Anxiety insomnia is just another one of those all-too-familiar vicious cycles.
Anxiety leads to lack of sleep, and lack of sleep leads to anxiety.
Every morning your alarm clock goes off and, with a fuzzy head from the two minutes that you did manage to close your eyes for, you promise yourself that tonight’s going to be the night you get a good night’s sleep.
You feel like crap all day and can’t wait to get in bed.
Then, the second your weary head hits the pillow (finally!), your eyes are wide open, your mind is racing, and the whole process starts again.
Tossing and turning.
Overthinking and wishing you could turn the clock back on conversations you’ve had that day.
Or lying there full of fear and dread for the future.
Knowing that with every passing second, you’re going to feel a little bit worse tomorrow which stresses you out so there’s no chance you’ll get to sleep now.
Now I know you identify with this scenario.
And I know that lack of sleep makes you feel like crap every day. But what I don’t know is whether you know just how important it is that you get good sleep when you have anxiety?
Apart from the fact that lack of sleep makes you feel rubbish which can trigger anxiety attacks, lack of sleep also makes your brain think that you’re under threat.
This triggers the fight-or-flight response which leads to a surge of cortisol which causes the anxiety.
I could write all day about how important it is that you get enough sleep when you suffer with anxiety, but that’s a blog for another day.
Today, I want to give you my tips on how I get a good night’s sleep despite my anxiety.
I didn’t sleep for three months when I started counselling. And I hadn’t slept for about a year before that, so I know it’s not a quick fix.
But with a combination of the following nine things, I got into habits which took the fear out of sleeping and turned it back into the relaxing activity that it’s meant to be!
Here are nine things I implemented which contributed to me getting my sleeping patterns back to break the insomnia cycle.
Beating anxiety insomnia reduced the effects of anxiety and helped me live a more normal life.
1)Turn your phone off.
Having the world at your fingertips while trying to quiet a racing mind is a recipe for disaster. Social media, news pages, Google searching your symptoms…when you can’t sleep those are the activities which will add to the problem, not solve it.
Turning your phone to silent won’t do the trick either because those vibrations still manage to penetrate your peace! Turning your phone off before bed isn’t something that you need to do for the rest of your life, but it’s a great temporary measure while you get back into the habit of falling asleep.
2) Don’t look at the time during the night.
If you don’t turn your phone off but you keep it on silent, make a promise with yourself that you won’t look at it until your alarm goes off. Knowing how long I had left before I had to get up used to stress me out and make falling asleep harder. I still don’t ever look at the time if I wake up in the night and it means that I’ll mostly drop straight back off if I wake for any reason, safe in the knowledge that I still have a few hours left, even if it’s only five minutes!
3) Turn all devices off at least two hours before bed.
Laptops, tablets, phones, PCs. Off, off, and off!! I could ramble something scientific about iPads having backlights in them which makes your brain thinks it’s daytime so it finds it harder to sleep, but I won’t (even though they might). Instead I’ll say that if you’re in front of a screen, your brain is active and that’s the last thing it should be before bed! Switch them off, read a book, just lie there. It’s a hard habit to get into but one that is just as hard to get out of!
Meditation is something which has a personal meaning to everyone and it’s not something I can advise you on. Some people see it as ‘thinking’ or ‘contemplating’, others see it as altering your consciousness or praying to a higher power. There are many Western variations from traditional meditation and your interpretation is your own.
What I can tell you is that to get out of your own head twice a day is one of the best things you might be able to do for your sleeping pattern!
5) Deep breathing.
Oh, be still my beating heart. Don’t change your breathing patterns randomly, always seek advice before you do this. If you know how to practice deep breathing, before bed is an excellent time to do so. Deep breathing regulates the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body, it reduces anxiety, it increases the flow of oxygen and makes you feel more relaxed.
6) Write in your journal.
Now that your devices are switched off you have plenty of time to write in your journal! Oh, don’t worry if you don’t know what to say, or if your handwriting’s terrible, these memoirs are never going to get published. You might not even look back on them yourself. What journaling does do though is help you process emotions and deal with the feelings that your brain can’t process on its own. Letting it all out before bed will help calm your brain and may reduce some incidences of overthinking. A professional can advise you further on any strategy surrounding your journaling.
Every damn day!
Exercising before bed isn’t necessarily advisable but going for a run, swim, gym class or even a powerwalk is advisable as many out of the seven days as you can imagine. Exercise uses energy which naturally makes you more tired so your body fights against your mind to catch those elusive Zzzz’s. Off topic, exercise also releases endorphins (the happy hormone) which naturally counteracts anxiety and low mood. But that’s also a blog for another day!
8) Put lavender on your pillow.
Pop a couple of drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before you go bed and I promise you will notice a difference. OK, you may not, but I do! As soon as I inhale I can feel my blood start to slow as my body and mind both relax. If you can’t stand the smell of it, you’ll get used to it, and it will be worth it!
9) Avoid alcohol.
While alcohol might seem like the obvious solution, passing out doesn’t constitute a good night’s sleep. Quite the opposite. Alcohol is a stimulant so even if you keep your eyes closed for a full eight hours after you’ve been drinking, you don’t reach the REM state that your body needs to rest and repair, so you’ll end up feeling just as groggy the next day.
Everyone’s different when it comes to methods on getting a good night’s sleep and I’d love to know your tips and tricks on how to get a good night’s sleep when you feel anxious.
If you want to know more about how I live with an anxiety disorder to live a life that’s happy, healthy, and fulfilled, buy the Freedom Reigns eBook and join the Anxiety Buddy community today!
Founder - Anxiety Buddy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Jo was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2014 and knows what it’s like to live with the crippling disorder and suffer in silence, She also knows how much easier anxiety is to manage when you connect with others and have a strong support network around you. Jo is committed to normalising anxiety and helping others understand their anxiety to reduce the impact it has on everyday life.