Ways to Improve your Sleep if you Have Anxiety
Why are sleeping problems common when you feel anxiety and stress? Achieving a good night's rest is crucial in feeling energized throughout the day. Not only does getting sufficient sleep make you feel better, it also results in better health. But to best answer this question, we must understand what causes anxiety. Anxiety can be described as a reaction to a perceived risk or threat. Our mental and physical state is in alert mode, triggering various mechanisms in our body, including a fight or flight state (arousal). Your body is preparing for a threat and gives quick energy by pouring sugars and fats into the bloodstream. During an anxious state, we have increased blood flow, and our muscles are activated (tightened). They are ready for action to attack our perceived danger like your life depends on it.
Along with your body's reaction to threats, your mind begins to race, worry, imagine worst case scenarios, and may even go to extreme negative thoughts. No wonder you can't sleep!
Now, let's talk about how to cope with this. You can address it cognitively and behaviorally. Below is a list of a combination of behavioral and cognitive techniques to reduce anxiety and improve sleep:
- Develop and implement a calming brief night routine
- Avoid late work-activities
- Avoiding exercise at night
- Hours before bedtime, write down your to-do list for the next day (this will serve as a brain dump) and your mind won't continue to attempt to remember it all.
- Avoid stressful conversations at night
- Do 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation
- Hours before bedtime evaluate your thoughts and determine other ways to interpret the situations.
- Keep notes of situations and thoughts that trigger anxiety, and disturb your sleep.
- Prepare your environment for "closing"
- Dimming lights/turning off the lights
- Putting away your phone/turning phone off
- Closing your curtains/blinds
Diana Ruiz, MA, LCPC
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