One of the most common issues for those who suffer with anxiety disorders, is a problem with sleep. Sometimes it’s sleeping too much, but often, it’s the lack of sleep. It can be hard to fall asleep with lots of anxious thoughts running through your head so here are some tips, to help you improve your sleeping pattern.
First, it’s a good idea to understand why a good sleeping pattern is important for your mental health. Sleep is important as it gives our body a chance to recover and it also gives your mind a chance to rest. Having a good sleep schedule means that your brain can adapt and once it gets used to the schedule, you should be able to wake up without feeling groggy. Good sleep enables you to function properly throughout the day. Understandably, when you don’t sleep properly, your anxiety is triggered more easily.
Tip #1 - Have a bedtime routine
The idea of this, is to trigger a sense of sleepiness. If your mind is constantly active and then you suddenly try to go to bed, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to fall asleep or even if you do, you might wake up suddenly as your brain is still processing the information you were thinking about.
A bedtime routine could consist of: brushing your teeth, having a wash, skincare, stretches, getting into bed, reading for half an hour, then lights off. Every person is different so experiment with a routine that best works for you. You want to create a routine that enables you to unwind from the day, practice mindfulness and train your brain to sleep.
Tip #2 - Don’t eat too late
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day so food often becomes something we compromise on. I went through a phase of eating late and that often led to me feeling unwell and even caused panic attacks during the night.
Your body needs a chance to digest the food so going to bed shortly after you’ve eaten isn’t always going to end well. I try to have a cut off point of eight pm. I may have a light snack afterwards if I’m really peckish but so far, that hasn’t affected me badly.
Tip #3 - Avoid electronics
Our phones are with us all of the time and TV’s have become a common item to have in our bedrooms as well as laptops, tablets, games consoles etc. Try to avoid using electronics before going to bed. Put your phone away and try reading. Personally, this is something I struggle with a lot as the TV helps me to fall asleep and doesn’t let my thoughts overwhelm my brain. However, I do stay off social media if I can and I won’t play games after eight-thirty pm.
Tip #4 - Create a relaxing atmosphere
This can be the most fun tip as it gives you a chance to redecorate your room. Lighting plays a big part in creating a nice atmosphere so you could invest in some fairy lights or some warm lighting. I have a dimmable bedside lamp which is perfect for me. I also have an essential oil diffuser which provides nice lighting and is perfect for using smells to promote relaxation. You can buy a set of essential oils off of Amazon that gives you an opportunity to see what works for you. Lavender is a great oil for relaxation but there are others like Lemon, Cinnamon, etc. Just be careful if you have pets as some can be poisonous for them. Scented candles are a great option for creating a nice atmosphere in your room. Try to use natural wax as that’s less toxic for us.
Basically, think of all the ideas that you associate with a cozy space and try to implement them. Soft toys, blankets, pillows, music, the list goes on!
Tip #5 - Stick to a sleep schedule
Finally, make sure to stick to the schedule. My GP gave me this advice saying even if you can barely sleep, get up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time. Eventually, your brain will learn to switch off. The biggest benefit of this is feeling well rested and being able to wake up on time without needing an alarm. It’s tempting to have a lie-in but that will often leave you feeling worse.
Hopefully these sleeping tips will enable you to get some well deserved rest and in turn, lower your anxiety. Anxiety and sleep almost go hand in hand. Anxiety is a response to a threat so when you're tired, your brain perceives more threats and that you are more vulnerable because of your sleepy state.