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How To Break Anxiety Insomnia Cycle

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How To Manage Health Anxiety In A Post

How to Break an Anxiety Cycle

For some people, COVID-19 has had a lasting impact on their mental health. In particular, coronavirus has fuelled a rise in a debilitating condition known as health anxiety in which obsessive fears about health become excessive.

Reviewed byDr Sarah Jarvis MBE
30-Jul-21ยท5 mins read

Navigating the huge changes to our lives during the pandemic has triggered anxiety for many people. And with fewer people wearing masks and social distancing, lots of us are worried about the virus spreading rather than enjoying the opportunity to socialise freely.

Health anxiety is a specific type of anxiety disorder, where individuals spend a lot of time worrying about being unwell or becoming unwell.

It is defined by compulsively checking for symptoms, researching diseases, worrying over normal bodily sensations or taking extreme action to avoid exposure to disease. People with health anxiety may also seek constant reassurance from friends, family or medical professionals, or avoid typical activities or situations out of concern for their health.

Although it is a little-known condition, more people are struggling with health anxiety as a result of the pandemic.

Almost all of us feel a bit worried and anxious from time to time. Anxious thoughts are designed to help us recognise when we might encounter some kind of danger or hazard, says Dr David McLaughlan, consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Roehampton.

What Root Is There In My Soul That Is Causing These Anxious Thoughts

Getting to the root cause of anxiety, fear and worry is absolutely essential if you want to find true freedom. Most people stop at the first step. Once they find out whats triggering the anxiety, they simply avoid those triggers without ever dealing with the root cause of the anxiousness.

Its like a splinter in your finger. You can clean it, numb it and cover it, but if you never remove the splinterthe very cause of the painitll never heal. Itll just get more painful. In the same way, until you properly deal with the splinter in your mind and thoughts, youll never really find true freedom from anxious thoughts and worry.

How do you start?

There are lots of great resources available to help you learn how to break the cycle of anxiety, worry and fear. There are books, freedom ministry teachings and blogs. Find out if your church has a freedom ministry or counselors who can help you tear down the strongholds of fear and anxiety.

Im reading a great book by Greg Boyd called Escaping the Matrix: Setting Your Mind Free to Experience Real Life in Christ. For those of you who are fans of the movie, The Matrix, Greg uses illustrations from the movie to talk about patterns of thinking or strongholds, as the Bible calls them. And, he walks you through how thoughts get lodged in your mind, and how we can break those patterns of our mind. Its an excellent book, and I highly recommend it.

How Can Insomnia Be Prevented

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and to get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  • Follow a routine to help you relax and wind down before bedtime for example, take a hot bath, read a book or listen to soft music.
  • Make your surroundings are conducive to sleepdark, quiet, comfortable, not too warm and not too cool.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Only use your bedroom for sleeping. Remove any computer, television or work materials from the room.
  • Avoid caffeine before bedtime. Avoid alcohol as well, as it interferes with sleep patterns.

Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about insomnia.

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Breaking The Cycle Of Insomnia Embracing The Arms Of Sleep

My name is Richard and Im an insomniac. Or at least I was. Now I sleep, pretty much, through the night an extremely positive change that I attribute, largely, to regular doses of meditation .

My particular brand of insomnia was the kind that prevented me from getting to sleep in the first place. I could easily doze off while sitting downstairs watching the television and a quick afternoon nap required no effort at all, but once Id taken the short journey up the stairs and into bed

Wakey, wakey, rise and shine. Let the night time regime begin: turn onto your left side, now onto your right side, think about where you should hang that picture, consider how dangerous it is for a sloth to go to the toilet, look at the clock

What!? Its 02.30. I need to be up and about in four hours.

But my eyes are wide open. My heart rate has increased and I can feel my heart pounding in my chest. My sweat glands are secreting. Its just too hot in here

The next couple of hours would then be spent worrying about how little time I had left to sleep and how bad I would feel at work the next day. Usually, I didnt end up feeling that bad, but I wasnt nearly as good as I could have been and my anxiety levels would be heightened.

Throughout this period, I started to look into meditation. Inspired by the guided relaxation sessions I had taken part in during my group therapy, I sought out books on mindfulness and meditation and started to attend my local Soto Zen meditation group.

What Causes Anxiety Before Sleep

Better Sleep

According to clinical psychologist Emily Knott, Anxiety before bedtime often takes the form of a phenomenon referred to in psychology as pre-sleep arousal.

Knott says that pre-sleep arousal may cause the body and nervous system to enter a state of heightened awareness that may take the form of problem-solving, thinking about your own thoughts, focusing on stimuli in the environment such as noise and light, and ruminating about the consequences of not being able to sleep.

While there hasnt been extensive research conducted on sleep and anxiety, there are a few reasons why your anxiety may be worse at night. Here are possible causes.

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Challenging The Worries And Thoughts That Fuel Insomnia

Its also helpful to challenge the negative attitudes about sleep and your insomnia problem that youve developed over time. The key is to recognize self-defeating thoughts and replace them with more realistic ones.

Challenging self-defeating thoughts that fuel insomnia
Self-defeating thought:Sleep-promoting comeback:
Unrealistic expectations: I should be able to sleep well every night like a normal person. I shouldnt have a problem!Lots of people struggle with sleep from time to time. I will be able to sleep with the right techniques.
Exaggeration: Its the same every single night, another night of sleepless misery.Not every night is the same. Some nights I do sleep better than others.
Catastrophizing: If I dont get some sleep, Ill tank my presentation and jeopardize my job.I can get through the presentation even if Im tired. I can still rest and relax tonight, even if I cant sleep.
Hopelessness: Im never going to be able to sleep well. Its out of my control.Insomnia can be cured. If I stop worrying so much and focus on positive solutions, I can beat it.
Fortune telling: Its going to take me at least an hour to get to sleep tonight. I just know it.I dont know what will happen tonight. Maybe Ill get to sleep quickly if I use the strategies Ive learned.

When Trauma Affects Sleep

PTSD is a disorder that develops after a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD include but arent limited to flashbacks and intrusive or disturbing memories affiliated with the traumatic event, nightmares, hypervigilance, and severe nervousness.

Studies show that up to 91% of those living with PTSD experience issues falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. This could be due to the nightmares that many trauma survivors with PTSD face, or it could be due to other symptoms like hypervigilance.

Though PTSD is often affiliated with those who have been in the military, it can stem from trauma from many different sources, with some of the frequent contributors being trauma affiliated with sexual assault, physical violence, and car accidents. With treatment, symptoms of PTSD can improve tremendously.

Read Also: Is 4 Hours Of Sleep Better Than None

Reason #: Too Much Focus On The Day

Nighttime anxiety can be caused by over-focusing on stress before sleep. Knott says that this is because our body can perceive work stress, relationship issues, and social contact as dangerous, and prepare us to fight or flee. Being fixated on your worries during the day and anticipating stressful activities for the next day will make it more difficult for your mind to relax.

Promoting Relaxation Before Bed

How to break the cycle of negative thinking | Social anxiety self-help

There are many things you can do to alleviate anxiety and make it easier to sleep at night. Good sleep hygiene with a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine, and avoiding sleep pitfalls are easy ways to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Yoga and meditation, a healthy sleep environment, and more can further help you make sleep a relaxing, restorative practice.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Predictability promotes calmness. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help you feel more reassured at night.

  • Create a regular bedtime routine. Like a regular sleep schedule, maintaining a regular bedtime routine is a good way to wind down and relax before bed. It tells your brain and body that it’s almost time to sleep and can trigger feelings of sleepiness. What you do during your routine doesn’t matter as much as simply going through the same routine each night, but you can add relaxing activities including taking a warm bath, reading a book, or stretching your muscles.

  • Maintain a healthy sleep environment. Your bedroom can promote anxiety if you’re not careful. Bold, loud walls, clutter, itchy or dirty sheets, or an uncomfortable mattress can induce feelings of anxiety and make it more difficult for you to sleep. Make your bedroom a calming space with muted colors, clean surfaces, and bedding that’s comfortable. Be sure to choose a mattress that is appropriate for your needs and alleviates aches and pains while offering good support.

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Habits That Cause Insomnia And Disrupt Sleep

While treating underlying physical and mental issues is a good first step, it may not be enough to cure your insomnia. You also need to look at your daily habits. Some of the things youre doing to cope with insomnia may actually be making the problem worse.

For example, maybe youre using sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep, which disrupts sleep even more over the long-term. Or maybe you drink excessive amounts of coffee during the day, making it harder to fall asleep later. Other daytime habits that can negatively impact your ability to sleep at night include having an irregular sleep schedule, napping, eating sugary foods or heavy meals too close to bedtime, and not getting enough exercise or exercising too late in the day.

Not only can poor daytime habits contribute to insomnia, but a poor nights sleep can make these habits harder to correct, creating a vicious cycle of unrefreshing sleep:

Oftentimes, changing the habits that are reinforcing sleeplessness is enough to overcome the insomnia altogether. It may take a few days for your body to get used to the change, but once you do, youll sleep better.

If youre having trouble identifying insomnia-causing habits

Some habits are so ingrained that you may overlook them as a possible contributor to your insomnia. Maybe your Starbucks habit affects your sleep more than you realize. Or maybe youve never made the connection between that late-night glass of wine and your sleep difficulties.

So What Does It All Mean A Sleep Expert Offers Her Thoughts

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: Having suffered insomnia in the past, you understandably have some anxiety about your sleep and make a lot of effort to manage it. While this is really commendable, trying too hard to get good sleep can actually cause us to sleep worse!

Thats right applying too much effort to our bedtime routines can in itself become a source of stress, which in turn leads to many restless nights. Dont worry, though, as I have some recommendations on how to help with this.

Dr Nerina continues: First things first, please stop measuring your sleep, and stop looking at the clock when you wake up its normal to wake up during the night, and its usually anxiety caused by checking the time that stops us getting back to sleep.

I would also recommend that you get the TV out of the bedroom or, at the very least, switch it off while youre reading. The noise and extra information from the TV is keeping your brain in an overstimulated state, which is why your sleep is so restless.

She finishes: Otherwise, you have some great lifestyle habits and should be happy with yourself and your routine. Ironically, you just need to be a little more relaxed about your sleep!

If you would like to take part in Stylists Sleep Diaries, please email us at digital.commissions@stylist.co.uk with SLEEP DIARIES as the subject. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Set Aside Time For Winding Down

If youve been struggling with sleep anxiety, Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, suggests creating a routine that winds you down and gets you in the mood for sleep. This can include things like dimming the lights, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.

Walfish also suggests opting for activities like light reading in place of a TV or computer, as using a screen can tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory thresholds versus relax and calm you down.

The best nighttime routine allows your mind and body time to slow down before you turn off the lights. Allot at least 30 minutes to take a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast, or play quiet music. These transition rituals can condition your brain to associate certain actions with preparing for sleep.

Understand And Improve Anxiety To Help Insomnia

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If it turns out that youre in the cycle of poor sleep and anxiety, youre not alone. Try the following anxiety-reducing techniques in order to sleep better.

Try talk therapy

CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is documented as the most effective form of therapy for anxiety disorders at this time .

CBT can be useful for those looking to combat sleep issues. Many people find that a combination of medication, talk therapy, and self-care is the way to go. Improving your quality of life when it comes to both sleep and anxiety can be a multi-step process.

Challenge perfectionism

Especially for those of us with a diagnosable anxiety disorder or those of us who tend toward perfectionism, we might feel a constant need to progress in life and worry that we arent doing enough. This is actually counterintuitive to our struggle, though!

Perfectionism can lead to burnout and an increased risk of depression neither of which help your productivity. One of the reasons that talk therapy can have such a positive impact on anxiety is that, using neuroplasticity, we can change our thought patterns. With the help of someone else, we can develop self-compassion that allows us to succeed, thrive, and lead a happy, healthy life.

Find support

A support system is essential for everyone, and building community is a big factor in anxiety treatment. You can find support in a variety of places: friends, support groups, a therapist, or even an anonymous online community.

Choose self care

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When To Seek Professional Help About Your Anxiety Habits

Remember, moderate anxiety helps us function and adapt to our changing environments. It gets our brains moving healthily so we can solve the problems were faced with.

However, when it gets to a certain point, anxiety can cause discomfort. When we have to deal with that discomfort for long periods of time, the anxiety is dysfunctional and unhealthy. If your anxiety gets to that point, you should consult a professional.

Some people experience sudden panic attacks with intense peaks of anxiety in a very short period of time. They tend to not last very long. However, for the person experiencing it, the attack can feel like its lasting forever. They may feel like theyre dying or are in imminent danger.

In many cases, these attacks reinforce the anxiety because the person will start to worry that theyll have another episode. That can lead to isolation and avoidance of social situations. A professional will determine which strategies you should use to control that worry. Here are some of the most common:

  • Psychoeducation.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to question their thoughts.
  • Prescription medications.

Your Anxiety Habits: How To Break The Cycle

One of the worst parts of anxiety is that it causes more anxiety.

At first, you might just be worried about a situation . However, later it could grow to a point where youre worried about being worried or youre anxious about feeling anxious . That will only increase your stress and tension.

We see this when people say things like, my thoughts are going to make me sick. Thats why its so important to break the cycle of your anxiety habits. Here are some strategies you can use:

1. Question your thinking and try to change it

Justifying your concerns wont help your anxiety. Instead, it will anchor you to it. So, one of the first things you should do is learn to map your anxiety.

What is causing it? How do you feel? You have to learn more about your anxiety to notice it in time to prevent it. In other words, question your reasons for worrying and remind yourself that its not helping the situation.

2. Form new anxiety habits

This strategy goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Its important to develop new habits that are friendlier and more respectful to your well-being. This will be a challenge, especially for those that tend to make excuses, but you need to push yourself.

Cant exercise every day? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or get off one bus stop early and walk a few blocks to get to work. Remember, theres always a way to feel better, you just have to know how to look for it.

3. Practice mindfulness and relaxation

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