Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.
Anxiety can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to fall asleep as your brain is in “fight or flight” mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.
However, it’s not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article “Scared to Sleep,” sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea (not breathing while being asleep), and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.
Does Anxiety Go Away?
For those people that are diagnosed with a legitimate anxiety disorder, the condition is unlikely to go away. Some people may be able to better control their anxiety disorder with the help and guidance of a therapist or psychologist, and medications may help further control the condition. There may also be specific coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety disorders, however, a permanent “cure” for anxiety does not currently exist.
For those that do not suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only have occasional or intermittent anxiety from time-to-time, this is normal and healthy behavior for many people. Temporary anxiety is likely to diminish over time, and if it is related to a specific place or person, removing yourself from those situations may help the anxiety go away after some time.
How to Get Rid of Anxiety So You Can Sleep Better
If you’re struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety, it could be that treating the anxiety will help solve your insomnia and lack of sleep as well. Anxiety disorders should only be diagnosed by a licensed therapist or medical professional, and these professionals can also help you find treatment regimens as well as, potentially, medications to control the condition. You should not try to self-medicate for anxiety disorders, and should only medicate per the medical advice and supervision of a psychiatrist.
One of the most common and effective treatments for anxiety disorders is continued and guided therapy with a professional counselor or therapist.
The branch of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be effective for many people, as it helps patients suffering from anxiety disorders create new, positive thought pathways that can help when in anxious situations. There are three different types of CBT, each with an individualized approach in treatment, including interpersonal therapy, thought records, and modern exposure therapy.
Another form of therapy is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, also known as ACT. This form of therapy is more focused on mindfulness training and taking action based on personal values, and is unique in that it is not focused on symptom reduction.
Another useful tactic to combat anxiety is the act of mindfulness when faced with certain situations. As PsychCentral discusses in “Mindfulness: the Art of Cultivating Resilience” acting mindfully can help individuals make radical shifts in how they think and perceive situations by looking at them without judgment.
For example, if you’ve just been fired, you may think “I should have seen this coming” or “I deserve this and I’m a failure.” Mindfulness, however, allows you to look at this same situation, take time to focus on your body, and approach it with increased kindness, creativity, openness, and acceptance. Instead of thinking negatively about the situation, you may start to feel calmer instead, accepting the situation as an unfortunate one, but not one that will set you back.
It is important to keep in mind that mindfulness can take years to develop. It can be tricky to start, and it may help to have the guidance of a trained healthcare professional, but mindfulness can provide a new perspective that allows you to re-evaluate your anxieties and develop healthy coping mechanism to rethink situations in which they arise. For sleep, mindfulness can help your body naturally fall into unconsciousness as you focus solely on your breath.
Shifting Your Perspective
If you suffer from sleep anxiety, Winnie Yu also suggests in her WebMD article “Scared to Sleep” that shifting your perspective can help some people gain more sleep. It’s completely normal to have bad nights of sleep, and sometimes it’s unavoidable, but when you can tell yourself that you expect it to happen, your body may be more likely to relax and naturally fall into sleep.
How to improve your sleep
Prioritizing a good night’s sleep isn’t just important for your general health, it can also help with feelings of anxiety, as your body is less likely to feel overwhelmed or on edge when you’ve slept well.
However, falling asleep can be difficult, so it’s important to build a strategy for a better night’s sleep. Below are some tips to try in order to improve your chances of falling asleep naturally.
Try Staying Awake
Often, one of the most ineffective ways to fall asleep is to try to force yourself to lay down. This will only result in you tossing and turning for hours, unable to fall asleep.
Instead, try avoiding the bedroom until you naturally feel sleepy. If this means spending the whole night awake, not getting any sleep, then try saving this technique for the weekend so you can catch some sleep when your body naturally wants to sleep.
Many people have a different circadian rhythm — the natural clock in our head that helps us fall asleep — and it could be that your rhythm simply occurs at an abnormal hour of the morning. Once you do start feeling sleepy, allow yourself to go to bed and focus on your breathing instead of any other anxieties.
Keep a Sleep Log
Sleep logs can be useful to help you catalog when you fall asleep and how much sleep you were able to get. You can also take note of all the activities you do before you fall asleep, and this may help you notice a pattern.
The National Sleep Foundation has a useful sleep log you can try to get yourself started. You can also create your own in a personal journal.
Get up at the Same Time Daily
Creating a routine can be an effective way to combat sleep anxiety and insomnia. By getting up at the same time every day, your body will naturally start to adjust your internal clock or circadian rhythm.
One sleep study, highlighted in the Guardian as “A Cure for Insomnia”, found that getting up at the same time every day helped the participant’s body feel sleepy around the same time every night. Over time, this helped the participant’s bedtimes become consistent.
However, creating a nighttime routine can also have similar effects. Winnie Yu for WebMD suggests creating a nightly routine can help relax your body as it starts to anticipate and expect sleep as you follow through each step. It can also help relieve anxiety, as you know what to expect each night and each morning.
Do a Bedroom Makeover
Another helpful trick is to make your bedroom a place for nothing but sleep. For some people living in small loft apartments, this might be tricky, but by putting up a divider or curtain, you may be able to simulate a similar “separate room” effect.
Regardless, redecorating your bedroom for a more comfortable and quiet environment can do wonders for your sleep health. Consider decluttering the room and regularly changing the bedding or adding a rug to make the space more appealing and comfortable.
If you come into your bedroom and still can’t sleep, don’t just lay there and wait for slumber to hit. Instead, get up after 15 minutes and work on some small projects until your body naturally feels sleepy.
Keep Your Room Cool
Keeping your room dark and cool can also have major effects on your ability to fall asleep. Avoid putting a space heater in your room (unless you really need it) so as to keep the room cooler than the rest of your house. You can also cut out some of the natural light and heat by installing blackout or custom curtains over your windows. The more “cave-like” you can make your bedroom, the easier it may be to fall asleep every night.
Limit Caffeine and Other Stimulants
For many people, cutting out caffeine from their diet can be very difficult, but caffeine can greatly hamper your ability to fall asleep. Additionally, as a stimulant, caffeine can make your anxiety much more pronounced, and you may have a difficult time calming down if you drink excessive amounts of coffee.
It could also be getting in the way of you achieving a good night’s sleep. Try avoiding caffeine at least four to five hours prior to when you want to go to bed.
If you know of any other forms of stimulants that you may be taking, try avoiding those at least a few hours before bedtime, as well.
Additionally, some recent studies, such as one conducted by Harvard Health, have come to find that “blue light” (any light that is blue in hue, which is common with televisions, laptops, and smartphones) can keep the brain active, stimulated, and awake, as it suppresses the secretion of the hormone melatonin. This is the hormone responsible for helping you fall asleep, so try avoiding blue light, or wearing amber glasses to suppress the effects of the light, at least two hours prior to bedtime.
Get Rid of Your Clock
Clocks can be a common trigger for anxiety, especially when you’re trying to fall asleep. Instead of having a clock by your bedside — where you can glance at it every time you struggle to fall asleep — keep a clock outside your room instead. Looking at the clock will only cause your anxiety to get worse, so avoid it altogether.
Try Relaxation Techniques
Another way to prep your body for bedtime is to practice some relaxation techniques as you prepare for bed. This can include:
• Creating a warm bath to sit in for a few minutes prior to going to bed.
• Listen to calming music as you brush your teeth, change, and get ready for bed.
• Practice some deep breathing exercises or guided meditation.
Combine this tip with going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, and you may be able to create a relaxing sleep routine that will help your body naturally get sleepy. Routines can really do wonders in calming the brain. You can also get meditation-themed bedroom decor to make the space more conducive to relaxation, even when you aren’t trying to sleep. I also provide you with a very helpful Guide to Sleep Well on the link:https://file.io/b8sfdjwYoH8m
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