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How to Get to Sleep When You’re Anxious

Jonathan Riley

Anxiety is not being able to sleep because you said something wrong two years ago and can’t stop thinking about it.” – Anonymous.

Sleep is crucial to mental health, and studies show that sleep deprivation can play a role in the development of a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety. A lack of sleep can also leave you feeling stressed and anxious the following day. In addition to feeling exhausted, you may discover that sleep deprivation impairs your productivity at work, makes dealing with daily stresses more difficult, and causes you to withdraw from friends and family.

These tips can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

  1. Meditate. Learn to concentrate on your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths in and out, and picture yourself in a peaceful setting; doing so has been shown to calm the autonomic nervous system, which in turn reduces your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, allowing you to fall asleep more easily.
  2. Exercise. Exercise reduces the production of stress hormones, which helps to alleviate pre-bedtime anxiety. Even a moderate-intensity workout like a brisk walk has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and more soundly.
  3. Acceptance. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. If you lie there awake, your mind will have plenty of time to start worrying. If you are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up but remain calm. Choose a relaxing low-engagement task, such as packing your lunch or folding the laundry.
  4. Tailor Your Environment. If you have trouble falling asleep because of anxious thoughts, creating an environment that is darker, quieter, and cooler can help. Cooling off with a shower or bath just before bed can also aid in falling asleep faster.
  5. Write Down Your Worries. Before falling asleep, our minds may continue to ruminate on the day’s events. If you’re having trouble detaching from your anxious thoughts, keeping a journal at night can be a helpful routine to start.
  6. Listening To White Noise. White noise can also help the brain relax by providing it with something to focus on. White noise can be used as a background sound to reduce brain stimulation, and the steady sound can help reduce anxiety in people who overthink. The use of white noise as part of a relaxing bedtime routine has been shown to improve sleep quality.
  7. Take Some Time To Wind Down. Avoid doing anything that might cause you stress right before bedtime. This includes things like paying bills, listening to the news, discussing politics, and scrolling through your phone.
  8. Use A Weighted Blanket. Using a weighted blanket can also help you feel more “grounded” by gently pressing down on you, which lowers your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  9. Aromatherapy. A natural sleep aid that has been shown to increase the amount of slow and deep wave sleep is lavender oil, which is also used in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety.
  10. Sleep-Inducing Snacks. The following are three sleep-inducing snacks. Tart cherries are a source of melatonin, a sleep aid that reduces inflammation. Camomile tea reduces anxiety and promotes sleep. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which can help your thyroid and sleep.

Finally, sleep anxiety and insomnia can feed off one another in a vicious cycle whereby a lack of sleep causes anxiety, which then causes insomnia. If nothing seems to reduce your anxiety, consult a doctor or counsellor who can help identify any underlying medical conditions or anxiety disorders.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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