Lack of sleep can negatively impact hormonal health, brain function, concentration, mood, and memory. For people who struggle with anxiety, this can be a vicious cycle. A racing mind makes getting to sleep difficult. Sleep deprivation makes anxiety worse. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks for improving sleep hygiene with stress and anxiousness.
Create a bedtime routine
Besides going to bed and waking up at consistent times, a nighttime routine full of relaxing activities can make falling asleep easier. For example, take time to wind down by reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath. Skip stressful activities such as paying bills, working, or watching the news right before bed.
Try a new mindfulness exercise
For many people with anxiety, the thought of sitting and doing nothing is stressful. However, meditation can be a helpful skill, both for navigating life and for going to sleep. Meditation helps to teach people to slow the mind down and stop focusing on negative stressors. Many apps offer free meditation guidance. Try taking 3-5 minutes before bed to sit quietly and focus on inhaling and exhaling.
Get your thoughts out
Sometimes anxious thoughts swirl because a person is afraid of forgetting essential tasks for the next day. Try creating a to-do list for the next day before going to bed. Journaling can also offer some calming benefits so that thoughts are not circling all night endlessly.
Tense and release
Many people with anxiety hold undetected tension in the body. To help the body relax, try this exercise: squeeze the toes for a few seconds, then completely release and relax. Squeeze the lower legs for a few seconds, then completely release and relax. Continue this exercise for every part of the body to fully relax.
Create healthy daytime habits
What a person does during the day can affect how easily sleep comes. For example, regular exercise promotes better rest. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, as the stimulant can take up to 8 hours to wear off. People who don’t sleep well at night may be tempted to make up for lack of sleep with a daytime nap. Try to keep naps to less than an hour and skip the nap after 3 pm.
When all else fails: get out of bed
The more a person lies in bed awake, the more the brain associates bedtime with insomnia. If sleep doesn’t come within 20 minutes or so, try a do-over. Keep the lights low, but get up and try a calming activity to invite restfulness, such as reading or meditation. For more tricks to getting to sleep with anxiety, speak with a family medicine provider.