William Bergquist, Ph.D. and Gay Teurman, Ph.D.
Stress-reduction is a no-nonsense pathway. It is specifically intended to help people get and stay healthy—and one of the major areas in which stress-reduction might be most helpful is in helping us fall asleep and stay asleep. Given the proven record of stress-reduction as an effective pathway to sleep, it is not surprising that it receives considerable attention in the literature on sleep quality. Furthermore, it is not surprising that the field of stress-reduction is filled with many diverse practices and strategies. There is an expansive foundation of bio-social-psychological research that supports the various practices now being employed. We will not attempt to survey this literature or identify all of the stress-reduction practices, but will instead focus on stress-reduction and sleep (building on what we have already presented in the previous essay on exercise and sleep).
The Nature and Challenge of Stress
This pathway is the one most of us living in a very challenging environment want most to work for us. We are fortunate (and unusual) if we don’t face some stressful situations in our personal and work life and if we don’t bring these situations with us when entering the bedroom. In dealing with this pathway, we will first return briefly to our current understanding regarding the sources of stress, and then turn to specific stress-reduction strategies that might help us get a good night of sleep.
When you try to go to bed, you lie awake for hours not being able to sleep. When you finally do sleep you toss and turn all night with a pit in your stomach. You start the next day feeling hungover and sluggish, which makes it that much harder to face those typical obstacles at work and home and life, so you feel even more wiped out. Repeat ad infinitum. Ugh. This is a typical cycle of stress. Many of us are too familiar with this scenario and how to get off this merry-go-round.