anxiety · habits · mental health · sleep habits

[Guest Post] 5 Ways to Overcome Your Sleep Anxiety

5 Ways to Overcome Your Sleep Anxiety

Anxiety can have a significant impact on our day-to-day lives. It affects every aspect of our lives because our mind can get carried away with thoughts that might not be helpful and can be hinder our sleep. We already know we absolutely without a question need sleep. Although we don’t fully understand it still, we do know we need it every single day no matter what goes on around us. The problem is anxiety can affect our sleep.

How Anxiety Affects Our Sleep

In order for us to work towards a solution, we have to get better at understanding anxiety and how it relates to our sleep.

Which came first: the anxiety or the sleep problems?

Studies seem to suggest that the two are bidirectional. This means that one affects the other and vice versa.

When we find ourselves anxious, sleep can become difficult as our mind becomes hyperaware of everything that has been or is going on in our lives. On the other hand, when we have sleep problems, our emotional, physical, and mental well-being can plummet causing anxiety.

This definitely doesn’t sound pleasant, but at least we know the two can tie into each other. More so, losing sleep can also affect even more than we might expect.

Why sleep anxiety is a serious concern

You can learn more about the importance of sleep and the impact of sleep deprivation at My Sleepy Ferret.

In essence, the loss of sleep can spell trouble with concentration and clear thinking, physical health problems such as increased risk to heart diseases and diabetes, and massive mood swings and changes. This also includes irritability, the feeling of being overwhelmed, and, of course, anxiety-inducing sleep.

So what can we do about this anxiety before bedtime?

The Mindset For Approaching Sleep Anxiety

When we look at solutions to anxiety, we have to keep in mind that one size never fits all. What works for me might not work for you, or for the next person. But the recommended methods we frequently find from trusted sources seem to always say the same thing.

Here’s the thing: we need to believe that the methods work and that we need to deploy patience in practicing healthy living and sleep habits.

I can’t tell you how to believe, because how you view the world won’t be in the same manner as me simply. Our experiences differ and how we were raised can also influence our worldviews. Everyone has problems and want to get rid of them, but when we don’t see results right away we tend to walk away from the given solution.

What I can share is how important patience can be. Living with mental health disorders is like driving a car with a busted steering wheel; it can be difficult to stay on track despite knowing where you want to head towards and making the effort to get there.

In order to deploy patience, finding a way to accept the long-term drive down the road to healthy living will be a key to sleeping better at night.

Methods For Overcoming Sleep Anxiety

By far, the best way for those racing thoughts is by getting them out. Not only can you slow them down, but you also give yourself the verbal cues for your mind to focus on walking down the linear trains of thought. To do this, here are five methods you can keep in your arsenal for overcoming your sleep anxiety:

Write down your thoughts by journaling

Perhaps the most preached idea for all of life’s problems, and for good reason. The benefits of journaling are real and can help you sort out your thoughts. By writing consistently each day and without judgment, we can better understand what is going on and become proactive in changing the way we think. It’s worth having a set of daily helpful questions that can provoke positive thinking.

I have had nights when I forget to journal, and I would find myself wide awake after an hour or two. This is when I pull out a blank legal-size paper and begin to jot down everything I’m thinking. After I feel moderately comfortable, I briefly jot down 3 amazing things that happened today (no matter how small or insignificant I feel they might be!) and 3 things I am grateful for. I end my journal with 3 things I can complete tomorrow that will make the day great.

Talk to someone

This one might not be easy. It goes without saying we should be careful who we share the good news with. The same also applies to who we share bad news with. We want to fill our lives with people who we can celebrate the good news with and people who can be there for you during tough times. The last thing we want is for someone to feel threatened, gloat, sabotage, or exploit your good times and bad for their own selfish desires.

I recently had a panic attack one night, and fortunately my girlfriend was with me. I couldn’t talk at first, so it was very difficult. But she kept asking questions, and I kept thinking. This talk helped me focus on something entirely different, and eventually my mind began to calm down. My breathing eventually slowed, and I was back in control once again.

If you happen to have good people to be with, then talking to someone might be an important step in staying outside of the negative and cyclical nature of anxious thinking that might keep you up at night.

Get moving physically with yoga

Although any form of exercise can help, yoga seems to be very effective because of how well it regulates all the stress responses in our body. This includes slowing down our heart rate, lowering our blood pressure, and helping us breathe easier. As an added bonus, you can eventually do some wicked challenging poses with your body.

The other night, I began to have muscle tension that would not relax. Some things came up late at night for my business, and it caused a large amount of stress. My bed is up against a wall, so what I did was do the splits with my butt rested up against the wall. I almost fell asleep in this position, but the stretches helped with my muscle tension and the weeks of practice with yoga came in handy in easing my mind.

Deep breathing and meditation

This is yet another frequently preached method that has a lot of direct and relaxing benefits for your anxiety. By including the two into your daily routine, you can expect your muscles to relax, your mind to become silent, and your stress levels and anxiety to lower.

You can practice breathing and meditation almost anywhere, even outside of bedtime. There are times when I am waiting in my car for someone or working at a local coffee shop when I realize how much stress is building up within me. I would simply put the entire world on hold and close my eyes, giving myself a moment to collect myself through focused breathing exercises. One little tidbit on how I breathe is by focusing on the sensation in my nostrils. I like to pay attention to the subtle temperature changes and gentle airflow.

I highly recommend starting with guided breathing exercises, especially with the 5-minute audio found here. Practice this daily with the audio until you can make it your own.

Spend time to wind down

This can include every method mentioned above plus more. The idea behind this method is to develop a sort of evening routine that you can follow each night before bed. We are creatures of habit, and through consistent practice, we can develop a sense of familiarity that might help us overcome anxious thoughts.

This is still difficult for me to do. My personal cut off time is supposed to be at 8 PM, however I always find myself sitting in front of a computer until 10 PM. More recently, I have set an alarm on my phone to ring at 8 PM, and I would automatically wrap up my day with an immediate journal entry, reflecting on one great experience I had for the day.

Inevitably, I would jot down what I have to do for the next day and what my vision is in the short, medium, and long-term. Having a 30,000-foot view on where I want to take my life serves as a nice reminder and gives me something pleasant to think about. It also keeps my head from worrying about fire that I might forget the next day that needs to be put out.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes sleep problems and anxiety can become too overwhelming and difficult for us to tackle alone. To try and fix such a struggle is like asking someone to walk off a broken ankle.

If you at any point believe the feeling is too much, that your sleep is now being affected negatively, or if any part of your life is beginning to fall apart, please consult a medical professional.

You might need medication. You might need someone who specializes in talk therapy. You might need the right help. So if you aren’t talking to a mental health professional today, consider doing so first.

But for those who are stepping up to tackle their personal challenges head-on, I sincerely hope this post helps you shed some light behind anxiety and sleep.

Bookmark this page, leave a comment below, and pass it onto others who might be struggling. And share with us what has been working for you so others might be able to sleep better each night.

Featured Image by Alexander Possingham.

4 thoughts on “[Guest Post] 5 Ways to Overcome Your Sleep Anxiety

  1. Thanks Nat for featuring me! The physical activity makes a huge difference for me. I tried testing no work out / sit in front of a computer all day for a week vs. working out every day for a week (diet remaining the same).
    It’s probably one of the easiest things to brush off, but if you can make the commitment to never spend a day without doing something to challenge your physical self, then I promise you can sleep better at night.
    I don’t recommend this, but recently I’ve started substituting yoga with running. Where I live there is snow on the ground, and I do my best to run every day (outside for 30-60 minutes), even if it’s at 1 in the morning. I sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed.
    Thanks again Nat, and to everyone for reading!

    Like

    1. That’s great to hear exercise helps you wind down before bed. 😊 I would love to do that as well but the weather is a bit too cold in my region right now during nighttime and I am not as comfortable walking around the block when it’s dark and no one is around.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I hear ya! I’m mildly nervous whenever I’m outdoor, and never wear headphones. When I lived in a not-so-great neighbourhood, I would only sprint around 1 small block of houses in my neighbourhood.

        Liked by 1 person

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