Sleeping With Anxiety

Sleeping with Anxiety: Tips and Tricks

Anxiety is a common mental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause various symptoms, including difficulty sleeping. When we can’t sleep well, it affects our mental health, further aggravating anxiety. Sleep has been an issue that I’ve struggled with over the years due to childhood trauma, PTSD, stress, and anxiety. While the root cause of our anxiety may differ for each of us, let’s discuss some tips and tricks to help you get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.

One of the best ways to have better sleep quality is by having a sleep routine. Having a particular time of the day when you sleep and wake up ensures you get enough hours of quality sleep.

Move your body

Anxiety and stress don’t have to control you even when it might feel like it. As always, taking steps to move your body can help you manage your feelings of tension and worry. It may be one of the most beneficial ways to relax before bed. 

Before settling in for the night, take time for yourself with these relaxing activities:

  • Go for a stroll. Moving your body can help reduce anxiety and stress, so take some time to get outside and go for a leisurely walk around the block or just in your backyard.
  • Try light stretching. Like yoga, simple stretches can help relax your body and mind before bed. Focus on poses that target the neck, shoulders, and other tense areas. 

Gentle movement before bed is ideal, as studies have shown that high-intensity exercise can interfere with falling asleep and sound sleep when done one hour before bed.

Get out in the morning sunlight

Waking up in the morning sunlight is one of the best ways to start your day. It provides an early boost of energy and helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

Research has shown that getting out into the morning sunlight can benefit physical and emotional health. Exposure to natural light in the morning helps to reduce stress levels and improve our overall mood. Furthermore, research suggests that morning sunlight can reduce the risk of depression, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Getting out into the morning sun helps increase our vitamin D levels, essential for a robust immune system. Vitamin D is vital in regulating calcium and phosphorus absorption, which are necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Additionally, research has linked adequate vitamin D intake to a reduced risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. 

The evidence supporting time in morning sunlight is plentiful. Even if you can only step out for a few minutes each morning, it’s still beneficial. Take in the fresh air and open your lungs to boost your body’s energy. 

Relaxing before bed

Relaxing before bedtime can help you get a good night’s sleep. Try incorporating deep breathing, meditation, or reading calming books. If you like baths, consider adding essential oils that promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Dimming house lights can also be helpful to signify the transition to bedtime. The aim is to calm your mind and prepare it for rest.

Pay attention to diet

Managing your diet throughout the day can play a big part in helping your body relax before bed. Eating a heavier lunch with power-boosting foods for the day and lower-energetic foods for dinner can help your body expend the greatest energy in the day, allowing for a better opportunity to feel calm at night. 

Try packing a heavier lunch and snacks. If you need a sweet treat, consume it during the day to give your body time to digest it and burn off the energy. Eat a lighter caloric dinner by increasing vegetables for increased fiber and to help create the feeling of being full. Don’t forget to add some good fats, healthy carbs, and protein to make a well-rounded dinner that is satisfying but not heavy. 

In addition to what you eat, timing can be helpful. It’s easy for the day to get away from you, so set a dinner time. Eating an early dinner can give your body time to digest, which means your body can focus on quality sleep instead of digesting food. 

Disconnect from electronics

As you prepare to sleep, switch off all electronics, including smartphones, laptops, and computers. Electronic devices may keep you awake and stimulate your mind and body for hours. We are constantly exposed to the blue light emitted from electronic screens such as TVs, phones, tablets, and computers. Research has shown that exposure to blue light can adversely affect our sleep patterns by suppressing the production of melatonin–the hormone that helps maintain regular sleep cycles.

Don’t wait to switch off your electronics. Setting aside your laptop, tablet, and phone for an hour or two before you hit your pillow is vital. Turning off your devices an hour before bedtime allows your body to produce melatonin naturally and prepare for restful sleep. Additionally, staying away from blue light-emitting screens before bedtime can make it easier to fall asleep quickly and reduce the time it takes to reach deeper stages of sleep. 

Bonus Tips:

  • If removing technology is difficult, try turning off the wifi in your home for a couple of hours before bedtime.
  • Set an alarm to remind yourself when to shut down electronics.

Crank up your aromatherapy skills

Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to improve well-being. Essential oils have been used for centuries in holistic medicine and are believed to have calming and balancing effects on the mind as well as physical benefits. Here are some of our favorite essential oils for relaxation and sleep:

  • Lavender: This sweet and floral scent is known for its soothing properties. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, with various studies suggesting it can help reduce anxiety and stress. I like to spray lavender water on my pillowcase before bed. The scent of lavender suggests to the subconscious and conscious, “Hey, go to bed now.”
  • Vetiver: This earthy and smoky essential oil is another go-to for relaxation. It’s known to help calm the nervous system, making it ideal for a peaceful bedtime ritual.
  • Chamomile: With its sweet scent, chamomile is one of the most popular essential oils for sleep. Studies suggest that it can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.

Incorporating essential oils into your bedtime routine is easy, whether you prefer to spritz a few drops on your pillow or opt for an aromatherapy diffuser. Remember, diluting essential oils with a carrier oil is important if you’re using topically.

Stick to a routine

One of the best ways to have better sleep quality is by having a sleep routine. Having a particular time of the day when you sleep and wake up ensures you get enough hours of quality sleep. Once you adopt a sleep routine, it becomes automatic, and your body prepares to sleep, making it easier to fall asleep in a shorter time.

While it may not work for everyone’s schedule, it is ideal if you can head to sleep 2-3 hours after sunset. For many, this means around 10 p.m. If you have a work or life schedule that doesn’t allow that, don’t worry. Studies have shown that a consistent bedtime may be most beneficial for good sleep despite the hour. Planning dinner and wind-down time at the same time each night can significantly help with this.

Just as many set an alarm to wake up in the morning, consider setting an alarm to go to sleep. When the sleep specialist recommended this, it felt over the top, but it was actually the most helpful. Getting into a good cycle of preparing for bed two hours before bedtime has been vital. When my alarm goes off, I close up whatever I’m doing and start the wind down for bed. I set my next alarm one hour from the first, signaling that I should be in bed relaxing. 

While the alarms may seem excessive, they helped me create a routine that my body and mind look forward to each night. 

Seek Professional Help

If you’ve tried the above tips, it’s time to consider seeking professional help. A mental health professional can help you manage your anxiety better and improve sleep quality. In addition, a sleep specialist may also provide some specific tips that can help you find quality sleep and help you manage your anxiety symptoms.

Conclusion

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that affects millions worldwide. It can cause difficulties sleeping, which further aggravates anxiety symptoms. However, adopting a few tips, such as relaxing before bed, disconnecting from electronics, using essential oils, adopting a routine, and seeking professional help if need be, can improve your sleeping habits and overall mental health. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what works best for you. We all come from different experiences, and finding a healthy sleep rhythm will look different for all of us. 

If you experience severe anxiety symptoms that affect your mental and physical well-being, please seek professional help from a mental health professional.

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