11 Tips for Sleep Anxiety: Ease Into a Calmer Night’s Sleep
Anxiety and sleep don’t mix well. Sleep anxiety can keep you up for hours, replaying worries in your mind instead of dozing off. Here are a few sleep anxiety tips to help you on your way to a peaceful night’s sleep.
Anxiety can lead to lack of sleep, and vice versa.
Weighted blankets can help with sleep anxiety by providing calming Deep Touch Pressure (DTP).
Sleep anxiety usually isn’t a simple problem, and short term sleep strategies should be paired with a long term treatment plan.
Did you know?
If it’s taking you a very long time to fall asleep, it’s better to get out of bed than to lie there tossing and turning!
If you find that you can’t sleep from anxiety, you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorder can cause sleeping problems – and vice versa.
It can be hard to know what to do when you can’t sleep because of anxiety. Luckily, there are plenty of sleep anxiety tips that you can try for a calmer night’s sleep. Anxiety before sleep might feel out of your control, but with a treatment plan, a support network, and good sleep hygiene, you’ll be well on your way to figuring out how to fall asleep with anxiety.
1. Develop a Treatment Plan
Addressing your anxiety with the help of a health professional is the first step towards long-term calm. As you’re developing strategies to cope with your anxiety, in the long run, you probably won’t immediately solve the practical problem of falling asleep, but a therapist or counselor can be a great resource for formulating your personal approach to sounder sleep.
If you suspect you may have an anxiety-induced sleep disorder, the ADAA recommends talking to your primary care physician, a mental health professional, or even a sleep clinic. These professionals can help you develop a long term treatment plan and address specific issues like how to calm anxiety attacks at night.
Whether your sleep issues are diagnosed or not, it’s important to understand how they fit into your overall mental health.
Some worry or anxiety is a natural part of living life in an unpredictable world. Everybody experiences fear and uncertainty at times. Specific situations such as money issues, health concerns, or interpersonal conflicts might naturally come to mind at night when other surface thoughts drift away.
In this context, there are some self-contained tips that can help you calm down anxiety before sleep and head back to dreamland.
When anxiety lasts for a long time without going away, or is regular and persistent, it becomes a larger issue and may be a part of a more general anxiety disorder. Consistent difficulty falling or staying asleep is one symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
If you think that your difficulty sleeping might be symptomatic of a larger anxiety disorder, it’s important to speak to a health provider and develop a holistic treatment plan. Try a combination of strategies to improve your sleep in the long-term.
2. Build Your Support System
It can be helpful to have someone to talk to when you need help coping with anxiety, whether that’s late at night or during the day. But if you have social anxiety as well as sleep anxiety, that’s easier said than done.
This is where your support system comes in handy. By confiding the people around you – such as friends, family, and roommates – you can ensure that you have a support system to help you with this struggle.
Your friends and loved ones can help by reaching out to check on you and helping you brainstorm sleep anxiety tips. And reaching out to speak with a loved one can be an important anxiety coping mechanism in and of itself.
If you’re experiencing anxiety before sleep, simply getting up and sending a text or calling someone you love can be a great way to get your thoughts back on track.
3. Prioritize Rest – Literally
It might seem extremely simple, but chances are you aren’t going to be able to get enough sleep if you don’t schedule enough time for it. And if you’re finding you can’t sleep from anxiety, scheduling enough time to rest becomes even more important.
It’s helpful to establish a system for organizing your time. You might find it easiest to use a physical planner, an online calendar system, or even just a mental list. To protect your precious sleeping hours, plan your days in advance. You can even start a sleep log to keep track of how many zzz’s you get.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night. So when you’re scheduling your evenings and mornings, try to keep this suggestion in mind, giving yourself a little buffer time for falling asleep and waking up.
Since lack of sleep can make anxiety worse, planning enough time to rest can be a big step towards breaking the cycle of restlessness.
4. Move Your Body
Sleep anxiety might seem like an isolated problem. You probably don’t start wondering how to calm down anxiety at night until you’re in the middle of trying to fall asleep.
But the good news is, what you do during the day can have a big impact on how well you sleep at night. Moving your body regularly is one simple way to improve sleep and reduce anxiety.
Exercise looks different for different people. Maybe you hate going to the gym, but love taking a sunset walk around your neighborhood. Maybe you have mobility issues and prefer a seated workout. However you do it, moving your body more can help you relax once you curl up in bed.
5. Establish a Bedtime Routine
The phrase “bedtime routine” might take you back to your childhood, when the buildup to bedtime included picture books and lullabies. As an adult, do you really need a bedtime routine?
The truth is, you probably already have a routine surrounding your sleep. You might wash your face, drink a glass of water, or check your text messages one last time. Hopefully you brush your teeth!
Whatever your bedtime routine currently looks like, being more intentional about it can help improve your sleep. Small habits like making a cup of herbal tea, completing a stretching routine, or listening to soothing music can help let your body (and mind) know it’s time to unwind.
6. Curate Your Soundscape
Some people like to sleep in complete silence. Others prefer the presence of ambient noise like rainfall or the hum of a fan. Whatever the case, noise seems to have a big impact on our ability to sleep. And unexpected noises can be particularly upsetting if you are already feeling anxious.
Most of us have little control over the sounds that might be outside of our bedrooms. But if you live in a noisy area, there are ways you can try to drown out the background noise.
One of the most popular solutions is a white noise machine. There are also plenty of apps that provide everything from white noise to ocean waves to crackling fire sounds. Pair your phone with a bluetooth speaker and the possibilities are endless!
If complete silence is more your jam, you might want to invest in a comfy pair of earplugs. This can also be helpful if you share your bed with a snorer!
7. Create a Calming Sleep Space
In an ideal world, your bedroom is the room in your house where you feel most relaxed. Stepping into your bedroom feels like taking a weight off of your shoulders. But the reality is, if you associate anxiety and sleeplessness with your bedroom, this might feel very different.
Adding a few calming elements to your room might make the space feel relaxing again. You could try new sheets, a window plant, or even a supportive body pillow. If you’d rather not purchase anything new, simply rearranging the space can be helpful.
You may be surprised at what ends up making a difference – for example, some people find that aromatherapy helps them feel less anxious. You can try out a few essential oils in a diffuser to see if they help you unwind. Lavender and chamomile are well-known for providing calming effects.
8. Remove Screens
Nowadays it’s easy to find yourself looking at screens all day long. If you use a laptop at work, watch TV at night, and scroll on your phone in between, you might find it hard to name a time of day when you aren’t in front of a screen. Unfortunately, this can cause sleep problems in the long run.
And if you’re lying awake anxious, having your phone in hand can make things even worse. You might find yourself “doomscrolling”, reading through bad news and negative comments with no end in sight.
Remember that bedtime routine we talked about earlier? Here’s a great way to improve it: try setting a time to put your screens away each night. This will give your bedtime routine a clear beginning while helping your eyes and mind rest before sleep.
9. Write it Down
Journaling can be great for your mental health. Whether you choose to write about the weather, childhood memories, or simply what happened during your day, it can be therapeutic to get things down on paper.
If you find yourself staying up worrying about the things you need to do tomorrow, writing them down can be a big help. In fact, a 2018 study found that writing out tomorrow’s to-do list helped participants fall asleep nine minutes faster.
Keeping a journal is also a great way to process stress from the previous day before you try to sleep. If you find yourself facing a particularly stressful time period, a soothing knot pillow or other fidget toys can be a helpful addition to a bedside table. These can help you keep your hands busy without reaching for your phone.
10. Get Out of Bed
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, sometimes it’s best to stop trying so hard. Rather than lying in bed tossing and turning, try getting up and occupying your mind elsewhere. You could read a book in a cozy armchair or even step outside for a brisk walk
Research suggests that the more we associate our beds with actually sleeping, the easier it will be to drift off once our heads hit the pillow. So if you find yourself regularly lying awake in bed, you’ll want to break that pattern.
11. Snuggle Up With A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets have gained popularity as a natural sleep aid, and for good reason. Through a scientific phenomenon called Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), weighted blankets can help you feel secure and relaxed. DTP is similar to the effect of a calming hug, and it can help you fall – and stay – asleep.
If you’re trying a weighted blanket for the first time, we recommend selecting a blanket that’s approximately 10% of your body weight. It’s usually best to ease into it: use your weighted blanket for a couple hours at first, and gradually increase the amount of time you spend under it. As you get used to the weight, you can work up to a full night’s sleep.
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When it comes to lack of sleep and anxiety, there are no quick and easy solutions. Everybody is different, and what works wonders for another person’s sleep might not help much for you.
The good news is, that means there are plenty of strategies out there for how to fall asleep with anxiety. Whether you try updating your bedtime routine, limiting your screen time, or starting a new journal, being more intentional about your sleep can make a big difference in your overall health and happiness.