How to Stop Anxiety Affecting Your Sleep.
You probably know the feeling… Your eyes are heavier than a shopping haul from pack ‘n save. Your legs are like aching and you just need to get into bed and cuddle that memory foam pillow until you drift off. But, as soon as your head hits the pillow, your mind starts going off on one. It throws up all the “what if’s”, the cringey memories from years ago and lists everything you need to do tomorrow/the next day/next month.
Sleep is one of the most important components to self-care. When you’re in a deep sleep, your body is repairing itself, you’re building up your long-term memories and your body is essentially resetting for another day. When you consistently have bad sleeping patterns, you can start to feel moody, have memory loss, hormone imbalances and even low sex drive - so it’s important to say the least.
Unfortunately, those of us with Anxiety Disorders are more prone to sleep deprivation than others. Our minds are constantly overclocked and running at a million miles an hour so it’s harder for us to switch off. Think of it like this… if a car is going 100mph, it’ll take a longer time to stop than a car going 10mph.
I posted about my sleep pattern on Instagram and asked for some advice and tips for switching off. I’ve collected some of the tried and tested methods for getting a few extra hours below:
Limit Screen Time Before Bed.
This was hard for me because my usual routine is me binge-watching Netflix until I pass out. I have tried “no screen time” for at least an hour before bed but for me, I easily filled that hour with overthinking or worrying that I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep. What a weird cycle anxiety is…
No Screen-Time is proven to improve sleep though. The blue lights that come off our electronics mess with a certain part of the brain that tells us that it’s time to sleep. It stop us producing the hormone melatonin which keeps us awake. Instead of Facebook or Netflix, try a good ole paper book with soft lighting (from a lamp or reading light). If you want to save some trees, opt for a “Kindle Paperwhite” which doesn’t emit the same blue light others do.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
This is usually my go-to for helping me sleep. I’m constantly raving about my headphones because the noise cancelling is amazing. I can be quite ‘over stimulated’ from too much noise, meaning that I find it hard being in noisy environments. I think it’s my over-preparedness, making me try to listen to everything that’s going on at one time and it feels exhausting. Anyway, if I’m in a particularly noisy hostel or hearing street-noise, I put my headphones on and listen to some soundscapes. My favourites are Rainforest Walk, Launderette and Data-centre (from the MyNoise app).
Daily meditation is good for your overall heath but for sleep, I do body scans. It’s basically a process of mentally scanning your body and relaxing every muscle. Starting from the tip of your head, think about relaxing your skull, then your ears, then your eyebrows, eyes, mouth, jaw, and work your way down your whole body. While you’re relaxing, keep taking long deep breaths to slow your heart rate down too.
This helps if I’ve had a coffee too late in the day and I’m still super tensed up!
Guided Meditations were recommended by Alex (aka Anxious Yogi) on my Instagram post. They can help if you want someone to walk you through it and there are loads online. I’ve used the apps Calm and Headspace before but there are ones on YouTube too.
I’ve used podcasts on and off to help me sleep for years. I used to listen to Scott Mill’s podcast for his Radio1 show but nowadays it’s a mix. I’d stay away from the comedy and scary stories, they tend to make me more awake then tired! The Calm app I mentioned have sleep stories which everyone raves about. There’s even one read by Matthew McConaughey which is highly rated!
I’ve heard lots of positives for daily journaling. A few months ago I bought a Bullet Journal and I’ve been using it to track my Mental Health. I just note down little things like what my mood was like and help me keep on track of habits like drinking water, exercise and sleep!
Having a little out-pour of your thoughts before bed can stop them going round in your head. Once you’ve got your to-do list sorted and wrote about your day, your mind will be a bit emptier and the “no-screen” time will help with those sleep hormones. Bonus!
People who exercise every day are crazy. Just kidding (not really), they tend to sleep better because their hormones and energy levels are better regulated. If you manage to go on a run, you’ll get rid of any excess energy you have, which means you’ll have less energy for thinking about that time you didn’t hold the door for someone a few months ago.
Having a routine you go through at the end of each day will help you (and your thoughts) wind down. Remember when you were a kid and you’d get a bath, put your PJ’s on and have a bed time story? Same kinda concept! Having a shower, cup of tea, brushing your teeth, writing in a journal - they’re all the grown up version of the bedtime routine!
What do you think? If you’ve got your own tips for getting a good nights sleep, let me know!
If you still have trouble sleeping after you’ve tried all these things, it’s worth chatting to your doctor about it. It could be something more than anxiety keeping you up but they’ll be able to help you figure out the best treatment.
Have a good day (and even better dreams),
P.S - If you liked this, I’d really appreciate if you share it (on FB, IG, PT or any other Social Media Acronym you can think of). Thanks!