THE BLOG
08/21/2014 03:53 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

Tossing and Turning Over Your Divorce? You May Be Losing More Than ZZZ's

By Katie Parsons for KnowMore.tv's GalTime

If you've been tossing and turning at night from the stress of your divorce, your lack of sleep could become a real health issue. In fact, about 10 weeks of consistent sleep loss can lead to a long-term spike in blood pressure, according to a recent study from the University of Arizona.

We all know that insufficient shuteye is a public health epidemic in the U.S., but we're still neglecting the detrimental impact it can have on our health, especially when coupled with the emotionally trying time of divorce.

Why You Need To Get Enough Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that we get seven to eight hours of nightly sleep for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness. And while many of us focus on eating right and exercising to ward off health issues, we forget how important it is to restore our body by getting enough sleep.

"Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and the pursuit of healthy sleep should be one of your top priorities," warns Dr. Babak Mokhlesi of the AASM. "If you're regularly getting fewer than six hours of sleep and suffer from chronic sleep loss, it increases your risk of physical and mental health problems, mortality, accidents, injuries and disability."

Kendra Krietsch, lead author of the latest University of Arizona study, gives the following four steps for setting yourself up for healthier sleep habits, no matter what the cause of your unrest.

1. Prepare yourself for sleep all day.

You can't expect to go from a highly-stimulating day to falling asleep immediately at night, and staying that way.

Krietsch suggests that you avoid caffeine after lunch, and try to schedule exercise or meditation during the day so you can work out your worries far in advance of bedtime. Unfortunately there's no on/off switch when it comes to anxiety or negative emotions, but when possible try to make bedtime peaceful: Ban electronics from the bedroom and avoid other stimulating activities around bedtime (e.g. watching action-packed shows or delving into stressful conversations).

2. Do a non-stimulating activity if you're restless.

"If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something that isn't stimulating until you're tired again," Krietsch suggests. Engage in an activity that doesn't require a lot of brain power or movement, such as meditating, or reading a short, non-stimulating article in a magazine.

3. Practice consistency.

Train your body for bedtime by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day - even non-work days. Even if you don't sleep well one night, try to avoid sleeping in the following morning or napping, advises Krietsch. It will dysregulate your internal clock and make falling, and staying, asleep even harder the next night. If you stick to a regular schedule, "you'll get tired enough to fall asleep the next night," Krietsch says.

4. Establish a calming pre-bedtime routine.

Training your body to fall asleep at night includes establishing a routine, advises Krietsch.

"These activities can include picking out your clothes for the next day, making your lunch, taking a bath or shower, listening to slow, relaxing music, writing in a journal, stretching, flossing, or knitting," she says. "Some people find that turning on a fan or something that creates white noise can help them fall asleep as well."

"Sleep is just as important, if not more, as diet and exercise for our short and long-term health and well-being," says Krietsch. "In terms of long-term health, poor sleepers over time are at a greater risk for developing some very serious health conditions like obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease."

If you follow these steps and still can't seem to find any relief for your sleep problems, Krietsch recommends Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia, a non-medical treatment administered by a clinical psychologist.

More from KnowMore's GalTime:

Watching TV Together Can Help Couples Get Closer
Ten Health Mistakes Busy Moms Make
What May Be Causing Your Low Sex Drive (And How To Fix It)
3 Healthy Habits That Could Be Damaging Your Teeth

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