What to do if Anxiety is affecting your sleep
Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, which means it is very likely that you or someone you know suffers from anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling of fear or worry that is difficult to overcome. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, general anxiety jumped to record levels for both children and adults. Now that the pandemic has lessened, social anxiety has become an issue for many children and adults as work and various life events have gone back to in-person. There are some physical symptoms that can go along with anxiety, including nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, tense muscles, and insomnia. Unfortunately, anxiety makes it very difficult for your thoughts and mind to settle for the night to achieve restful sleep. Consequently, that lack of quality sleep can compound your anxious thoughts and feelings, leading you into a miserable cycle of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Luckily there are some methods that you can try to manage your stress and get better sleep.
Assess your current sleep habits
Did you know that there are simple steps that you can take to increase relaxation and improve sleep? Well, there are! The first thing you should do to improve your sleep habits is to create a daily routine that you follow before getting in bed for the night. The following steps should be taken to improve your sleep and get you out of that toxic cycle.
Sleep Schedule- Developing a sleep schedule is so crucial to healthy sleep, in order to get your natural sleep cycle- or circadian rhythms. Every person has an internal clock that tells our mind when to sleep and when to wake up. Insomnia happens when that internal clock gets out of whack, whether due to anxiety or other factors. Having a sleep schedule that determines when you go to bed and when you wake up every day (even on the weekend) will help to reteach your internal clock what your sleep/wake cycle should be.
Cut off Caffeine and Stimulants- Not only do stimulants keep your body from relaxing into a restful state, but it also increases your anxiety levels. If you cannot cut caffeine and other stimulants out completely, you should start to experiment on when the best time for you to cut them off for the day is for your body to achieve the best sleep results.
Turn off Devices- To improve sleep, you should be turning off your television, phone, and tablets at least an hour before bed. These types of devices emit a kind of light that actually stimulates your brain and keeps you awake. Plus, if you are like many who spend a lot of time on your phone/computer checking social media, email, or working, doing these things too close to bed can increase your anxiety and make falling asleep that much harder.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment- Make sure that you create the ideal environment that you need for the best sleep. Consider removing excess sources of light from the room you’re sleeping in. Keeping your room as dark as possible helps to promote better sleep. Take control of the noise in your room as well. Some people sleep best in absolute silence, while others find white noise a necessary part of a relaxing sleep environment. Try out different sound levels and different types of white noise. If silence isn’t for you to try to find your perfect sound environment for peaceful sleep. Finally, make sure that you keep your bedroom cool. Being overheated is a considerable barrier to reaching deep, restful sleep.
Exercise- Even small amounts of activity can significantly impact your anxiety levels and release that pent-up energy that keeps you awake at night. Try to schedule your exercise time in the morning or afternoon to prevent your workout from making you feel even more awake right before bed. Your exercise routine does not need to be particularly rigorous or lengthy. Studies have shown that even 30 minutes of moderate exercise can have a positive effect on mental health and sleep. Walking is a great place to start your new exercise routine.
Calm Your Mind- A great way to manage stress and relax your body in preparation for sleep is being mindful about calming your body and mind. You can do this through mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, coloring, or going for a walk. Developing good mindfulness habits can help manage a wide range of mental health problems, including anxiety. Teaching yourself how to take control of your negative thoughts is a great skill to develop.
When to Seek Help
There is a big difference between feeling anxious- which happens to all of us at one time or another and having an anxiety disorder. However, anxiety disorders are prevalent. Studies have suggested that one-quarter to one-third of people deal with some sort of Anxiety disorder in their lifetime. That means that sometimes, even if you implement all of these changes, your anxiety still may have a hold over your life. It’s essential to think about how much of an impact your anxiety is having on your life because that will be a significant determining factor in your next steps. Are you having trouble eating, sleeping, or concentrating on your daily tasks? Have you tried some of these relaxation methods to no avail? Have you been suffering for several weeks? Suppose you answered “yes” to any of these questions. In that case, you may want to consider reaching out to a Mental Health Professional to explore treatment for anxiety with therapy, medication, or both. The good news is that anxiety is very treatable and has lots of research to back up the different available treatments. Many people find success when they begin anxiety counseling that focuses on alleviating symptoms and helping clients work with their anxious thoughts.
Georgetown Counseling & Wellness has several clinicians on staff who provide anxiety counseling and would be happy to chat with you about your concerns and needs. Call or e-mail us for a free consultation or set up an appointment for counseling: 512-400-4247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the different types of Anxiety, check out our blog post “Let’s Talk About: Anxiety.”