About a third of U.S. adults report getting less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can open you up to a host of issues, including moodiness, irritability, lack of motivation, inability to focus, and forgetfulness. Additionally, this loss can weaken your immune system, causing severe health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. Adequate sleep is essential to staying healthy.
But why are so many Americans finding it hard to get to sleep? Many studies suggest that stress and anxiety are a significant factor. Finances, health, work, and family responsibilities are all stress triggers keeping adults up at night. However, new research shows that global concerns regarding the state of the environment are also contributing to our anxiety levels.
What’s more, this worry is having a significant impact on our youth. The level of concern teens have over the climate crisis is reflected in the number of protests and school strikes organized to spread awareness. Although they are working for change, psychologists in the US and the UK are concerned that anxiety over the planet could drastically increase stress levels. Anxiety over the planet is clearly growing, but, to protect our health, we have to be able to find the sleep we need. If you are losing precious hours of sleep due to eco-anxiety, our 6 strategies below can help you manage stress and rest more peacefully.
Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
According to Environment International’s 2019 report, the average US household makes up for 20 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Sleeping each night in a space that is energy efficient can help reduce your climate worries. Consider including some of the tips below to reduce your home’s energy consumption.
- Lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees during the workday.
- Start a compost pile to reduce organic waste.
- Install low-flow showerheads
- Seal all windows to keep cold air out during the winter and hot air out during the summer.
- Replace traditional incandescent lightbulbs with LED or CFL light bulbs.
- Unplug chargers or small appliances when they are not in use
- Consider installing solar panels
- Add insulation to your attic
Consider Public Transportation
Another way to lower your impact on the environment is to switch to public transportation. Not only is this easier on our environment, but it also saves you money on gas and comes with a variety of other benefits.
Those who commonly use public transportation do so because it’s less stressful than driving, gives you time to do other tasks, and also allows you to catch a quick nap en route to your next destination. Public transportation offers many conveniences, but its greatest impact is arguably on our climate. Public transportation allows for fewer cars on the road, and as a result, fewer emissions are released into our atmosphere.
Another point to mention is that fewer cars on the road allows for a better flow of traffic. Sitting in traffic eats up gas, hurting both our wallets and our environment. Plus, fewer cars make it easier to find parking, especially in high-traffic or congested areas.
If public transportation isn’t readily available or convenient in your area, you can help cut down on vehicle emissions by starting a carpool or joining your town or city’s bike-share program.
Focus On Your Efforts
Climate change can be a scary, stressful thing to think about, and many get discouraged feeling as if their efforts are not enough to make a real change. However, that couldn’t be any less true. A lot of the stress associated with climate change stems from feeling out of control, but by focusing on your efforts, you can feel reassured that you’re doing everything in your control to help. The efforts of each and every person make an impact, even if it’s one you don’t see or realize.
You can do your part by:
- Driving less, or switching to an electric vehicle
- Replacing single-use plastics with reusable water bottles and containers
- Using reusable shopping bags instead of paper and plastic
- Upcycling your furniture
- Donating old clothing rather than throwing it away
- Switching to LED lights
- Using less water
- Unplugging your electronics while they’re not in use
- Planting a vegetable garden and eating less meat
- Limiting air travel
Don’t feel intimidated or limited in what you can do to help our planet, every little bit counts.
Share Your Knowledge
If making lifestyle changes doesn’t feel like enough, recruit your friends and family to join your efforts. Having a support system of individuals who are dedicated to your same cause not only keeps you motivated but also helps you feel as if you’re making a greater impact on the environment.
Finding others to join in your efforts often has a ripple effect, once you tell one person, they’ll tell another, and the chain will continue to grow —and with this, you’ll likely feel less stressed and anxious about the changing climate.
Work To Protect Your Local Environment
There are several organizations working tirelessly to defend our natural spaces. Consider looking into groups in your area that are working for change. Donating your time or money to these groups can give you a sense of pride and help to decrease stress.
Additionally, spending just one hour outside every day can have a significant effect on stress and lower your heart rate. Consider eating your lunch at a nearby park, or going for a short walk in the evening.
De-Stress Before Bed
Establishing a healthy sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do for your health. As you prepare for bed, your body needs time to let go of stress and relax. Below we have included 5 ways to create the perfect bedtime routine.
- Set your bedtime. To ensure that you get a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, create a set bedtime. Set an alarm for one hour before your bedtime. This will signal you to begin your bedtime routine and ensure that you get to bed on time.
- Sleep on a high-quality mattress. If you sleep on a broken-down mattress, it will be difficult to get adequate rest. Check your bed for any cosmetic defects such as holes, indents, rips, or busted coils. Additionally, If you frequently wake with aches and pains, it may be time to replace your mattress. A mattress that is supportive and comfortable can go a long way in reducing stress.
- De-stress. To give your body and mind time to relax before bed, experts suggest developing a nighttime relaxation routine. Consider, taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, practicing breathing exercises, or journaling.
- Avoid large meals. If your body is working to digest food, it can be hard for you to relax. To fall asleep faster, experts suggest avoiding large meals at least 2 hours before bed.
- Reduce electronic light. To help us prepare for sleep, our bodies naturally produce melatonin. However, exposure to light can inhibit the development of the hormone. To prevent this, experts suggest limiting your exposure to electronic screens at least 2 hours before bed.
Developing healthy sleep habits and doing your part for the environment will help you rest easier. If your stress and anxiety continue, consider discussing your fears with a professional or joining an environmental group to discuss your efforts and worries with like-minded individuals.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.