muscle relaxation, meditation can be a beneficial tool for managing stress. Meditation teaches focusing and being present in the moment. When our minds start to wander with worry, meditation can be a great answer.

Deep Breathing. We breathe throughout the day and rarely take time to think about it. However, when we slow down and breathe deeply and regularly there are proven physical and emotional benefits. Try a deep breathing method such as 4-7-8 breathing. In this method, you inhale while mentally counting to four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and then fully exhale to a count of eight. Remember to focus on your abdominal muscles throughout.  Repeat this breath pattern for 4 to 8 cycles.

Yoga and Stretching. Taking a few minutes before bedtime to practice yoga or stretching is good for unwinding after a long day. Not only is it a great way to slow down and focus on breathing, but it also helps our muscles relax and prepare for sleep.

 

Healthy Habits with Screen Time

There are days where we can spend all morning and afternoon working on a computer screen followed by an evening in front of a TV screen, along with time spent on phone screens. Before you know it, the hours of daily screen time start to add up. Excessive screen time, especially right before bed, can wreak havoc on our sleep cycle.

Research has shown that we tend to hold our breath or shallowly breathe while working or playing on screens. Author Lisa Stone calls this phenomenon “screen apnea”. Prolonged disruptions in breathing can cause increased feelings of fatigue and stress. To breathe easier and avoid the negative impacts of screen time, we should focus on taking frequent breaks throughout our day. Stand up, stretch, move around and breathe deeply and slowly for a few minutes. Be creative when it comes to keeping your day from getting too sedentary. Another great habit to practice is the 20-20-20 rule, which consists of taking a 20-second break to move around and look at something at least 20 feet away for every 20 minutes spent on a screen.

Stress and screen time can often be unavoidable. But with a little practice, you can manage these and still get a restful night’s sleep. If you have chronic sleep issues that impact your ability to function on a daily level, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.

 

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