Alaska Sleep Education Center

Getting to Sleep When You Suffer From Anxiety

Posted by Kevin Faber on Aug 4, 2021 2:37:00 PM

Young woman sitting on the bed with pain in neck

When you lie down with the intent to get a good night's rest, do you toss and turn because you're thinking about everything that happened that day? Do you obsess about what you could've done differently or better? Perhaps you don’t question the past at all; instead, maybe you fixate on what could happen in the future. This constant anxiety can hold you back from getting the proper night's rest your body needs. Falling asleep fast and sleeping through the night prevent depression, lower inflammation, improve immunity, and boost productivity. In order to get the best rest, you have to manage your anxiety. Here are some ways to help you sleep better if you suffer from anxiety.  

Take Your Supplements

One of the best ways to avoid an anxious mind before bed is to battle anxiety before it becomes a sleep issue. It's important to eat healthy so your body gets the nutrition it needs. However, sometimes your body may not get enough vitamins and minerals from food alone, so you may need to start taking supplements. If you're not sure whether you have a deficiency, ask your doctor to run blood tests.                                                                                              

Some common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that affect your mood stability are vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, and iodine. If you can get these deficiencies to acceptable levels, your ability to sleep without worry is going to improve greatly.

Another possible reason for anxiety is that you may not have enough probiotics in your diet. Probiotics relieve anxiety and depression in several ways, including increasing serotonin and reducing inflammation. Certain probiotic strains also lower corticosterone, a major stress hormone while others act as natural antidepressants. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickles are three foods that contain probiotics. However, you can also try supplements. Many supplements are intended to help with other issues as well. For example, some aim to improve constipation while others are weight loss probiotics.

Perform Breathing Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation techniques are used to reduce anxiety. The main focus of these exercises is to determine how your body responds to stress and alter this reaction if it’s an unhealthy one. Some natural responses to anxiety are heavy breathing, increased heart rate, lightheadedness, and an overall feeling of panic. Relaxation practices are used to change these anxious responses into relaxed reactions. These techniques are effective because they help you to be in the present rather than to be lost in your thoughts.    

One way to control bedtime stress is to practice relaxed breathing. When you feel your pulse increase due to worry, breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing and continue this exercise until you begin to feel less anxious. Calm yourself down by visualizing a real or imaginary place you feel safe in. Picture yourself in this location and concentrate on the intimate details, such as how everything looks, smells, and feels. While focusing on your safe place, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keep doing this breathing exercise until you feel better. 

If you're unable to visualize a safe space, use your surroundings as a calming mechanism. Find somewhere comfortable and relaxing to sit and take note of your breathing. Shift your thoughts to your physical surroundings. Ask yourself what you hear, smell, and feel. Move your thoughts back and forth between your breathing and the calming environment. Soon, your breathing is going to reflect the peacefulness of your surroundings, which is ultimately going to calm your nerves.

Put Down the Electronics

Do you play games, send texts or look at social media sites right before you try to sleep? If so, you're probably sabotaging a good night's rest. The blue wavelength light that's emitted from your phone and other smart devices is a sleep-deprivation culprit. This light increases the amount of cortisol your brain produces, which keeps you alert, while it simultaneously decreases the sleep hormone, melatonin. For these reasons, it's best if you don't use any electronics an hour before you try to sleep.

This age of technology has everyone afraid to look away from their phones in case they miss out on something. This fear causes anxiety, which is why many people won’t turn their phones off at night, even to sleep. If you're easily woken up by a single buzz from your phone and are inclined to check the notification, you're probably not getting the rest you need.

If you want to decrease your electronic-based nighttime anxiety, here are a few things you can try. Practice ignoring incoming notifications during the day so it's not difficult to do at night. If you can't help checking your phone, turn off the ringer. Make it a goal to check for texts and other messages every thirty minutes to an hour. This process is going to show you that looking at notifications immediately isn't necessary, so you won't stress over it at night. Consider moving your devices to another room or, at least, to a dresser that's not right beside your bed. Keeping them farther away is going to discourage usage.

If you want an activity to do before you fall asleep, try something that won't overload your brain. Reading a book (yes, a paper book), listening to music, or watching a television show is acceptable. Choose activities that will put your mind at ease.

Schedule Thinking Time

If you've been away all day, it's unlikely that you've had a chance to sit down and think about the day’s events. Choose a time when it's acceptable to be anxious; otherwise, bedtime might become an unplanned worry session. While anxiety shouldn't be debilitating, it is a normal part of life and needs to be dealt with on a daily basis so it doesn't build up.

During this scheduled session, write down everything that is bothering you regardless of how big or small the issue is. After you've created a list, think about possible solutions to each problem and write those down as well. This list isn't going to solve everything, but it will certainly give you peace of mind and relieve your anxiety. Getting all of the stress off your chest and onto paper during this designated worry time is going to help you to sleep like a baby at bedtime.

 

Conclusion

Don't let worry keep you up at night, especially when there are so many ways to combat it. If you can control your nighttime worry, you will sleep better, and sound sleep leads to decreased anxiety. This cycle repeats, so you have to take the necessary steps to keep the pattern moving in the right direction. If you deal with anxiety directly rather than letting stress take over your life, you're going to have restful nights and refreshing days.

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Topics: sleep habits, sleep hygiene, anxiety, getting beter sleep

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