Do you find it difficult to relax and fall asleep at night? Do you constantly worry about not getting enough rest, even if you’ve had a long day? If so, you may be struggling with sleep anxiety. This is a very common problem, but there are ways to deal with it. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of sleep anxiety and offer some tips on how to overcome it.
What is sleep anxiety?
If you are anything like me then as soon as your head hits the pillow a million thoughts bombard you all at once. You start thinking about the things that you did not manage to finish that day, and the even longer list of things that you need to do the next day. Before you know it, hours have gone by and you are still wide awake.
As bedtime approaches you get more and more anxious, worrying that you won’t be able to fall asleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety about not being able to fall asleep and insomnia, which can be very difficult to break out of.
Symptoms of sleep anxiety include:
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Nightmares and waking up frequently during the night.
- Feeling restless or agitated at bedtime, with a deep seated sense of foreboding of impending danger.
- Physical symptoms such as an accelerated heart rate and breathing, digestive problems and muscle tension.
- Waking up feeling exhausted.
Why do so many people find it so difficult to fall asleep?
Stress and Anxiety
There are a number of reasons why people find it difficult to fall asleep. One of the most common, as already mentioned, is stress and anxiety. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is designed to help us deal with dangerous situations by providing us with energy and preparing our bodies for fight or flight.
While this is helpful in the short term, it’s not so good for our long-term health. When cortisol levels are constantly high, it can lead to a number of health problems, including anxiety, depression, and even heart disease.
It’s no wonder then that so many people find it difficult to fall asleep when they’re stressed out. If your mind is racing with worry, it can be hard to relax and drift off to sleep.
Another reason why people may find it difficult to sleep is because of PTSD. PTSD is a condition that can develop after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It can be extremely distressing and can cause a range of symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia.
If you are afraid of having nightmares, sleep takes on an ominous quality and becomes something to be avoided rather than something to look forward to.
Excessive screen time
In today’s world, it’s hard to avoid screens. We use them for work, entertainment, and socialising. While there’s nothing wrong with using screens, too much screen time can be detrimental to our sleep.
The blue light that screens emit can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. This can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Dealing with sleep anxiety
If you’re struggling with sleep anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to ease your anxiety and get a good night’s rest.
Talk to someone
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, talking to someone can be a huge help. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to a friend or family member, but you may also want to consider seeing a therapist.
A therapist can help you identify the root cause of your anxiety and give you tools to deal with it. You could even see a sleep specialist who can work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Manage your screen time
Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can also help ease sleep anxiety. If you’re used to working late into the night, try to go to bed earlier.
You should also avoid using screens for at least an hour before bed. If you can’t avoid using screens, try wearing blue light blocking glasses.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve sleep. Even a moderate amount of exercise can make a big difference.
If you’re not used to exercising, start with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the amount of time you exercise.
Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can be extremely helpful in managing anxiety and improving sleep. There are a number of different techniques you can try, including:
- breathing exercises
- progressive muscle relaxation
- listening to calming music
Find what works for you and practice it regularly.
Turn your bedroom into a haven of relaxation
Your bedroom should be a place where you can relax and feel comfortable. To create a haven of relaxation, try to:
Keep your bedroom dark. Install blackout blinds or curtains if necessary.
Make sure your bedroom is quiet. Use a white noise machine if you need to.
Use comfortable sheets and pillows.
Keep your bedroom cool. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Create a calming atmosphere. Diffuse lavender oil or use a scented candle.
Get rid of your laptop, television or anything that might distract you.
Develop a bedtime routine
Having an evening ritual that helps you relax and prepare for sleep can go a long way towards calming your sleep anxiety.
Your routine could include taking a bath, reading a book, or writing in a journal.
You could also include drinking a cup of calming herbal tea such as chamomile or lavender.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something that you enjoy and that helps you relax.
Don’t try to force it
If you’re struggling to sleep, don’t lie in bed trying to force yourself to sleep. This will only make your anxiety worse.
Get up and do something calming until you feel sleepy.
You could read, listen to music, or practice some relaxation techniques.
Once you’re feeling sleepy, go back to bed and try to fall asleep.
Final thoughts about sleep anxiety
Sleep anxiety has become a common affliction in our fast-paced, modern world. If you’re struggling with sleep anxiety, do not despair.
Try out the suggestions above and see what works for you. With a little trial and error, you should be able to find a solution that helps you get the restful night’s sleep you need.