If you know anxiety, you know sleepless nights.
You know racing thoughts and nervous energy.
You also know all the sounds of Oakland’s late night traffic, BART and sometimes nefarious activity. It’s the background music to your tossing and turning. And too often, you witness the sunrise with the rising levels of worry and fear in your mind.
Your body needs sleep. A good night’s sleep. Many good nights of sleep.
But all you can seem to count on is another day, shaky and on edge, from anxiety and sheer exhaustion. What can you do?
Insomnia and disrupted sleep are common complaints of anxiety sufferers.
According to the 2007 Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, 75% of adults who experience sleep impacted by stress or anxiety reported a cyclical effect of anxiety, sleep disturbances, and increased anxiety about sleep problems. Survey participants also noted significant anxiety regarding their mental capacity, focus, and performance level after a poor night’s sleep.
Sleep is crucial to keeping anxiety under control. Consider the following ideas for obtaining some quality rest:
1. Maintain a schedule.
Restore a natural sleep cycle. Trying lying down nightly and waking every morning at the same time, including weekends, to train your body to rest regularly.
2. Avoid TV, social media, or bill-paying before bed.
Mental stimulus before bed is counterproductive. Choose a relaxation technique or meditation instead.
3. Eliminate unhealthy habits.
- Avoid alcohol. It may seem to help sleep initially, but you’ll probably just wake up a few hours later.
- Eliminate caffeine early in the day. Cut yourself off around 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon to ensure it won’t interfere with sleep.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant. At the very least, stop smoking several hours before bed.
4. Make bedtime intentional.
- No napping. Naps could interfere with nighttime sleep. If you can’t resist, limit your nap to 30 minutes.
- No media. Light from electronic devices is stimulating, and tricks the mind into a state of daytime wakefulness. Keep devices elsewhere or cover displays, especially that taunting digital clock.
- No bright light. Choose dim lighting that you can lower as the evening wears on. Low light indicates that your body should produce sleep-inducing melatonin.
5. Ease your mind.
- Use white noise. The sound of static, or waves crashing, may be preferable to the night-time noises and mental chatter that can keep you awake.
- Employ a sleep ritual. Take time to wind down. Calm your thoughts with light reading, meditation, a warm bath or shower, or soothing music. (ahh…*)
- Journal your anxious thoughts. If worries won’t ease up, simply and briefly give them time. Write down everything. Then say good-night to them. They’ll wait until morning.
6. Create a peaceful sleep space.
- Sleep and sex zone only. No pets, no paperwork, no laundry. Your bed has two purposes. Enough said.
- Keep it cool. Sleep studies show that restful sleep is best achieved when room temperature is between 65 degrees and 75 degrees.
- Make your bedroom comfortable and peaceful. Choose colors, curtains, and clothing (or lack thereof) to create a space that makes you feel most safe and cozy.
7. Address your body.
- Exercise daily. Mountains of evidence indicate that anxiety, depression and sleep quality are positively affected by regular physical activity. Be sure to exercise early in the day.
- Breathe deeply. Pay attention to your breathing. Breathe deeply to aid muscle relaxation and soothe your mind.
Anxiety wants you awake and worrying. Your brain, however, needs a break. Use a number of theses techniques to get some rest. If you still find you’re up pacing, contemplating, or catastrophizing, seek out a therapist who can help you learn to rest easy. (…zzz*) Healing Happens Therapy would be glad to help!