Whether it’s work demands, relationship drama or financial fumbles, chances are you’ve suffered a sleepless night due to stress or anxiety. No matter how many sheep you count, that pesky problem can leave you tossing and turning until the sun comes up. Before you know it, your alarm goes off, and it’s time to muster up the strength to climb out of bed.


Does this sound all too familiar? According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, evolution may be to blame. A group of Chinese researchers found that our brain is actually hardwired to stay awake when it suspects a threat is knocking at our door, and that nighttime may actually amplify our response to stress since it was a particularly dangerous time for our primitive ancestors.

In other words, when we feel stressed, our brain thinks we’re in danger and stays alert to keep us safe. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about a lion lurking outside our cave and are equipped to process threats more efficiently than cavemen were. According to sleep expert Els Van Der Helm, there are a few scientifically-proven ways to relax and make our brains feel safe again:

1. Smell some lavender. Research shows that lavender essential oil not only reduces anxiety and insomnia, it also helps us sleep more soundly and feel more energized in the morning.

2. Just breathe. By taking some deep breaths, we activate our body’s parasympathetic system. Van Der Helm notes that breathing deeply is one of the best and most natural ways to calm ourselves.

woman meditating

3. Practice mindfulness. Yoga and meditation are great ways to relax our bodies and minds. Try spending a few minutes in some relaxing yoga poses before you hit the sack.

So the next time we’re wide awake from stress, take comfort knowing that our brains are simply trying to protect us. By using relaxation techniques such as lavender, deep breaths or yoga, we can ease ourselves into a good night’s sleep.

What tricks do you use to calm bedtime stress? Let us know at @BritandCo!


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