That looming work deadline you're not close to meeting. Your crazy mother-in-law. The election.
Stress. We all have it -- and aside from being uncomfortable during the waking hours, it could be keeping you up at night. In fact, a full 65 percent of Americans report losing sleep because of stress, according to findings from the Better Sleep Council.
"[Stress] is the single most common thing that causes people to have trouble getting to sleep," says Joe Ojile, M.D., founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, Mo. and a board member of the National Sleep Foundation.
But the good news, according to one new study, is that spending time undoing the day's stress before bed can help actually you sleep better. The findings, presented at the CHEST 2012 conference earlier this week, suggest that a 10-minute stress-reduction technique can help to alleviate stress and improve sleep quality.
Researchers from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. taught 334 study participants a bedtime technique involving deep breathing and imagery, which they dubbed a "tension tamer." Sixty-five percent of the volunteers reported decreased stress after trying out the new method -- and that group also reported better sleep.
"A novel stress reduction technique, the 10-minute Tension Tamer, can reduce perceived stress levels in a majority of subjects resulting in improved sleep quality, decreased sleep latency and improved fatigue," the authors wrote in their abstract.
While the findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal (meaning we should consider them preliminary), working to cut back on stress before bed is a great way to help you sleep better, Ojile explains. And while this study focused on imagery and deep breathing, that's definitely not the only effective option.
"The act of doing it is a much more important issue than which thing is done," he says. So we asked Ojile to talk through a few other 10-minute techniques worth trying. But first it's worth noting what not to do: Skip reading work emails from bed, which will only agitate you, and keep the television in another room. "The bedroom should be completely devoid of any stimulus," he says.
Read through these suggestions, then tell us: What do you do when you're too stressed to sleep?