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How To Sleep Faster When You Have Anxiety

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The Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

A sleep debt can have serious ramifications on your anxiety levels. One study shows that severe sleep deprivation increases one’s state of anxiety, depression, and general distress relative to those who had a normal night of sleep. Another study shows that sleep deprived individuals reported a greater increase in anxiety during tasks and rated the likelihood of potential catastrophes as higher when sleep deprived, relative to when rested.

How much you sleep each night also determineshow well you can deal with anxiety and stress. When a person gets too little sleep, the deprivation acts as a chronic stressor that impairs brain functions and contributes to an overload on the body’s systems. This overload contributes to memory loss, brain fog, confusion, and depression, making it more difficult for a person to deal with stress. Furthermore, sleep deprivation creates an imbalance in hormone levels that drive anxiety levels higher. Too little sleep also boosts adrenaline levels that can exacerbate existing anxiety issues.

What Is Sleep Anxiety

Sleep anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that involves a cycle of anxious thoughts before going to bed, many of which involve unease, nervousness, and worry. While there are dozens of tasks to occupy your cognitive functions during the day, your brain can often struggle to keep itself busy at night, thus resorting to any anxious emotions and thoughts.  Anxiety can lead to an endless cycle of stress and poor sleep. If you often experience nighttime anxiety, it may be hard to tell whether you’re having trouble sleeping because you’re anxious or you’re feeling anxious because you can’t sleep. According to , sleep and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Having anxiety can cause sleeping problems and make it difficult to sleep, but sleep deprivation can also trigger anxiety. If you’re unable to sleep, you may dread going to bed and waking up feeling even more sleep deprived. UC Berkeley researchers suggest that the lack of sleep can ramp up regions in the brain that trigger excessive worry, which provokes further anxiety and makes sleep even more elusive

Racing Thoughts During Anxiety Attacks

Unfortunately, waiting it out is the only option. Try to slow down your breathing so that your anxiety attack is less stressful, drink a bit of water, and see if there is someone you can call to take your mind off of the attack. Once the attack winds down, your thoughts should get back under control.

Visualize A Calm Place

If counting activates your mind too much, try engaging your imagination.

Some say that visualizing something can make it real, and it’s possible this works with sleep, too.

In a 2002 study from the University of Oxford, researchers found that people who engaged in “imagery distraction” fell asleep faster than those who had general distraction or no instructions.

What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Proven Ways to Sleep Better

Anxiety is a core element of a number of specific disorders, although not all are categorized strictly as anxiety disorders.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder : People with GAD have significant, looming worries about many different things that can cause an overarching sense of anxiety.
  • Panic Disorder: Extremely intense episodes of fear, known as panic attacks, that usually last for a few minutes at a time are the defining feature of Panic Disorder.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder involves an extreme fear of social settings and potential embarrassment in front of other people.
  • Specific Phobias: Specific phobias are intense fears caused by particular triggers. Some of the most common specific phobias include agoraphobia and separation anxiety.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder : In OCD, a person obsesses about an issue in a negative way such that it provokes anxiety, and this causes a compulsion, which is their attempt to control or eliminate that anxiety. Compulsions are repeated ritually and can directly impact everyday activities.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder : This condition can arise after a person is exposed to a painful or disturbing situation. People with PTSD may relive the stressful event, feel on-edge, and have potentially debilitating anxiety.

How Can Healthier Sleep Habits Treat Sleep Anxiety

Sleep habits, or sleep hygiene, are your routines around bedtime that can affect your sleep. Your healthcare provider may ask you to keep a sleep diary for several weeks. This is a daily log of your sleep habits. It can help identify things that might make it harder for you to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Some common ways to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  • Avoid drinking lots of fluids before bed, especially alcohol.
  • Do relaxing activities before bed, such as or listening to soft, peaceful music.
  • Don’t consume caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you feel sleepy.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, quiet and softly lit.
  • Only use your bed for sleep and sex. For example, avoid watching television or doing work in bed.
  • Set a goal of getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
  • Stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Try not to eat right before bedtime. If you’re hungry, have a light snack and not a big meal.

A Guided Meditation To Help You Sleep

I have found that this exercise helps, but I’ve been forgetting one crucial part of my body: my face.

“Focus on relaxing one’s eyes and face — a common area overlooked when trying to relax,” says Dr. Paul Coleman, a psychologist, motivational speaker and the author of “Finding Peace When Your Heart Is In Pieces: A Step-by-Step Guide to the other side of Grief, Loss, and Pain”. “Imagine a simple relaxing scene to focus on. Keep going back to that image if your mind wanders.”

The Holistic Approach To Anxiety At Night

Alternative approaches, however, can offer a much more comprehensive and effective strategy, which can be especially helpful for issues like this.

Here are the main components to a more big-picture approach to anxiety at night & sleep issues:

  • First, a holistic assessment
  • Root cause exploration
  • Potential changes to diet, lifestyle, habits
  • Natural medicinals like herbs or supplements
  • These are the steps that I choose to focus on long before I wind up resorting to pharmaceutical meds. For the record – I’m not against using pharmaceuticals altogether. I just don’t think they should be our first step in addressing most issues. Sometimes they’re necessary, and sometimes they can be used to relieve an acute issue while you work on the slower root cause healing process.

    Side note that has to be said: I’m a huge advocate of taking charge of your health and educating yourself from a range of experts . That being said, everyone’s situation is unique, so be sure to consult with a trusted healthcare provider before doing anything considered “medical” for your anxiety at night, like supplements or herbs.

    ‘i Have Sleep Anxiety

    Culture writer Anna Hart lay awake panic-ridden in the early hours so frequently that even the prospect of bedtime became stressful

    I’ve always been crap at sleep. As a kid, I would read Roald Dahl books under the covers late into the night, trying to stave off those dark moments when, bereft of bedside lamp and Matilda, I was left alone and expected to nod off. Because ‘nodding off’ or ‘dozing’ just never seemed to work out for me.

    Night was a time of anxiety for my hot little head, when I would fret about my school science project, wince over stupid things I had said to a friend, or wonder if my parents were secretly spies…

    Two decades on, my worries have changed but not my ability to worry. My husband, Sean, looks forward to going to bed, a feeling as alien to me as eagerly anticipating a smear test. He’ll drift straight off, leaving me alone to my crazy thoughts.

    4 Bedroom Hacks For Your Best Sleep Yet

    And now, as an adult with responsibilities, like a job and a flat and a husband, the fear of failing to fall asleep at night and waking up foggy, rumpled and generally unfit for purpose, has made the prospect of sleep itself stressful.

    Sleep is like the worst sort of boyfriend: the more desperately you want it, the less likely it is to grace you with its presence.

    But I fight fear with information, and I figure that if I better understand my sleep obstacles, perhaps I’ll stop tripping over them every night.

    Rebecca Gillam

    Write Down Your Worries On Paper

    According to Juanita Wells, director of clinical development at New Method Wellness, putting your thoughts down on paper can “help us remain accountable to ourselves, our feelings, our purpose, and plan.”

    Instead of letting thoughts and to-dos swirl around in your brain, write them down so that your brain has a game plan for the following day. Wells says that writing down your anxious feelings, especially through stream-of-consciousness journaling , can help ease anxiety before bed.

    In addition to calming pre-bedtime anxiety, shows that journaling can also help you fall asleep more quickly. To get started journaling, just snuggle up with your notebook and some cozy pillows and let your thoughts take it away.

    How To Minimize Anxiety And Maximize Sleep

    To get to sleep more easily, you can try changing some of your pre-sleep habits to decrease your mental and physical stress levels. Habit-changing takes time and persistence, but if you stick to these changes, you will find yourself adapting and feeling less anxious overall in no time.

    Avoiding the anxiety that keeps you from getting the sleep you need can be difficult, but following the above all-natural and healthy techniques may be all that you require taking back control over your sleep schedule.

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    Use Your Bed Only For Sleep And Sex

    To get a good night’s sleep, stick to the 15-minute rule. When you get into bed at night, only allow yourself 15 minutes of wake time. If you don’t fall asleep during that time, get out of bed and engage in a low-key activity, such as reading a book. Don’t do anything that may be too over-stimulating, such as watching the news or doing physical exercise.

    After about 20 minutes, get back into bed and try again. If 15 more minutes go by and you don’t fall asleep, get out of bed again and go back to a quiet activity. This can be very challenging at first, but if practiced over time, you’ll begin to make sleep a priority and get a better night’s rest.

    Common Psychological And Medical Causes Of Insomnia

    How To Get Sleep When You Have Anxiety

    Sometimes, insomnia only lasts a few days and goes away on its own, especially when it is tied to an obviously temporary cause, such as stress over an upcoming presentation, a painful breakup, or jet lag. Other times, insomnia is stubbornly persistent. Chronic insomnia is usually tied to an underlying mental or physical issue.

    Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. Having difficulty sleeping can also make anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms worse. Other common emotional and psychological causes include , worry, grief, bipolar disorder, and trauma. Treating these underlying problems is essential to resolving your insomnia.

    Medical problems or illness. Many medical conditions and diseases can contribute to insomnia, including asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, and cancer. Chronic pain is also a common cause of insomnia.

    Medications. Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, including , stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptives. Common over-the-counter culprits include cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine , diuretics, and slimming pills.

    Put Yourself In A Better Emotional State

    Sleep relies on the connection between your body and mind. And there are simple ways to put your mind in a better emotional state to help yourself fall asleep faster.

    Avoid catastrophizing. Our thoughts and worries play a major role in our ability to sleep, Dautovich said. “You cannot force yourself to sleep, so try to avoid putting pressure on yourself to sleep or catastrophizing if you don’t sleep,” she added. That means avoiding the anxious spiral of what will happen the next day if you don’t fall asleep soon. 

    Challenge those thoughts and worries, and try to replace them with more helpful ones like, “I didn’t sleep well last night, but I’ll be OK today” to relieve some of that anxiety, Datovich said. 

    Try out different exercises like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to help you fall asleep.

    Another trick is to sing the ABCs in your head, over and over. That will keep your brain from thinking about anything else, and eventually wear it out like a muscle to help you fall asleep, Butler said. 

    And remember: humans can function fine even when we’re tired. Think of new parents who’ve been up all night with their baby, or emergency room doctors who have been on call for days. It may not be comfortable, but it’s not impossible. 

    Read more: How to be happy, according to science 

    Control your breathing. Focusing on your breathing can slow your breath , and can also redirect your attention from thoughts like “why haven’t I fallen asleep yet?”

    Proactively Reduce Stress During The Day

    Sometimes our anxious thoughts are simply the remains of a stressful day.

    “Some of the best ways to deal with anxious thoughts at night are to reduce the stress you have to deal with during the day,” says Benjamin Ritter, a coach and consultant specializing in personal and professional leadership development. “You can avoid stressful people, be more open and honest about your feelings, and most importantly plan and strategize areas of your life. Reduce the number of decisions you have to make during the day and you’ll have more left over in your brain bank to deal with stress and anxiety at night.”

    Understanding Anxiety And Insomnia

    What’s behind the more stress, less sleep connection? “If you’re frequently triggering your stress response, your body never gets back to its baseline,” says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M.

    “Stress and sleepless nights are closely linked,” Buenaver says. “If you’re in pain, tend to worry, or are coping with a difficult situation in your life, you may have more stress hormones than usual circulating in your body. A poor night’s sleep adds even more. And those hormones may never be fully broken down. It’s like running an engine in fifth gear all the time.”

    Limit Caffeine And Other Stimulants

    For many people, cutting out caffeine from their diet can be very difficult, but caffeine can greatly hamper your ability to fall asleep. Additionally, as a stimulant, caffeine can make your anxiety much more pronounced, and you may have a difficult time calming down if you drink excessive amounts of coffee.

    It could also be getting in the way of you achieving a good night’s sleep. Try avoiding caffeine at least four to five hours prior to when you want to go to bed.

    If you know of any other forms of stimulants that you may be taking, try avoiding those at least a few hours before bedtime, as well.

    Additionally, some recent studies, such as one conducted by Harvard Health, have come to find that “blue light” can keep the brain active, stimulated, and awake, as it suppresses the secretion of the hormone melatonin. This is the hormone responsible for helping you fall asleep, so try avoiding blue light, or wearing amber glasses to suppress the effects of the light, at least two hours prior to bedtime.

    Sleep Gives Your Brain And Body Time To Heal

    Healthy sleep has been proven to be the most important factor in predicting longevity, even more influential than exercise, diet, or genetics. Studies have shown that almost every system of the body is affected by the quality and quantity of sleep a person gets, especially the brain. Sleep gives the body’s neurons a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Without that opportunity, neurons become so depleted and polluted through normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep provides cells with increased protein production that fuels growth and repairs damage incurred by stress and other factors. It is also integral to maintaining healthy emotional and social functioning.

    Keep A Worry Journal Beside Your Bed

    Anxiety is always about “what ifs” and trying to be prepared by situations that may or may not occur – a kind of fruitless rehearsal for potential problems. It’s not an effective tactic and can compromise our wellbeing over the long term. Keep a notebook by your bed to jot down any worries. The act of recording them can zap their power. Review them in a few days when you can ask yourself, “Did the situations I was so worried about actually happen?” Over time, you may learn that the majority don’t become reality, helping to ease anxiety.

    Forget Falling Asleep In Minutesmost Nights Im Lucky If I Can Drift Off In Less Than An Hour

    And I’m not alone in my struggle. Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute, explains that there’s a connection between anxiety and sleep. Those spiraling thoughts may keep you from falling asleep and lead to worse sleep quality at night. And this can be the case for women, in particular, especially if they’re stressed about interpersonal issues.

    In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that there’s a relationship between sleep and mood. “People with insomnia have greater levels of and than those who sleep normally,” Oexman says. “The more a person experiences insomnia and the more frequently they wake at night as a result, the higher the chances of developing depression.”

    Or as licensed psychologist Ben Rutt, Ph.D., puts it, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can be symptoms of a larger problem with anxiety. “Ruminating about worst-case scenarios, racing thoughts, and obsessing over things you need to do can prevent you from falling asleep,” he says. “Worrying about these things can also wake you up and prevent you from falling back asleep.”

    Set A Regular Wake Time

    6 Things To Help You Sleep Better in 2020

    Instead of setting a regular bedtime, set a regular wake time. When people tell themselves that they have to go to bed at a certain time, they create anxiety for themselves. They think they need to go to bed at a certain time, even if they aren’t sleepy. They lie down, they can’t fall asleep, and then they start to worry that they aren’t falling asleep, which only exacerbates the problem.

    The better option would be to set a consistent wake time and figure out how much sleep we actually need—the normal range for adults being between six and nine hours a night. The regular wake time acts as an anchor so that your sleep timing can unfold, allowing you to figure out how much sleep you truly need to wake up and feel good!

    Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

    Relieving Anxiety That Keeps You From Falling Or Staying Asleep

    If sleep worries are getting in the way of your ability to unwind at night, the following strategies may help. The goal is to train your body to associate the bed with sleep and nothing else—especially not frustration and anxiety.

    Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. With many of us working from home now, it can be difficult to avoid, but if possible don’t work, use your computer, or watch TV in your bedroom. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep alone, so that your brain and body get a strong signal that it’s time to nod off when you get into bed.

    Move bedroom clocks out of view. Anxiously watching the minutes tick by when you can’t sleep—knowing that you’re going to be exhausted when the alarm goes off—is a surefire recipe for insomnia. You can use an alarm, but make sure you can’t see the time when you’re in bed.

    Get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Tossing and turning only amps up your anxiety. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing, such as reading, , or taking a bath. When you’re sleepy, go back to bed.

    As Usual Regular Exercise Is The Key To Basically Everythingincluding Anxiety

    Regular, moderate exercise is the most effective treatment for ,” Rutt says. And Hershenberg agrees. “If you wear yourself out earlier in the day, you’re more likely to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow.”

    One caveat: Try not to exercise too close to bedtime unless it’s a more meditative type of exercise like or Pilates.

    Dietary Supplements For Insomnia

    There are many dietary and herbal supplements marketed for their sleep-promoting effects. Although they may be described as “natural,” be aware that sleep remedies can still have side effects and interfere with other medications or vitamins you’re taking. For more information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

    One Simple Trick To Beat Sleep Anxiety & Fall Asleep Fast

    No matter how tired you are, sleep anxiety can prevent you from falling asleep and getting the valuable shut-eye you need to be happy and full of beans in the morning.

    The more your mind races the more restless and agitated you feel, as the monkey mind spins thought trail after trail of random worries, predictions, fears and contemplations about all manner of things.

    Before long, you inherit the added worry of worrying how late it’s getting and how tired you’ll feel in the morning.

    It’s annoying, frustrating and makes you feel groggy the next day.

    Not only do you end up physically exhausted the following day, but also mentally out of steam having wasted your resources on those unnecessary but uncontrollable nighttime demons in your head.

    But worry not, because a natural solution is at hand…

    We already know that using the breath to still the mind is a common practice in meditation, but few people know that it’s also used medically to calm a person having an anxiety attack.

    I was actually told this by a guy who had been rushed to hospital once while having an attack. He said the nurse who treated him used this technique to bring his heart rate down and enable him to catch regain control.

    The technique is to breath in deeply and hold for a count of 6, and then breath out again, slowly.

    The NHS in the UK actually recommends the following:

    • Fill up the whole of your lungs with air, without forcing. Imagine you’re filling up a bottle, so that your lungs fill from the bottom.

    What Is The Relationship Between Anxiety And Sleep

    Serious sleep disturbances, including , have long been recognized as a common symptom of anxiety disorders. People who are plagued with worry often ruminate about their concerns in bed, and this anxiety at night can keep them from falling asleep.

    In fact, a state of mental hyperarousal, frequently marked by worry, has been identified as a key factor behind insomnia. People with anxiety disorders are inclined to have higher sleep reactivity, which means they are much more likely to have sleeping problems when facing stress.

    Sleeping difficulties have been found for people with various types of anxiety including generalized anxiety disorder, , and PTSD. In several studies, over 90% of people with PTSD associated with military combat have reported symptoms of insomnia.

    Distress about falling asleep can itself complicate matters, creating a sleep anxiety that reinforces a person’s sense of dread and preoccupation. These negative thoughts about going to bed, a type of anticipatory anxiety, can create challenges to healthy sleep schedules and routines.

    Related Reading

    Connections have been found between anxiety disorders and changes in a person’s sleep cycles. Research indicates that anxiety and pre-sleep rumination may affect rapid eye movement sleep, which involves the most vivid dreaming. Anxiety may provoke more disturbing dreams and create a higher likelihood of sleep disruptions. may reinforce negative associations and fear around going to sleep.


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