Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the day ahead, your growing to-do list, or how expensive your bills can be. At some point, it’s hard to tell whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious, or if you’re anxious because you can’t sleep. It’s a two-way street; anxiety can cause sleeping problems or worsen existing ones. Sleeping with anxiety can seem like a mountain that you’ll never climb – however, there are ways you can enjoy a sound sleep.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is what we feel when we’re worried, tense, or afraid – especially about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we think we’re under threat, and it can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings, and even physical sensations.
When Is Anxiety A Mental Health Problem?
Anxiety can become a mental health problem if you find it hard to go about your everyday life. It can also be a problem for you if:
- Your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
- Your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
- You avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious or nervous
- Your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
- You often experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
- You find it hard to do things you normally enjoy
Reduce Anxiety to Sleep Soundly
Sleeping with anxiety can lead to a feeling of dread when it comes to bedtime. However, there are many ways to reduce feelings of anxiety for a better sleep.
Focus on your breath – slowly take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale. You can also visualise a peaceful scene, like a deserted beach.
Regular exercise is good for both your physical and mental health. It provides an outlet for frustrations and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. Yoga is a great way to reduce anxiety. Limit your workouts to mornings and afternoons.
Soft, calming music can lower your blood pressure and relax your mind and body.
Manage your worries
Set aside a specific time to focus on what’s on your mind so that you can reassure yourself that you haven’t forgotten about them. You could also write your worries down in a journal before bed.
Prioritise getting a good night’s sleep
Block out seven to nine hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and try to wake up at the same time everyday day – including weekends!
Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine
Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep. Never watch TV, use the computer, or look at your phone or emails before going to bed. Read a book for an hour before going to sleep.
Have a good sleeping environment
Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. You could use a fan to drown out excess noise, and check that your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
Avoid looking at the clock
This can make you anxious in the middle of the night. Turning the clock away from you is a great way to make sure you don’t check the clock out of habit.
Talk to someone
A problem shared is a problem halved. Talking to friends and family gives them a chance to help you, and you may find that speaking about what’s bothering you will help to ease the weight on your mind.
Consider a weighted blanket
The extra weight offered by these blankets can create a sense of security, and they may help calm or comfort restless or stressed individuals. It’s recommended that you choose one that’s about 10% of your overall weight.
As anxiety can lead to sleeplessness, there are potential health risks as sleeplessness can lead to poor performance at work or school, increased risk of injury, and health problems. These can include risk of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, or diabetes.(1) Therefore, if you’re struggling with anxiety, consult your doctor as they will determine the best way to help your anxiety to help your sleep.