You know how it goes…as soon as you’re ready to lie down for the night, your brain becomes more active than it was earlier in the day…if that is even possible.
You lie there tossing and turning, trying to stop thinking and knowing you’re going to be tired in the morning if you don’t get to sleep.
All you are doing is thinking about absolutely everything. There isn’t just one topic running through your head, but many. Sometimes it makes sense, but sometimes it is just too random.
You’re starting to scour the internet, looking for all the things you can do to get a better night’s sleep. You know you aren’t the only one with this problem, but you also don’t want to go on medication right now.
Affecting nearly 40 million adults in the United States, anxiety is one of the country’s most common mental health disorders.
SLEEP DISORDERS SUCH AS INSOMNIA ARE HIGHLY PREVALENT AMONG THOSE THAT SUFFER FROM ANXIETY DISORDERS
The correlation between anxiety and insomnia is very high. This may seem very obvious, but it doesn’t fix the problem.
You want a quick fix and you want it now. You can’t go another night without getting restful sleep. It’s impacting your work, your homelife, and everything in between.
IRRITABILITY, LOST PRODUCTIVITY, LATE TO WORK?
Not getting restful sleep causes us to struggle getting out of bed which can make us late for work. Even when we do get up on time, we are not working as quickly, so it takes longer to get ready in the morning. This can also lead us to be late to work.
Once we get to work, we struggle to do our job effectively because our brain just isn’t working optimally. We get more caffeine and more sugar just trying to get the energy to do our work.
When we finally get home, we are so tired, it is hard to take care of the things we need to take care of at home. We expect that now we’ll get a good night’s sleep because we’re so tired.
So it’s bedtime and what happens? The mind starts going! It is so frustrating. You knew tonight you would get to sleep; you just had to. You are tired. But your mind has other things, well, on mind.
If you have trouble falling asleep, it may heighten or trigger your anxiety, and vice versa. While it can be difficult for an anxiety sufferer to fall asleep, it’s not impossible.
PHYSICAL PROBLEMS, INCREASED RISK OF AUTO OR OTHER ACCIDENTS, MORE SICK DAYS
Not only does lack of sleep cause all of the above problems, but there is a scientific correlation between lack of restful sleep and heart problems as well as high blood pressure.
There has been shown to be an increased risk in auto accidents as well as accidents at home or work when we are tired and not working optimally as well.
Have you noticed you are taking more sick days than you used to? Anxiety is one of the leading causes of sick days in our country. Because we are so stressed out, we cannot recover optimally and thus need more “rest” time to recover.
However, if we don’t get to the root of the anxiety, more rest time is not going to be helpful in the long run.
You are ready to take back your night and sleep well, feeling rested and refreshed; ready to tackle the day
This has been going on far too long for you at this point. Anxiety has taken control for too long and it is time to take that control back.
READ ON FOR FIVE WAYS TO GET A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP
With better sleep comes less anxiety, more productivity, generally feeling better, and others wanting to be around us.
Additionally, with quality sleep, our body functions better, so we are able to lose weight, digest food, reduce blood pressure, and attend to our nutritional and exercise needs.
5 ways to get a better night’s sleep
Physical activity is an important component to overall health. Exercise will produce chemicals in your brain that will help elevate your mood and decrease your stress or tension, which may provide some relief for your anxiety.
Exercise will also help you sleep. Not only will the physical exertion help the quality of your sleep, it will help insure you will be able to sleep without interruption.
Daylight helps set sleep patterns, so try and spend at least 30 minutes outdoors during the daytime.
Day time sun exposure is critical if you have trouble falling asleep because it helps regulate the body’s circadian clock.
- Healthy Habits
Studies have shown that people who make unhealthy food choices are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances. Healthy balanced meals will help keep your energy stable which will help you manage your mood and improve your sleep habits.
It’s also important to avoid big meals or alcohol for several hours before bedtime. Alcohol may seem like it relaxes you, but it actually has a paradoxical effect, making you more awake after a time. Thus you will have a harder time staying asleep. Additionally, as the body is digesting the alcohol, you are not actually getting restful sleep from an alcohol induced sleep.
Big meals take time to digest. You use energy to digest them and as you are using energy, your body is not in “rest” mode. Furthermore, meals provide the body with energy, which is not what you are looking for when you are trying to get to sleep.
Smoking is another bad habit that can cause many health problems which will negatively impact your sleep in a number of ways.
Smoking may help calm you down and many people smoke before bed to relax. However, the long-term physical effects of smoking are detrimental to quality sleep.
Lung and bronchial issues including coughing, bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema make it difficult to stay asleep.
Other chemicals which are taken in while smoking also cause physical problems which make sleeping more difficult.
- Night time routine
Create a routine that you execute nightly an hour or two before bedtime. This is one of the hard ones for people to do because it means changing a routine; changing what they are doing.
Change is very difficult on the brain and we are creatures of habit. If you live with other people doing something different impacts them as well.
A couple of easier ideas for creating a routine are: Minimizing screen time, which will help calm your mind and prepare you for sleep. The light emited from screens tells our brain to stay awake. When we stop looking at our phone or televisions about an hour before bed, this can help tell our mind to start relaxing into bedtime.
Change into your pajamas and do some light reading, or find other ways to charge down and get ready to sleep. Just changing into your pajamas tells your brain that it is time to start settling down. Reading is a way of turning off the television and still doing something. Make it a habit with your family that you will all read an hour before the youngest has to go to bed.
Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends. Your body has an internal clock. If you go to bed and wake up about the same time every day, your body will get used to that and you’ll start waking up naturally.
Once you are in bed, it may help to do a meditation geared towards sleep. Put some headphones on and just listen to the guided imagery as it talks you into sleep. There are a ton of free meditations out there.
Interestingly, research has shown more recently that those with anxiety may do better falling asleep to television than previously thought. Listening to television can act like a bedtime story if you put the right movie on.
This seems to go against the “turn off screens” above, but put a face mask on and just listen to the movie. Put something quiet on, and preferably something you don’t have to focus *too* hard on. Put the volume just low enough that you can hear it and set the sleep timer on your television so it will turn off automatically after a set time.
Consistency is key to any behavior change. Going to bed at the same time every night is the easiest thing to do to start a new routine without interrupting others’ schedules.
- A comfortable bedroom
Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet without distractions. Some people are very light sleepers, especially those with anxiety because your brain is alert to any sign of potential danger. Keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and quiet will prevent those “potential signs of danger” – otherwise known as distractions such as feeling too hot or cold, sudden noises, hearing talking which happens to be coming from the television – from waking you up.
Have a window open to keep the room cool and the air smelling fresh. This depends on where you live obviously. If you are in a city, keeping your window open may or may not be the best idea as the city sounds are louder with windows open and may keep you awake.
A clean room and clean linens will make your bedroom more inviting. Make sure you have a good quality mattress and pillow to maximize your comfort. Have you noticed that nothing beats settling into freshly cleaned sheets? It may be the fresh smell, it may be the way the fibers perk up after being washed, it may be just the knowledge that they are clean, but fresh linens is a great way of getting better sleep.
The best thing to do when you have anxiety is not to think about your lack of sleep while you’re trying to fall asleep. Instead, create yourself a calming routine before and during bedtime to help relax you into sleep.
As a bonus tip, do some journaling before bed. By letting out the day – in a free-write form (just write; don’t think about what you’re writing, don’t worry about spelling or grammar, and don’t censer what you’re writing about) – you are getting a lot of those thoughts going through your head out of your head.
I know that this may seem like a lot and may seem like it won’t work; afterall nothing’s worked yet. What the nighttime routine does for us as adults is very similar to what it does for children. If you have a bedtime routine with your kids, you know that without that routine, it can get all wonky at bedtime.
You also know that you’ll need to adjust your kid’s bedtime routine throughout childhood/adolescence. Why do you not think your routine will need to change over time?
Not only does our body continue to change and develop as we age, but our experiences will also play a part in what and why our routines may need to be adjusted for a restful night sleep throughout our lives.
Getting a good night sleep with anxiety may seem very distant at this time. You are not alone with over 40 million Americans struggling with anxiety.
Not getting quality sleep due to anxiety plays havoc with your emotional wellbeing, your physical wellbeing, and your family. It is time to take back control of your life and your sleep.
Quality sleep is within your reach. Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC has been helping people just like you find that quality sleep they have been missing out on for several years in private practice and since 2006 in agency practices. Call me today to schedule a free initial consultation or if you know you are ready to start sleeping better, call me today to schedule your first appointment. I look forward to talking with you and helping you along your journey. I can be reached at 941-462-4807.