While it’s normal to have the occasional night of tossing and turning, struggling to fall asleep every night can be exhausting and frustrating for anyone. If you’ve ever struggled with sleep anxiety, then you may understand what it feels like to watch the hours tick by, knowing you’re going to wake up exhausted the next day. Anxiety and sleep deprivation are connected in several ways. In fact, fifty percent of people attribute their sleep deprivation to anxiety. If you’re one of these people, here are some tips for sleeping with anxiety that can help.
What Is Sleep Anxiety?
Sleep anxiety refers to the feeling of fear or stress about falling or staying asleep. Sleep problems and mental health go hand-in-hand, and plenty of people with disorders like depression and anxiety struggle to maintain a healthy sleep pattern. One often makes the other worse, so it can feel like a continuous cycle.
Not getting enough sleep negatively impacts mood, contributing to irritability and sometimes depression. Plenty of vital functions occur during different stages of sleep, as well, and a lack of sleep deprives our bodies of the rest they need to function properly throughout the day.
If you’ve experienced this, you’ve probably wondered, “why does my anxiety get worse at night?” Usually, your anxiety is worse at night because there aren’t as many things to keep you distracted at night as there are during the day. Daily stressors, poor sleep habits, and other health conditions can also contribute to anxiety and panic attacks at night.
How to Sleep With Anxiety: 11 Tips That Can Help
As exhausted and ready for bed as you might feel on the couch watching TV, sometimes the moment you lay down your anxiety seems to spark. A simple noise down the hall or a stray thought about that one thing you didn’t get to work on that day could send your mind reeling down a rabbit hole of intrusive thoughts.
You might beat yourself up about something you did or didn’t do that day, or maybe agonize over all of the things you have to do tomorrow. You might replay the day in your head and go over numerous “what ifs.” You probably start worrying about your loved ones to the point where you’re Googling that one spot that suddenly seemed to appear on your dog’s stomach.
If you’re this person, then you understand how unpleasant it feels to wake up the next day with virtually zero hours of true rest under your belt. Well, enough is enough. Below are eleven best tips for sleeping with anxiety that can help you catch the Z’s you deserve.
- Limit your screen time before bed: One of the most common tips to help you sleep when you have anxiety is to avoid screen time before bed. Not only can watching videos and TV before bed keep you distracted and awake but coming across something negative could potentially trigger your anxiety.
- Don’t do any major physical activity right before bed: Exercise gives you a momentary energy boost, which can keep you wired at night and make falling asleep more difficult.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before bed: Although it’s normal to feel sleepy after meals, avoid eating large meals right before bed to avoid a stomach ache or discomfort that can prevent sleep.
- Limit your naps to 20 minutes once a day: If you’re a napper, then consider shortening your nap time to one 20-minute nap per day. Eventually, you might not even need to nap as your nighttime sleep patterns improve.
- Exercise during the day: As long as it’s not right before bed, daily exercise can deplete your body of any excess energy or jitters that may keep you awake at night.
- No caffeine at or near bedtime or after a certain time in the day: While coffee’s ability to wake you up is beneficial at the start of the day, having caffeine too late in the day can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. It’s not just coffee, as there are other caffeinated drinks such as many teas and sodas.
- Sleep in a cool and dark bedroom: Most people like to fall asleep in a cool room cuddled up under blankets. Having a dark room also keeps any light or movement from distracting you.
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine: Start winding down for the night at the same time every day. Make sure you’re ready for bed by 9 P.M. at the latest, or earlier if you have to wake up early the next day. Rule of thumb, give yourself at least an hour to lay in bed and fall asleep. You can also take a warm bath, have a warm drink, read, or do anything else that might promote sleep.
- Use a weighted blanket: The weight of the blanket offers an additional source of comfort and security that’s becoming popular among people with anxiety.
- Keep your room tidy: A cluttered room promotes a cluttered mind, and nothing is more stressful than trying to sleep in a messy room. Plus, having to move things off or around your bed just to lay in it can disrupt any sleepiness you might have felt on your way to bed.
- Try the best position to sleep with anxiety: The best position to sleep in if you have anxiety is on your back. While you may feel tempted to curl on your side, this position causes muscle tension rather than relaxation. You could also do some gentle belly breathing while on your back. Use belly breaths, which are when you fill your belly up with air when inhaling rather than your chest.
Remember that very few things change in a day, so be patient with yourself and your mind as you navigate how to deal with sleep anxiety. Moreover, as many tips as there are out there to help you sleep better with anxiety, nothing replaces professional support.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety for a while or have experienced worsening symptoms lately, the behavioral health specialists at our Massachusetts treatment center can help. Our facility offers mental health treatment for various kinds of disorders, including anxiety.