When Anxiety Interferes with Sleep
Have you ever lain awake in bed feeling like your thoughts were running through your head nonstop? Has looking at the clock and seeing how long you’ve been trying to fall asleep made you feel even more wound up?
Many of us experience anxiety-related insomnia, and our attachment to nighttime use of our phones and TVs only exacerbates the problem. Luckily, there are strategies you can try, especially before bedtime, to help reduce anxiety and improve your sleep.
How to Improve Your Sleep
One way to increase your likelihood of a good night’s sleep is to practice meditation and mindfulness techniques. In fact, research suggests that a mere 10 minutes of meditation per day might be worth 44 minutes of sleep.
Exercise has long proved to be an effective, natural remedy for disordered sleep. One study showed that four months of aerobic exercise for individuals with insomnia led not only to reports of better sleep, but to less daytime drowsiness and depressive symptoms.
Which form of exercise you choose is up to you, so long as it gets your body moving and your heart pounding. Yoga can be particularly effective since it combines cardio with meditative techniques, making it a great mind-body workout.
Alcohol should be avoided if you want to improve your sleep quality. While drinking alcohol can help with falling asleep, it generally interferes with the quality of your sleep, as well as your ability to stay asleep. Routine use of alcohol as a sleep aid can place you at risk for abuse, and in some cases even lead to addiction.
If your pattern of alcohol use begins to raise concerns for you, it may be a good idea to consider professional support. There are many types of programs that assist people in addressing problematic patterns of alcohol use, and quitting drinking altogether.
Use The Bed For Sleep
Most of us are guilty of lying in bed for ages, answering emails or scrolling through our timelines. Not only can this make it harder to sleep, but staying awake in bed may train you to think of your pillow as a place of activity rather than rest.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, we recommend getting up and finding something (non-electronic) to do. The National Sleep Foundation recommends reading a book or brewing yourself a cup of tea. You may also try gentle movement or stretching to help calm the nervous system.
Write It Out
One way to calm the thoughts that keep you up at night is to put them down on paper. Just realizing as your head hits the pillow that you never responded to your boss’ email? Remembered that the mortgage is due the next day? Make notes for yourself so your mind can relax without worrying that you’ll forget to take care of important tasks.
You may choose to express your feelings in a journal entry, or create a to-do list that helps you feel more in control of your stressors. Do what feels right to you.
Consider giving some of these approaches a try. And, if you have others we didn’t mention, we’d love to hear from you! To discuss your ideas and/or concerns about sleep and anxiety, you can always reach our clinicians by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a chain of drug and alcohol rehab facilities. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention. He can be reached at email@example.com