Anxiety always feels more challenging to turn off, especially at night. You anxiously wonder whether each passing hour will continue, and you will wake up sleep-deprived the next day with more troubles and concerns. But thankfully, your anxiety doesn’t need to be a scary monster keeping you up at night. There are a few sleep hygiene tips for anxiety that will help you gain control over your racing thoughts and fall asleep more peacefully. Let’s discuss how.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Anxiety
Anxiety and sleep have a strong relationship. But whether one causes poor sleep or poor sleep causes the other can be explained in one answer – yes to both. For example, those prone to anxiety often struggle with falling asleep. When they’re anxious, a cycle of racing thoughts causes physiological symptoms like an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, panic, and nervousness, among others. These symptoms make it difficult to sleep when their anxiety begins.
In fact, it’s so common that the diagnostic criteria for many anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety and panic disorder include “difficulty falling asleep”. Even more, if you experience poor sleep, you can also experience anxiety the next day from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation worsens anxiety, causing increased negative thoughts and fear of it re-occurring. Many lie awake worrying whether they’ll fall asleep and end up experiencing another night of poor sleep – it’s an ongoing cycle that can feel tricky to stop. But a few tips and habits will help you decrease the fear over time and prep your brain and body for peaceful sleep.
14 Sleep Hygiene Tips for Anxiety
Factors that naturally enhance sleep
These are all tips that promote good sleep and ones to avoid.
1. Exercise daily but not too close to the time you’re winding down for bed
If you forgot to work out during the day and feel a bit guilty, instead of opting for a high-intensity workout, choose to stretch it out through yin yoga or go for a mindful walk. Both options are calming enough that they won’t trigger your anxiety.
2. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or any other stimulant
Stimulants will increase alertness and worsen your anxiety.
3. Setting the tone to optimize melatonin production
This tip includes keeping the lights low, turning off any electronics that emit unnatural light, and keeping your temperature between 60 and 67 Fahrenheit or 15 to 20 Celsius.
4. Limit screen time
You may be tempted to catch up on your favorite TikTokers or influencers, but scrolling is a big no before bed. Not only does the blue light from the screen disrupt your natural melatonin production, but scrolling often sets a comparison trap. Those prone to anxiety can often feel triggered by the highlight reel and may find it harder to escape the web of anxious thoughts. Instead, charge your phone far from your reach and complete mood-calming anxiety like yoga, coloring, or a relaxing bubble path.
Prep your mind
These techniques will reduce your tension, nervousness, and panic associated with anxiety. Therefore, investigate to determine what works for you and try a few before going to bed.
5. Journal your thoughts
When your anxiety begins, instead of following the thought traps, take out your journal and release the chatter. Writing down what you’re feeling will ease your anxiety. It will also provide an opportunity to revisit and rationalize your feelings from a different perspective during the day. Follow a few mental health prompts before bed for inspiration.
6. Guided meditations
Guided meditations are simple to follow and prep your mind for sleep. Through their calming effect, you will naturally reduce insomnia and pestering sleep troubles. Need to relax and unwind? Try a few guided meditations for sleep to prep your mind.
7. Wind down
Unfortunately, a part of anxiety is experiencing beliefs that can worsen falling asleep. For example, many fear the consequences of falling asleep, which drives even more unnecessary anxiety, creating a perpetual cycle of receiving poor sleep. But you may also experience thoughts that aren’t sleep-related. Finances, work stress, relationship problems, and health issues are all stressors that aggravate anxiety. So, as much as possible, try to wind down before you sleep and complete any work a few hours before getting ready for bed. Carving out this time to relax will help you feel more in control of the next day and will alleviate some of that anticipatory anxiety that creeps in.
This tip seems silly, but visualizing yourself falling asleep can actually teach your brain to achieve the goal. And instead of focusing on your anxious thoughts, visualization distracts your mind by evoking positive and relaxing images.
9. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness
These are all tools that will reduce your anxiety. They are also especially helpful when your anxiety feels uncontrollable, and you need a release to feel better.
Train your mind
These sleep hygiene tips for anxiety train your mind to associate bedtime with falling asleep rather than replaying anxious thoughts and worries.
10. Create a night routine
This routine may look like stretching before bed, taking a hot bath, and rolling on your favorite essential oils to calm your nerves. It will look different to everyone, depending on what works for you. Whatever you choose, make sure to stick with it. Your brain will habitually learn that over time, these activities in a row are a precursor for sleep.
11. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
When you follow a set routine, you reinforce your circadian rhythm, and your body will learn to receive optimal sleep during your periods of sleep/wake.
12. Go to bed only when you’re tired
This tip aligns your body to follow its natural sleep cues. When we’re young, we’re quite in tune with our sleep signals. But unfortunately, over time, sleep becomes complicated by behaviors like work and stress that teach us to fight sleepiness rather than succumbing to it. So, if you’re feeling sleepy, begin getting ready for bed. It’s your cue to wind down. If all goes well, you should fall fast asleep.
13. Don’t study, work, or use your computer in your bed
It’s so important to separate your work life from your winding down time. Therefore, avoid working in bed to improve your overall sleep quality. When you work in bed, you begin to train your mind to associate your place of sleep with stress, working, and staying in active mode. And when you try to fall asleep, you may replay work stress and find it harder to feel tired. If you work from home, create a designated work space separate from your bedroom.
14. Don’t lie awake
If you’ve tried everything on this list, it’s okay to get out of bed. But be proactive about the activity you choose. For example, rather than watching TV or scrolling on your phone, which will only worsen your anxiety, complete a sleep meditation, journal your racing thoughts, read a book, or lay out your work outfit for the next day. Choosing low-engagement tasks is less likely to trigger your anxiety and have a better chance of calming your mind.
If you struggle to fall asleep due to anxiety, consider practicing these sleep hygiene tips for anxiety. And remember to be kind to yourself during the process. You may feel compelled to punish or blame yourself for not falling asleep, but this behavior only leads to more anxiety. Therefore, shower yourself with love and forgiveness, and know that, over time, you will train your mind and body to fall asleep more peacefully.
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