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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Cant Sleep Due To Anxiety 7 Tips From An Insomnia Expert
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During this time of extreme uncertainty, many of us are struggling to sleep. If youre like me, you fall asleep easily but wake up at about 3am thinking of whatever was on your mind during the day, or perhaps your subconscious decides to think about the state of the world. You might also struggle with falling asleep at all.
Trust us, youre not alone. So many of you have reached out about sleep struggles. Weve taken your questions and given them directly to Dr. Leah Farrell-Carnahan, a personal friend, trusted insomnia expert, and licensed clinical psychologist and founder and director of Atlanta CBT. Dr. Farrell-Carnahan has helped hundreds of people who struggle with insomnia, so if you cant sleep due to anxiety, this article is for you!
Please note that Dr. Farrell-Carnahan gives general advice, which is NOT meant to replace any specific advice or recommendations you have been given from your personal healthcare providers. It is always a good idea to consult with your personal physician if you notice that you are having trouble sleeping.
Deep Sleep May Help Treat Anxiety
Researchers have known for a while about a connection between insufficient sleep and anxiety. A new study strengthens and quantifies this causal relation and shows that a sleepless night can raise anxiety by up to 30%.
Furthermore, the new study suggests that the deep phase of sleep is a natural anxiety reliever.
These are the main takeaways of a paper appearing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour .
Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California , Berkeley, is the senior author of the new study.
Prof. Walker and colleagues set out to examine the effects of various stages of sleep on anxiety in 18 participants.
Scientists routinely divide sleep into two broad categories rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep and four substages.
The first two stages of non-REM sleep are periods of light sleep in which the body adjusts from wakefulness to rest.
According to the National Institutes of Health , the third stage of non-REM sleep is the deep, restorative sleep that we need to feel recharged in the morning. Non-REM sleep is typically followed by REM sleep, which is the dream filled, lighter stage before waking.
These different sleep stages reflect differently in the brains activity. By measuring brain activity, Prof. Walker and the team determined the effects of various sleep stages on anxiety.
After each viewing, the participants completed a standard anxiety questionnaire called the state-trait anxiety inventory.
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Get Up At The Same Time Daily
Creating a routine can be an effective way to combat sleep anxiety and insomnia. By getting up at the same time every day, your body will naturally start to adjust your internal clock or circadian rhythm.
One sleep study, highlighted in the Guardian as A Cure for Insomnia, found that getting up at the same time every day helped the participants body feel sleepy around the same time every night. Over time, this helped the participants bedtimes become consistent.
However, creating a nighttime routine can also have similar effects. Winnie Yu for WebMD suggests creating a nightly routine can help relax your body as it starts to anticipate and expect sleep as you follow through each step. It can also help relieve anxiety, as you know what to expect each night and each morning.
Blueprint For Better Livinga Guide To Better Sleep
Anxiety piles up at night because anxious preoccupation is avoidable when a person is actively using their brain and body to carry them through the day, says Dr. Kate Cummins, a licensed clinical psychologist. When you have a list of to-dos or business meetings to participate in, your thought process is geared towards frontal cortex functioning, which is the judgment, planning and reasoning areas of your brain. Once you are finding yourself at the end of your day, your frontal cortex has the ability to relax a bit, shifting gears into things you enjoy or pieces of you that are not connected to higher level functioning, mainly in your emotions and limbic system. When your thoughts start connecting to the emotional part of your cognitive functioning, especially at night, the anxious thoughts or anxious emotion that has been lying dormant all day has a place to go, and becomes the forefront of your thinking patterns.
How do we stop this vicious cycle? Weve compiled a list of helpful tips in two parts: things you can do while in the grips of anxious thoughts, and things you can do to prevent them, before you go to bed.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Anxiety
When you cant sleep due to anxiety, you may experience behavioral changes, including:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Tense muscles.
Some people also have nocturnal panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, intense burst of extreme fear. Nocturnal panic attacks only happen at night, and often wake you from sleep.
Aromatherapy Diffuser And Essential Oil Set
Aromatherapy is a great self-care tool because its said to help improve pain levels and relieve stress.
In particular, while research is somewhat limited on essential oils, lavender oil is one thats generally considered a natural sleep aid. For example, one older study found that lavender increased the amount of slow and deep wave sleep.
Thats why this diffuser and essential oil set is a great tool to help you work aromatherapy into your nightly routine. Plus, the wood diffuser will look cute on your bedside.
Sense a pattern here? Products that give you something calming to focus on before bed are a great idea because they help take your mind off your worries.
Lighting a scented candle before bed is a great way to do that.
Homesick makes a whole line of candles designed to evoke the smells of your home state or specific memories so its pretty easy to find a scented candle that youll find calming.
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Get Up And Out Of Bed
If youve just had a nocturnal panic attack, its unlikely that youre going to be ready to drift off to sleep instantly.
And the worst thing you can do when you cant sleep is to just lay there. So, get yourself out of bed and start doing something.
Just be careful that you dont do anything over-stimulating. You want to distract your mind, not wake yourself up fully. This means avoiding screens , blasting music or hitting the gym.
You want to aim for lighter activities, like reading, gentle yoga stretches, or even a low-thought chore like ironing.
Force Yourself To Get Out Of Bed
Many sleep experts will tell you to get up when you can’t sleep, and I think there’s some truth to this.In my experience, lying awake at night for a long time causes my brain to associate my bed with not sleeping, creating even more anxiety. When I can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes of lying in bed, I get up, walk around the house, and do an activity that doesn’t require much brain power. My go-to: coloring in adult coloring books with gel pens. It’s soothing, mindless, and better than lying awake feeling anxious and frustrated.
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If You Just Cant Fall Asleep Get Out Of Bed
If the anxious thoughts just wont quiet down, the experts recommend physically getting out of your bed and moving to a different location in your house.
Dont make bed a place of feeling trapped, Kazez says, and Oexman agrees. You want to avoid associating your bedroom with not being able to sleep. If you cant sleep after being awake in bed for longer than 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom.
Once you leave your bed, settle on a comfortable couch or chair with the lights dim. From there, you can read, write, listen to music, or practice breathing exercises or gentle yoga until you feel tired again. When you feel sleepy, head back to your bed and try again.
What Are The Health Risks Of Not Getting Enough Sleep
Short sleep and fragmented sleep are linked with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, accidents, memory problems, diabetes, difficulty with concentration and impaired learning. Sleep is sometimes referred to as the third pillar of health: Sleep, nutrition, and exercise. In order to be healthy, all three must be managed well.
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How Do You Stop Panic Attacks At Night
Unfortunately, you can’t always stop panic attacks, especially if it’s a nocturnal panic attack that can happen during sleep without warning. However, you can learn to stay relaxed and “talk yourself down” by controlling your breath, practicing positive self-talk, relaxing your muscles, and seeking support from a friend or family member.
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 specialists 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 its 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.
Prepare For The Next Day
Many people find it anxiety-provoking to think about all that they need to do the next day. Being prepared is one of the best things to do to avoid this type of anxiety. Get as much ready as you can, like having your clothes picked out, lunches and bags packed, and your alarm clock set. Putting a small amount of effort into preparation can help keep evening anxiety under control.
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.
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But Most People Don’t Get Enough Sleep
Our world seems to move faster and faster every day. With so much to do, we often sacrifice a healthy seven to nine hours of sleep in an effort to keep up. In a 2014 survey, 42% of Americans said they got less than seven hours of sleep on a typical night. And across the world, less than 50% of survey participants said that they were sleeping well every night. If you have been deprived of sleep for a few days, the amount of sleep you need increases. Sleep deprivation creates a sleep debt that your body will demand to have repaid at some point. Contrary to popular belief, your body doesn’t actually adapt to getting inadequate sleep. However, you might get used to functioning with impaired judgment, slower reaction times, and foggy brain. The best way to repay a sleep debt is with consistent, adequate nighttime sleep and strategic napping.
Are You Sleep Deprived
Once you know what to look for, sleep deprivation becomes pretty apparent. For instance, if you feel thirsty, hungry, mentally foggy, or forgetful, you could be sleep deprived. The same holds true if you feel aggressive. If you feel sleepy while driving, or drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep. Furthermore, if you often fall asleep within five minutes of your head hitting the pillow, you are probably suffering from severe sleep deprivation.
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Go To Bed When You’re Sleepy
If you are not sleepy when you lie down, you are almost guaranteed to have trouble falling asleep. Leibowitz says that he has fixed many patients’ sleep issues by simply suggesting that they go to bed later.
He says, “We all have a clock in our brain that controls when sleep and wake should happen. That is a trait. People who are night owls are night owls. People who are morning people are morning people. And, contrary to popular belief, we can not train ourselves to be morning people by going to bed early and getting up early.”
Many problems with sleep come simply because we tell ourselves that we have to be a morning person when we aren’t, and we try to be a morning person by going to bed early when we aren’t sleepy.
Here’s an example: If you are someone who needs seven hours of sleep and you go to bed at 10 p.m. and set your alarm for 7 a.m., you’re giving yourself a nine-hour window for sleep. Those extra two hours are going to show up somewhereeither at the beginning of the night, in the middle of the night or in the early morning. So if you go to bed at midnight and wake up at 7 a.m. and you feel refreshed, you may be a night owl who is a seven-hour sleeper, and that’s OK!
By setting your wake time and knowing the number of hours of sleep you generally need each night, you’ll be able to better know the time to go to bed when you will actually be sleepy.
Avoid Alcohol Before Sleep
Alcohol has become a popular coping mechanism during this pandemic mostly because there isnt much else to do, and getting pleasantly buzzed is a nice alternative to the fact that the world is mostly a raging dumpster fire.
However, and we know this is hard to hear, alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep. Ouch.
The bad news is that alcohol blocks REM sleep , meaning that you might feel drowsy and fall asleep quickly when you drink, but youre much less likely to fall into deep REM cycle sleep.
So have that glass of wine when the school day is over for your kids, but dont overindulge. Your sleep cycle will thank you.
Watch this video to hear about other activities, environments, or health conditions that could prevent you from getting good quality, restorative sleep.
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Avoid Stressful Activities Before Bed
Amber Weiss, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Transformative Mindset, says, Creating some form of a transition from daytime to sleeping is highly recommended. According to Weiss, you cant expect the mind to go to sleep on demand. Instead, you need to allow time for the brain to transition, just like we transition to go outside or when we get home.
The goal is to reduce the nervous thoughts in your head so your mind is clear, calm, and positive before you head off to sleep. This can entail leaving the office, work, news, and social media exchanges for earlier in the day to create buffer time between work and sleep, setting yourself up for better rest.
How To Sleep When Stressed And Anxious
Katy asked on what sleep questions you all had, and Dr. Farrell-Carnahan took the time to answer them all on video! Weve taken this video and turned it into a list of tips to help you sleep when stressed and anxious.
According to our expert, with insomnia, knowledge and behavior change are power. There are actually things you can learn and do differently to prevent insomnia from becoming chronic and to treat it once it has.
Without further ado, here are seven tips to help you get a better nights sleep.
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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.