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Too Overwhelmed to Sleep? Try These Tips for Resilience

How to build resilience with a good night’s sleep.

Key points

  • Sleep can help people build resilience, the ability to adapt and move forward in the face of adversity, trauma or stress.
  • Strategies to get a better night's sleep include reducing stress by exercising, meditating or journaling and following a sleep routine.
  • Making sure one's bedroom is cool, dark and quiet, getting tested for sleep disorders and reframing negative emotions can also help.

Have you felt stressed out, anxious, or overwhelmed lately? Sometimes the world may feel like it’s out of control, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a nearly constant negative news cycle, and any personal struggles you may be dealing with.

It can be a lot to handle.

But even with all that on your plate, a little resilience can help you bounce back from the stress and keep on trucking.

Resilience is the ability to adapt and move forward in the face of adversity, trauma, or significant sources of stress. It’s a valuable trait to help get you through the tough times and bounce back from life’s challenges.

This isn’t the same as mental toughness though. Mental toughness is a combination of behaviors, emotions, and attitudes that help you overcome any hardships you experience, while also helping you stay focused and motivated when things are going well.

How to Build Resilience and Sleep Better

Sleep is a great tool for making yourself more resilient, and you can improve both with these very effective methods. Try some of these suggestions tonight and see how they make you feel.

1. Reduce Your Stress

Going to bed when you’re stressed out and anxious is a surefire way to wake up tired in the morning. Taking time to relax and unwind before bed can do wonders for your rest. Give some of these relaxation techniques a try— you may be surprised at how well they work for you!

  • Exercise: This is a great way to blow off some steam and help yourself relax after a long day. Just make sure you do it at least a few hours before bed, otherwise you might feel too energized to sleep.
  • Meditation or Breathing Exercises: Removing your focus from your stress and anxiety and placing it on your breath can be deeply therapeutic and help you fall asleep in a peaceful state of mind. Focus on slower, deeper breathing practices that relax you.
  • Take a Warm Bath: A shower can work too, but I personally recommend a warm bath before bedtime. Baths can relax tense muscles and help you fall asleep faster.
  • Sleep Journaling: Keeping track of your thoughts, feelings, and worries in a sleep journal can help you process your feelings and cope with them in a positive way.

2. Make Changes Around the Bedroom

It’s important that your bedroom is set up to help you sleep well—after all, you can’t build resilience with sleep if you can’t sleep comfortably. Ideally, you want your bedroom to be dark, cool, and without extra noise that can keep you awake.

A lot of sounds can keep you up at night, like a snoring bed partner, ambient noise from outside, or even noisy neighbors.

Last but not least, you want to make sure the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable for you to sleep in. This can be tricky if you and your bed partner have different preferences there, but there are ways to keep you both comfortable without fighting over the thermostat.

If you sleep cold, layers are key. Try sleeping in comfortable pajamas and socks, or use extra blankets. You can remove any extra layers if you get too warm. If you sleep hot, a personal electric fan or moisture-wicking sheets can be helpful.

3. Follow a Sleep Routine

A consistent sleep routine is the foundation to a good night’s sleep. If it doesn’t already, make sure your updated sleep routine includes the following:

  • Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every day— even on the weekends.
  • If you wake up during the night, don’t stay in bed— this can make it harder to get back to sleep. Instead, get out of bed and do something small.

4. Get Tested for Sleep Disorders

A sleep disorder can wreak havoc on your rest and your resilience, so it’s important to get tested if you think you might have one. Important symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Taking 30 minutes or more to fall asleep each night, or difficulty staying asleep.
  • Waking up too early in the morning.
  • Excessive sleepiness the following day.
  • Loud snoring, gasping, or choking during sleep.

Even if you don’t have a sleep disorder, it’s important to rule them out as a root cause of your sleep disturbance.

5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you take any negative emotion you may be feeling — stress, anxiety, fear— and find ways to reframe those thoughts. By doing this, you can boost your mood, build resilience, and help yourself get a better night’s sleep.

One way to do this is through strengths-based cognitive behavioral therapy. This is designed to help you build and strengthen your resilience and can be used to build other positive qualities as well. There are four steps to this approach:

  • Search for your strengths.
  • Construct a personal model of resilience (PMR).
  • Apply your PMR to difficult areas in your life.
  • Practice resilience.

Better sleep and increased resilience take effort, practice, and repetition. Keep trying and don’t give up.

A lot of people are struggling right now. If you’re one of them, take heart in knowing that you’re more resilient than you may feel right now. Just keep moving forward and do your best. Every effort builds a little more of the foundation.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM

The Sleep Doctor

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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