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.
How Stress Affects Your Sleep
If youre unable to get enough sleep at night, your body responds by boosting your stress hormone levels resulting in a vicious cycle that exhausts both your body and mind.
The Restless Brain and Circular Thoughts
When it is finally time for you to go sleep, have you ever had that feeling of not being able to shut down your brain? If so, you may be too stressed to get the adequate sleep your body needs. Under normal conditions, your body switches your nervous system from active to calm when you fall asleep. However, when youre struggling with anxiety and stress, your body doesnt calm your nervous system down and your brain stays in a hyperactive state, oftentimes accompanied by circular, never-ending thoughts.
More Restless Sleep
When you cant turn your mind off, falling into a satisfying slumber is usually difficult. Stress can make you toss and turn throughout the night resulting in restless sleep. The US population is already sleeping less than they should be. With added stress, the number of people getting adequate sleep is even lower. If you are spending more time lying awake at night or tossing and turning than you are sleeping, you will quickly find yourself in a relentless cycle of poor sleep night after night.
Reduced Sleep Quality
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 youre taking. For more information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
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Treating Insomnia With A Better Sleep Environment And Routine
Two powerful weapons in the fight against insomnia are a quiet, comfortable bedroom and a relaxing bedtime routine. Both can make a big difference in improving the quality of your sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Noise, light, a bedroom thats too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable mattress or pillow can all interfere with sleep. Try using a sound machine or earplugs to mask outside noise, an open window or fan to keep the room cool, and blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light. Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide the support you need to sleep comfortably.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends. Get up at your usual time in the morning even if youre tired. This will help you get back in a regular sleep rhythm.
Turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. Electronic screens emit a blue light that disrupts your bodys production of melatonin and combats sleepiness. So instead of watching TV or spending time on your phone, tablet, or computer, choose another relaxing activity, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
Avoid stimulating activity and stressful situations before bedtime. This includes checking messages on social media, big discussions or arguments with your spouse or family, or catching up on work. Postpone these things until the morning.
Ways To Calm Your Mind Before Bed
We cant always turn off our minds, of course, but we can calm our thoughts so that sleep comes easier. Try adopting one or more of the suggestions this week. Notice how you feel. Did you fall asleep any faster?
- Take time to meditate. Meditation can reduce stress and create the right conditions for a good nights sleep. You can find Headspace meditations, including ones designed for bedtime, right in the WW app. Use them whenever you need to unwind or turn down the noise in your mind.
- Start a worry list. Taking your worries to bed can keep you up at night. Instead, set aside time each evening to jot down whats on your mind, then put the list aside and head to bed. Research shows that just 5 minutes of writing out your to-list before bed can help you fall asleep faster.
- Try the Three Good Things technique. Before bed, think about three good things that happened in the last 24 hours, whether receiving a text from a friend or feeling thankful for a delicious homemade dinner. Research has found that grateful people are less likely to have negative, worrying thoughts when falling asleep.
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How Does Stress Affect Sleep
It is no secret that theres a strong relationship between stress levels and sleep. When youre completely relaxed, dozing off comes naturally with little effort and vice versa. This is proof of the relationship between stress and sleep.
According to studies, stress can trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism which typically pushes the brain to release hormones that prepare the body to either stay and face the situation head-on or flee to safety.
This involves the bodys sympathetic nervous system signaling the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and noradrenaline. The release of these 2 chemicals may lead to a surge in the persons blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse.
Can you imagine falling asleep while your blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate levels are going through the roof? These conditions can force the body to stay alert which means absolutely no chance of dozing off no matter how much you may want to.
Unfortunately, the body has no way of differentiating between the stress of being under an armed robbery attack and losing your wallet after eating in a restaurant. The brain treats all stress levels the same and prepares for it by triggering the release of the hormones stated above and other associated actions.
This is why even the smallest stressors can keep us awake even when our lives are not necessarily in danger.
Dont Overuse Your Bed
Theres a phrase the sleep health community likes to repeat over and over again: The bed should be used for two things sleep and sex. It comes from the concept of stimulus control. The better someone can connect their bed as a place for sleep, the more their brain begins to understand that it is a safe place for rest. In other words, if, when working from home, someone lays down on their bed doing work all day, thats not creating the proper connection.
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Try Some Natural Relaxation And Wellness Techniques
Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques have all proved effective for stress and sleep disorders. There are plenty of guided meditations and yoga routines geared specifically to those with problems sleeping.
Take some time out of your busy day to wind down at the end of it.Even if you have only 10 minutes for a short meditation before you go to bed, you may see a positive result.
You dont need any special skills or to follow any religious dogma, so give it a try. No time? Fall asleep to music or nature sounds geared especially for deep sleep. Here are a few of our favourites:
And Yes That Includes Light From Screens
Staring at bright screens in darkness with dilated pupils allows more quantities of light to enter the eyes, says Dr. Singh. And dont be fooled by blue-light filters or night modes: Dr. Singh cautions that, while these certainly do limit blue light, they still throw some rays at your face, usually from a few inches away. If its dark, and youre looking at something that produces light, that light has an opportunity to get in and suppress melatonin.
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What Happens To Our Bodies When We Are Stressed
Before we get into how to sleep when stressed, its important to know the effects of stress on your body.
When you become stressed, your body unleashes a flood of chemicals into your bloodstream. Those chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, cause a chain of physical responses, including:
- Faster heart rate
- Immune system disruptions
- Anxiety disorders
To reduce stress symptoms, its important to make sure your body gets the rest it needs. However, stress can also disrupt sleep.
Adopt The Sleep Hygiene Cycle
Since your daily habits play a major role in your sleep quality, it is important to implement healthy routines throughout the day that will help you sleep more soundly at night. With the Sleep Hygiene Cycle, you can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep in just seven easy steps. Some of those steps include avoiding caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime, relaxing by reading a book, or taking a melatonin supplement such as REMfresh nightly.
Though stress is normal, the lack of sleep associated with too much mental pressure shouldnt be. If you are still unable to achieve the adequate sleep you need or fall into REM sleep when youre feeling stressed out, REMfresh melatonin may help. This natural sleep supplement can result in you falling asleep faster, staying asleep longer, and waking up feeling refreshed the next morning, all without that drug hangover feeling.
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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 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.
How Stress Affects The Body
The bodys response to stress is an important survival mechanism . When faced with a dangerous or stressful situation, the brain begins a series of processes that help us respond to a threat. Although the stress response is useful, when it continues for an extended period of time, the stress can negatively impact our bodies. Here are some effects of stress on the body and ways in which chronic stress can lead to health problems:
- Hormones: When faced with a threat, the body increases production of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, that trigger other physical changes and put the body into a state of fight-or-flight. In chronic stress, these hormones can be triggered when theyre not needed.
- Muscles: In response to stress, muscles throughout the body reflexively tense up. If stress isnt reduced, chronic muscle tension can lead to painful conditions like headaches and back pain.
- Breathing: Stress can make breathing more short and rapid. For people with pre-existing breathing conditions, such as COPD and asthma, the bodys stress response can trigger their symptoms.
- Blood Pressure: Stress hormones cause certain blood vessels to dilate and can also cause blood pressure to increase. Ongoing stress can lead to inflammation and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
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Accept The Things You Cannot Change
Stress often occurs as a result of one seemingly overwhelming problem or the other. This can lead to restlessness and excessive levels of anxiety.
One of the best ways to battle stress is to accept things that are out of your control. This can make it easier to go through life without taking everything too personal.
Often, letting go of the things you cannot change and focusing on those under your control can be the secret to a happier life.
It can also help calm down the mind by lowering stress levels and giving you better moods. This should lead to positive effects on your sleep and overall life quality.
Try Meditation Or Yoga Before Going To Sleep
Yoga exercises are the perfect way to relax before going to bed. Yoga postures and meditation techniques can induce a state of deep relaxation, helping you to sleep more soundly.
The easiest way to get started is by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Then, begin with the Nadi Shodana exercise, where you inhale for five seconds through the nose, then exhale.
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Get A Bed That Fits You
When you sleep on an uncomfortable mattress, pressure points build up on your body, causing you to toss and turn. A supportive mattress and pillow provide support to the contours of your body and neck, and keep you cool and comfortable for sleep.
For drool-worthy sleep at a price point that wont break the bank, you may want to check out the Casper Original Mattress. Engineered for cool, comfortable sleep, the Casper Original provides targeted layers of support and unique cooling perforations so you can spend less time counting sheep and more time catching Zs.
If youre looking for that sleeping-on-a-cloud experience, the Casper Nova Hybrid may be the right option for you. As our most plush mattress yet, the Casper Nova provides sturdy support with a luxuriously soft top layer so you can sleep worry-free.
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.
How Stress Keeps You Awake At Night The Vicious Cycle Of Bad Sleep And Stress
There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.
When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks its in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldnt be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.
You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.
Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.
With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.
Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you dont have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.
How Can Sleep Reduce Stress
Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. Following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when youre well-rested. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy and diminishes mental clarity.
You might find that you cant concentrate as easily without sleep. Research demonstrates that lack of sleep renders you more emotionally reactive, more impulsive, and more sensitive to negative stimuli. These sleep-driven cognitive impairments can give rise to stress in any number of ways, from creating difficulty in relationships to causing problems with job performance.
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But Dont Exercise Too Close To Bedtime
Among other things, exercise increases our hormone levels and heart rates. This is essential for a healthy life but not so useful for sleep. While this fluctuates person-to-person, its important, per Dr. Singh, to exercise at least four hours before bedtime. Otherwise, your body is too ramped up to fall asleep at a regular hour.
Sleepless Nights Try Stress Relief Techniques
In a recent national survey, 44 percent of adults said stress had causedsleepless nights at least once in the previous month. All that tossing,turning and staring at the ceiling can leave you feeling tired andmore stressed the next day. If youre caught in this vicious cycle ofanxiety and insomnia, theres good news: Simple stress relief techniquescan help you sleep better and feel calmer.
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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 elseespecially 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 dont 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 its time to nod off when you get into bed.
Move bedroom clocks out of view. Anxiously watching the minutes tick by when you cant sleepknowing that youre going to be exhausted when the alarm goes offis a surefire recipe for insomnia. You can use an alarm, but make sure you cant see the time when youre in bed.
Get out of bed when you cant sleep. Dont 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, meditating, or taking a bath. When youre sleepy, go back to bed.