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How To Sleep Good With Anxiety

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What Are Carmel’s Tips For Getting A Better Sleep

1. ‘If you have had a busy and stressful day make sure you factor in some exercise.

2. When you stop working, devote some time, no longer than 15 minutes, to thinking about the issues of the day and perhaps write them down in a book, along with any potential solutions. Importantly, when you finish, close the book, and put it away. Not only are you physically putting aside your worries, but you have now managed to deal with your concerns, rather than waiting until going to sleep.

3. Establishing a sleep routine is very important in preparing our mind and body for sleep. One hour before bedtime, switch off technology, dim the lights in the room, and reach for sleep inducing essential oils. My go-to is the In Essence Sleep Blend popped into a diffuser. This act of switching off allows our body to recognise when it’s time for sleep. Our brain responds so well to environmental stimulators, so when diffusing essential oils at this time, our body gets ready to quiet down and enter the nurturing and nourishing phase.

4. Practising a relaxation or meditation exercise, or using some aromatherapy is a great way to prepare the body and mind for sleep and will often assist with initiating and maintaining sleep. Restorative yoga can also work well to calm the mind and put us in a good place for sleeping well.

The doctor recommends prioritising exercise on stressful days and devoting 15 minutes to thinking about and writing down any issues creating stress.

Death and loss 

Being betrayed

How Anxiety Affects Sleep

Sleep problems caused by anxiety aren’t limited to people with diagnosed anxiety disorders.

“The spectrum ranges from everyday kind of problems that might make us anxious and affect sleep all the way to people diagnosed with anxiety disorders who are likely to have ongoing problems,” Dr. Neubauer said.

Anxiety can affect sleep at any time, but most commonly causes difficulty in falling asleep. People with higher levels of anxiety may feel anxious all the time and have trouble staying asleep. In general, Neubauer said, the risk for awakening in the night parallels the degree of anxiety.

“People with persistent also become anxious about sleep,” he said. “The more anxious they are about sleep, that undermines the ability to sleep well, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

In fact, a June 2013 study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that sleep deprivation contributes to anxiety by heightening people’s anticipatory and stress-inducing response processes.

Avoid Using Unhealthy Coping Strategies To Fall Asleep

You may be using coping tactics like keeping the light or TV on during the night, in an attempt to help you sleep.

Or you may have been using medication, or to go to sleep and if so, it is highly recommended that you stop. These won’t be addressing the real issues behind why you aren’t sleeping, and are only providing you with a short term solution, which could turn into a long term problem in the future.

Finding relaxation strategies that work for you, such as muscle relaxation or visual imagery, can help to distract you from your anxious thoughts. You may even want to find some relaxing music to accompany this. Doing these types of relaxation strategies do require dedication and patience, but over time, they can start to help you to sleep better.

Keep The Bedroom Chilled And Completely Dark

We may want to consider keeping our bedroom just a tad cooler than we like, and leaving any nightstand lights off.

“Ensure your bedroom is quiet, comfortable, ventilated, dark and cool,” says Elaine Slater, a psychologist and psychotherapeutic counselor. “Even a small amount of light in your bedroom can disrupt the production of melatonin and overall sleep.”

Do A Bedroom Makeover

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Another helpful trick is to make your bedroom a place for nothing but sleep. For some people living in small loft apartments, this might be tricky, but by putting up a divider or curtain, you may be able to simulate a similar “separate room” effect.

Regardless, redecorating your bedroom for a more comfortable and quiet environment can do wonders for your sleep health. Consider decluttering the room and regularly changing the bedding or adding a rug to make the space more appealing and comfortable.

If you come into your bedroom and still can’t sleep, don’t just lay there and wait for slumber to hit. Instead, get up after 15 minutes and work on some small projects until your body naturally feels sleepy.

When To See A Doctor

Constant anxiety that makes it difficult to sleep at night can affect your daily quality of life. Your work or school performance may worsen, and you may find it hard to complete your normal daily tasks.

If anxiety and lack of sleep are affecting your life in this way, it’s important to reach out to a doctor or mental health specialist for help.

For some people, nighttime anxiety can lead to . Insomnia is defined as persistent trouble falling or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia can have negative health effects, including an increased risk of:

  • health conditions, such as high blood pressure and a weakened immune system
  • mental health conditions, such as depression
  • accidents

Whether your doctor makes a diagnosis of anxiety, insomnia, or both, reaching out is the first step in the treatment process.

Sleep Issues Common To Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Up to three-quarters of people with GAD experience fatigue, insomnia, and fretful sleep. As with many anxiety disorders, the arousal caused by the anxiety heightens alertness and interferes with one’s ability to sleep. It’s difficult to fall asleep in the first place, and the sleep one does get is often fragmented and less refreshing. As a result, individuals become sleep deprived and experience fatigue during their waking hours.

Because sleep becomes associated with worry instead of rest, anxiety develops around bedtime, in addition to the other anxious thoughts one is dealing with. Add to this increased worry about how well you’ll function the following day due to being sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation worsens mood and increases irritability for everyone, regardless of whether they’re dealing with GAD. However, research from 2013 suggests that individuals who are prone to worry – the kind of people at risk of developing an anxiety disorder like GAD – are even more susceptible to the negative effects of sleep deprivation surrounding their mood and ability to regulate their emotions. When individuals with GAD are sleep deprived, they’re even more on edge, anxious about the future and anticipating threats.

Stay Away From Caffeinated Drinks

Eliminate caffeinated drinks and foods after 2:00 P.M. Caffeine affects people differently, so your cut off time may be a little earlier or later, but start with 2:00 P.M. and adjust as needed. The National Sleep Foundation identifies caffeine as a source of insomnia as well as anxiety, excessive urination, irritability and rapid heartbeat.

Set A Regular Wake Time

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

What Is Sleep Anxiety Disorder: The Symptoms

We all have bad nights of sleep from time to time. 

Struggling to get to sleep one night due to feelings of stress doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a sleep anxiety attack.

Before you start looking at how to get to sleep when you have anxiety or talking to your doctor about treatments, it’s worth checking for the following symptoms:

Anxiety And Sleep Deprivation: The Dangerous Cycle

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association in America, anxiety is a side-effect or reaction to stress. It can appear in a number of different ways, from physical changes in blood pressure to anxious thoughts and feelings of tension. 

Though anxiety may not make you feel great — it’s not a bad thing. Like physical pain, feelings of anxiety are intended to warn the body and mind that something is potentially dangerous.

Some short-term issues with stress can also draw your attention to things in your life that you need to correct. For instance, if you’re always anxious about going to work, maybe you need to look for a new job?

Sleep anxiety, on the other hand, is a disorder. You’re feeling nerves, when you shouldn’t be. This anxiety isn’t protecting you from anything. It’s just stopping you from falling asleep, which isn’t good for anyone. 

Unfortunately, anxiety and sleep deprivation are issues that go hand-in-hand more often than you’d think. The National Institute of Mental health suggests that over 40 million people in the US alone suffer from some manner of anxiety that affects their sleeping.

Doctors have begun to describe sleep disorders and anxiety as “comorbid” concepts. In other words, they both feed each other. The less you sleep the more anxious you feel, the more anxious you feel, the less you sleep. 

There are many answers to the question “what causes anxiety attacks at night?”

The good news?

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.

Improving The Sleep Environment

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This may not be the most necessary step towards a good night’s sleep, even with anxiety. However, by taking care of where you sleep, and how your sleep environment looks like can improve the quality of your sleep.

So, if you want to be comfortable, relaxed and to finally fall and stay asleep, improving your sleep environment will definitely help. Here’s what you can do;

Sleep Issues Common To Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder often wake up due to breathing complaints, and sleep disturbances are worse for those with comorbid depression.

Nocturnal panic attacks are common for individuals with panic disorder. Nighttime panic attacks rouse individuals from sleep with an alarming combination of sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness, chest pain, hyperventilation, alternating sensations of hot flashes or chills, and shortness of breath. They’re terrifying and don’t appear to have an obvious trigger.

Nighttime panic attacks are similar to daytime panic attacks, but even more fear-inducing because they interrupt a person when they’re most vulnerable, while they’re asleep. The attack itself will last only a few minutes, but it takes a significant amount of time for the individual to calm down again to return to sleep. As a result, people with nocturnal panic attacks often experience less sleep overall and more disturbed sleep, leading to sleep deprivation.

Nighttime panic attacks are linked with other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, nightmares, and night terrors:

Stalked By Chronic Nightmares

Chronic are another troublesome sleep disorder that can cause fear, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Montefiore Medical Center’s Sleep-Wake Disorders Center in New York City. Children are especially vulnerable, but adults – especially those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder — experience nightmares, too.

Joni Aldrich, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C., began to dread sleep after she lost her husband to brain cancer four years ago. After he had a , she had to make the difficult decision to suspend treatment, an experience that traumatized her.

Every night, she had nightmares of him begging her to help him, but she couldn’t. She would awaken shaking. Aldrich finally got help from a counselor and began taking an anti-anxiety medication to help her sleep. “I still take the anti-anxiety medication in a very low dose, because I fear the results otherwise,â€? says Aldrich, CEO of Cancer Lifeline Publications. “Even one of those nightmares wouldn’t be worth it. And, I still go to bed later than I should just to make sure that I’m really tired.â€?

How To Get A Good Nights Sleep With Anxiety

A good night’s sleep can be difficult to achieve, especially when you have anxiety. How many nights have you laid there, wide awake, with your mind racing? How many mornings do you wake up feeling completely exhausted? I used to be this way too, and then I really started to focus on getting a good night’s sleep, despite the anxiety. So if you’d like some help sleeping with anxiety, keep reading!

What Is Anxiety What Are Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a feeling of worry and unease. It’s normal to experience anxiety occasionally in response to fearful or stressful situations.

In anxiety disorders, this distress becomes excessive. Fears are not proportional to the situation, and worrying interferes with everyday life. These feelings become persistent, occurring most days for a period of six months or more.

Remember The Basics Good Sleep Hygiene

If you are struggling to get to sleep at night, think about whether or not you are doing the following:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night, even at weekends. Our body likes working to a rhythm, but listen to your body too. Lying in bed when you’re not sleepy won’t help your anxiety
  • Don’t consume caffeine for at least six hours before you to go to bed
  • Resist napping during the daytime, but if you have to, sleep for no longer than 20 or 30 minutes
  • Get some exercise outdoors, but avoid exercising in the 2 hours before bed
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool and dark, and avoid spending time in your bedroom during the evening and daytime
  • Get into a routine where you do similar relaxing activities before bed

Build A Sleep Routine To Transition From Day To Night

What that looks like really depends on you and your needs. For some people, it’s meditation. For others, it’s as simple as taking a bubble bath before bed, lighting a scented candle, petting your cat, or reading a good book.

What’s important is that you take some time to wind down.

This means stepping away from stressful activities — like paying bills, listening to the news, talking about politics, scrolling through your phone — in the time leading up to you going to bed.

It’s especially important to limit your screen exposure because blocking blue light at night can help you sleep.

Set Yourself Up For Healthy Sleep When Stressed And Anxious

If you try all of these steps and still struggle to sleep soundly, consider reaching out to your doctor or a sleep expert for support. Treatments for a generalized anxiety disorder or a sleep disorder can vary significantly.

One mental health treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia , is an evidence-based therapeutic technique that looks at the interplay of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can impact sleep. 

Your sleep and anxiety are interconnected. Finding ways to better manage one will ultimately help you find relief with the other. 

Causes Of Waking Up With Anxiety

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It can be a nasty surprise to wake up with anxiety. It is generally believed that anxiety is triggered by problematic thoughts and emotions that happen throughout the day. It’s not uncommon to feel anxiety during the day when you experience a lot of stressful events, but why would a person feel anxious before anything stressful has happened?

How To Sleep Better When You Have Panic Disorder

Make the bedroom calm, cool, and dark. Remove electronics and clocks from the room so you don’t become anxious about how long it’s taking you to fall asleep. Avoid using the bedroom for anything other than sleep and sex, so your mind doesn’t associate it with daytime activities that keep it awake.

Follow a bedtime routine that primes your body for a calm transition to sleep. Practice relaxation and visualization techniques to distract your mind from anxiety-producing thoughts. Try journaling to put words to your fears and release them from your mind.

If you wake up from a nocturnal panic attack, fully wake up. Your body is so aroused that you won’t be able to fall back asleep immediately, and you don’t want to induce anxiety over losing sleep. Leave the bed and splash some cool water on your face. Don’t focus on distracting yourself from the panic, as this may cause you even more anxiety. Instead, accept that it occurred, and focus on relaxing with deep breathing exercises or reading. Return to bed once you feel relaxed again and tired.

Reason #1: 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.

Turn Down The Noise In Your Head For A More Restful Night

As you tuck into bed at night, do the thoughts in your brain refuse to slow down when you turn off the lights? Instead of winding down, it’s a wave of worries about everything from paying your credit card bill on time to an upcoming meeting with your boss. That non-stop chatter about what might occur tomorrow is a sign of anxiety and, for many, it’s a serious roadblock to getting a good night’s sleep.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of people struggling with anxiety is staggering. Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America, affecting approximately 40 million Americans . Some estimates put this number higher at around 30% since many people with anxiety don’t know they have it or don’t seek treatment.

Simply put, it’s a national epidemic.

When it comes to sleep, anxiety is a key part of a toxic cycle because it makes getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult. What’s more, it becomes a source of worry itself, worsening the original anxiety – a chicken-and-egg problem. Did the anxiety cause poor sleep or did poor sleep cause anxiety? One feeds the other, experts say.

The bad news is that even as you manage to nod off, your anxiety is still active. “While we sleep, our mind is still active and maybe processing information,” she says. “If we don’t take time throughout the day to process information and to unwind, then stress/anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.”

Get Your Worries On Paper

Calming an already-stirred up mind can be challenging, so also implement some calming practices before you even get into bed.

Dr. Whitney Roban, a clinical psychologist and family sleep specialist’s number one piece of advice for people suffering from night-time anxiety is to keep a journal where you can write down all those clingy thoughts.

“When you get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper, there is a good chance they will not infiltrate your mind when it’s actually time to go to sleep,” Dr. Roban says. “Many people also like to make lists in their journal of the things they need to do the next day.”

Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD doesn’t go away on its own, and is often a chronic condition that requires treatment over a period of years.

Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy is extremely effective for treating both GAD and related insomnia. Individuals learn to identify the negative thought patterns and behaviors that induce anxiety and inhibit sleep. Then they learn how to replace those with positive thoughts and healthy behaviors that promote good sleep habits and minimize anxiety both during the day and around bedtime.

Because sleep is closely linked with physical and emotional health, getting better sleep is an essential part of treating GAD.

What Causes Anxiety Before 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 hasn’t 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.  

How To Sleep With Anxiety: Beating Sleep Anxiety

So, how do you teach your body how to sleep better with anxiety?

It’s easier than you’d think. 

Researchers believe that feelings of anxiety get worse at night because there aren’t as many distractions available. In other words, through the day, you’ve got countless things to do and focus on that keep your mind occupied. 

When the time comes to relax at the end of your day, the frontal cortex starts taking over. It brings your mind back to the worries that you’ve been ignoring up until now.

Anxious thoughts suddenly spiral, and once you open that box, it’s tough to close it again. Fortunately, we have some tips on how to stop sleep anxiety.  

How To Calm Anxiety And Get Better Sleep

How does stress affect sleep?

Although the impacts of anxiety disorders can be substantial, they are one of the most treatable mental health disorders. This doesn’t mean that reducing anxiety is always simple, but there are treatments that can help.

Any person who has persistent or significant anxiety and/or sleeping problems should talk with a doctor who can best assess their situation and discuss the benefits and downsides of the potential treatment options in their case.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a common treatment for anxiety disorders. It is a type of talk therapy that works to reorient negative thinking, and it has had success in decreasing anxiety. Studies have found that CBT can often reduce anxiety even in people who have insomnia. Addressing anxiety can pave the way for better sleep, but severe cases of insomnia may persist after CBT for anxiety. CBT for insomnia may be a useful next step in these cases.

Several different types of medications are approved to treat anxiety disorders including anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. These medications are intended to mitigate symptoms rather than cure the underlying anxiety.

Because of the multifaceted relationship between anxiety and sleep, getting better rest may help combat feelings of anxiety. Building healthy sleep habits can make going to bed a more pleasant experience and facilitate a consistent routine to enhance sleep.

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