Insomnia is one of the most frequently reported effects of anxiety. These sleep problems can be difficulty falling asleep or difficulty remaining asleep or both. Anxiety fills your mind with worries and negative thoughts which impede your ability to relax and rest.
To help you sleep, you need to find ways to relax both your body and mind. You have to clear away the problem thoughts for a while in order to rest. That is much easier said than done.
Here are some ways to help you improve your ability to sleep even when you are anxious.
Routine and Rituals
You need to establish a sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Doing so will eventually train your mind about when you should be resting. You will condition yourself to associate a certain time of day with sleep.
Develop rituals that relax you. The start of my nighttime ritual involves either a bath or shower, depending on the time of year and how much time I have to get ready for bed. In cooler months, if I have extra time, I will indulge in a bubble bath. On nights that I’m shorter on time or during the warmer months, I take a shower. Either way, I rinse the stress of the day away. When it is cold out the warm water is soothing. When it is hot out, the cool water is restorative.
Have other smaller rituals that you do in the same order as you prepare for bed. The use of routine rituals will teach your mind that it is time to prepare for sleep. Turn down your bed the same way. Take any medication you need. Fluff your pillows. Whatever works to signal to your brain that sleep is coming.
Mind Clearing and Relaxing
Find the things that can help you to clear worries out of your mind. Meditate. Do yoga. Practice relaxing visualization.
I prefer less active things. I cuddle with my cat. He loves a good massage. Cats are great for relaxation since most of them tend to be lazy lounging types. If you have a dog that is not rowdy and active, I’m sure it would be happy to help you relax, as well.
Reading can be great if you like things that are relaxing. Reading does not work for me because the things I prefer to read stimulate my mind and so I end up with a bunch of ideas running through my head. While they are not usually anxious thoughts, they are not sleep-inducing. But many people find it relaxing to lose themselves in a novel before bed.
What I have found mind-clearing are games on my tablet. Games like Candy Crush. They are challenging enough that they hold my interest, but not challenging enough to trigger my competitive instincts. The colors and repetitive movement clear the anxious thoughts out of my mind and allow me to fall asleep.
If you are having a very anxious night, you might want to try a mind dump. Take out a sheet of paper. Then dump all your anxious thoughts onto it. Write it all out. If you have many anxious thoughts, use a list. If you just have one big thing you are worried about, try to write it out in as much detail as you can. Sometimes when you are able to get the thoughts out of your head, you will give yourself a small break from them. Within that break, you can fall asleep.
Control Your Environment
Figure out what helps you sleep the best and then set up your environment to accommodate your needs. If you need complete darkness, consider blackout shades or a sleeping mask. If the darkness makes you nervous and you need a nightlight, get one.
Keep the room at the temperature you like to sleep in. Some people prefer warm. Some prefer cool. Some like to make the room cold and then snuggle under the blankets so they are toasty. Many people swear by their weighted blankets. If you and your partner do not like the same temperature, then compromise may be necessary. Or maybe consider separate rooms.
Another helpful tool is a white noise machine. This is especially true if you are a light sleeper as many of us parents are. Too often a small sound will wake you up and then you are up for hours battling your anxious thoughts. White noise machines help to limit the amount of noise that you will hear, lowering the odds that any of them will wake you up.
Getting enough rest can be a crucial part of controlling your anxiety. Sleep deprivation makes it even harder during the daytime to manage your mental health. Controlling your environment, clearing your mind, and establishing routine rituals can help you to get as much sleep as possible.