We all have nights when we can’t get to sleep; we lie awake, staring at the ceiling, a million thoughts racing through our heads. But sometimes, those nights can turn into a pattern, and anxiety can start to take over your sleep. If you find yourself lying in bed night after night, fighting off an anxiety attack, know that you’re not alone.
Anxiety affects more than 40 million Americans, and insomnia is one of the most common symptoms. There is a strong correlation between anxiety and sleep, but you can do something about it. Read on to learn more about how to deal with anxiety-related insomnia.
How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?
Sleep deprivation and anxiety can create a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of anxiety disorders, and anxiety can cause insomnia. Rumination is a big part of anxiety, and somehow, panic attacks aren’t inductive to a restful night’s sleep.
Sometimes, anxiety-related insomnia can lead to something called anticipatory anxiety. Anxiety sufferers can begin to worry that they may not be able to sleep based on past experiences. This can activate the amygdala and insular cortex, mimicking the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Practice Sleep Hygiene
One of the best things you can do to promote anxiety-free sleep is to practice sleep hygiene. Oftentimes, we take our phones with us to bed and scroll through Facebook, check email, read the news, or play a game before we go to sleep. Unfortunately, this routine can start to tell your brain that bed is a place for things other than sleep.
Thirty minutes before bed, try to start avoiding screens, including computers, televisions, and your phone. When you get in bed, don’t read or look at your phone; the bed should be a space for only sleep and sex. This will signal your brain that the bed is a place for sleeping, making it easier to get to sleep each night.
Meditation is an ancient practice with amazing benefits for mental and physical health. It can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and even help you lose weight. It also reduces the effects of anxiety, depression, and it can improve your mood.
Try to set up a short meditation time before bed every night. If you’ve never meditated before, try getting an app with guided meditations to help you get started. These sessions don’t have to be long; even ten minutes can help mitigate your anxiety and make getting to sleep easier.
Exercise is a great approach to reducing anxiety-related insomnia, and it’s not because you’re worn out. Exercise produces endorphins, which help improve anxiety and improves your mood. This can help stave off that anticipatory anxiety we mentioned that can disrupt your sleep.
You don’t have to start your workout regimen by going to the gym for three hours five days a week. Instead, try taking a walk around your neighborhood a couple of evenings a week. Or find an exercise class you enjoy and try attending once or twice a week.
Write Things Down
Many times, when you’re experiencing anxiety, you may find yourself ruminating on certain thoughts. These thoughts run around and around in your head, making you worry about the past or the future, keeping you awake. This can become an obsessive cycle that can even lead to things like anxiety attacks.
Before you begin your bedtime routine, get out a journal or a notepad. Write down all the things that are running around in your head, whether that be worries about something that happened at work or your to-do list. Having these worries on paper can help get them out of your head, reducing your anxiety for the night.
Do Body Relaxation Exercises
Anxiety can often lead to muscle tension, achiness, and other pain that can make it hard to sleep. Fighting this muscle tension can be hard, as stress about it can lead to more tension, making it a vicious cycle. Instead of fighting against it, try some body relaxation exercises.
Lie down in your bed on your back, and take a few deep breaths. Starting with your face, tense every muscle and hold it for five seconds, then release all the muscles. Continue this moving down your body through your neck, your shoulders, your arms, and all the way to your feet.
Try, Try Again
If you’re having trouble sleeping, one of the worst things you can do is lie in bed and fight against it. This goes back to the sleep hygiene thing we talked about earlier. The more time you spend lying in bed awake, the more your brain will associate that place with anxiety and insomnia.
On the nights when you can’t get to sleep, get up and try to start over on your bedtime routine. Spend some time reading, writing in a journal, or having a cup of herbal tea for a little while. Then, once you’ve had time to wind down again, go through your bedtime routine again.
Learn More About Anxiety and Sleep
Anxiety is a hard problem to deal with since it often turns into a cycle of being anxious about being able to sleep because of anxiety. But you don’t have to be helpless with this; setting up a few simple habits can make your nights much easier. Try to set up a nighttime routine that eases you into sleep and keeps your anxiety levels low.
If you’d like to get help dealing with anxiety and other mental health struggles, check out the rest of our site at Modern Era Counseling. We offer individual and group therapy dealing with grief, LBGTQ+ issues, relationship stress, anxiety and sleep, and more. Get started on your path to a happier, healthier life today.